Deftones singer Chino Moreno is known for screaming his head off with the heavy metal act that he’s fronted since 1988. But with ††† (Crosses), which plays at House of Blues on Sunday, he takes a different approach. He practically whispers his way through the 15 electronica-influenced songs on the band’s self-titled debut.
“As much as I am known as a screamer and have been screaming, I started screaming because I didn’t know how to sing,” he says. “It was an aggressive way of emitting emotion. It wasn’t that popular back then. There was nobody screaming at the time. I loved to sing and I wanted to sing but I have to practice a lot. I sang a lot with the Deftones. I’m still learning to use my voice. With this project in particular, there’s less aggressive stuff happening musically. It didn’t require those emotions as much from me as much as Deftones stuff which tends to be harder edged.”
The band, which also features Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and producer Chuck Doom, started out as a recording project in 2011. It’s slowly morphed into something more permanent, a side project of sorts for Moreno, who maintains Deftones are still his main priority.
“[Guitarist] Shaun [Lopez] and [producer] Chuck [Doom] had been writing some songs together,” he explains. “I didn’t know Chuck at that point. I had known Shaun for a long time since we were both from Sacramento. We had played together in similar bands and toured together. We lived close to each other when I used to live in Los Angeles. I used to stop into his studio there just to see what he was working on. One time he was working with Chuck. I immediately liked what I heard. I heard my voice weaving in and out of the songs. They were straightforward and more electronically based. It wasn’t like a band per se. We were laying down these ideas into the computer and, once the foundation was there, we started tweaking them with different sounds. I really liked the idea. It wasn’t another band. It was just a recording project. I threw down a couple of ideas and before we knew it, we had an album of material. Not all of it was finished but it was all pretty close. We felt like we should put it out in an unconventional way. Not announce the group, but instead put a series of EPs for free.”
Released in 2011 and 2012, those EPs would generate enough of a buzz that the band was able to perform a few live dates. Given that it started as a studio project, turning it into a group that could perform live proved to be a challenge of sorts.
“We had to figure out how to do it,” he says. “When you have something that comes from a synthetic place, you have to make it work live so that the songs are completely different and you don’t want to just play along to the record. We made it organic, but true to the record. I feel like there’s more of a rock edge to the live version, but it works well.”
Deftones fans needn’t worry. Moreno says he’s making plenty of progress on a new Deftones album.
“All this ††† music I made in my downtime,” he says. “I never stopped Deftones. So far, it has fit in pretty well. I am double tasking right now because I’m writing a Deftones record while I tour with †††. They’re two sides of the brain. The only time they would butt heads is if I try to write two records at a time. I feel like if I’m writing something, I like to focus on that stuff. Playing shows, I feel like it’s a good balance because I can put on a different hat and write Deftones material. It seems to work.”