Credit the towering tone unleashed by Sergio Vega as the one constant on Deftones’ eighth studio album, Gore, with tracks that range from the heavy pummel of “Doomed User” and “Rubicon” to the light and airy riffs of “Phanthom Bride.” Equipped with a large collection of Fender Jaguar basses, which range in tunings from CGCF to standard EADG, Vega unleashes a wall of low end with every swoop of his heavy-gauge pick.
Since joining Deftones in 2009 to fill the void of Chi Cheng, who entered a coma in 2008 and passed away in 2013, Vega has adapted to his role seamlessly, thanks to his close friendship with the band and his powerful playing with his previous post-hardcore outfit, Quicksand. Now three albums deep as the permanent bassist, Vega has solidified his place in Deftones music, as his elaborate riffs and savage tones serve as the anchor to a band that grows bolder with each new recording.
What was the writing process for Gore?
Writing in this band is a collaborative effort. In a nutshell, we get in a room, start making noise, react to each other, and record everything. Then we go back and listen, make edits and additions, and finish the songs. We had about 50 ideas overall for this record. The only difference this time was we would write in the studio for a couple of weeks, go on the road for a few, and then go home before heading back into the studio—and then we’d repeat that cycle. It kept us playing much of our catalog, and it kept us excited about the work we were doing.
There seemed to be some band turmoil during the process.
It’s par for the course. What’s funny for me is that as the bassist and a songwriter, I’m out of the fray, because in the public eye it’s always Chino [Moreno] versus Stephen [Carpenter]. One is metal and one is alternative. It took Stephen a minute to get into the record and find his place in it. Stephen will get salty about stuff all the time, just as anyone will in an intense process like that; he’ll say whatever comes to his mind, and it gets blown out of proportion.
Your pick work seems to play a big role in your tone.
My entire tone is rooted around my picking. I’ve always been a big advocate for playing the bass with a pick, even though some “purists” claim otherwise. I’ve been into Bobby Vega’s playing lately. Liam [Wilson] from Dillinger Escape Plan turned me on to him, and Bobby just blew me away. I definitely agree with him that you can make your pick sound like you’re using fingers, but you can’t make your fingers sound like a pick. The attack of a pick is crucial to me in heavy music. Ever since I was a kid, all of the heavy bands I was into had picking bass players, and their tone always cut so well. Note placement, rhythm, and spacing is also key. You can rock one note like crazy with good pick technique.
How has your time with Deftones been different from your time in Quicksand?
The difference is Quicksand happened in a shorter span; we were kids making records, and we never got comfortable in our own musical skin. We were really angst-ridden and wanted to do something cool that wasn’t generic. We were up in our heads too much, and it was really hard to let go of ideas and songs. At the point I stepped into Deftones, there was an easy confidence about the writing. I was always confused as to why we didn’t play things a hundred times and scrutinize everything [laughs].
Deftones, Gore [2016, Reprise]
Bass Fender Jaguar 4-strings, Fender Bass VI
Rig Two Orange OB1-500 Analog Amps, two Orange OBC810 cabinets
Pedals Fractal Audio Axe-FX II
Strings Jim Dunlop (.050–.110)
Picks Dunlop 1mm Tortex