“Stephen said, 'Why don't you just play along with my guitar line?' I said: 'Why don't you just p**s off?'” A classic interview with Deftones bassist Chi Cheng

Bassist Chi Cheng performs live with his band, The Deftones at the University of California, Irvine Bren Events Center October 23, 2000 in Irvine, CA.
(Image credit: Gary Livingston/Getty Images)

The premature death of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng on April 13, 2013, was a blow to the bass community. The Californian musician had been involved in a serious vehicle accident five years beforehand and had spent those years in a comatose or semi-conscious state, but hopes were still high among Deftones fans and the wider musical community that he would recover. Sadly, he suffered a cardiac arrest — just over a decade ago, as we write this — and died at the age of 42.

We remember Chi as a skillful bass player and charismatic performer, with five Deftones albums and a solo spoken-word LP as his legacy, but we also recall his wit and conviction, as revealed in this interview with Bass Guitar magazine from 2003. You didn’t mess with Chi, because he strongly believed in what he was doing as a bassist and a composer, but at the same time you never met a cooler, mellower guy. He was a lifelong fan, too: when we spoke to him, the Deftones had just played the UK’s Download Festival, where he hung out with Iron Maiden. “I got a fuckin’ picture of me with Steve Harris — I’m gonna get it framed!” he told us. 

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.