Former DEFTONES bassist Sergio Vega recently spoke further on his departure from the Sacramento band and also touched on a new project currently in the works.
In a new discussion with the ‘Talk Toomey‘ podcast, Vega spoke in-depth about how his relationship with DEFTONES became fractured.
According to the bassist, he was initially promised to eventually become a full-time member of the band when he first joined the group back in 2009. Vega also revealed that discussions about him joining DEFTONES took place prior to the 2008 car accident that would leave the band’s previous bassist, Chiu Cheng, in a coma and ultimately lead to his death.
Vega said (transcribed by Theprp.com): “I had come into the band during a very traumatic time. And we also have a history from ’95. To reiterate that, we became acquainted in ’95. I had filled-in for Chi [Cheng, late DEFTONES bassist/vocalist] in ’99. Chi and I had become friends… He was playing Fender basses because he saw me kicking one across the stage with Quicksand.
We both shared an energy and catharsis that we brought to shows… And that created a bond. And when I filled-in for him in ’99—he had hurt his toe—bringing that energy and that excitement, having his back, having his band’s back.
And then at one point Chino [Moreno, DEFTONES vocalist/guitarist] comes to me and was like ‘Hey, if we asked you to join the band, what would you say?’ [I responded] ‘I would tell you that Chi is your boy. This is fun and exciting, Chi is your boy, roll with Chi and that’s gonna be great.’
…And in 2009 when the tragedy happened, the fact that we had hit it off when I filled-in before kind of informed the fact that ‘Hey, lets call him. He’s our friend, he’s there and we’re in need.
So I came in during something very traumatic with Chi. I came into an album, ya know, “Eros“, which was kind of unfinished. My understanding was that the label [Maverick] wasn’t planning on releasing it. They weren’t excited about it. We were just gonna kind of part ways with the label.
But Nick [Raskulinecz, producer] came into the picture and somehow the severance money went on to fund ‘Diamond Eyes‘. And, so let’s give it another shot with another record. And all of that energy, and some altruality and trauma was all expressed in that creating what it was.
Now when I came into the band, I was open to whatever. My friends were in need. ‘What do you guys need? Do you want me to play bass? Do you want me to play banjo? Do you want me to do whatever… and they were like ‘Hey, what you brought in Quicksand, what you did, we’re not entirely sure, but we love Quicksand. Chi loved Quicksand. We want to bring you into the band over time. And this is how it worked with Frank [Delgado, programmer/turntablist] and this is how it’s gonna work with you.’
And so I brought my writing, my arranging and myself. And that was it. And so over the years, it started to become like ‘Hey I would really like to belong to this,’ and whenever it would come up, it was really more like they were good with the status quo.
It was not financial, because they were like, ‘Oh, here’s more money, here’s a raise.’ It was never about money, it was about a sense of belonging. So that was really it. And ultimately, in parting ways, it was not a function of me trying to renegotiate during the pandemic.
It was a function of the contract being cancelled. And me having a little conversation with Chino, and then another conversation with a couple of the guys saying ‘hey’ when they wanted to reinstate [the contract.]
I was like, I think the path forward is that we can all be in the same boat. Now would be the time to get off this type of structure. Because it’s not really working for anybody, especially now when we’re not touring, we’re not doing anything. And it doesn’t make sense to have this type of structure, it has been twelve years [since Vega joined the band] at this point and let’s make good on that.
…We don’t have to work it out now, I just can’t… I just can’t go onto the salary thing because it’s not working for us. And that was it. We really couldn’t come back on that.
In my last conversation it was clear that while that was the initial roadmap, this is what’s gonna happen. Which was the conditions that I was kind of trying to see through.
It became clear that… ‘Hey, splitting it four ways, how that impacted my life…’ Ya know Chino has a lot of… You have people that you’re supporting and those things impact their life.
So, it’s like that can make people shift off a position or off of a thing. So it was clear that I was doing everything on my end to get that. But I was like, at the end of the day, for me it’s not about money.
And the way I think that it may not be clear to some people is that, being brought into something as a member vs. [being] a hired gun doesn’t necessarily mean I’m all of a sudden seeing money from ‘White Pony‘.
It’s really like you said earlier. It’s the security and stability of feeling like you’re a part of something that you’re investing in, and belonging. To me the keyword is this feeling that you belong. Something that you’re pouring yourself into.
Now, had it been from the get go—’this is the vibe, this it the help that we need’—then that’s cool… So for me it was bit of hearing things like ‘Sergio is out of pocket’ [a comment reportedly made online by Chino Moreno regarding Sergio‘s exit] you know, ‘we fired him, it’s about money.’ It was never about money for me.
But at the end of the day, I guess the perception of it encroaching on anyone’s income could have been the thing that allowed it to not come together.”
When Sergio was asked whether his contract had him earn revenues from the work he did on the albums he appeared on, along with the touring and merch, he responded: “It’s more like the thing that I think was important to focus on, without getting too into the weeds, that it’s more the difference between everyone kind of being in the same boat so there’s no conflict of interest.
So when you belong to something, however that works, whatever the parameters are decided—because it’s open-ended. But that thing is if there’s thing’s happening, and we’re functioning, and there’s things coming in, then we can draw our living from that. If there’s not, you should make sure that you saved your money and been fine because that’s where you’re going to be drawing from.
And just getting this salary, is different. It creates a different dynamic. My thing was like, this doesn’t have to be… This weirdness during times when if we’re not functioning, it doesn’t speak to who we are and what we are.
And it’s just so much easier just to be whatever that is. Because having you all aligned takes things out of the equation and you just function and you go about your business. And you go about your friendship and creative aspects.
And ultimately it was me coming in, ‘Hey I want to help, how I help?’ [and them saying] here’s how it’s gonna be. And after a certain point I’m like ‘Hey, let’s make it how it’s supposed to be.’”
DEFTONES have since recruited bassist Fred Sablan for their touring plans, while also enlisting Lance Jackman as an additional guitarist.
Sergio, who remains a member of QUICKSAND, also discussed details about his upcoming new project which sees him focused more on the writing and production elements and also is set to feature a song with ex-EVERY TIME I DIE vocalist Keith Buckley.
Sergio said: “…So basically in short, it’s a writing project with a friend of mine named Chris Enriquez, he plays drums in the band Spotlights. And what we’re doing is a single based project. You get with a singer, you talk a little bit about a vibe and we write a song together. And that’s it.
We write and record the song, we give it a little digital component—it was kind of inspired by an Argentine hip-hop producer, who has this series of songs that he does with a lot of artists. [It’s] mostly rappers and some singers, [he[ does a song, records it, that’s it. It’s a series. And the idea of building that as a modality in this kind of music was really, really exciting.
You don’t have the thing of trying to build the band. You don’t have to deal with the time conflicts with the people you may want to work with, it opens up a lot. So currently we have a song done. We have [another] one almost done. And then last week we started working on a track with Keith Buckley [ex-Every Time I Die singer.]
…It’s super exciting because we got on the phone and we just talked about life. He, Chris and I had a quick FaceTime. We hadn’t met each other, obviously [we’re] well aware of each other. And we really, really hit it off. So it’s a rare time that I feel compelled to mention the person because of the situation.
Just the spark that came off of that. They did with the other projects as well. But it was just a thing of like ‘Oh my god.’ We talked, we hit it off, I picked up my guitar immediately and started tracking an idea based off our conversation.”
You can check out the full interview below courtesy of the ‘Talk Toomey’ Podcast.