Deftones’ Chi Cheng 1970-2013

By | Published on Tuesday 16 April 2013

Chi Cheng

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng died on Saturday, aged 42, his mother announced this weekend. He had been in a minimally conscious state for over four years, following a car accident in California in 2008.

Born in Davis, California in 1970, Cheng joined Deftones in 1988, completing the line-up formed by school friends Chino Moreno (vocals), Steph Carpenter (guitar) and Abe Cunningham (drums). The band got their big break in the early 90s when they signed to Madonna’s Maverick record label (reportedly after the singer herself saw them play in LA).

They released their debut album, ‘Adrenalin’, in 1995, featuring a hip hop-influenced sound that, alongside Korn, helped to define what would later become known as ‘nu metal’. Though the band were always uncomfortable with the tag, attempting to move away from it by taking an increasingly experimental route on their second and third albums, 1997’s ‘Around The Fur and 2000’s ‘White Pony’.

The last Deftones studio album to be released featuring Cheng was 2006’s ‘Saturday Night Wrist’, though they had almost completed work on a new record, entitled ‘Eros’, when he was seriously injured in a car accident in November 2008. Returning from a memorial service for his older brother with his sister Mae, and not wearing a seatbelt, he was thrown from the vehicle and left in a coma due to injuries sustained in the crash. However, he regained very minimal consciousness in May 2009, leading to hope of a recovery.

Plans to released ‘Eros’ were put on hold (and eventually scrapped), with the band starting work on new material the next year instead. They also performed a series of benefit shows for Cheng in 2009, releasing the new album, ‘Diamond Eyes’, in 2010. A second album without Cheng, ‘Koi No Yokan’, was released last year, while a number of small but significant improvements in Cheng’s condition led to renewed hopes that he could regain full consciousness.

However, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Cheng died from heart failure after being rushed to hospital. His mother Jeanne Marie said via the One Love For Chi website, set up to raise money for his ongoing medical treatment: “He fought the good fight. You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone”.

As well as his work with Deftones, Cheng also published a book and spoken word album of poetry in 2000, entitled ‘The Bamboo Parachute’.

He is survived by his mother Jeanne Marie, sister Mae, brother Ming, wife Colleen and a son from his first marriage, Gabriel.