“It was never about money”: Ex-Deftones Bassist Provides More Insight Into Exiting The Band

Deftones bassist
Sergio Vega: © pitpony.photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.pitpony.photography.de, Wikimedia Commons)
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Along with revealing his new project with ex-Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley, ex-Deftones bassist Sergio Vega also provided some additional insight into his exiting of the Deftones. In an interview with The PRP, the ex-Deftones bassist goes into his history with the band, his relationship with the guys,  and conversations about joining them full-time. He clarifies multiple times that things were “never about money,” but rather “a sense of belonging.”

You can read all that the ex-Deftones bassist had to share below (all transcribed via The PRP):

“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.”

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Words by: Michael Pementel