The Pitch: Your sons are teenagers now. How much has your experience as a parent surfaced in your lyrics, and how did your lyrical approach this time compare to previous albums?
Chino Moreno: I still take pretty much the same approach, where the music is basically the inspiration. I don’t really go in with a preconeived idea of who or what I’m going to write about. The music’s always made first, so the emotions get struck up from listening to the music. Usually I come up with melodies and the cadence of how I’m going to sing first. Some words will pop up, and then I’ll build around those words. It’s usually not 'til I’m done that I sit back and I look at it and say 'wow, so this is what I was thinking.’ It’s a really odd way of writing, I guess, but I’ve never written any other way. As far as letting my personal life into the lyrics, I know it seeps through; those phrases that pop out usually come to me for a reason, so there is personal stuff in there, but not for every song. Some of the songs are sort of fantasy, which I really like. I don’t always feel like I need to put that stuff into the music. A lot of the time, it just comes through on its own. So later, like with the Eros stuff, I listen to it a few years later and it totally takes me back to exactly to that time in my life. You can smell it.
This is your second album with Sergio. What does he bring to the writing?
Sergio’s usually the first dude standing there with his bass in his hand. If one dude’s up there ready to play, the next dude’s going to be up there following suit, and it creates this environment where everybody wants to be like 'yo, check this out’ and 'oh, okay, check this out.’ It’s like being influenced by the guys in your own band. Everybody gets into this big... k-hole of creativity. [Laughs.] And Sergio’s a big part of that. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if we would have carried on. When he came in, it felt very natural. He was a good friend of ours before any of this, so it’s not like it was some stranger coming in who was trying to fill Chi’s shoes.
What did Sergio’s old band Quicksand mean to you?
We’re all fans of stuff he’s done in the past. Quicksand, to me, has always been one of the great bands that merged together those things that I love in music so much: the rhythms and the groove of hardcore or post-rock or post-punk or heavy metal or whatever you wanna call it with great melodies and great, thoughtful lyrics. Not just screaming and ranting about how pissed off they were. Marrying those things together hasn’t been done enough in rock music since then. I’m still attracted to music like that.
You’ve been into bands like the Cure for a long time. When you play heavy, angsty music for as long as you have, how do you avoid getting burned out playing it live?
Although I grew up listening to new wave, I also fuckin’ love Pantera. It’s never been like where I’m this guy that doesn’t like heavy music and got stuck in a heavy metal band. And our music is maybe 75 percent heavy. It never feels full-force. I honestly feel like there’s enough dynamics in our music where it goes through a different a range of moods and emotions. It’s not just this aggro thing that starts on 10 and stays on 10 the whole time. A lot of that is maybe the influence of stuff I grew up listening to coming into this group that helps that dynamic. But it feels pretty good for me. I don’t really feel burned out. I do sit and listen to quieter music when I get offstage. I listen to a lot of smooth jazz stuff. But it’s all about balance.
How have you dealt with it when your sons go through angsty periods?
I had to learn this at an older age — I wish I’d learned this earlier in life — if you follow-through with things, it’s a lot easier. [Laughs.] It’s all about being accountable. Once I started doing that, my life started getting better in all aspects. One of my sons is 18 years old, so he’s on his old now. My 15-year old who lives with me, along with my 8-year old daughter, is exactly like me when I was 15 years old. He’s way into music and doesn’t care about school that much. But he knows he has to go. I have to be way consistent. It’s not like I can say “hey, do your homework” and go in the other room and watch TV. He probably thinks I’m the most strict parent ever — and I am strict, but I think he’s going to know things that it took me 'til I was fuckin’ thirty-something years old to learn. Things I didn’t learn that I’m trying to pass onto him.
For you, writing music is homework.
Your lengthy working process came to a head between you and the rest of the band and producer Bob Ezrin when you were making 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist.
It totally did. Althought a lot of it was me, I also had a lot of lack of confidence. I was getting record company people telling me “Hey, you need to go and work with this person and this person” and “We need some radio songs.” Around the millenium, we started to get pressure from the record label. So I got caught in this thing where I started second-guessing myself, which made it hard for me to finish a song. I honestly thing Bob was just doing his job. It wasn’t really his fault. Looking back, we were very dysfunctional at the time.