Sergio Vega announced earlier this year that he had parted ways with Deftones sometime in 2021 over a contract dispute. Now in an interview with the Talk Toomey podcast, Vega explained his history with the band and ultimately why he chose to leave.
Vega touched on joining the band in 2009 after bassist Chi Cheng was severely injured in an automobile accident the year prior. Vega said Deftones promised they would bring him into the band as a full-time member just like the did with keyboardist Frank Delgadobut it never happened. Vega added that “they were good with the status quo,” and that his main issue was more about a sense of belonging in the band than the money itself.
“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 wasn’t planning on releasing it. They weren’t excited about it. We were just gonna kind of part ways with the label.
But [producer Nick Raskulinecz] 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 abuse 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 Quicksandwhat 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 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. And me having a little conversation with Chinoand 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 And it doesn’t make sense to have this type of structure, it has been twelve years at this point and let’s make good on that.
Vega said despite conversations about joining the band as a full-time member throughout the pandemic, the offer never materialized. Vega also pointed out that he felt maybe Deftones never offered him a full-time position because of “the perception of it encroaching on anyone’s income.”
“…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.
“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’ 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.”
Vega also talked a little about his new project with Spotlights drummer Chris Enriquezand a song they’re working on with ex-Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley.
“…So basically in short, it’s a writing project with a friend of mine named Chris Enriquezhe 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.”
Deftones has since recruited bassist Fred Sablan (Marilyn Manson, Heavens Blade) for their current tour.