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Chi Cheng, longtime Deftones bassist, dies at 42

April 14, 2013|By Todd Martens
  • Chino Moreno, left, Frank Delgado, Abe Cunningham, Stephen Carpenter and Chi Cheng, in 2006.
Chino Moreno, left, Frank Delgado, Abe Cunningham, Stephen Carpenter… (Los Angeles Times )

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who been in a partially conscious state since a 2008 car accident, died this weekend, his record label has confirmed. He was 42.

Word of Cheng's passing was made public via fan/charitable site One Love for Chi, started by fan Gina Blackmore to help raise funds for Cheng's medical expenses. Cheng's family had come to use the site to communicate updates on the musician, and his mother posted Sunday that Cheng's "heart just suddenly stopped."

"I know that you will always remember him as a giant of a man on stage with a heart for every one of you," wrote Jeanne Marie Cheng. "He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear."

Cheng was the bassist on the first five albums for the Sacramento hard rock act, whose debut album, "Adrenaline," was released in 1995 after the band signed with the Warner Music Group. The Deftones had a commercial breakthrough on sophomore effort "Around the Fur," and 2000's "White Pony" and 2003's self-titled effort each reached the top 5 on the Billboard pop chart. 

Cheng was hospitalized in 2008 after a car accident. He was immediately said to be in a coma, and subsequent reports noted that Cheng was the passenger in a car that collided head-on with another vehicle in Santa Clara. Cheng, who was said to have not been wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, was ejected from the car. 

The Deftones recently released their seventh album, "Koi No Yokan," via Warner Bros. Records and a spokeswoman for the label said the company was prepping a statement on Cheng's passing. Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno wrote on his official Facebook page, "Rest in peace Chi Cheng."

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello wrote on Twitter that Chengo was a "very sweet and talented guy," and pleaded with his followers to wear seat belts. 

Cheng's last album with the Deftones was the 2006 effort "Saturday Night Wrist," a work that took three years to complete due to personal struggles within the band. Cheng told The Times in 2006 that the band nearly broke up while recording the album. 

"It's a really onerous, painful process," he said of making the aggressively atmopsheric album, a merger of riffs, howls and dreamy, digital textures. "I wouldn't say it's a necessary evil, because I would like to not do it ever again, but it seems that kind of tension does make great music for us." 

Moreno has long spoken of the emotional devastation of Cheng's accident, while also noting that it brought the rest of the band closer together, putting a stop to the infighting that nearly tore the group apart. The Deftones regrouped shortly after Cheng's accident, scrapping an album that the band had nearly finished with the bassist. 

"One of our members was taken down," Moreno told The Times in 2010. "The little things that were getting in the way of us being friends and having fun seemed minuscule compared to what just happened to us.

"We didn't sit around and talk so much about it. Everybody gravitated towards their instruments and started playing."

Stepping into Cheng's role was Sergio Vega, known best for his work with East Coast hardcore band Quicksand. Vega met the Deftones during the first Warped Tour in 1995 and had filled in once before, in 1999, when Cheng was sidelined due to a staph infection. Vega has appeared on 2010's "Diamond Eyes" and last year's "Koi No Yokan." 

The Deftones are scheduled to be on tour from late April through the early fall. Cheng had remained in a partially conscious state since the accident, although One Love for Chi had chronicled what was believed to be his slow but steady improvement. 

"He fought the good fight," his mother wrote on the site today. "You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone."

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