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Why DEFTONES is My North Star: Chiyo Nukaga Jacobus

Justin Mohlman

Text by Chiyo Nukaga Jacobus (Noothgrush/Leaving)

One band that has influenced me over the past year has been Deftones. I am sad to say that I only got into them 15 months ago when my son introduced them to me. Considering I could have seen them at smaller venues so many times in the 90’s, I’m kicking myself all of the time that for some dumb reason I never realized how great they were until recently. With that said, I still feel really lucky that they’re still playing live, and about to release a new album, which I can’t wait for, and that they’re playing in a couple months here in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park. 

So the first and only time I’ve seen them was last November at Dia De Los Deftones at Petco Park in San Diego. My son and I made the long drive on Friday to get there the night before and check into our hotel room near the ballpark. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get there. 

My mother’s day card, drawing by Lane Jacobus

I have to say I was really impressed with the whole set up of the park. The line to get in went pretty fast, and once inside, there was a lot of activities and things to see in tradition to Dia de Muertos. Lots of flowers, skulls, classic car, temporary tattoo booth, an altar for those who passed on, etc. Anyways, there was a lot to do besides seeing the opening bands on two stages. I really liked Knocked Loose’s set. Oh and the merch was so good, we had to buy a lot and so glad we did. 

When Deftones came on, I know I had a smile on my face the whole time. I could hardly contain myself in excitement especially since they played so many of my fave songs that I wasn’t expecting like What Happened to You, Xerces, and Kimdracula. Abe was flawless and I have to say that I was impressed with Fred Sablan. Of course Chino, Steph, and Frank all killed it, especially Chino. 

Which brings me to say why I think they are so influential. So most of you reading this is probably already familiar with their sound, so this is for someone who isn’t very familiar. I honestly think Abe is so amazing because his drum beats are so precise, minimal, and convey the emotions of the song perfectly. He doesn’t go off on a ton of fills and he just knows how to keep the song flowing beautifully or very heavily, depending on the song. He hits ultra hard at times, yet he can play so pretty and simple to not overwhelm the melodies of the song. It’s hard to explain but that he’s absolutely perfect at what he does. He’s not a show off and I’m sure he can play all kinds of styles of music because he has in Deftones alone. 

Chino is one amazing vocalist. After all of these years he still can scream for so long with so much emotion. He really can sing so pretty too and I love that his lyrics are so relatable about human emotion and just completely heart felt. His vocals are so unique and he can really hit those high notes and is such a great frontman, running and jumping around the stage and really engaging with the audience. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him after a Crosses show ( which I also love as much as Deftones along with Team Sleep and Palms) and he was so kind to me and the other fans that waited to meet him and get his autograph. I heard him in a brief interview recently that he loved seeing Depeche Mode on the Violator tour and I’ve also seen that he loves The Cure, which are my lifetime other fave bands so it makes perfect sense as to why I would love Chino’s vocals. 

Steph is an amazing guitarist too. I love his tone so much and his style. He’s similar to Abe in that he can go from pretty riff to heavy so gracefully and does it with ease like a swan. Some of the riffs he has written is definitely the heaviest or saddest ever written in my opinion. 

Now I want to mention a little about every one of their albums. 

Adrenaline: What can I say? It’s a classic, so heavy and we’ll just listen to it lol. My fave songs are Lifter, Engine No. 9, and Birthmark but they’re all bangers. I really wish I could have seen them back then. 1995! What was I doing then? Listening to sludge, crust, & power violence. Now I’m kicking myself. 

Around the Fur: ok probably their most famous album and for good reason. The first Deftones song my son played for me was probably My Own Summer or BQADFA and I was hooked. But really every song on this album is so good. My faves are Mascara (oh it’s so pretty and the lyrical content too), & MX. ok it’s hard to choose my faves but if I had to it would be those two songs. 

White Pony: I think this was my late brother’s fave album. 2000 what a great year, that it came out. Ok again, a classic! Every song is so good, but if I had to choose my faves would be Digital Bath and RX Queen. The lyrics, wow.., ok just listen to the whole album. 

Deftones self titled: 2003! Another great year, I love the whole album. I have to say that I get so emotional every single time I hear Minerva, Deathblow, Battle-axe, and Bloody Cape, oh the videos are amazing for Bloody Cape and Minerva. Just buy this album too. It’s moody and epic. The red vinyl anniversary record is beautiful. 

Saturday Night Wrist: ok now this is my fave album. The cover is gorgeous with a film still photo from Roxanna, a 1970 great film. Sadly the last album with Chi Cheng but has the most romantic songs like Cherry Waves, Kimdracula, Hole in the Earth, Beware, and Xerces. If I was stranded on an island with only one record I hope it’s this one. Abe’s drumming is sooooooo perfect on this album. Simple and fits the songs so well. 

Diamond Eyes: Ok it just keeps getting better. I can die happy listening to Beauty School, Chino’s vocals, Abe’s drumming. It’s heaven. Like eating the best most exquisite truffle from a French chocolatier. Sextape is like floating in the ocean on a wave and never wanting to go back to land. It’s their most beautiful song. 

Koi no Yokan: means when you first fall in love in Japanese. How beautiful is that? I love this album the most. It’s possibly their most shoegazey album. Starts out with Swerve City which they just played in Spain with Lance Jackman and also Shaun from Crosses on guitars. They were both amazing from the live videos I saw. Anyways, I love this album so much that I bought nail polish that was the same color of the album cover, complete with the sparkles. Entombed, Rosemary, and What Happened to you are my fave songs on this record. Just read the lyrics to Rosemary, you’ll absolutely melt. 

Gore: 2016, their most underrated album. I think it’s a masterpiece. Hearts and Wires and Phantom Bride (which has a Jerry Cantrell solo). Chino’s vocals are absolutely crushing and beautiful. 

Ohms: I love this album too. My fave is Headless. But I also love Genesis and Error. Ok so I won’t go into the B sides and Covers albums but I just have to say that my faves on B sides is the Helmet cover song Sinatra, and Savory. 

I can’t wait to see them in SF in August and again at DDLD in November (assuming it will happen again this year). I also can’t wait to hear their new album which I read is almost completed.

Here’s some pics I took at their DDLD show and my albums. Oh and when I met Chino after a Crosses show in Oakland at the Fox Theater. 

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