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Chi Cheng Of Deftones

Will Haven’s Jeff Irwin On Late Deftones Bassist Chi Cheng: “I Feel That He Truly Was An Angel On Earth”


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Will Haven guitarist Jeff Irwin was a recent guest on the Talk Toomey podcast (see below.) In addition to discussing the band’s newly released album “Muerte“, which arrived in stores today, March 23rd, he was encouraged to share thoughts on his time with late Deftones bassist Chi Cheng. Speaking of Cheng, he offered:

“He was a special person, you know?… It’s funny ’cause I grew up with Chino [Moreno, Deftones vocalist/guitarist]—me and Chino are probably the closest growing up out of all the band members. I hung around with Chino the most and then Stephen [Carpenter, Deftones guitarist] was probably second and Abe [Cunningham, Deftones drummer.]

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And Chi was kinda the last guy that I really got close to even though him and Chino lived together when I was hanging out with Chino at the very beginning—they were roommates in this little crappy apartment.

So every time I go hang out with Chino, Chi would be there. But Chi was kind of like the older brother, he didn’t skateboard with us and stuff like that. He had a girlfriend, so he spent a lot of time with her.

So he didn’t really hang out with us in that little rat pack that we had, but he was always there. We always felt safe when he was around.

But it’s funny because being so close to Chino, when I would go to their shows, or even the practice space, he [Chi] would be the first one to come up and give me a hug and always seemed to be the happiest person; was probably the happiest guy that I was there. That’s how he was. He was always happy when you were around him and he always made you feel like you were so welcome.

Because I would go to shows, even in San Francisco when they played the Warfield, I would go backstage and be like ‘OK, am I supposed to be here?’ I mean I know these guys are my best friends, but I still feel weird. Like am I bothering them? Do they want me here?

And then Chi would walk up like ‘What’s up!’ and give me a hug and say ‘Come on in, grab a beer, come sit with me.’ And I’d think ‘OK, everything’s good.’ I’m not in their way, I felt at home, you know?

And that’s just how he was, he just made me feel good and like you were supposed to be there. He was just kinda like a big brother to all us. He was a little older than us and he made you feel that he was kind of the older brother.

But he was so funny at the same time—he was such a comedian. It’s funny because I feel that he truly was an angel on earth. So maybe he wasn’t supposed to be here this long. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to do the full ride. I think he was just kind of one of those people that you’re kind of graced with and then he had to go back to wherever that place was, and just kind of make an impact on us.

He wasn’t a normal human being. He wasn’t. He wasn’t like a normal person. He was so spiritual and there was something about him that was unlike any normal person. I think that was why he was the perfect rock star, because he had that thing. He had that ‘it.’ That Michael Jordan thing, he was untouchable.

So, to me I’m sad that he’s gone, but at the same time, I’m like ‘he just went home.’ He just went where he should be. He shouldn’t be among us people on earth, he’s kind of just above us.

He’s kind of one of those guys you can’t describe, at all. You could say ‘he’s funny’ and stuff, but he was more than that. He’s just a god-like being, you know?

So people who really didn’t get to know him like that, they probably don’t know him like that. But being his friend for 25 years, that’s how I saw him. I was so close to him and I still saw him like that. I didn’t see him like a normal person, never did.”

Speaking of Cheng‘s legacy and his passing, Irwin continued:

“He wasn’t Chino—he wasn’t in the spotlight. He was very low-key, he didn’t really care about the rock star thing. He didn’t want to be a rock star, he just loved playing music and he loved being with his buddies. But he didn’t give a crap about being a rock star. You barely saw him… He’d do interviews every once in awhile, but it was pretty rare. He didn’t do a lot of big company endorsement stuff. He did a lot of stuff locally for the children—homeless children here in town, stuff like that. He was just one of those people that was giving.

He didn’t want attention, he wanted to show people love. That’s why I thought he made the perfect rock star. And that’s why I think a lot of people don’t talk about him much, because he was so low-key. He was kind of in the back of the scene a little bit.

He was just an amazing talent, an amazing person. I was with him, pretty much the whole time he was going through his struggles. Me and my girlfriend went and saw him every weekend while he was in that vegetative state and it was hard to see.

But even at his worst, we thought he was going to pull through. It’s just how he is, he’s the strongest person I ever met in my life, so he’s gonna get through this.

But he just couldn’t get out of it and he just kept getting sick until he eventually passed away. But at the same time, I think we were kind of relieved when he passed away because that last four years of his life was just horrible for him. We hated see him like that, it’s not the Chi we knew.

So it was kind of relieving when he did kind of pass and not have to deal with that anymore. But yeah the whole scenario was so tragic, so sad at the same time. It shouldn’t have happened to him, it’s just life, ya know?”

Cheng was injured in a car accident back in November of 2008 that saw him ejected from the vehicle as he was found to not be wearing a seat belt at the time. The injuries he sustained left him in a semi-vegetative state until April of 2013 when he passed away due to complications from his injuries. His family and friends launched Buckle Up For Chi to help raise awareness about seat belt usage in the wake of his accident.

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