Livedaily Interview with Chi Cheng 06-20-01

LiveDaily: How did the tour with Godsmack come together?

We were looking to either put together our own package or go out with somebody this summer, and we were having a really hard time put something together that promoters were going to buy--not like people are curious about the business end of it. So Godsmack approached us, and we thought it would be a good tour. I think it will be cool. If people have an open mind, they're going to dig it, you know?

How do you think the band has evolved from 1995's "Adrenaline" to "Pony?" Has it been a natural progression?

It was all a natural progression, it's never been contrived--we never really talked about it. The only thing we talk about is that we don't want to do the same thing twice. So when we write things, we go, "Oh s---, that sounds like this band or that band," or "That sounds like the last album, don't do that." I mean, it's always going to be our voice musically, but I think we're all pretty much just trying to impress ourselves and do something different. It's always been important to use any kind of success we've had and springboard into more creativity and push the boundaries more.

It's somewhat rare--you're talking like that, getting away with it, and you're successful. You guys have been media darlings the past year.

Which is weird. We've always pushed it and pushed it, and now that we're getting all this critical acclaim we're like, "Uh, okay. It's not really what we were shooting for, but right on." I mean, everyone's always like, "If you guys have been around for 12 years, how come you've only got three albums out?" When you're from Sacramento, or the Bay Area, you're in it for the sake of playing music.

How did the song "Passenger" come together with Tool's Maynard James Keenan?

We're friends. When were on the Ozzfest, Maynard was like, "Look, once you're done with Ozzfest, come on down here and we'll fool around together." We thought it was amazing that he wanted to work with us, we were blown away: "Right on, let's do it, what an honor." We've always respected the way Tool has done things. Nobody goes, "That's new metal," it's more like, "Oh, that's Tool." It's indigenous to their own nature.

He never intended to sing on anything. He just wanted to see how we wrote and give us ideas about how Tool does things, just because he's interested in bands. So we went down to work with him, and we already had the music for "Passenger" done. We were playing, Chino was out getting a beer or something, he wasn't in the room. Maynard was listening and he said, "Why put things in 4/4 when you can go 3/4 or 7/8 or something like that?" And then he just grabbed the mike and started singing, and it was like, "Ahhhh"--you know what I mean? And Chino had come back at that point, so they started trading off and doing their thing.

We didn't ever really intend to use Maynard on the new album, because every band was like, "Okay, here's our token celebrity guest appearance, our celebrity crutch for the album." We didn't really want to go that route. When we actually recorded it, we couldn't get Maynard out of our heads. And I said, "Look dude, just call Maynard and ask him to come in and do the song." So Maynard came in for two days, wrote, recorded, done.

Is the songwriting process for you guys a democracy?

As much as you would call anything a democracy. There's always going to be too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I mean, as much as we can, we have a democracy. In any band there are going to be some people that are more opinionated or push a little harder. There are a lot of large personalities in our band.

Talk about your spoken-word disc "Bamboo Parachute." You've been writing poetry for a while. Had you thought much about getting some material published before?

Yeah, but I just don't have the time to send everything out and work on it and hang up the rejection notices on the fridge, because we're just so busy. I figured, hell, I'll just cop out and do a spoken-word album with an ADAT and a microphone. And then try and put some of the profits to a good cause. That's basically it. I just figured, I've got all these poems sitting around. I don't think that it's the best stuff in the whole world that absolutely needs to be heard, or anything like that. It's not an ego thing. I've got the means to do it, why not?

And this is all going to some local charities. What is WEAVE?

That's Women Escaping A Violent Environment. It's just a really good program I learned about when I took Women's Studies at [Sacramento] State. I've donated money to them, and would like to get involved with them when I have more time. I like donating, but I'm not a philanthropist, you know? A lot of people are like, "Well, I'll shoot for the write-off" or whatever. I'd just like to be more hands-on.

I'm also involved with a music program for homeless teens called Wind. With those kids, I'm very hands-on. I try and see those kids once every two weeks, depending on how hectic I'm doing in life. I love to play music with them.

The other charity that album proceeds are going to is Solar Cookers International, and they do alternative forms of cooking for African refugee camps.