"He introduced me to Bukowski" - Andrew Bennett

December 24, 2019

Despite growing up with Abe and Chino, I had never met Chi until the day I stepped onto the tour bus in 2000, a 23 year old fresh out of film school who had never directed anything. This was prior to iPhones, and everyone having the ability to film anything at anytime, so having a large camera on my shoulder as I floated around dressing rooms, the bus, and stages, was not something a band was used to, especially Deftones. Having known Abe and Chino, filming them was not awkward at all, and filming Stef took about a month before he would even speak to me, before a late night on the bus when he said, “You’re the only one who can smoke as much weed as me, so I’ll start talking to you.” I’ve been sober for years, but even then I couldn’t keep up with Stef. Then there was Chi. I think it goes without saying that Chi was kind to me, I don’t think Chi was ever able to be petty and mean. But Chi wasn’t going to make this easy for me, and to this day, I am grateful he didn’t. We talked off camera a lot on the road. He introduced me to Bukowski, and gave me book after book to read. He led by example by showing me the combination of keeping your Zen and focus, all while being a wild artist. I had been inspired by legendary filmmakers I admired, my personal mentors in film, my Mom, and my peers all hustling to make movies. Then there was Chi. When we got home from the tour, I did all of the interviews in Sacramento. I wanted the band to have the tour behind them and be able to now look at another tour done, and be able to reflect on a life on the road. Abe was fun, Chino was amazing, and Stef was tough, but…. Then there was Chi. I arrived at Chi’s home in Sacramento and walked into a smile and a hug, giving me some confidence walking into this interview. The kindness I expected, but I was not expecting to see that he cut off his dreadlocks the night before. When I asked him what happened to his dreads, he smiled that smile, and simply said, “I cut them off.” We went into the backyard where he had set up two chairs facing each other, one for him and one for me. He guided me which chair to take, and I sat down. Before the camera even started rolling, I went ahead and asked, “Those dreads were legendary, what did you do with them after you cut them off?” He smiled. “I buried them” he told me, to which I asked, “Where id you bury them?”He crossed his legs, leaned back, smiled again, and told me where he buried them. “You’re sitting on them Andy.” To this day I still don’t know his motive behind that, and I’m bummed I never asked. Then I pulled out a list of questions I had written for this interview. Chi smiled and asked, “Are those written out questions?” I told him they were, to which he said, “You just lived on a bus with me for six weeks, shared a stage with me every night, and you need a list of questions?” He then told me to put them down, because, “We are going to have a conversation Andy, not an interview.” I put the list down. He smiled, but was serious when he told me, “Here’s how this works. You will ask me a question. If I want to answer that question, you will hear me speak. If I don’t want to answer that question, you won’t hear me say anything.” I later on found out that this was the same way Charles Bukowski did interviews. Well played Chi. And so began the interview. True to his word, he said nothing when I asked stupid questions like, “Do you enjoy sleeping on the bus?” He did smile though as he took a sip of wine and waited for me to continue. He answered the good ones of course, but this was the first time an artist had pushed me to better, not sit there and get their ego fed. Some directors are fueled by their own ego, and could get frustrated by this tactic, but I had no ego. I found myself thinking deeper in the moment, getting to the core of what my film would be, and at times thinking, “I am going to be so much better at this, because this guy is making me work for it.” I have interviewed a lot of musicians since then from guys in metal bands to Eddie Van Halen, and there has not been a single time that before those interviews, that I don’t think about Chi and that day. In my mind I think of him, hoping he hears me telling him, “Thank you for making me better Cheng.” Outside of being a filmmaker, Chi’s spirit and his voice were with me five years ago when I made the decision to get sober, live a more meaningful life, and most importantly to be kind to people and help others when I can.” Chi not only made me a better artist, he inspired me to be a better person. And he still does everyday. By the way, if you don’t know Charles Bukowski, pick up one his books. You’ll make Chi smile. One Love and forever grateful, Andrew or as Deftones would put it, “Andy Bennett

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