The Recording Academy has released a statement in remembrance of DEFTONES bassist Chi Cheng, who passed away on Saturday, April 13, 2013, following complications from a 2008 car accident that left him in a semi-comatose state. He was 42.
“Grammy winner Chi Cheng of the DEFTONES was a powerful bassist who was larger than life on stage,” The Recording Academy‘s President and CEO Neil Portnow said. “Playing on the group’s first five albums, he and his bandmates received a Grammy in the ‘Best Metal Performance’ category at the 43rd Grammy Awards in February 2001.
“Although the group’s early years were more heavy metal-based, they were one of the first bands to incorporate a more alternative and ethereal sound into their thunderous and visceral music, blazing a trail that newer bands continue to follow today.
“The music industry has lost a proud and passionate performer all too soon, and our sincerest condolences go out to his family, his bandmates, and his fans worldwide who are mourning his untimely and unfortunate passing.”
According to The Pulse Of Radio, Cheng was riding in a car driven by his sister Mae that flipped three times after a collision with another vehicle on a road in Santa Clara, California. Cheng was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car.
He underwent surgery to remove part of his brain after the accident, although he was strong enough to come off life support seven months later.
Although Cheng never recovered full consciousness after his accident, he was gradually able to emerge for brief periods of time from his coma and see and hear things happening around him, although he could not respond verbally.
Cheng was also in and out of hospitals for various infections over the last four years, as his family struggled with mounting medical bills. Cheng was dropped by his insurance company just months after his accident.
DEFTONES and other acts held benefit concerts to raise money for Cheng‘s medical bills, and DEFTONES continued to donate money from the band’s own tours as well.
Sergio Vega stepped in to play for the band on tour after Cheng‘s accident, staying on to record 2010’s “Diamond Eyes” and 2012’s “Koi No Yokan”.
The last record that Cheng worked on, an abandoned project called “Eros”, remains unreleased.
Here’s Cheng in 2000 talking to The Pulse Of Radio about how his goal for DEFTONES albums was always just to write good songs: “I just want to write an album that I’m happy with 10 years from now, 20 years from now, when I’m an old grandpa or something and I can be like, ‘Cool, I’m still happy with it.’ Like, I’m not gonna look back on some song and gonna be, ‘Oh, Jesus, what was I thinking?’ You know? Like, as long as I can feel proud about it, you know, put it on for my grandkid or something and be like, ‘Well, you know, it’s kind of goofy and it’s sorta, you know, this or that, but I was happy with it, and I’m still happy with it,’ that’s what’s important to me.”
Cheng loved to perform live and told The Pulse Of Radio many years ago about a particular show in Columbus, Ohio that was unforgettable for him. “It was just one of those shows where there was some kind of magic there and everyone walked off stage and it was just so beautiful, such a great thing,” he said. “I think that that’s the kind of show that we love to have, where everyone is just on the same page and the audience is out of their minds. Nobody was thinking about anything but the music. Every tour I have a couple shows where I’m like, ‘Oh, man, that’s why I play music. That’s right. That’s why I do it.'”