Cheng co-founded the band with Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter, and Abe Cunningham in the late 1980s, performing on the band’s first five albums—three of which went platinum. He won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance with the group in 2001 for “Elite,” from the record White Pony.
Deftones’ debut, 1995’s Adrenaline, wasn’t an initial success, but after the group did some extensive touring, it ultimately ended up spending 21 weeks on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. By 2008 it was certified platinum, having sold a million copies. The follow-up, 1997’s Around The Fur, did even better, getting some airplay for singles “My Own Summer (Shove It)” and “Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away),” and reaching platinum status in 2011.
The band’s real breakthrough came with 2001’s White Pony, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard chart and marked a bit of a departure for the band in terms of sound. The group added a DJ to the mix and used elements of trip-hop and glitch on tracks like “Teenager.” Other tracks, like “Passenger” and “Knife Prty” featured guest vocals from Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Stone Temple Pilot’s Scott Weiland, respectively.
Making Deftones, the band’s fourth album, was a bit of a slog. Recording took over a year and cost about $2.5 million, due in part to the band being fined by Maverick Recordings for missing deadlines. But ultimately the record, with its big single “Minerva,” was a commercial success, and remained in the Billboard Top 100 for nine weeks.
The 2006 release Saturday Night Wrist, the band's first with producer Bob Ezrin, would end up being the last record Cheng would appear on. During the 2008 production of Eros, Cheng had an auto accident that threw him from his vehicle and left him in a coma. Out of respect, the Deftones shelved the record. They eventually replaced Cheng with bassist Sergio Vega and have released two albums since.
Cheng was known for being a humanitarian as well as a musician. He sponsored a community service group for homeless people in Sacramento, California, and was a vegetarian and a practicing Buddhist. He also released a collection of poetry, The Bamboo Parachute, that was later made into a spoken-word album.
Cheng is survived by one son, Gabriel.