At the turn of the millennium, Gold Coast’s Sunk Loto were one of the most unique and talented bands to come out of Australia. Exploding on the scene at the age of 16, the group were at the forefront of the country's nu metal movement, holding their own when touring with the likes of Korn, A Perfect Circle and Hybrid Theory era Linkin Park when they came downunder to play shows.
Their final release, 2003’s Between Birth & Death is often credited as a masterpiece of Australian metal. Ahead of its time, the album's darkly brutal tracks had a strong influence on shaping the sounds of the next wave of Aussie metal bands such as Parkway Drive & I Killed the Prom Queen.
But in beginning of Sunk Loto’s career, there was one man who was pivotal in the early success of the band, and that man was Chino Moreno. We caught up with Sunk Loto guitarist Luke Mcdonald to talk about how a chance meeting with the Deftones frontman out the front of a Chinese Restaurant during the 1998 Vans Warped Tour drastically altered the band’s future.
Considering how young the band was at the time, how did you get picked to play the Warped Tour?
At the time we were called ‘Messiah’ and we had just won the high school rock awards in Brisbane run by the academy of music. After we won the competition we expected to be shot into fame but it didn’t work out that way. We had been playing small gigs around town, parties, skate parks, empty clubs so getting to play the warped tour was very exciting for us.
Scott Nicholson, Kerry Nicholson’s brother got us the gig. Scott had been interested in managing the band for a while & coming to see us perform from time to time. Kerry Nicholson is the production manager for the Vans Warped Tour, we had no idea about that of course & we were very grateful to be given the opportunity. Jason & I were 16 years old. Dane was about 14 & Sean was 17.
Were you fans of the Deftones at the time?
It was actually Sean our bass player that introduced us all to Deftones music. We had met & started jamming together at school & he had joined the band shortly after we met at high school. He loaned me Adrenaline & Around The Fur at school one day. He kept asking if I had listened to them & I lied & said ‘yes’, he could tell by my disinterest in the Deftones that I hadn’t listened to them yet. He asked for his CDs back & I gave them back without listening to them.
One day we were getting ready to go for a skate at our friend's house with our friends & he put Around The Fur on the CD player. Immediately I asked him “what the hell is this? who is this? this is incredible!” he laughed at me and said to me that he knew I hadn’t listened to them!, they became my favorite band that day & Around The Fur is still my favorite album of all time to this day.
How did you initially meet Chino?
We had been playing the Warped tour on a little side Van, we only had 3 gigs, Noosa, Gold Coast & the last leg of the tour we would play was the Coffs harbor show, then we were meant to go home.
Deftones were scheduled to join the tour at Coffs Harbour, we were very excited to see them at least one time before we had to head home back to the Gold Coast. Sean needed Bass strings so we decided to head into the little township & grab some McDonalds while Sean bought his strings.
Sean came running back to Mcdonalds after buying his strings & said Deftones were eating lunch in some Chinese restaurant. He must have been looking at the menu outside & noticed them sitting in there.
I didn’t believe him so he took us outside & we could kinda see Chi & Chino in there. We were all massive fans & we wanted to meet them so we sat outside waiting for them to finish so we could talk to them.
After a while everybody left because it was kinda nerve-racking, I decided to stay & just keep waiting even though I was terrified of making a fool of myself.
I was a very shy kid to begin with so meeting my hero was a bit terrifying but also exciting. Finally, Chino came out & as he was walking away I chirped up & yelled out “ Camillo” he turned around & I was terrified. He started walking towards me & I muttered out hey, I’m a big fan, could you please sign my hat.
He was very cool, calm & collected. He gave me my hat back & I said thank you & then I told him my band Messiah was playing on the side van at 11 am & if he had time it would mean a lot to us if he could come to check us out. I actually can’t believe I had the balls at 16 years old to say that to my hero, I guess it just kinda fell out of my mouth. He said “ I’ll see what I can do man “ he was very kind & polite.
I ran back to the show grounds & couldn’t wait to tell the guys what had just happened.
Did you think he would actually turn up?
Naturally, I was hoping he would come, but I didn’t know for sure, I was excited, so were the other guys. We got up on the Van & there were only 2 stoned dreadlocked hippies dancing around when we launched into our set.
We always enjoyed playing so it didn’t matter if it was 5000 people or 2 we would do our best & put on the same show. I was always grateful that anybody would show up to watch us play.
I remember looking over to Jason & Sean on my left about a quarter way into our live set & I couldn’t believe my eyes. Chino & Chi were both standing on the side of the van watching us perform.
Adrenaline rushed through my veins & I started playing harder. It was a very magical moment in my life. The image of them standing there is tattooed in my brain forever. They watched about 2 songs & then walked back to the MainStage area.
Did you get to meet them afterwards?
After we played our set, we were all blown away & on such a massive high. We had met Deftones tour manager Greg Donovan earlier that day & he knew we were big Deftones fans. He was a very kind & we bumped into him after the show.
We didn’t have any backstage passes or anything so we couldn’t go backstage in the main area, however, Greg came up to us after we played & asked us if we would like to go & hang out with Chino?
Again, with equal amounts of fear & excitement, of course, we said yes. Sean is from Coffs Harbour so he was off somewhere catching up with friends, so it was just Jason, Dane & I that went backstage to talk to Chino. It was very hard for me because I was star-struck, I just kinda sat there with my mouth shut. Jason did a good job keeping the conversation flowing, Chino was very polite & patient with us.
We were sitting there for some time, trying to play it cool, people would come over & say hello to Chino. Eventually, Kerry (production manager for the Vans Warped Tour) came over & started a conversation with Chino.
Chino actually asked Kerry if Messiah were playing any more shows, Kerry announced that it was our last show & that we were heading home that day. Chino then asked him if he could give us some more dates on the Warped tour, give us some more shows. My eyes went wide, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was shocked. Kerry was totally on the spot & he said, “ alright, Chino well, if they can get to Sydney then we will give them some more time on the side stage “. It was another magical moment in my life. I was elated & so were the other guys.
How did the rest of the tour go?
We played 1 more show on the small van & then ended up getting moved onto the main stage because in Sydney Unwritten Law was kicked off the tour for inciting the crowd to steal food from the food vendors & have a massive food fight in the mosh pit.
I was very grateful for the opportunity, it was a bit overwhelming, the crowd wasn’t familiar with our band. I think we probably would have been better off on the small stage.
I was intimidated by all the other bands watching our set, I think they may have been pissed off about the Unwritten Law getting booted off the tour too? I don’t know? I’m just speculating though, I was just having so much fun watching Deftones play live every day, to be honest!
Deftones would invite us up onto the stage to watch their set from the side of the stage when they would perform, that was an honor. I asked them one day before they played if they ever performed the secret song 'Damone' live. They ended up playing it live that day! Another day I asked if they ever played the song 'Birthmark' live & again they played it that day! I don’t think they were coincidences, they listened & I was blown away that they cared enough to do that, I felt very special. They were very cool to us, I think they could tell we were very shy, I was very awkward, we were just teenagers & they knew we were massive fans.
How did you end up playing the Brisbane show with them after the Warped tour run was over?
Oh, that was totally unexpected, I remember just being on a high from meeting them & I went back to my boring life not expecting anything else. They were already booked to play Brisbane, we had bought tickets & the support bands had already been chosen.
I remember I got a phone call from Jason about a week before they were scheduled to play in Brisbane & he told me Deftones had offered us a 20-minute set just as the doors were opening.
It was another dream come true for us, we hung out with them a little before the show, Korn was there too, they were playing the big day out festival & popped in to see Deftones play that night. We couldn’t get backstage after the show because Korns security was blocking us. It's all good though, I was a bit cut about it at the time because I wanted to say thank you to Deftones for having us.
Do you think your initial meeting with Chino changed the future of Sunk Loto?
Yes, we became very popular in Coffs Harbour after people saw us spending time with Deftones, also Chino mentioned us in an interview he did in Australia when he was asked if he remembered touring with any Australian bands he mentioned us in detail.
Naturally, that did something for our "street cred". I know that sounds corny but It's just the unvarnished truth. In addition to that I believe it helped our band as a unit become more confident in ourselves, Deftones were pretty much our heroes. We love a lot of different bands & music but Deftones were at the top of our list. They took us under their wing, I consider myself very blessed to have spent that time with them. I'm very grateful, It was a phenomenal moment in our lives. Thank you, Deftones.