P.O.D. Interview with Sonny Sandoval
Nu-Metal has essentially come and gone at this point. Any band thinking that they will be able to sustain a musical career by performing Rap-Rock Mall Metal in a public environment are going to have a very difficult time grasping the fact that the scene is virtually over. The only exception to this rule would be the groups that managed to break into the music business at the right time, with the right track. Enter Payable On Death.
Formed in 1992, San Diego, California natives P.O.D. started their group as musical missionaries for Jesus Christ. Their dedication to and faith in both music and a higher spiritual power have taken them across the globe, spreading the Christian message through their remarkably catchy rock songs and ferocious live performances. Even if you are not a religious or spiritual individual, P.O.D.’s 8 albums catalogue, intense live show, and frantic delivery are an impressive testament to the band’s staying power.
One of the headliners of this year’s K-Rockathon Festival in Syracuse, NY, P.O.D. will bring their message and mayhem to throngs of modern rock enthusiasts on July 29th. Prior to their performance, I spoke with singer Sonny Sandoval to discuss the group’s collective faith, message, and music. It’ll be a fun show, folks… Make sure to check them out!
G- Hi Sonny and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. P.O.D. has been pretty busy as of late… How is everything going?
S- Everything is good, man. We’ve got a new record out and everything is kinda falling into place once again, so things are getting busy. It’s good to have a new record out there and it’s good to be back on the road.
G- Your new album, “Murdered Love,” on Razor and Tie dropped on July 10th in stores. How do you feel about the songs on the album, and where did you come up with the name “Murdered Love?”
S- Yea man I’m super excited about the record. “Murdered Love” just started with this EP. We were going to make a really heavy, dark EP called “The Day That They Murdered Love,” and it’s kind of taken from the imagery of the crucifixtion and just that moment of hopelessness and desperation. It was just taken from that idea.
The song is a little dark and eerey and kind of painted the picture a little bit.
G- Yea I know… It’s a super heavy track so I think it’s going to go over well when you guys are on the road. You recently signed to a multiple record deal with Razor and Tie. How is everything going working with the company, and how did the signing come about? Do you feel it a good fit for P.O.D. at this time?
S- So far they’ve been amazing! They’re not following in the footsteps of all the other labels right now where they want a part of everything… They want your first born. And obviously with the new bands that’s what they get… Everybody wants to get a deal to go onwith their music, but we’ve been in this game long enough and we’re really respectful of that.
They kinda just funded us to do this record, and then, you know, it’s their job to sell records. We’re gonna do that and then recoup, and make a bit of the profit if there is any, you know? So, they’ve been good to us, man, and they’re just excited to put out quality music. They’re not looking for one-hit wonders and they’re just putting out whatever music they like.
G- Nice! That’s great. So you feel it’s a pretty good fit for P.O.D. at this time?
S- For sure, man. We’ve been through the Atlantics and the indies enough and this doesn’t feel like a label… It feels like a partner.
G- Good, man. That’s excellent to hear. So tell me a bit about the Southtown San Diego Metal and Hardcore scene… How’s everything going with the scene out there? How are the shows there, do you get to perform there often, and how are the responses at your shows? I can only imagine those shows are pretty bananas!
S- Yea we have some great shows here. I think the last time we played it was at this little club that we announced the day of. We’ve been playing around town for a long time, and we’ve got a really cool music scene out here… Pretty much every genre you could imagine. And we like to do special stuff, you know?
G- Right on. You’re obviously an international band and have been for a long time… Can you describe some of the differences between playing stateside shows versus performing overseas in Europe or South America? How do the responses differ, and in what ways are they the same?
S- Um, they’re similar in the sense that music is universal. You can relate to somebody just by their style of music and you have kids that just fall in love with the music. They find the music of your tastes and it becomes part of their lifestyle.
I think, with the United States in general, we’ve become really spoiled with our music. With the technology and the social media, there are a zillion bands born every week, and everybody is just spoiled. In the major cities, touring is down, but you go to South America, and we’ve been a band for almost 20 years, and the first time we went there it was 15 years, and these kids would travel from country to country on a 24 hours bus ride to get to the show… They’ve waited 15 years to see you. Whereas you play in NY, and they’re like ‘They’ll be back next week’ or next tour or whatever. So, I think you go outside the country and they just love American culture.
G- Right on. So in regards to your current work and your previous records, I’m interested to know a bit about what your writing process is like when you guys get ready to write new material… Who in the band typically comes up new music? Is it formally structured, or do songs come about more organically through jamming?
S- It’s completely organic. We all share the same in publishing and we’re all writers. Obviously it’s guitar driven music, so it stems from a cool guitar riff and then, once you start to jam it out, you put it into a structure. And once we feel like we’ve got the song and start to write lyrics to it and put the melody and all that. It relay just comes from having fun, you know?
It shocks me because, again, with today’s technology, you talk to all these bands and they’ve completed 4 records and they’ve never been in the same room together. Each ne is doing their own individual parts from their home or a whole different state, because that’s the way pro-tools and all these things work. We’re old school, man.
G- Yea you kind of lose some of the luster. As a drummer, I always fed off of the energy of the other players.
S- It’s a whole different vibe, man. Doing it any other way is just idiotic. Even now, we’ll play a lot of these rocks shows and all these new bands are all playing to a million different tracks and everything is flawless, unless the power goes out (laughs). They crucified Milli Vanilli for lip synching, and now everybody does it.
G- (laughing) Yea it’s like an industry standard now.
S- As long as you can get your 2-step off (laughs)!
G- Oh man that’s great! Ok, to get a bit more serious and introspective, you are a Christian Metal Band, and religion and faith play heavily into many of your songs and overall message. How did faith and religion enter into your musical writing and is everyone in the band still a devoted Christian?
S- Yea, man. It’s funny enough because we’ve never taken it that serious. We’ve never marketed ourselves as a Christian band because I wasn’t raised in the church… It was a complete personal decision that I made on my own. I was going the wrong way and a lot of things happened in my life and I asked God to change me and show me how to love people and show me how to do what’s right. And in doing that, I was introduced to music and the guys felt the same way. I think it’s because we’ve been such an open book about our faith that people start to label you and put you in categories, and we really had a problem with that because we’ve always felt that our music was overlooked because it was already prejudged that [fans would say] ‘I’m not a Christian and I can’t listen to your music.’ It’s never been that way because it’s not like we were received by the Christian community or were able to sell millions of records or sell out venues. Even when we started, we were never considered Christian in a sense because we had tattoos…
G- And you play metal music.
S- Yea we play metal music and we were never Christian enough for the church, but we were too Christian for the world because we are very vocal about what we believe.
It’s been a journey, man. All of us are on different levels and wavelengths, and have experienced different things, but my faith is everything, man, and I do believe in Jesus and I want people to be healed by the power that I believe God has.
G- Right on. Yea I saw that their was an independent record offer for P.O.D. to the sum of 10k, and it was turned down because God had bigger things for P.O.D.
S- I think at that point, there was this whole Christian industry and we’ve never been a part of that. We’ve played everywhere… In backyards, in YMCA clubs, wherever, and we just played. Once we started seeing that whole Christian world and we were getting offers, it was like, our music is bigger than that… It’s beyond this contemporary, Nashville sort of scene, and that’s not why we started making music in the first place. We had been doing it on our own forever, so let’s just keep doing it and if something big happens, it happens. We never had any expectation, and when Atlantic came along and we started to sell millions of records, it shocked us all.
G- That’s a good thing. You guys put in your work and have done the band for a long time… It comes to the good ones.
How well do you feel the Christian message can be spread through song? Have you ever had fans come up to you stating they have had a spiritual awakening or found God due to your music?
S- For sure, man. It’s all from the heart. It’s about passion, it’s about love. We just wanted to speak about the things that we knew. It was that, and it was the streets where we come from, and we were just vocal about it.
You know what, man, I think the only reason we continue to do music is because it’s story after story with that kid that’s just like ‘I was gonna blow my head off and then “Alive” came on the radio, and I didn’t want to do it,’ or I got off heroin by listening to your music because it gave me hope. When you hear stuff like that, man…
We never tried to be rock stars. Even to this day, I’ve never called myself a rock star and whenever I get around these rock stars, I want to choke them because I don’t like their attitude. It isn’t what music is supposed to be about. So when someone comes up and says our music changed their life, that’s heavy stuff, and that’s when I believe we’re a part of something more than just the music.
G- That’s one of the things about music with a message… When you have something more substantial besides just the sonic ability. What do you feel are some of the most difficult situations facing the youth of America today, and what do you think mainstream society can do to remedy some of the social ills we currently face?
S- That’s a scary thought, because I hang around young people all the time. When I tok away time from music, I was doing a lot of charity stuff and speaking in high schools and rehabs and stuff like that. The scary thought is that it’s just the world we live in today, with technology and everything at the click of a button. I think, with young people, and this isn’t even anything political, we don’t have enough time to be kids. We don’t have enough time to be innocent, and the moral decay of our whole society is just absolutely insane!
When I was a kid, we still did dumb stuff and got into trouble, but it wasn’t evil. You have a kid that can click on buttons on their iTouch alone and tapped into crazy pornography that’s going to warp their minds forever, you know what I mean. The sex trafficking and all that stuff where these kids are so alone and come from broken homes that they’re willing to try any drug out there and before you know it, these kids are junkies by the time they’re teenagers. Being a daddy myself, my heart breaks for what the youth have to go through in this day and age, you know.
And that’s one thing you don’t know how to correct, because there is no more moral conviction, there is no more ‘take care of one and other.’ It’s such a selfish society all over tv, all over every marketing product… They’ll kill the next man just so they can have rims on their truck. I don’t know how we defeat that, unless it’s from the home. We live in a crazy society and something has to be done.
G- Great answer to that. I’m gonna lighten it up a bit right now because we’re talking pretty deep.
G- You guys have been around forever… You’ve been a band for a long time and have been working really hard. What I want to know is… Tell us about the most memorable, craziest, or favorite show you’ve played to date? Where did it take place and what was it like?
S- (laughing) Oh man… There’s too many! Again, that’s why I feel so blessed to be able to keep doing this because that’s the only time I feel like a lot of this makes sense… That hour or half hour moment that we get to play as a band. Because of music, we’ve been blessed to go around the world and play in front of so many different cultures and different faces, eyes, and people… It’s an amazing thing.
But we’ve done everything from broken down houses to on the rook in the middle of Times Square on New Years Eve, so it goes from smallest to biggest and I wouldn’t say to anybody else that one is better than the other, because every time we get a chance to play music, it feels right.
G- Nice! Well, hopefully Syracuse shows you as much love as you’ve had in the past and that’ll give you one to remember!
S- Oh yea I’m excited, man!
G- Same here! Lastly, like you said there are a lot of kids out there who have the music dream… What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here in Syracuse and everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician from someone who has done it and is still doing it?
S- The bottom line is you have to love doing it. It can’t just be a seasonal thing. When we decided to commit and go full-time, we believed in what we were doing. We were not an overnight success… If you do your homework, we’re one of the hardest working bands, and it’s gotta be because you love it.
Even now, it’s not this Rock and Roll pipe dream anymore. Be humble in the process, love what you are doing, and don’t burn any bridges.
Catch P.O.D. on July 29th at the K-Rockathon in Syracuse, NY! Here’s a track-by-track review of the new record, “Murdered Love,” by Kira.
P.O.D. – “Murdered Love”
Christian Rap-Metal veterans “Payable On Death,” better known as “P.O.D.” have brought a new studio album to the table, titled, “Murdered Love.”
Eyez-Anthemic chanting of, “We will rise when it all comes down!” sneaks in, as if one has slowly turned up the volume dial after the track already started. Sharply articulated raps point directly to their religious connections: “You keep laughin’ now, you gonna regret it then. Cause’ this the day God will judge all the secrets of men.” This track can easily create an audience of synchronized backup rappers.
Murdered Love-These raps are delivered with a distinct reggae style vocal-inflection. Layered on top of a constant kick beat, rapid but short, looping guitar riff in the verses and head banging chord strikes during the chorus and there’s a lot to process. The clashing rhythmic variation and contrasting sounds may feel a little overwhelming at times but one can center themselves during the repeated refrain proclaiming it’s, “the day that they murdered love.”
Higher-First track with a truly noticeable melodic, instrument hook alongside the rapped verses. It almost sounds like P.O.D. Has channeled Christian/Alternative Metal colleagues, Demon Hunter. This is recognizable within the first minute and reminiscent of less intense tracks by Hunter like “One Thousand Apologies” or “Driving Nails,” Following a more traditional song format, it’s a chance to refocus your ears.
Lost in Forever-With the vocals standing at the forefront this time and executed between steady rhythmic rap and a sung melody, the album’s arrangement and tracking versatility starts to shine well.
West Coast Rock Steady-Definitely stands out on the lighter side after all the thunderous chords, and booming percussion. A single guitar, the bright tone of clinking, repeated piano notes and a spoken “call to audience” intro, and this track could definitely function as a more widely accepted party tune, even if raps aren’t someone’s “thing.”
Beautiful-Clearly this is meant to be the breather in the middle. Largely stripped down for half the song and fully sung, this narrative, mid-tempo ballad almost makes one think someone changed the CD.
Babylon the Murderer-More reggae style vocals, rhythms and character come through as the album slowly picks up the intensity after the tame midway point.
On Fire-The first track where maybe the combined character of the track (shouts/guitar line/repeated chorus) starts to wane on the listener. Not badly made but lacking attention grabbing qualities like everything else prior to it.
Bad Boy-Alternating back to less intense again, this track seems a less focused on spurring deep contemplation. Lends again to wider listener appeal. (“And she’s so fine, I can’t say that love is blind, but I know it got me shook, got me mesmerized.”)
Panic & Run-The first 30 seconds have a faster punk-rock guitar vibe that mesh with the words in the title. Smash that together with even more prominent reggae qualities and it could be called “reggae on major caffeine.” Though, the sudden screaming breakdown 2/3rds of the way through feels random.
I Am-The longest track on the album, P.O.D. close out with a better balanced piece that equally features straight raps, crisp but heavy guitar (with a decent solo halfway through,) and the bringing in of the murder theme one more time. This leaves listeners with a good hard rock foundation.
Overall Impression: There are few odd tracks. However, in general, P.O.D. brought back a lot of what made them strong early on, without making listeners feel like they’ve been thrown in a 90s time machine or overemphasizing one of their many styles.
“Murdered Love” dropped July 10th on Razor and Tie Records.
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