P.O.D. singer Sonny Sandoval has heard it all. People regularly tell him that the whole mix of rap and rock thing is dead - and it makes him crazy. P.O.D. were mixing those styles back in the day before Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit and it's part of who they are. And you can hear those elements on "Murdered Love", the band's new album that combines not only Sandoval's unique approach to hip-hop but strains of funk, reggae, and straight-up rock. Self-righteous and narrow-minded religious zealots will come down on the band for using the f-word here and there and actually ban their albums from religious outlets. It is ludicrous. Sandoval may be a Christian but he's more like someone with a big heart than any kind of preacher or sermonizer. So it's a fine line the quartet have walked since their inception some 20 years - trying to balance the angst and fury of the music with the Christian-related themes of the lyrics.
Here the singer talks about everything from the changes in the music industry to the hypocrisy in the business of religion.
UG: It's been four years since you released "When Angels & Serpents Dance". You've commented that the industry changed a lot these last four years.
Sonny Sandoval: P.O.D. is just this underground garage band, bro. We started as kids and did independently as long as we could do it and then all of a sudden we get a major deal with Atlantic Records and it's a dream come true. Then our albums end up doing more than they even thought and more than we thought and then all of a sudden we're selling platinum records. Then the whole industry starts to crash and they shelve our two records. I think they got what they wanted out of us and so here we were even then still just trying to keep the brand alive. Twenty years in this business and everything starts to change and you start to see all the politics and the cookie cutter bubblegum rock and roll. It's not changing for the good.
"I'm a daddy and I'm a husband and I love my community [P.O.D.]."
The music business has been shifting away from a creative place for a long time.
Obviously there's good and cool things with the technology and just the exposure of new bands and stuff like that. But it also takes away from the passion and the love and even the work that comes into being a band. Everything; the roots of it. And not only that but on a spiritual and personal level this business takes a toll on your life. You know what I mean? I think for me it's business as usual - show after show you're just trying to maintain this brand and all of a sudden it doesn't become fun anymore.
The music industry is great at taking the fun out of being a musician.
You're just kind of stuck in that system of the music industry. So for me, I was just going through other things in my life. It was like, "You know what? I have to be willing to lay this down if that's how much it means to me." I have to be willing to say, "You know what? It's been a good run and I'm so blessed to be a part of music and P.O.D. But if it means laying it down and going back home and finding a 9 to 5, I'll do that."
You were willing to walk away from P.O.D.?
I'm a daddy and I'm a husband and I love my community. So I took some time and got involved with a lot of things locally and got to do some real cool stuff. Then you just realize, "Hey man, it's time to do some more music 'cause there's still people listening and there's still some people out there that still care."
Even after P.O.D. had success with "The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown" and "Satellite", you were still running into walls?
Definitely, man. It's like you're trying to repeat the success and then everybody is in your pockets and in your brain of what your band should be and what they should do. Then all of a sudden you're like, "I'll never change. I'll never be like that. No one will tell me." And all of a sudden you realize, "Dude, it's not really going the way we set out." In certain ways you don't even realize you've already compromised in so many ways. It's just like, "Yo, this is crazy."
You had to take a step back in order to really see what was going on.
Again man, I think it was just getting away from it all. Even when we decided to do a record it was the same thing right off the bat. It was, "OK, we want to get writers in with you" and it's like, "We ain't getting no writers." To me it's like the same four writers for every band that's out there right now. That's like why music sucks already. You know what? We took the time off and we got away and I think we showed everybody that we're in this for the right reasons. Because there's no money to be made and for me I'm not trying to tour 13 months out of the year. I've done that for 20 years you know what I mean? It's like, "I'm gonna tour as long as there's shows to play and people are coming out." I'm cool with that and I'm easy with that. But as long as I know we're in it for the right reasons right now then it's fun again.
You talked about doing work in your community. Did that help ignite the fuse on going back into the studio?
For sure, man. I've been able to do a lot of charities and community outreaches and I love hanging with kids and young people. I feel like I'm still a young kid because music has kept me young. You're always playing in front of young kids and even though my kids are getting older, I still feel like them and that's a blessing. But when you hang around these kids you see all the stuff they're going through and it's like these kids are suicidal and they're addicted to everything under the sun. It's just a moral decay of society where these kids are lost. They're not even allowed to be kids. After you're a toddler it's like boom—grow up and join this crazy world.
P.O.D. has always tried to bring a positive message in the music.
Just hanging out with kids reminds me of why I jumped in this band in the first place. I have a faith in God that gives me joy and gives me peace of mind and we always wanted to write music that inspired people and offered 'em some type of hope. It's a music that always said, "Hey man, you're gonna be alright. Don't fall into the traps of this world." It's like we always wanted to do that with our music and be positive in that area and you know what? I think this world needs it more now than ever.
Howard Benson had produced the Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Satellite albums and you brought him back for Murdered Love. Why?
Howard is our first producer ever. We did everything independently on our own and he's the guy that taught us the structure of the song. We have so much history. Back in the day we would bring him a 10-minute song and he was like, "We gotta trim this down. You guys got a million changes." We're his first gold and platinum record.
Is that right?
Yeah man. There was that whole kind of like revolution of Satellite and that sound of the record and then he went on to do the Papa Roaches and the Colds and all the bands of that day. And then move onto American Idols and stuff like that so he's gone off to do some big, big records. I think even in his career it's not like he needs the money. So he's just like, "I just don't want to do every record that comes my way. I want to make a good, solid, rock record." We've been talking even on our hiatus because there was even talk of doing a solo record.
"We started as kids and did independently as long as we could do it and then all of a sudden we get a major deal with Atlantic Records and it's a dream come true."
Did you consider making a record on your own?
I was like, "You know what? I just want to get away from it all. Period." Then he would hit us up and say, "You know what? It's time for a P.O.D. record. You guys need to hurry this up." He always told us, "When you guys decide to get back together and do a record, I want to do it."
So you have a real connection with Howard Benson.
And it's like you know what? We've got love for Howard and he understands us. We don't take none of his lip. All these other bands think he's the kung fu master of producing and he busts our balls and we bust him right back. It's just like we have this old relationship and I know he's got a love for us. What's cool about it is he wants to see us win I think more than anybody else. When you have people like that just fired up about your band, you can't help but wanna go for it.
Back when you were still an indie band, your first couple of records - Snuff the Punk and Brown - were produced by Noah Bernardo Sr. Those records were heavily influenced by punk and hip-hop and the sound the guitars and vocals were so much different than what you'd later do.
Dude, that's so funny, man, that you say that. I look at it and I see us being teenagers, man, and just so young and so excited that we could actually play three chords. And just actually get together and have some fun. At that time you thought, "Yo, this music can change the world" and it is raw. Even at that time we weren't trying to be nobody. It was all the music we loved from the hardcore movement to punk rock to metal and then our love for hip-hop and reggae. It was like we can blend this all together.
The possibilities of youth.
It's funny 'cause someone played a song for me that was old and I was so embarrassed because I was like, "Man, I even sound so young." But you know what? I love it, bro, because at least for me and even the guys would say the same thing, we had no idea what we were doing. We were playing house parties and all the homies would come out and have fun and pit it up and go crazy. Then we turned in enough cans to go and do a demo. So it's always been a learning process and you look back at those and you know what? It was fun and good times.
Marcos Curiel said making Murdered Love feels like it did making The Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Satellite.
I think that's kind of where we're at again where it's like no expectations. You have hopes but there's no expectations. We're just gonna put out a record we love and whatever happens happens and I think everybody is kind of at peace with it. Once you've tasted the success and all of that you just realize, "You know what? It's all kinda not reality, man. It's all just this one big rollercoaster ride of whatever." So we just gotta make sure at the end of it we come off sane.
You joke about the band being able to play three chords but the reality was P.O.D. are really good players. That's been one of the strengths of the band from the beginning.
You know what? I had that sense about the guys. [laughs] For me I'm just not that guy. I never said I'm gonna be in a band. At the first show I think I had my back to the crowd the whole time. I'm not that showboat, entertainer-type of guy. But I always felt and to this day the guys are my favorite musicians and I don't say that just because I'm in the band with them. I watched them grown and they're all homegrown and self-taught and for the love of music they just keep getting better and better. They love their instruments and I admire that passion in the guys. Because it's true, 100 percent musician blood that flows in their veins and why they let me sing in their band is you got me. [laughs]
There was a big step forward in sound and songwriting when you got to The Fundamental Elements of Southtown album.
Yeah man. I think at that time just doing pre-production with Howard Benson and all of a sudden we had a real producer. We were bringing him like I said 10-minute songs so he literally broke down on a dry-erase board, the structure of a song: intro; verse; chorus. Because we'd do 10-minute songs where we'd play one piece only one time and he's like, "That's such a good piece, man. Why don't you bring that in again?" We just never thought that way. He allowed us not only to be ourselves but at the same time we were so stoked to have somebody that actually cared about our music. He gave us this advice and we took it and obviously you're in a real studio and have real instruments. I remember Atlantic Records gave us a budget and we all went out and bought guitars and cabinets just because all our stuff was ghetto. This was big for us.
Howard Benson really was a key piece for P.O.D.?
Being with Howard in the studio was big. We've always been up to learn and like I said every time we get in the studio now it's still a learning process. Even at the time with Howard I remember ProTools wasn't even really known and he was like one out of two or three ProTools guys. We took a meeting with him and we were gonna go with Ed Stasium who did the Living Color record and it was still analog. And here we were like, "Dude, we gotta do analog. What's this ProTools stuff?" We were gonna go with Ed Stasium and Howard's like, "I wanna meet with the guys" and he got with us and said, "This is the wave of the future." It was all calculus stuff back then but we trusted him. Even then we recorded the instruments on analog and put it through ProTools and by the time "Satellite" came out it was just straight into ProTools. By that time it was known and that's kind of where Howard even got his start because he was one of the first ProTools guys.
Satellite was the breakout album for P.O.D. What do you think it was about that record that your fans loved?
Fundamental... went platinum and so we're on the map now. We got the good tours and we were out with Korn in Europe and we were on Ozzfest and TRL and MTV was a whole new world for us and then here comes "Satellite". Obviously we even had more money in the recording budget so it's like you can now get the bomb mixer, Chris Lord-Alge, to do the whole record now and not just two songs. We could afford to pay him the whole record. So you have all these people in place and not only that it was here comes 9/11 and our album drops on 9/11. At the time "Alive" is on the top of the charts and it's number one in TRL and we have this powerful, positive record and then the worst American history tragedy on our own soil happens on 9/11. At that time nobody wanted to hear Slipknot and those bands; nobody wanted to hear all the booty shakin' music. It was like, "Now it's like real life and we need some type of hope." At that time I think we were one of only like three artists out there that had a song that was actually inspiring. They were forced to actually look at what they were listening and what they were watching. And at that time like I said around 9/11, "Alive" just happened to be one of them anthems that the world needed at the time and so that really stood out for us.
You worked with Glen Ballard on the Testify album.
Yeah, Glen was cool, man. We had actually started off with another cat and it ended up taking so long. We had went up in Frisco to the Music Factory or whatever that studio is and it was just this drawn out process and we weren't really getting anywhere. Then we ended up moving back to San Diego and were trying stuff. So at that time I think it was kind of an emergency like "What do we do?" We were almost at the end of our budget here and Atlantic is getting worried because it's not what they want and it's not what we want. Glen Ballard speaks for himself and I think it was a long shot of us giving him what we had and him listening to it and saying, "Dude, I like these guys." He was so used to doing pop and alternative records like Alanis Morissette that I think it was more of a challenge for him to say, "Hey, I want to do a heavy record. I want to do this kind of band." And he really did welcome us with open arms and it was an awesome, amazing experience.
"You have hopes but there's no expectations. We're just gonna put out a record we love and whatever happens - happens and I think everybody is kind of at peace with it."
You liked the final Testify album?
I love that record and you're thinking, "Cool, this is gonna be it. We got everybody behind us." Then Atlantic goes and shelves it again. We had Katy Perry on our first single ["Goodbye For Now"] and there was just so many cool things about it. And it was like, "This sucks, man."
You had finished this amazing record with Glen Ballard and Atlantic Records heard it and said they wouldn't put it out?
No, that was all the early demo stuff. Once Glen came in the picture then it was like they were excited and thought it was a great record. But again when it comes down to working the record, here comes Atlantic not doing anything. You've got to remember when we did "Payable On Death", we were going to New York and we had already built two records and relationships with all of Atlantic and all of these successes. And then people were getting fired left and right. You go there and all of a sudden one whole floor is fired and it's empty.
That must have felt like you were really running into a brick wall.
Even with "Payable On Death" and "Will You," it was our single and top of the rock charts and number on TRL. It was the same thing just like "Alive" and we're like, "Cool, the third record is gonna hit too." But it's like nobody worked anything because everybody was so afraid that they're gonna lose their jobs. Then we get the Linkin Park tour and we're like, "Cool, we're on the biggest tour of the summer. We got another single and we just shot an amazing video." And it never got serviced to MTV or anything because everything is sitting on the desks of all these people waiting to be fired. We walked in those offices and it was like a graveyard. You know what I mean? It was crazy.
[Note: At this point the interview had to come to a close. We hadn't really talked about the "Murdered Love" album and Sonny kindly offered, "Hey, if we gotta do this again, bro, we could wrap it up on another day, dude." Four days later we resumed the interview and here is that follow-up session.]
The industry and music styles had changed a lot since you did When Angels & Serpents Dance back in 2008. Did you think about all of that when you went in to record "Murdered Love"?
I think you when you got into that mindset you overthink it. I don't think we said, "Let this record be heavy and Bad Brainsy." I think we wanted to do a heavy EP like five or six heavy songs and then we'll maybe put out a reggae EP. Just something fun because at that point we were like, "Nobody buys records but we can go in on our own at the homey's studio and lay down some cool tracks and just put it out there on iTunes or something and see what happens." So those were all just kind of thoughts. But I think taking time away when we got together I don't think we were thinking about that anymore. I think we were just kind of over it.
You could see a little more clearly what was going on with the business and everything?
If anything all we knew was we had gotten new management and a new booking agency and we were just kinda trying to rebuild our team. But when it came down to the writing process then again new management has their ideas of what they think we should do. It was just like, "Lookit, just put us in a room and let us stop thinking about the industry and what's hot and whatever. We just wanna go in and let it be fun." And I think that's kinda how we always approached writing a record. It's gotta be fun to us. We can sit there and jam and be like, "That riff is awesome or that's not cool or that doesn't mix." Once the song feels good that's when the lyrics are inspired.
"Eyez" has some of that heaviness from the earlier albums?
I don't think that's the heaviest song we've done; I think we've had heavier tracks in the past. Even on the last album "God Forbid" and before then "Mark My Words." These are all heavy tracks. If anything even lyrically it kind of throws into the balance of it being an altogether heavy track. It's kinda got that groove but I've heard Marcos write just some brutal stuff but then it calls for some double-bass and some other crazy stuff.
It's difficult to define what kind of band P.O.D. really are.
I think sometimes we kind of not argue but go through that, "Are we a heavy band or are we a rock and roll band?" But I think we've hung with the best of 'em. We can play a show with any heavy band out there but we can also go and play with someone like say the Foo Fighters or even like a Dave Matthews if it was a radio show or something. Because our songs on our records haven't been just brutally heavy from beginning to end; it's always been a mixture. We've done reggae tracks; we've done mellow sort of ballad tracks; it's always just been whatever that song is supposed to be. I love being heavy and I think our live show is heavy when we know which audience we're playing to. But we've also played in front of mellower crowds where it's like let's do the punk stuff or let's do "Roots In Stereo" that has a reggae vibe to it. I think that's what's cool about my band is they can switch it up. I don't ever want to just be locked into like, "Oh, you've got to play with all these death metal and heavy bands." We've been known to switch it up no matter what the situation is.
Jamey Jasta does a co-vocal with you on "Eyez."
I met Jamey on the 2000 Ozzfest. I've never met the guys before but obviously you know their music and the style and that hardcore scene. When I met all those guys it was like they were all sweethearts. You think of Hatebreed and it's this mean vibe bust we all got together as friends and go and play cards together and hang out and barbeque and we had a good time. We keep in contact in-between and when we did "Eyez" we had a couple different ideas. We knew we wanted either a street vocal/heavy vocal like Jamey Jasta or we even talked about someone like a Dave Mustaine doing more of an old-school thing. You know how Dave does it?
That could have been cool.
We had talked about this the other day and still reaching out to him and saying, "Hey, let's do a remix of that other track." Just like we did Jamey and let him do his thing because he's probably got ProTools at home and we'll just throw it out there for free again. Like just put it out there and something cool to do. But yeah, once we kinda seen Jamey on Twitter again we were going back and forth and we're like, "Dude, we've got a song and we actually had your voice in mind if you can do it." And he did it like that, man. We sent it right over to him and he took it in and banged it out and sent it right back just for the love of it.
"Our songs on our records haven't been just brutally heavy from beginning to end; it's always been a mixture."
Your vocals always have this groove thing happening and you can really hear that on the "Murdered Love" track. How do you find that rhythm when you're singing a track?
Like I said we write the music first and it's always the music that kind of inspires the direction of the melody and the lyrical content. I don't carry a journal with me with my thoughts for 10 or 20 years and then decide to put that to a rhythm or a guitar riff. It's always for the moment so I'm not taking old thoughts or even old lyrics. It's just like this song was brutal so we kind of had an idea lyrically - at least the title. So when I sit with the song it's more like just kind of painting a picture visually. Already again I had a cool rhythm with what the bass and drums were doing and it's like it's already off.
So it all begins with the music track.
Like I said I love hip-hop music and reggae music and I think everything else is what I've kind of had to learn in the past x amount of years. I was just talking with a friend the other day and it wasn't until Satellite when Howard was like, "Let's try to sing a little bit more." That's all foreign to me because when we started off I was just screaming and rhyming and going bananas. Because if you really listen to "Fundamental...", if there's any singing it's not really like a melody-type of song. It's more just straightforward and then with Satellite it was, "OK, we're gonna try some stuff." So I've been trying it ever since and that's it. I never came into this as a singer 'cause I'm just trying it. So I think it's easy for me to do something like "Murdered Love" because when I hear the music and when we write the music, I'm not thinking, "OK, what's the coolest, prettiest like catchy melodical hook" or whatever. It's more like it already kind of demands and like, "Dude, I just want to say something over this. It's gotta be mean and it's just gotta flow right over it." And everything is already there: the rhythm with what the drum and bass is already doing. So that stuff's fun to me. It's more like when you're actually trying to come up with something catchy and some type of hook in some sort of fashion, to me that's more of the pressure.
Sick Jacken sings with you on "Murdered Love."
Yeah, Psycho Realm. He was on the "Testify" record on a track called "On the Grind" with some other homies from Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.
"Higher" combines that rap style you were talking about in the verse with the melodic side in the chorus.
In the studio when we were all just sittin' down and taking a break and listening to the track, it's like melodies start to come and you kind of hum something out to the guys and it's like, "How does this sound?" We all kind of start humming something and even Howard was there humming something. We were humming it into an iPhone so we don't forget and it's like, "OK, take this." So I'm kinda matching up the hum with something cool to say. What does it go well with? What kind of word or lyrical inspiration does it go with? All those things just kinda start like that but I even think flowing in the verses? Again that was kinda like us saying, "You know what? I want to do P.O.D. I'm not really thinking about ‘Is that cool right now? Is that in?'"
We keep coming back to that idea of what people's perceptions of P.O.D. are and the you see yourself as an artist?
People say the whole rap-and-rock thing is over and dead with. We just get that stuff out of our minds because we were doing that before anybody even knew what that was. Before you knew who Rage was or even Limp Bizkit and all the copycat clones after that. We were doing it because we loved to do it and it's natural for us. It wasn't like we were trying to be anybody or copy anybody. I think even now it's just like the last couple records we might have been like, "Hey, let's not flow over the verses ‘cause it's not in anymore." You kind of have those things riding on the back of your mind just because that's what you think people think or you've been told that by the label or management or whatever. So I think this time it was like, "What's the first thing that comes natural?" And it reminds me kinda like "Alive." "Alive" was the same way - you're kind of not really singing the verses but just kind of rapping through 'em a little bit and maybe a little melody here and there. Then when the chorus comes, boom - you have like a nice cool sing-a-long chorus.
Your vocal is really melodic-and naked-on "Beautiful."
Like I said I'm not a singer and it's funny because Marcos had this cool little riff and this one actually contradicts everything I said before. This one I had actually written some cool lyrics and a cool melody like before. It was one of the few times so I had this whole "Life is beautiful" thing and again it was like a feelgood thing. I told Marcus and I'm looking through my old sketchbooks because I usually keep like a folder of papers for every record where I say, "OK, I've got to start writing lyrics." I'll go through it and it's kinda like my sketchpad and I had some lyrics with this melody but it was very soft and it wouldn't really ever fit a P.O.D. song. It was more like just an idea. I told Marcos, "Dude, I've got these lyrics" and I kinda sang it for him and he's like, "I think it'll fit." I'm singing the melody in my head and not really seeing if it actually matches his riff. I'm like, "What do you think? Does it match?" And he's like, "It does." When we got into the studio "Beautiful" again was one of those songs that I don't even think Howard heard it. Marcos picked up his acoustic and all of a sudden he put me on the spot and he's like, "Sing that chorus you sang for me for Howard." And I'm on the spot and everybody is in the room and I'm like, "Oh, my God."
It's so cool when parts that aren't meant to be put together turn into something they were never intended for.
It's very, very raw you know what I mean? It was fresh and we're all kinda looking at Howard and he's like, "Yeah, it works. I love it. I love the lyrics." And he's like, "Now we just need like a bridge or a B-section. Who do we do?" In our mind at first I think the idea was let's just have this cool guitar riff and we'll put it over some electric drums and totally not even live drums and totally different for us. Then Howard's idea was, "Dude, let's just open it up now into some cool, simple rock chords." Marcos started playing it and it sounded very stripped - down and very Beatles to us - very simple like C and G chords and just right there. It was like, "Ah, this sounds good" and Howard was like, "OK, you've got to nail it with the verse lyrics. We got the chorus lyrics and let's nail the verse." I was like, "Cool, man" and I did it and I showed it to Howard and wrote it out and he was like, "I love it, man. That's what you do. And I was like, 'Thanks'."
"I feel like I'm still a young kid because music has kept me young."
The lyrics in the verse describe some pretty terrible things but the line in the chorus is "Life is beautiful/Share a little love with the whole wide world." You're really expressing hope in "Beautiful"?
For sure. I wanted it to be dark and that's the irony of it. The verses are like, "Wow, you're painting a dark image here. If I'm listening to this correctly, I'm seeing someone who's being abused or someone who's suicidal and someone who's cutting themselves and an addict and hurting themselves." Then all of a sudden here comes this chorus and it's very, very hopeful. It's kinda like "Youth Of The Nation" where you're singing about this kid and he's last with his fellow students in school. I love that about music because it's like reading a book: you're the one who sets in the characters and the background and the imagery. And it's the same thing if you can get it just right with the song because you have a smaller window to do that. But if you can get it in there, that's the direction when Howard and I had talked about it. It's kinda like your teacher. You're like, "What do you think, dude? Do you think these lyrics work?"
Howard Benson is really the sounding board for your vocal ideas?
He's just like, "Dude, I love it." And I think what you said about that song too in the beginning like you're naked out there, so you think, "OK, how do I sing this?" It's like the last record with "Tell Me Why" and "How do I do it? I'm very out front here." But I think the style and with the rhythm the lyrics were progressing in, Howard kept encouraging me like, "Hey dude, you don't have to sing it. It doesn't have to be pretty. It needs to be P.O.D.ish. I love when you talk it out and use your accent. It's a street accent and it doesn't need to be all clean and so beautiful." No pun intended. "It doesn't need to be perfect and you guys have that style. When you hear your voice, it's like, 'That's you-that's Sonny from the street.' You need to talk it out and you really need to feel it like you're telling a story and not trying to sing it so pretty." And he said the perfect thing. He said, "Dude, you guys remind me of like Sublime. You're telling a story and this is your culture." And I'm like, "You know what? You're right." So it allowed me not to be so tense and try to think I'm supposed to sing so perfect and make sure the melody and the pitch is so perfect. He was like, "Talk it out like you mean it." And I was like, "You know what? Exactly. I get it." We have that connection with Howard and I understand what he's trying to tell me. So I did it like that and we did a bunch of takes and he's like, "Dude, I'll go through 'em, man, and pick the best ones" and I'm like, "Cool."
"Bad Boy" was another cool example of you flowing rhythmically over a P.O.D. track.
Like I said that becomes more natural to me and obviously that's not a heavy riff so then it changes the idea of the vocal. It's not like it has to grind all the way through; it's more laid back and it's fun. It's a good vibe. That was one of the demo songs we had done and actually a friend from a local band had sung the hook before on the demo, which I'm sure we'll throw out there for fun for people to hear later. Once we got in the studio again you put the Howard Benson touches on it and switch things up and he's like, "I want you to sing it." That was another song where we actually wanted guest vocals again. We thought, "How out of the box can we go?" because this song is already because of the lyrical content it's kind of funny and kind of funky. We thought, "What if we could get a Lenny Kravitz?" He's like one of them sex idols in rock and roll. That would have been a cool little contrast with Lenny Kravitz and us. And so all kinds of ideas come in and even Chino from the Deftones heard it and he wanted to do it. So we're working out a time where maybe he can even still do it later. That song is just fun, dude.
"I Am" was a really autobiographical song. Was that difficult for you to find that emotional spot inside of you and reveal all those things about yourself?
I think the whole idea of that and all my off time just hanging out and doing charity stuff and like I said going to high schools and being around kids. It's cool because I'll go in and do these youth outreaches and stuff and these kids just like at you like, "Oh, this is a rock guy. He must have some experience and he must know what's up." The moment you start talking to 'em and being honest and talking about some of the mistakes you made and how to be even now at my age and the kind of person I am, it really opens up the vulnerability with these young people to start sharing stuff with you. Me being just a lover of God and my faith and wanting to see people find rest and peace for their souls, it's like we start to talk.
That must be a very hard thing to do.
You can have this pretty little girl and she'll lift up her sleeve and show me the hundreds of cut marks up and down her arms. And one kid telling me he's thinking about killing himself. So many things and that gets to my heart. Because I'm a daddy first before I'm a singer in a band. I've got three kids but I look at some of these young kids like I can be their daddies and it's just automatic for me to take that role where I want to protect them. I want to get rid of whatever's hurting them in their lives and that's just me as a human being. When I start to talk to 'em and you're trying to share faith and you're even trying to share hope with 'em and say, "Hey, I know God loves you and He can take all that stuff away." But there's a craziness about that because you want to believe that but you're still dealing with all this garbage. So in me and my faith, I believe that God could take away all that stuff and give you peace but it's not magic. It doesn't just away like that because you said one prayer. It's a lifetime of commitment to saying, "Hey dude, I'm gonna work through this and I'm gonna trust in God and I'm gonna believe for the better." So lyrically it's just kinda all these things because inside I think I see more evil in people than I do good and that scares me.
You wonder if there are more bad people in the world than good ones.
You don't want to believe it. It's scary. I see that with these kids and they're just faced with so much and for me again being a person of faith, it's like I don't claim to have it figured out and I don't preach like I got it figured out. I'm saying 'cause I am all these things. I wasn't raised in the church and I'm not a fan of religion. I've got to battle these things everyday in my life but I have to make the conscious conviction everyday to say, "OK, I'm gonna be this person. I need to love my God and my wife and my kids and the people around me and I've got to choose to turn the other cheek when someone comes against me and I gotta do right when it's natural for me to do wrong."
Your comment about not being a fan of religion explains a lot about your approach to faith and spirituality.
I talk to a lot of people and they're like, "I don't have a problem with God, man. I just have a problem with religion and a lot of his Christian followers." There's an hypocrisy and the church and it's like I don't want to argue that because that just leads into an argument and we can both make our points and have our opinions. But at the end of the day there's a lot of truth to it so I think it's honest. I can identify with who Jesus is and His teachings and who He was as a person and His love and what He did and I believe in all of that. But at the same time I'm still confused by everything else that's around me. There's so many religions and so many people claiming to have the answers.
All of these feelings you've just described are what you tried to include in "I Am"?
It's just an honest, honest song, man. I sang it the way I felt it even now because we're known to be this quote/unquote "Christian" band. We're already catching slack for saying the f-word, which is absolutely ridiculous.
"We always wanted to write music that inspired people and offered ‘em some type of hope."
That is insane.
Oh yeah, dude. They're like pulling songs and there's so much religion and that's what we're fighting against. [laughs] I heard if it's gonna be in Christian bookstores or any type of mom and pop store that they've actually taken the song off. But it's something new. On "Fundamental..." they made us change the artwork. Something always comes up, man, and you know what? I'm so tired of defending it. You're gonna talk to some self-righteous religious person that says I can't say that word then it's like, "You didn't even listen to the song, man. You heard absolutely nothing." Because there's a kid that had a gun in his mouth last night that heard the song and he's gonna come to me and say, "Dude, I'm all those things, man, but I want to get better. I don't want to be that way." And that's the person I want to have a conversation with. I don't want to have a conversation with the religious churchgoer that says I'm going to hell 'cause I said the f-word. You know what I mean?
That is absolutely insane. Moving on what are the plans now for P.O.D.?
We're doing a bunch of fly-outs on the weekends and stuff and we're gonna have a cool CD release show at the Roxy in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. Where you come to the show and get the record the day of and just something cool. A lot of cool little radio things have been popping up like acoustic stuff so then we get to try stuff out like "Beautiful" and we do an acoustic rendition of "Youth Of The Nation." It's fun for us to do and get us out of our comfort zones and we've been able to stop and do little things like that. Obviously we have the Uproar Tour Later on this summer, which we're totally excited about. I think we're just gonna murder it. We're doing that ShipRocked in November and get like a four-day vacation off to the Bahamas with a bunch of crazy rock and roll bands on a cruise line. Then we're talking about some overseas stuff maybe at the end of the year. But you know, man, it's just for us I try not to get too far ahead of the game. I'm just grateful we have the opportunities lined up for the summer. And whatever's next like I said we're in it for the right reasons. The single ["Lost In Forever"] looks like it's doing well on radio and so we just go one day at a time, dude. Whatever happens, happens. I just know when we play it feels right.
Interview by Steven Rosen
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