Interview: Sonny Sandoval / P.O.D.


Polish fans had to wait a long time. Last time the band played here was in 2000 when they supported Korn. Two years ago the gig in Warsaw was already confirmed, but due to organizer’s failure the whole European tour got cancelled. But they finally made it. After 13 years P.O.D. came to Poland and headlined first day of Lemon Festival in Łowicz. Before the show I had a chance to meet up with band’s vocalist, Sonny Sandoval, and talk about what was, is and will be happening on the musical (and not only) path of the San Diego crew. To conduct the interview in favorable conditions we were taken by band’s manager to the room of band’s crew, upon entering which we were surrounded with romantic glow of dozens of candles spaced throughout the room. “Sorry man, the light went down, is this ok?”. It was very ok so we sat with Sonny in this pleasantly calm atmosphere and moved on to the conversation:

(photo by Mike Nakhla)

Hi Sonny, thank you for your time do the interview. This year P.O.D. came back after few years of silence with your latest album “Murdered love”. Before the album came out you were saying, this time you just wanted to record the music, release it and see what happens. So tell me, what has happened since releasing the record, how was the reaction to it?

The reaction has been great. Luckily over the years we have managed to build real fan base, so we can still tour United States, we can still come to Europe after 10 years and pack out little clubs and have fun. But we’re not chasing the business side of it, we are not after how many records can you sell or how many arenas can you pack out.

You haven’t been around for some time. Do feel your fans are still out there?

I feel the true fans are still there. You know, somebody turns 14 everyday and discovers music. We have albums older than 14 years but the response has been great, we have had some amazing tours in America and we’ll keep doing it until we have to stop.

In one of the interviews I read you saying, that to quote „P.O.D. is just an underground garage band“. Do you really think so about yourself or do you mean your status in the current industry situation?

I think we’ve always been that way. We had a window of success, but we were already doing it 7 years before major label picked us up. There just happened to be a time when we got noticed. I guess it‘s because the different outlook on life we had than most rock’n’roll musicians do. Because we are positive and then came 9/11 in States [„Sattelite“, band’s top-selling album happened to be released exactly on 11.09.2001), when the world tumbled into chaos and we were one of the bands people paid attention to, because people wanted to hear positivie stuff. But now they don’t care about those things any more, it’s all back to selfish, deceiving ways, back to do what you want to do, sex drugs and rock’n’roll, capitalism and let‘s make some more money. But we have not changed. We stayed the same, while everyone else around us has changed.

I would think, that in the current condition of the world, an emotional demand for a band with positive message like yours  would always be there.

Well, we live in me-me-me society and a selfish world. I see the world around us collapsing from within and no one wants to change it. No one wants to have conviction. They do in a sense, but not enough to go out and get it. People prefer not to hear hopeful things a band like P.O.D. can say. It‘s more entertaining to listen somebody else saying to you „do what the hell you want to do it, smoke it, drink it, do whatever you want“.

Besides when it comes to music people are so spoilt in America. We even talk to ourselves, that we should probably tour more in Europe than in America, because with the internet there are so many bands out there. A billion bands come to your state or city and there is no demand for something real. It’s totally different than for example in South America. It took us 15 years to get there, but when we eventually did, 15 000 people came out, some of them drove 24 hours to see us, so that was amazing. We couldn’t belive it, that was crazy, but that‘s how they are there, so passionate about the music they choose to listen to.

You can often hear from musicians, that music is a therapy for them and they release their demons or negative emotions through the music, but in case of P.O.D. it seems that the therapeutic effect of music reaches your fans very much as well. Would you have any particular story to share to give an example how your music helps your fans in their lives?

I watched this TV show once and they asked this one girl what does P.O.D. music meant to her and she said that our music was a medicine to her heart and that was the best quote I heard about our music. It really touched me. We‘ve been togheter for 21 years, we’ve had ups and downs, we are brothers, that’s uncodntional, but we are tired of each other sometimes, yet when we play, it all goes away and everything makes sense then. When we took 5 years off I was looking for every reason to quit. I was tired of the industry, because there are so many fake things about it. That’s why I say we’re a garage band, because when we started in a garage, we did it just for us. There was no “let’s go to Hollywod and be rock stars and make millions” dream about it. It was just about playing music together, becase it felt great. So when I took time off I was really thinking about quitting, but then things happen which make you change your mind. For example I was in Brasil one time, standing there on the back of a flea market and this kid comes up to me and says to me in his broken English how our music changed his life. That’s heavy you know, somebody spots you out in a country you’ve never before to and tells you such things. And also at the shows. Some of the songs we have played are older than kids up front, but they’re still singing all the lyrics. I see people’s faces with tears in their eyes. Music is powerful and that kept me going. I’ll do it as long as I feel it has some kind of meaning and substance to anyone who listens. Not the masses, to that one kid that listens.

So you play for the people, but how about you?

It does have a meaning to me too, but you have to remember that to me it’s also a work. I have a family, wife and 3 kids, so it‘s a question how much longer can I do this and keep missing parts of their lifes. I feel I have an impact and influence in music, but my influence needs to be in my family first. I don’t want to ruin my kids’ life. I don’t want them to say after years, that my dad wasn’t there for me, but he was making music for other people. I want to keep the balance between those two things. If I had the money, I’d bring my family with me here. I take my son to some of our US tours and I try to show him what daddy does and my son gets that.

How old is your son?

He’s going to be six when I get home. So there are family issues and there is also a hustle about it. We’ve always been hustiling, actually. People think that when we tour Europe it means we‘re that big and have all the money. Nothing like it. We come out here and actually loose money. But we come here because we want to. I’d come here 2, 3 times a year, but it’s really a hustle. You give so much and sometimes 3 steps forward and 3 steps back situation. And you know, there are so many bands out there that simply suck. They don’t have any substance, no meaning, can’t even play the instruments, they’re horrible, but they still pack out arena, come to Europe and makes tons of money.

Why do you think is so? Because they are produced and presented as „cool“ to the people? If so, maybe somebody could say the same thing about you, because for example you also had cool videos some kids could be attracted to.

Yeah, but you have remember about the history. That wasn’t like a overnight thing. We had been a band 9 years already. All of the sudden we got a little bit of fruit of what we have been doing for a long time. But then once you get a success, find yourself there, you think whether you really want to be in it. That’s why I took the time off, because I didn‘t want it to be meaningless and I didn‘t to be a milk cow for the label. This time around we could come back on our own terms, tour on our own terms and make record as we want it, because it comes from our hearts and no one can take that away. No one can make money off us any more, no one can tell us what to do, how our band is suppose to be. Whoever buys the record, buys the record, but there are still fans that come out and that’s the part that is mind-blowing. We are playing festivals now, we get this early slot because we haven‘t been here for 10 years and that’s cool. So when we start playing, everybody packs in it. Once we finish, everybody walks away and that is amazing. We look at it and we‘re humbled. Those are the moments that make it worth doing, because it shows that are people out there that care.

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