Rap-Rock Pioneers P.O.D. Emphasize the Live Performance

Concert Preview

In 2012, the rap-rock act P.O.D. came out of hibernation to headline the side stage on the Uproar Tour, a huge multi-city tour that included a stop at Blossom Music Center. The surprising thing about the performance—a relatively small operation on a satellite stage set up in the Blossom V.I.P. parking lot behind the box office—was that the group didn't just attract thirty and fortysomethings who remembered the band from back in the day. Rather, it drew many young fans that wouldn't have been around when it first formed in the early ’90s.

“I guess that’s the hope of doing the festivals — to draw new fans,” says singer Sonny Sandoval via phone from a Rockford, Ill. tour stop. “You’re earning new fans all the time. The old fans come out and they know what to do. You also have new kids experiencing your music for the first time. Once you turn it up and they’re hearing new rock tracks, it all works. It’s what we’ve been doing for 23 years — playing music and trying to snag them up like fish.”

The band’s roots go back to 1991 when the group emerged out of San Ysidro, a lower-middle-class San Diego suburb that's spitting distance from the Mexican border. Sandoval, who grew up in a young family of "teenagers having kids," says he was weaned on AC/DC and Led Zeppelin when he was a kid but then later discovered punk and reggae. And when he found out that “guys of color” were doing punk rock, that opened up a whole new world to him.

“I grew up in a rock family like every kid,” he says. “I was more into reggae and hip-hop. To me, hip-hop was more street and inner-city consciousness. I always loved the good vibes of reggae music. My idea of punk rock was like Sex Pistols and guys with Mohawks and leather studs. Nothing against that but it was Sex Pistols and guys like that. I liked the Clash but they were from the UK. It was more like a white thing. Once you discover the hardcore scene with Bad Brains and Suicidal Tendencies. Even Living Colour. They were more mainstream glam rock but they were four brothers doing it. You wanted to dig in and discover all these bands. It’s a whole culture. You open up the crates a bit and you realize it’s really cool. It makes you wanna dig. That’s the treasure of discovering music.”

He also identified strongly with the gangsta rap that emerged out of South Central Los Angeles so when it came time to record their first album, 1994's Snuff the Punk, he and his bandmates drew upon both their rock and rap influences, delivering one the first albums to be categorized as nu-metal. A breakthrough came in 1999 when The Fundamental Elements of Southtown tracks such as "Southtown" and "Rock the Party (Off the Hook)" got commercial radio airplay. The momentum from that album continued with 2001's Satellite, which yielded "Alive," a sing-song-y rap-rock tune that would become the group's hit.

“Right before that album took off, our first Atlantic Records recoding had gone platinum, and that was a huge shock for us,” he says. “Once you sell a million, it’s a trip. You see yourself on MTV and it’s mind-blowing. We were so busy at the time that you don’t see it happening. When we did the second record, we thought maybe the same people would buy the record. But we did triple or quadruple. It was insane. You try to stay level-headed. You’re four guys from the hood and the next thing you know you’re at a Def Jam party with some of your idols.”

Internal tensions led the band to splinter and in 2008 the band went on hiatus after a South American tour. But while on break, Sandoval kept in touch with longtime producer and friend Howard Benson (Daughtry, Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson) and when the band reconvened in 2011, it recruited him to produce the album. He’s again at the helm for the band’s forthcoming album, The Awakening. The album’s not out until August, but the band’s on tour to play some of the new songs, including the catchy single, “The Goes Out to You,” an anthemic song that sounds like a cross between 311 and Rage Against the Machine.

“[Howard Benson] allows us to be us,” says Sandoval. “He works with writers and people who write for the bands. He’s seen it all. He started with us and knows how we work. He knows how to critique us and encourage us. We’ve grown with him and we trust his ear.”

Sandoval says the band tried to make sure the studio album features sounds that the band can duplicate live.

“Now, you can make a record off your laptop," he says. "With lots of bands, it’s more production and computer than live instruments. I try to maintain the integrity of what they do with their instruments and not over produce it. If we can’t duplicate it live, we don’t do it in the studio. We have a back-up musician who tours with us. We have a sampler that can do some sounds. With a lot of bands these days, it’s 95 percent computer and the rest is just standing there looking pretty. That's not us.”

P.O.D., Hoobastank, Islander, Burning Vegas, Era 9, Impending Lies, 6 p.m., Friday, July 17, The Odeon, 1295 Old River Rd. Tickets: $25 ADV, $30 DOS., ticketweb.com.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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