Written by: Mark Abell
I had the pleasure of speaking with Sonny Sandoval, the front-man of the Grammy-nominated Christian alternative metal band, P.O.D.
A San Diego native, Sandoval still enjoys living in Southern California.
“I could live someplace cheaper if I could stand the weather!” he tells me.
“I’ve got a rock-star on the phone. Now what?” I said at the beginning of our chat.
Sandoval immediately laughed and said, quite humbly, “We’re a working band.”
He went on to say that P.O.D. garners more appreciation when they tour internationally because, “American fans are spoiled and bands are a dime a dozen.” Among his most memorable touring moments he recounts an unlikely locale: “Indonesia is a Muslim country. You also saw kids crowd-surfing and acting crazy.” He also described his quintessential assignments which are to, “play to crowds of 15,000 in conservative areas where there are so many laws” and the economic necessity of “touring 13 months a year” the latter quip which was delivered with his characteristically good-natured laugh.
Sandoval isn’t shy about expressing his gratitude for 23 years with the band whose “music is about our lifestyle.” That lifestyle includes extreme sports such as surfing, and dates back to Sandoval riding a 1980 model Yamaha motorcycle as a kid. When I ask if the extreme sports lifestyle is dangerous, he chuckles and says, “I wouldn’t call these activities dangerous, they’re fun.”
To underscore this, he reminds me that he has no accidents to report.
He goes on to tell me his current musical influences–which include hardcore and punk bands like Bad Brains and Suicidal Tendencies–and he recalls that his parents were into AC/DC and Black Sabbath while he was growing up. With regard to the musical circles in which he finds himself enmeshed, he recalls freestyling with Matisyahu, which ended up on the “Strength Of My Life” and “Roots In Stereo” tracks on their 2006 album Testify. When I inquired about whether he would like to collaborate with current reggae acts, he noted that The Dirty Heads “are from the same area…we saw them coming up.” One other fact about his early days is that for their 2001 single “Alive,” Sandoval remembers, “the cat who directed our music video later directed Constantine and used some of the same visual tricks.”
While he sees many individuals in the reggae and rock scene wearing dreadlocks as a “fashion statement,” he wore his for 13 years as a reminder to himself to maintain a level of modesty. When he finally shaved them off, it symbolized “a new beginning and a spiritual cleansing.”
This deep sense of character spills over to other aspects of Sandoval’s life. When I mentioned the romantic temptations of rock-and-roll life, he articulated his belief in the importance of fidelity and spelled out that he’s spent “19 years with my wife [and] there’s temptation in every profession, even for doctors and truck drivers.” He also divulged that his grandmother was Catholic, “but that is not my religion” and that his mother’s bout with cancer led him to take his faith more seriously. Yet don’t take this as youth-group music. “I play our music for fans, not for the churches,’ Sandoval says.
Inspiringly, he recalled a fan telling him that P.O.D.’s music helped him to refrain from committing suicide and he continually strives to espouse an encouraging message.
When pressed about his current tour with Insane Clown Posse, he says: “The majority of the fans on this tour are coming out for ICP. Their ‘juggalo’ lifestyle is completely opposite of our philosophy. We have our own message as do they.” He also revealed that his band-mates will often discuss conspiracy theories on their bus, which may account for the appearance of the track, “Rise of the NWO” on their concept album, The Awakening. However, fun as those topics may be to mine, Sandoval says he, “doesn’t like to dig too deep, [and] prefers to stay positive.”