P.O.D. has exploded to the stratosphere with their finest work to date, the extraordinary Satellite. A high-decibel blast of potent cross-cultural power rock, the San Diego-based quartet's second Atlantic Records release is at turns joyful, provocative, challenging, and utterly real. Co-produced by the band with Howard Benson (the man behind the board for P.O.D.'s RIAA platinum certified label debut, 1999's The Fundamental Elements of Southtown), tracks like the fervent first single, "Alive" or the emotionally charged "Youth of the Nation" find P.O.D. relentlessly reaching heavenward to evoke a sense of positive vibrations unique to today's rock n' roll.
"All the great rock bands were always driven by passion and emotion," says Marcos, the band's accomplished guitarist, "whether it's a negative passion and emotion or a positive passion and emotion. And for us, a lot of the rock that's out today - and I'm not saying any names - a lot of it's devoid of any type of emotion. It's all processed and done up in the studio. But to us, we always put all of our love and everything that we have into our music."
Satellite was recorded at Bay 7 Recording Studio in Sherman Oaks, and Image Studios in Los Angeles over a three-month period in spring 2001. With Benson and longtime Metallica engineer Randy Staub at the helm, P.O.D. recorded nearly 20 new songs. The sessions saw the four musicians stretching out into the band they'd always envisioned themselves as being, a truly free rock unit incorporating an infinite variety of textures and styles--from reggae to rock, hip-hop to hardcore - into an already genre-blurring sonic arsenal.
"There's not really a word that can describe P.O.D.," says Marcos. "If you were to go to each one of our homes and look at our CD collections, you would see everything from metal to punk to jazz to reggae, you name it. Everything. Except maybe country, but other than that, we have it all."
"If it feels good, it feels good," notes Traa. "That's a P.O.D. rule. When I came to the band, I was very stubborn about what I wanted to play, but being with these guys opened me up to a lot of different music. And the most important thing with music is how does it make you feel? Not whether you like it or don't like it. If you feel good listening to something, then it's a good song. If you don't, then it's not."
The notion that rock n' roll is meant to move and inspire is prevalent on Satellite, especially on such tracks as the style-jumping "Ghetto" and the exultant anthem, "Alive."
"We didn't have a name for it yet," says Sonny of the latter song's genesis, "but we were calling it 'Beautiful' because it made us feel beautiful. And that drove the direction of the lyrical content, because we wanted people to go, 'Hey, this makes me feel good.' We recorded the chorus I don't know how many times, because it was like, 'Let's take it up a notch. Let's take it higher.'"
The lyrical content throughout Satellite - often poignant, often powerful, always passionate - deals with the band's outspoken belief in expressions of spiritual adventure and affirmation. A number of songs, including the Mexicali-tinted "Thinking About Forever" and the heartbreaking title track, were inspired by the death of Sonny's mother.
"'Satellite' is about that person, that thing in the sky watching out for you," he explains. "Most people who lose somebody have that notion, that they're out there looking out for you, watching your back."
Perhaps the most powerful song on Satellite is "Youth of the Nation." The track is the band's raw, wrenching response to the recent plague of school violence.
"We had done a show for some kids that went to Columbine," says Sonny, "they wanted P.O.D. to play, just for a positive encouragement type thing. And it was always in the back of our minds, like, just what are these kids going through? This is the hardest time for kids."
"It's always been a topic on tour," Marcos adds. "I don't want to say it inspired us, but it gave us the motivation to write something. Well, when we were writing this record, we wanted to be secluded so we went to Santee, in East San Diego, where we had this 35x35 rehearsal studio. One day we were on our way to practice, and we saw all these cops, but we didn't know what was going on. Later we found out what had happened."
What had happened was tragic - on March 5th, a 15-year-old freshman at Santee's Santana High School drew a .22-caliber handgun and began shooting, killing two and wounding 13.
"We were in the studio," Traa recalls, "we started jamming, and some eerie guitar notes started coming out, these dark drum beats÷It just came together naturally, once again. We just told Sonny, 'Man, dig deep and write a story.'"
"It was an emotional situation," Marcos says, "the main control room in the studio has a TV, and we're watching the news on there, thinking, "Man, this is a mess.' I'm the only one that doesn't have kids, but everybody was like, 'Dude, that could have been my kids in there,' or 'That could have been my sister.'"
Satellite also sees P.O.D. joined in the studio by two of their heroes. Renowned Jamaican toaster Eek-A-Mouse appears on the cool-running "Ridiculous," while "Without Jah, Nothin" features the freestyle vocal pronouncements of the prodigiously talented - and notoriously eccentric - HR of the Bad Brains, long acknowledged as P.O.D.'s all-time favorite band.
"You don't know if HR's crazy or what," he adds, laughing. "He walked into the studio with a birdcage with two parakeets in it, but I don't know exactly what that was about. I started hearing this chirping and I was like, 'Where'd those birds come from? 'Those are HR's birds.' I was like, 'Alright'"
"Very few bands today have any respect for the past," Marcos notes of P.O.D.'s collaborations with their musical predecessors, "and how can you conquer the future if you don't know anything about the past? As a band, we respect the past, from soul to punk, anything you can think of that had emotion, we respect that. And there's a lot of elements that we've taken from those people and brought into our music that a lot of bands today don't even care about."The guys of P.O.D. have long been passing knowledge onto their legion of devoted fans, known as The Warriors. This fiercely loyal grassroots following drove the 1999 single/video "Rock The Party (Off The Hook)" to the top spot on MTV's Total Request Live - making P.O.D. the third-ever rock band to reach the #1 position in TRL history, with Korn and Limp Bizkit. The reason for the Warriors' passion is simple - P.O.D. is the real deal, a true-to-the-bone rock n' roll band whose heart and soul are always front and center. "We don't come with a gimmick," Wuv says proudly. "We're regular people just kicking it. We're just telling you our story." "We do what we know is right for us," Sonny affirms. "And that's it. We don't go out there and give a sermon when we get on stage, we don't shove anything down anybody's throat. But we sing about what's real in our life. And that's the bottom line." The men of P.O.D. grew up in the city of San Ysidro - a.k.a. "Southtown," a diverse community down near the California/Tijuana border. In 1992, the versatile drum-playing Wuv invited his hip-hop devotee cousin Sonny to take the mic in a fledgling hardcore combo he'd started with his guitarist friend, Marcos. With the addition the following year of the Cleveland-born Traa on funk-driven bass, P.O.D. was complete. They blew up stages with punk heroes like Green Day, Pennywise, and the Vandals, in venues ranging from skate parks to YMCAs, selling over 40,000 copies of four independent CDs on their own Rescue Records label before inking with Atlantic in 1998. Powered by the success of the singles, "Southtown" and "Rock The Party (Off The Hook)," The Fundamental Elements of Southtown hit #1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, going on to reap RIAA platinum certification. The critically acclaimed album was acknowledged as the San Diego Music Awards' 1999 "Album of the Year," with "Song of the Year" honors going to "Rock The Party (Off The Hook)," and P.O.D. taking home the "Best Hard Rock or Metal Group" trophy for the second consecutiveyear. In addition, the band were included among Rolling Stone's annual "People of the Year" for 2000. True to their hardcore roots, P.O.D. remains one of the hardest working bands in America, spending more than half the year on the road, playing largely to all-ages crowds at county parks, coffeehouses, colleges, and coliseums. They were main stage sensations on Ozzfest 2000, they toured alongside Staind and Crazy Town as part of 2000's MTV Return Of The Rock Tour, and in recent years have shared stages with Kid Rock, Linkin Park, Primus, Sevendust, and Korn. The band's Rick Rubin-produced "School of Hard Knocks" was the first single/video from 2000's Adam Sandler comedy, Little Nicky. P.O.D. tracks have appeared on the soundtracks to such films as Any Given Sunday, and Ready To Rumble. They've also made appearances on a number of high-profile TV shows, including NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, The Howard Stern Radio Show, and Farmclub.com, plus MTV's 120 Minutes, The Return of the Rock, and Rock N' Jock Bowling. In addition, Sonny has guested on ABC's Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher. "We're trying to be universal," Marcos says. "If we can get your grandma listening to us, if we can get the little three-year-old kid listening, then it's done. What is your purpose as a musician? You're playing an instrument so that people can hear you, man. Why do you play live? To be seen. And for your music be heard. If not, why in the heck are you playing guitar?"