P.O.D.'s Sonny Sandoval Talks 20 Years of Breakthrough Album, 'Satellite'
Words by Yvonne Villasenor
When P.O.D. formed in 1992, the four teenagers never thought they’d make it out of their hometown. But after years of putting in work, playing sweaty basement gigs and coast-to-coast van tours, the San Diego band caught the world’s attention with their unique fusion of hard rock, hip-hop, reggae and alternative genres and even more unique messages of unification and perseverance.
Decades later, P.O.D. have sold over 12 million records, performed sold out shows across continents, received three Grammy Award nominations and collaborated with legendary artists, like their musical influence Carlos Santana.
The band reached a whole new milestone in 2001 with their fourth studio album, Satellite. Satellite has become known as one of the most significant albums not just in nu-metal, but the entire rock genre. The album peaked at No. 6 on Billboard’s top 200 chart and placed at No. 137 on their top 200 albums of the decade (2000-2009) list.
In celebration of its 20 year anniversary, Sonny Sandoval (vocals), Marcos Curiel (guitar), Traa Daniels (bassist) and Wuv Bernardo (drums) will be hitting the road to perform the ‘Satellite Tour ‘21’ this summer and fall. They will also be releasing a newly remastered anniversary edition of Satellite with 27 tracks consisting of the original album, rarities, remixes and unreleased demos.
“As four guys from the neighborhood, we never thought we'd leave San Diego…It was a blessing that we didn't count on. We were just making music...To this day, we can still tour the world because of that record,” Sandoval tells KNOTFEST. “Obviously, we've done albums afterwards, but here we are 20 years later, and we're going to be selling out shows on that record alone playing Satellite from front to back. It's an amazing accomplishment for us. We didn't know how long we'd be around. We were just kids, and we still are like four kids just having fun and making music. To be able to do that — it's pretty rad.”
P.O.D. rocked the underground scene independently for six years until signing with Atlantic Records in 1998. The following year, they released what would be their platinum major label debut, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown.
Sandoval says he and the band were “completely blown away by the success of the album” and “enjoying being on the road, discovering the rock and roll world and touring with some of the greatest bands in the world.”
The success of The Fundamental Elements of Southtown naturally had P.O.D. thinking about how they could advance and create an album that not only their fans could relate to, but the whole world could too.
Then came Satellite.
P.O.D. took their ongoing messages and wrote songs inspired by current events, their backgrounds and their beliefs — addressing topics like the loss of a parent, mass school shootings and thankfulness for life.
As P.O.D. were writing and rehearsing the album, tragic gun violence struck just two blocks away at Santana High School. Two students were fatally shot and 13 were wounded.
“We walk outside, we’re taking a break, getting coffee...And we see the cops, hear the sirens and helicopters and all this stuff going on. We’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ We turned on the news, and it was live,” Sandoval says. “We were like, ‘We don’t even want to rehearse anymore. We should be doing something.’ We were literally just sitting there.”
Right at that moment, Sandoval says, Curiel came up with the riff for “Youth of the Nation.”
P.O.D. had performed for the Columbine community and survivors of the Columbine High School shooting. Having felt connected not only to the Columbine community, but also their very own community of Santee, the band felt moved to make a song.
“‘Youth of the Nation’ came up that same day. We were like, ‘We know this song will be called ‘Youth of the Nation.’ We just have to write the lyrics,’” Sandoval says. “That’s when we wrote that song. That’s why it sounds so somber. It’s just wild. We were in the middle of thinking, ‘What do we do? This is crazy.’”
P.O.D. went on to produce one of the most sincere, passionate and striking albums with four singles, including “Alive,” “Youth of the Nation,” “Boom” and “Satellite.” The 15-track album features additional vocals from H.R. of Bad Brains, Christian Lindskog of Blindside and Eek-A-Mouse.
In a scene that was generally known for its angsty lyrics and negative outlooks on life, P.O.D. stayed true to their roots to give a refreshing take on what nu-metal could sound like with meaningful, positive messages.
“We never claimed to be a Christian band or that we were making Christian music. This was us being true to ourselves — whether it was from the neighborhood we come from, our nationalities, our backgrounds, our faith. We were always an open book about all of those things. It wasn’t to anybody’s surprise,” Sandoval says.
He continues, “With Satellite, we wanted to be more universal, and we wanted people to be able to listen, relate and interpret what they get out of it. If we were to sit down and break everything down, I can give you the meaning and exactly what I'm trying to relay…We didn't want it to be a preachy thing or a Christian thing. It was just like, ‘Hey, anybody can relate to the loss of a parent; at the time, school shootings, violence and bullying.’ We were just trying to relate to people on a human level.”
In the days leading up to Satellite’s release for Tuesday, Sept. 11, P.O.D. were busy promoting the album. “Alive” was topping the rock charts and had become the most requested video on Total Request Live (TRL) for Sept. 5.
“We had played for TRL at Battery Park
That morning, Sandoval got a call from his mother-in-law, urging him and his wife to turn on the TV.
“We turned on the TV, and everything just stopped at that moment,” Sandoval says. “So, it's not that our record wasn't important. It just wasn't important — to us, anyway. We were just here. We were, as Americans, facing a tragedy like never before.”
Atlantic Records’ reps who had flown in from New York to San Diego found themselves unable to return home due to the calamity and uncertainty brought on by 9/11. The band and reps went to Sandoval’s grandmother’s house, where she cooked for everyone while they contacted friends and family in New York City.
Post-9/11, TRL focused on bringing attention to mental health and positive voices in the world of music. With “Alive” becoming an uplifting anthem for the United States, Sandoval was one of the musicians asked to call in.
“While everybody else was talking about your everyday sex, drugs and rock and roll, here we are saying how we're so happy to be alive,” Sandoval says. “That was a real honor for us.”
MTV brought P.O.D. out to New York, and it was then they saw the aftermath of 9/11. The city they had recently visited appeared almost unrecognizable.
“You could still see cars that were left over, still sitting in the same spot. It still smelled like ashes, just burned,” Sandoval says. “New York City always showed us so much love. We're from San Diego, California. New York City, at that time and space, was like our second home. They really showed us a lot of love being out there. We cared about what was going on, so we went there to do whatever labels wanted to do, MTV wanted to do, people wanted to do. It was just a crazy time.”
The reception to Satellite catapulted P.O.D. from underground to mainstream. It went triple-platinum, selling over 3 million copies in the U.S. and more than 7 million worldwide. Since then, they have contributed several songs to movie soundtracks and TV shows, including A Man Apart, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, Blue Crush, Here Comes the Boom, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Smallville.
P.O.D. had previously struggled to be well received in the scene due to the positive themes in their music. But that had all changed.
The world took notice of P.O.D. and artists who shared similar messages. Together, they used their platform to help spread a message of love, hope and purpose in a time in history when all felt lost.
“I think because of 9/11, I think people were very aware and sensitive to what people were feeling and how they were thinking about things,” Sandoval says. “There were bands that weren't being played on the radio at that time, or weren't getting as much coverage as they were used to because — in theory — they had nothing to say.”
If there was a single word to describe P.O.D., it would be “wholehearted.” They rose to the top simply by staying true to who they are.
“There's a certain style that comes from — not only our neighborhood — but our culture and our background. Even then, in the early ‘90s, we weren't like, ‘Hey, let's mix reggae, punk rock and metal altogether because it’s cool.’ It was like, ‘This is who we are like. Let’s have fun with it,’” Sandoval says. “If you go back to ‘92 and watch videos of us playing at keg parties, it's us. We weren't trying to be a part of a scene. It was like, ‘Dude, this is just what we know. This is what we do.’ It was kind of just natural for us.”
Satellite was (and remains) a record fans all over the world embraced. As its 20th anniversary approaches, Satellite’s place in music is one that maintains longevity and influence.
Sandoval says P.O.D.’s primary goal when initially forming was never to entertain. Making music was just something they just loved to do.
“This was a lifestyle for us back then. Almost 30 years later, it's still a lifestyle for us. You look at the resume. P.O.D. has not changed — except gotten older and tried to maybe not have clothes on as baggy,” Sandoval says. “We never tried to fit the times. We didn't wear makeup because makeup was cool at that point. We didn't wear leather because that's what rock and roll said to do at this point in time. We didn't do this because that was cool. We are the same, and we will continue to be the same until we're done, and pretty much unapologetically. It's just who we are.”
Sandoval says he never had plans of making music, being in a rock band, or even getting in front of people or a camera for that matter. But P.O.D. changed all of that. It’s a blessing he’s grateful for, and one he says his younger self would have never believed.
“What we've been allowed to experience and to be a part of is mind blowing. I never take that for granted. I don't feel like, ‘Oh, look at me. I'm so good. That's why we're here.’ It's just like, ‘Dude, this is crazy. How many bands do we know that have started and have just never even got to release a song? Let alone play somewhere, travel, make a living, or be able to impact people the way that their heart wants to.’ I could have never explained it to myself. I still can't explain it now. It's almost 30 years later.”
P.O.D. will kick off their headlining anniversary tour ‘The Satellite Tour ‘21’ with guests, From Ashes to New, All Good Things and Sleep Signals on August 13. Tickets are available HERE. Pre-order the Satellite: 20th Anniversary Edition double-CD HERE.