July 16, 2015 Interview – Marcos Curiel of P.O.D.
Through the evolution of music, many hybrids of styles have been crossed, thus creating entirely new genres unique unto themselves. Back in the ’90s, a new scene built a foundation where bands began to combine elements of Hip Hop with Rock and Metal at a new level never seen before. Among those to pioneer the movement were a group of musicians out of San Diego, CA calling themselves Payable on Death, more commonly known today as P.O.D.. Combining Hip Hop, Rock, Metal, and even a Crayola crayon box of other influences, by the time the band released their 1999 album The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, they were one of the hottest acts in the Alternative Metal scene. Following up with the mainstream mega album Satellite in 2001, P.O.D. were solidified as a force to be reckoned with.
Now over two decades after their formation, the band continue to tour all over the world, and are set to release their tenth studio album The Awakening. Recently we caught up with co-founding guitarist Marcos Curiel for a look into the world of P.O.D., love for creating music that makes a difference, misconceptions about the band, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – P.O.D. came together over two decades ago. In that time, you have really built a name as one of the premiere Alternative Metal bands around, with a long list of accolades. First, tell us, what has the journey been like?
Marcos Curiel – Well it is turning out to be quite a joyful ride. We are a lot more mature these days, but when we first started out we were a bunch of punk kids jamming out in a garage with hopes and dreams of doing this professionally some day to make some money doing what we love. I think we have kind of accomplished that (laughs). It has been a good ride, there has been some bumps along the way, but you know what, you live and learn.
CrypticRock.com – Right, exactly. Of course there will always bumps in the road along the way, but the band has done excellently. Now P.O.D. is clearly defined by their ability to interject a variety of different musical styles from Hip Hop, to Reggae, to Metal, and Rock. Was that sort of the band’s objective when you first began all those years ago?
Marcos Curiel – Basically, where we are from, in Southern California, it is like a melting pot. It is a very Punk Rock driven, Indie Rock driven, and Hip Hop, like a full on mixture. As a band, we kind of soaked that all in. We never said, “We are just Rock band, that is all we are, that is what we do.” We have always been into these other styles of music, and it was not like we went and searched for a style, it was more of an influence. We dug Hip Hop, Punk Rock, Jazz, Latin music, and we decided to just kind of broaden our horizons as a band. We decided not be so quick to judge and say, “You know what, this isn’t going to make it because it is too much like this.” It has just naturally happened for us because we were fans of music first.
CrypticRock.com – Right, well it definitely has worked because the band has their own distinct sound. You know it is P.O.D. when you here it, they are unlike any other band, so that melting pot of sounds has definitely worked.
Marcos Curiel – Well thank you. You know what, that naturally happened. It was an organic thing; it was not something that we plotted or rehearsed, it just kind of just came into shape over the years. We grew, we basically started in like a Metal Punk Rock kind of way and then just fused standard Hip Hop style; just tried to be organic. As we grew up as people, from being at a young age in a garage to become the musicians we are now, it has all been a learning experience. Some of it has been trial and error, some of it has been just through natural God-given ability. We are grateful and thankful to even be here. There are only so many bands from the time that we came out on the scene, or even after, that are still around.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. Obviously it took years of hard work to attain what the band has attained. A lot of people look at a band like P.O.D., or any other band, and think it was an overnight success, but it never is the case. It took you guys years to get to 1999 where The Fundamental Elements of Southtown came out, and that bought you into the main stream, but it was not until 2001 when Satellite came out that things really took off to the next level. What do you think made Satellite such a special record?
Marcos Curiel – It was the progression. I think on the grand scale of getting signed to Atlantic and putting out The Fundamental Elements of Southtown was an introduction to the music listener of some harder Rock, or that kind of style of music; Alternative Metal, Punk, whatever you want to call it. We were just doing it, working hard like we always have been independently, and we kept that same mentality when we got signed. We found out who our supporters were out there and who we had to convince. We already proved by selling a million records just from pretty much touring and with the help of MTV, because MTV loved us. Although, we were not really getting the play that we wanted on radio that we felt we should have at the time. MTV were the big pioneers of our band and they were really pushing the band because they felt that what we bought to the public was a positive thing. There was a kind of negativity out there and we could bring the positive vibe, so they were very into what we were doing. I have to say, back in the day when they were playing videos, MTV was playing videos, they were supporters of us. I think we were probably one of the last few bands that they supported like that.
To answer your question, Satellite was kind of like, the people that got a glimpse of us but did not know who we really were, though “Well I am interested in hearing what they are going to do,” and it just so happened we came out with songs that were triumphant and made it huge. It worked in our favor and I think that we are really privileged to still be here and have the fan base that we do have worldwide.
CrypticRock.com – Right, you mentioned about the band’s overall positive vibes that they give off in the music. That has always been something prevalent about P.O.D. With that said, P.O.D. has often been labeled a Christian band. Is that a label that the band embraces, or do you not concern yourselves with labels, because sometimes labels can kind of pigeonhole you?
Marcos Curiel – You are right. Labels are not necessarily friendly, and a lot of people will not listen to a band if they think that is what you are all about. They say, “I don’t listen to that kind of music,” because of its stereotype. We have always created music for everyone. I think some people have tried to make the band into becoming the poster band of a movement or of a religion. To each their own, but we never set out to be that band.
We have always wanted to be positive, and where we were grabbing our positive stuff was from a positive place from within our faith. Without being overly religious, we wanted to play music that was universal but that was coming from a positive place. Basically, we are not a Christian band, but the principles that we like to put out there, that we call “positive vibes,” are Christian principles, if that makes any sense.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, it makes complete sense. Many would understand where you are coming from. Positivity is positivity, and like you said, it should be universal for everyone. It is just unfortunate that there are some close-minded people out there that will discount an artist for something like that.
Marcos Curiel – We get it and we understand that. We have had to learn throughout the years. As we have gotten older and grown up to become men, we have grown up in this band together. We have learned a lot. We have learned that music should be universal, and music, for us, should be positive. It does not mean we are not going to have any sad songs here and there. For the most part, we try to encourage the listener because there are too many shitty things going on in the world that everyone is dealing with on a daily, that when they pop in a P.O.D. record, they should be uplifted. Hear a song that makes your day, it makes you feel good. That is how we listen to the music, that is what we got from it. We are just trying to do that in our way. The bands that we are all influenced by have all done that; Bob Marley, a lot of Reggae artists, Santana, U2. U2 was a band that we grew up listening to, and they made a conscious decision to be a positive band, as opposed to be labeled just a Christian band. When they first came out they were considered Christian, and then they took a more political role, and now they are just a positive, iconic band. That is who we are striving and inspired to try to become in our own way, in our own style of music.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it has worked, and being positive is a great thing because, like you said, there are a lot of negative things going on in the world today.
Marcos Curiel – We are not that overly “hey man we are overly positive about life.” We struggle, we have our hardships, we have our ups and our downs just like everybody else. I feel like when we do a jam, we are coming from a true soulful place in our spirit. Whatever you want to call that; Spiritual band, Christian band, we will be that band for whoever wants it. If there is a kid that loves that band for that reason, okay, that is cool, we will be that band to you. That is your world you live in, but do not expect us to conform and be who you want us to be. That is where we get into some issues, where people start to judge or say things about us. We believe in God, we have faith, but that is the struggle of life. Life is not having it figured out, not being perfect, and basically not to hate. I think a lot of people lose sight of that. They get really stuck on names, titles, and what they think they should be.
We turned a lot of people’s heads and scared a lot of people because on 2012’s Murdered Love, the last song on the album is called “I Am,” and Sonny said his first curse word in a song. People were tripping, but we were making a point. It was not that we were doing it to just do it, but we made it because the song called for it, because it was what the song was talking about. We are trying to be true to the art form and be true to ourselves, but we definitely are not a religious band, so that sets the record straight. I hope that helps out.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, “I Am” is a very intense song. You are right, it just emphasizes the passion behind the song and what it is about. What you are saying is completely understandable. You actually departed from the band in 2003 to pursue other projects and then returned in 2006. What was it like returning to the band, and what ignited your return?
Marcos Curiel – I started the band with Wuv Bernardo and I have been there from the very infantile stage of jamming in the garage. When we began the band, we had this vision and what exactly were were trying to accomplish as a band, and with a lot of success and money and all that, we kind of lost sight of that and we parted ways. Whether who left or whatever, it is what it is. It is not relevant to the story anymore, because that is the past. As to me coming back, this was my monster that I created. When I was not there anymore the band went in another direction. I was not too keen on it, but I am glad they continue with the band.
For me, I had to grow in a lot of areas. I had to grow as a person, as a musician, as a writer, and as a father; in so many different ways. When I returned, it was like we needed each other to complete the vision of what we set out to do in the very beginning. With all the drama, just like with any family (laughs), we fight, we cry, we hurt together, but we love each other. We are like brothers. It is definitely clicking on all cylinders right now, we are all on the same page, we are all at the same mindset and the same vision of what we want to accomplish as friends, as musicians, and as a band.
CrypticRock.com – That is all very positive and obviously, like we spoke about earlier, there is always bumps in the road to any story; nothing is always perfect. It is great that you can circle back, and the band is going strong.
Marcos Curiel –Yes, it is still not perfect, in a work place, you are always going to have differences. The thing is learning how to deal, cope, and respect the differences. That is what we have learned as a band. Not everybody has to act exactly the same, no one has to conform to be like the other. We are different for a reason, and that is what creates the sound, and the partnership when we are on stage that people love. It is because we are clicking, that people can feel that, and I think that is one of the main ingredients to why the music sounds the way that it does. We had to figure that out, we had to learn that, and come to that place as a band, and as friends.
CrypticRock.com – Right, it is great that you have. Now, speaking of music, you are set to release a new record coming in August. What was the creative process like for this new material?
Marcos Curiel – It was definitely thought out as far as the sketch or the skeleton of what it was we were trying to accomplish with this album. I have always been a fan of concept records like The Who’ s Tommy (1969), Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979), you name it, there are so many out there. Dream Theater has done their version, Rush has done their versions, then Queensrÿche had their version in 1988 with Operation: Mindcrime. With that said we thought, “No one is going to expect something like this if we want to venture out a little bit, no one is going to expect this from P.O.D.”
We thought, how do we do a record that is conceptional, but still be anthemic? One that tells a story, but kind of have an anthemic nature that is not too complex for the average listener, but also get the story across, and get singles out of it? I thought we accomplished that with the album, which is called The Awakening. We are very proud of it. It is a concept about a guy in his early 20’s that deals with a major tragedy in his life.
Through that tragedy and trying to find out who he is and who he is going to be moving forward in his life, dealing with sobriety, women, and the struggles of this life to find redemption, enlightenment, and happiness. That is what this story is about. I think a lot of people are going to be able to relate to that because that is basically human nature, that is who we are. We all have our ups and downs and there are things that happen to us that we cant control.
This record, The Awakening, is about this character who goes through ten songs to this awakening at the end of the album where he finds himself, and finds forgiveness for the hatred and the sorrow that has been put upon him from another individual. It is pretty intense, but its all done in that SoCal P.O.D. style.
CrypticRock.com –It sounds like it is going to be a very compelling piece of music and something very much to look forward to. You are actually on the road through July prior to the records release. How excited are you to be on road again and playing shows?
Marcos Curiel – When you are in a band, you are in a band to play, you are in a band to perform. It is always fun to get out and perform for our brothers and sisters here in America, because we travel a lot abroad. We play for different cultures and it is always good to come home and play here in The States for the fans that have been there for many years.
CrypticRock.com – My last question actually pertains to movies because CrypticRock.com covers movies and music on the site, particularly Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, do you have any favorites?
Marcos Curiel – I do, and I am a fan. As I have gotten older, my tolerance for torture and stuff like that has kind of grown weary. I am not as big a fan as I probably was at one point, especially because I have kids, and my son has taken a liking to that stuff. Just like video games and just like movies, I have to let him know the majority of that stuff is fantasy, and in real life, you do not get to re-spawn 100 times. When you are dead, you are dead (laughs). With that point across, and with that being said, yes, I grew up on The Evil Dead (1981), those were like my favorite growing up. I even have the new one, that was okay. Sam Raimi is awesome. I think he did a killer job on the earlier stuff. From my understanding, he did the first The Evil Dead when he was in college.
I have been a fan of those, obviously Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978), but the scariest movie for me growing up would have to be The Exorcist (1973) because of the way I was bought up and the spiritual nature of what I was taught. It was coming from more of a real place than a lot of people might not think. I had a personal experience growing up in a Church lifestyle as a person, so whether it was real or not, it was freaky. Even the movies like The Conjuring (2013) and The Amityville Horror (1979). In The Conjuring, The Warrens talk about, supposedly, some of their stories. I do not know if they are true or not.
CrypticRock.com – Those are all classic Horror movies you mentioned there, and The Exorcist is probably one of the scariest movies ever seen.
Marcos Curiel –Well, the funny thing is, the way I saw it, my parents were watching it and I was pretending to be asleep on the couch, but the whole time I was opening my eyes watching the movie. I was only like six or seven, and when my dad picked me up to put me in bed, I started to freak out (laughs). That is when they realized I was watching the movie.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the movie is quite intense, and as stated, frightening.
Marcos Curiel – I had this conversation with my son, talking about Saw (2004). He asked me if I liked Saw. I said, “You know, I don’t really care for all the torture scenes too much.” I do not want to see a human get tortured. I know it is fake, but I do not want the imagery in my head.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. It can be haunting at times and it is not good to overexpose one’s self to such horrific imagery.
Marcos Curiel – I have not seen the new Poltergeist, but I am a big fan of the original.I am a Zombie guy too. I tried watching the earliest Night of the Living Dead (1968) and I am like, “Dude, how cheesy is that.” I used to think it was so awesome. It is just like watching G.I. Joe or Transformers when I was a kid and when I popped one in now, I did not realize, it looks so whack, for me now (laughs). The sounds effects, the story plot, I was so into this. I look at it now, and wow, it is so different for me.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly does change as you get older. Sometimes what we consider scary when we are young does not hold up as we get older. The good thing is we do have fond memories of the films though.
Marcos Curiel – Yes, like American Werewolf In London (1981), I thought that was so scary back then. I saw it recently and I was like, “That is so cheesy, it is rad.” (laughs)