Music News

Casting Stones

Plenty of Christians are proud of San Diego's Payable on Death, a band that has achieved mainstream hard-rock success even though its music frequently deals with cross purposes, so to speak. But drummer Wuv Bernardo points out that quite a few of P.O.D.'s most virulent critics know their way around the Bible, too. "Some websites out there straight-up say we're devil worshipers," he notes.

If he's exaggerating, it's not by much. A site affiliated with an organization called Dial-the-Truth Ministries features several P.O.D.-bashing tracts, including one in which its author, Dr. Terry Watkins, claims, "P.O.D. has subtly introduced and indoctrinated Christian young people to a false, anti-Jesus religion."

In response, Bernardo snorts, "Yeah, that's us. I believe that."

P.O.D.'s real views are front and center on its new release, The Warriors EP, Vol. 2, a stopgap intended to placate fans until the January release of Testify, an already-completed full-length. On "If It Wasn't for You," the EP's first track, vocalist Sonny Sandoval bellows questions such as, "Is there supposed to be a Second Coming?" that are entirely rhetorical, as Bernardo confirms. "Do we believe in God? Yes," he declares. "Do I believe in Jesus Christ? Yes. Do I need help? Absolutely, because that's the kind of Christians we are. We don't say, 'Follow us.' We say we're going to let you down, because we're not perfect. Don't look at man. Look at God."

Here on earth, P.O.D. has enjoyed a nice run, despite some significant challenges along the way. Launched in 1992, the group solidified around the lineup of Bernardo, Sandoval, bassist Traa Daniels and guitarist Marcos Curiel. After building up a considerable following for their rock-and-Rasta sound, they broke through big-time, courtesy of the hookariffic hits "Alive" and "Youth of the Nation," from 2001's Satellite. Unfortunately, success was accompanied by sniping from Christian conservatives who didn't like the boys' tattoos and proclivity for playing alongside heathens at events like Ozzfest. According to Bernardo, Curiel was eager to react against these reactionaries: "He wanted to say, 'Screw it. Let's be rebellious for a season.' And we were like, 'No, we don't have to prove nothing to nobody.'" The resulting conflict ended with Curiel's leaving the group in favor of axman Jason Truby -- yet Payable on Death, P.O.D.'s 2003 followup, failed to hit the heights scaled by its predecessor.

This middling performance puts pressure on Testify, which was recorded three separate times -- first with a buddy, then under the supervision of Rick Rubin associate Greg Fidelman, and finally alongside slickster Glen Ballard. Bernardo is pleased with the final product and is jazzed that the lead single, "Goodbye for Now," is being used to hype The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the cinematic brainchild of Denver gazillionaire Phil Anschutz. Such prospects help him ignore the haters, be they Christian or otherwise.

"We're not judgmental people," Bernardo says. "We ask God to give us love for everyone. We have the mentality that, dude, we're all humans out here."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts