Wuv Stays Old School On New P.O.D. Album
Laid back and loving it, P.O.D.’s Wuv Bernardo approaches the drums like a true family man in a family band, playing for his band mates and for the music. P.O.D. has been applying its brand of full body slam-rock for some 20 years and they don’t look to be running low on steam anytime soon.
P.O.D. has logged a remarkable array of achievements, including worldwide sales exceeding 10 million and a series of chart topping radio hits. On the band’s new album, Murdered Love, Wuv blasts his beats with aggression and authority on reggae tinged head-cracker “Eyez,” the syncopated hi-hat accented “Higher,” space rock hypno-groover “Lost In Forever,” irresistible stadium rocker “Beautiful,” and rap addled rocker “West Coast Rock Steady.” With such a profusion of styles gracing the new disc, is it possible the band has crossed more boundaries than ever?
“I don’t think we’ve expanded our style,” Wuv responds from San Diego while munching a pre-show taco. “We’ve always put our hardcore reggae influences in there. I just think that maybe this time we went more back to our old school roots. We’re expanding the roots.”
Wuv and his longtime band mates will join the third annual Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival this summer alongside multi-platinum rock bands Shinedown, Godsmack, Staind and Papa Roach.Most bands don’t last 20 years. How do you maintain a fresh approach as a drummer playing with the same musicians and a similar style of music after so long?
Every band has its own chemistry. This is a band of brothers. We started in ’92 – for us, longevity is about keeping everything balanced. We’ve been away for five years just recharging the batteries and getting that passion back. That balance is key for us. As for drumming, my recording process is completely different than my live thing. I learned with Howard Benson [Kelly Clarkson, Theory Of A Deadman, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance] and other producers that sometimes overplaying on your record is not the best thing to do. So I leave a lot of room for vocals. Usually when we write the songs we don’t have the lyrics yet. When I track it’s early usually, so it’s not good for me to be playing a lot of stuff that might clash with the vocals. But when we play live I definitely like to flavor it a whole lot more than on the record. And that makes it fun for me to play live. I got that freedom. P.O.D. can be heavy but you’re always very relaxed. How do you stay relaxed when everything is cranking?
Over the years I’ve paid more attention to being relaxed. Before, I struggled a lot with tempos. I was always going up and down when I was younger. But now that I have been in this game a long time I have a better feeling for what the band is going to do or what’s going to come next. I’m thinking about staying in the pocket a lot more the older I get and the longer the band is together. That’s new for me. But it’s working. It keeps everything centered and makes everybody happy and the songs sound better. The energy is always there with us. We feed off the crowd, the more energy they have the more energy we will give back.
What is your routine when you have time to practice?
Mostly I practice to reggae music. I’ll put on some reggae stuff from my iPod and play to my favorite reggae drummers like Grizzly from Steel Pulse or Black Uhuru’s drummer (Sly Dunbar, Rangotan) and just keep that steady rhythm going. I don’t play to rock and roll music.
You play some very cool reggae rhythms on the new album, and seem completely at home playing rim clicks.
P.O.D. fans know that reggae influence is a major thing with us. We had reggae songs on our early records. We’ve been able to work with great reggae artists like Eek-A-Mouse, HR from Bad Brains did a reggae song with us. I have a reggae band that I play with in my off time, Southtown Generals. We recorded a reggae record out of my studio. We put a record out last year.
For that reggae rim click stuff – man, reggae playing is so completely different from rock; it’s one of those things where you have to be into that style of music and learn your history of the one drop, and be consistent. Hitting the rims all the time and doing those little things are something that comes with time. For me, it’s listening to great reggae drummers and emulating what they do. I’ll listen to one record over and over until I can feel it, and once I feel it I can do it on the drums.
How do you warm up pre-show?
I have a pair of weighted sticks I recently began warming up with. I just do regular stuff. I don’t get crazy with that. I do some rolls – just keep doing rolls, single stroke rolls. Warm up my forearms too. When I play I am more of a full body player; it’s not like I am going crazy with wrists. I am more using my whole body. I am slamming into things.
Throughout the album, no matter the style of song, you play some very delicate rhythms on your hi-hat.
That’s 100 percent Stewart Copeland. He’s one of my favorite drummers. I loved his hi-hat growing up and that is how I wanted to play my hi-hat. I use the tips of the sticks, not the shank.
When P.O.D. records, are you the only one with a click?
The whole band hears the click. They can turn it down or up. They know if I have to do the click, they do it too. [laughs] Most of our tracks are recorded live, one shot. Some of the tracks we will redo, but we do record the bass and drums and guitar live together. Most of the bands we play with these days have two sets of Pro Tools rigs onstage backing them up. We are more of a live Bad Brains style band. We go there and plug in and go. It’s more of that old school thing.
Half the kids go to shows these days and they don’t even know their favorite band is playing to 50 different tracks behind them. That bums me out. Whatever happened to the days when bands were playing rock and roll instead of being backed by 50 tracks onstage?
What do you use as a click?
It’s more of a cowbell. I like everything loud on my headset, guitars and bass, so the click has to be popping. I usually play a little behind the click; I’d rather be behind than ahead. That is coming from that reggae family – that relaxed, more natural type of feeling. I became comfortable with the click when Howard Benson produced us in 1998 for Fundamental Elements. He was very adamant about sticking to the click. I didn’t have too much problem with it. I never struggled with the click.
Looking back on your 20-year run with P.O.D., what advice can you give drummers about surviving in the music business?
Play with guys that you enjoy being with. Friendships are important. And play music that you really, really love. A lot of drummers take opportunities to play with bands because they are in a better position but it’s not the music they love. I run into a lot of drummers like that. They get discouraged because the music is not coming from their heart. You’re not expressing to your full capabilities because you’re paying a genre that is not your forte. Go with what you love.