GC: Can you tell us about the guitars that you used in the studio to record Satellite?
Marcos: I endorse Paul Reed Smith, so I play a PRS Custom 22. On the record, for a lot of the heavy stuff, I just used the PRS. But then I did use a Fender Telecaster for some of the clean stuff. It's the same one that the guitar player from Soundgarden used on Superunknown. We rented it and used that. The other guitar was a '57 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop original, the one that supposedly John Lennon used.
GC: What is it about PRS that you like so much?
Marcos: PRS is a very versatile guitar. If you want to jam different sounds and play anything from punk to jazz, you can do it with that guitar. A lot of guitars are either really high-end or they're good for one thing. I found that this guitar, with a little bit tweaking, I get all the sounds that I need. Plus, I used to play a Les Paul.
GC: I heard that you have eight different PRS's, is that true?
Marcos: They're all Custom 22's except I have two hollow body McCartys--It's the slim hollow body. Everything else is all Custom 22's, but with either the quilted big leaf or the flame maple top.
GC: So they all look different, but they sound the same?
Marcos: Yeah, they're the same because I have to play so many songs a night now. It's like we play an hour and a half set and have to swap all the time. Regardless if they're the same make or model, a lot of times they still have a different sound from one another.
GC: Do you have your favorites even among the ones that are supposed to be the same?
Marcos: My Tigereye Custom 22 is my favorite. Instead of having the knob that switches over for the different sounds, the tones, they just put in a toggle switch. They don't come like that, but they kind of do a little thing. They customize the tuners up on top. They're not the standard PRS tuner.
GC: What drives you to use different guitars on different songs? What makes you decide, for example, that you want the Tele as opposed to something else. Is it because it has a different tonality or high end?
Marcos: Yeah, pretty much. I could care less about the way it feels because I'm not really used to Fender necks. The first real guitar I got was a Les Paul, so you can get a wide fat neck from PRS. It's similar to that neck. I'm more into that.
GC: Are there any examples off of the album where you used the Les Paul and the Tele?
Marcos: Yeah, there's a song called Boom, the bridge in the middle is definitely the Tele. The Les Paul is intertwined through the whole record with different sounds. It was a mixture and there were a billion amps I used. We were working with Randy Staub. We worked with the same producer as we did on our debut record, Howard Benson, but our engineer was Randy Staub who has done all the Metallica records from "Metallica (The Black Album)" on. He has also done Dr. Feelgood and the Cult. He's a big rock guy. So he had a lot of tricks up his sleeve.
GC: What does a good producer do and what does a good engineer bring to the project?
Marcos: I think a good producer allows the band to be artistically creative. More than anything, he should be more of a guy that adds direction or as I would say, depending on how many people you have in your band, the fifth person looking in. He's the outside person looking in and just giving ideas. In the band we have four guys and we're like, "This will sound..." and then he puts his info in. We've been a band way too long to have someone come in and say, "This is the way it is and that's it!"
GC: What's an example of something that Howard Benson might have said to you guys?
Marcos: A lot of it has to do with arranging. He's always thinking about the rules for getting on radio. Unless you're Tool or Rush or Iron Maiden, you can't write ten minute songs. He's like you guys have to try to keep it below four so let's try to structure the best way your song can be within that boundary. I guess they call it a boundary. We can do whatever we want, but we just choose to have some sense there.
One thing he would say is, "Ok, instead of doing it eight times, why don't we bust it to four times and then we'll come back around and go two times." As in measures of how many times we should play a riff or something. That's cool because on our indie records, we used to write like eight-minute songs! We understand the logic now. Musicians understand progressiveness, I guess you can call it. I think your standard person just walking down the street or family member, they love music but they're not playing it, they don't understand all that. They understand a beat, a rhythm, and a groove.
GC: What does Randy Staub bring in as an engineer?
Marcos: He tweaks knobs forever and he brings in his compressors. He's from Canada, so he brings in some stuff that we don't have down here. He had, for instance, a six amp switcher, where you can run six amps together. I've seen some down here in America, but the way it was made was totally different than I've ever seen before.
GC: So you have six amps running mic'ed up at the same time and it switches between them and blends different amounts of each one?
Marcos: Yeah, we'll have all six going and he'll be like, "Let's try the Orange with the Marshall with the Mesa Boogie. Ok, now let's try to add this amp." Then each channel gets its own thing. He tweaks it and then he blends them in so that they can go together into one channel, so it gets a real cool original tone.
He also put a Dyna Comp MXR pedal on Wuv's drum kit, on his bass drum. It's a little compressor. He put that through the mic before it went into the board on the bass drum. We love the way his drums sound on this record.
GC: You've been quoted as saying Carlos Santana was your first guitar hero. What is it you like about his playing?
Marcos: I think a lot of it had to do with me being a Chicano, having a Latin upbringing. To be honest with you, it should never be broken down about race, it should be about the music, but as a kid, being able to relate to someone, growing up here in San Diego. My parents kind of turned me onto him, they use to listen to his records all the time and it kind of grew on me and stuck with me. I learned to appreciate his style of music. I went to a couple of shows and there was this other kid going, "Dang dude, he's Hispanic and he can rock!" At the time, if you look at the 80s, it was predominantly blonde hair, blue eyes. No offense, but I was like, "Dude, I can't relate with that." So that was a big thing and plus I like what he plays. I like how he mixes different rhythms from Afro-American beats to Latin beats. He'll intertwine a lot of minor guitar scales that make it sound really sad and beautiful, but at the same time not too eerie. I just learned to appreciate a lot of his stuff.
GC: Was another reason why you picked PRS because you wanted to get that Santana tone?
Marcos: Yeah. We play different styles of music, but I knew that there has to be something about that guitar because I respect him and I wondered what he digs about it. I wanted to try one out so I used to go to Guitar Center in San Diego. They were always hanging way high--kind of like the Wayne's World skit, I was always like, "I want to play that." And it was like four or five grand at the time. They would say, "Hey you've got to take your belt buckle off man because we don't want them scratched." I got one and I started playing. I was playing a Les Paul Studio so I was like "cool man!" And I played a Gibson SG. I was like, "Dude this thing is cool," because at the time I was really into George Benson, also. A lot of flamenco and Latin guitar stuff and I was like now I can see why you can do a lot of different things with it. It can rock real heavy or can be kind of punk. It can even go like Santana. I was totally sold and had to get one of those, but I didn't have enough cash. So when got signed, that was the first time I bought one, like five years ago. After that, the company knew that I was playing them and ever since then Paul hooked me up.
GC: Well we talked a little bit about amps in the studio and having six or more. What amps did you use in the studio?
Marcos: I used Mesa Boogie, Soldano, a hot-rodded Marshall, an Orange, a Hiwatt, a Roland Jazz Chorus 120, and a Vox AC30.
GC: So you were using heads and cabinets?
Marcos: They were all linked up, whatever we could make sound better. We had different cabinets in there, Crate cabinets, Marshall cabinets, Mesa Boogie cabinets and we hooked different heads up to different things.
GC: Did one or more wind up being one of your favorites? What was each one the best for?
Marcos: I think the Orange was really cool for an old school rock and roll, fuzzy, distortion-it was just loud. And the Mesa Boogie, I will always be down with them because they play so damn good. They're so heavy and that's a versatile amp. You can tweak it out. You have to know how to tweak that amp because if you don't, a lot of people are disappointed. If you know what you're doing with it, then I think you'll be very happy. I totally love that amp. I have a couple. I have two Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers and I have a Dual Rectifier Trem-O-Verb, which they discontinued. Then for my clean, I basically use the Vox AC30. The reason being is, I am very influenced by The Edge from U2. I've been to a couple of their shows and I've always seen them on TV. I was like "I've got to check out those amps, man! They kind of look weak and flimsy, but real rock and alternative." I tried them and I was like "Damn!" I fell in love with them! They're real high maintenance though on the road. You have to watch out and not bang it around too much and you have to make sure they get enough air in the tubes and all that stuff.
GC: What about processing or effects?
Marcos: All the effects I use are stomp boxes. That's what we did on the record. We used everything from a Digitech whammy pedal to a Dunlop Univibe, MXR Phase 90, the DOD envelope filter, a Crybaby wah pedal and two Boss DD-5 Digital Delay Pedals, a Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, a Boss BF-3 Flanger and the Line6 DL4 Delay Modeler. It has tons of delay on it. It has one of the best sounds as far as reverse guitar on a pedal--it's bad! I also use the Big Muff pedal. I used a Memory Man Delay pedal and I used the Boss DM-2 Analog Delay. I used that and then I used a Electro-Harmonix Micro synthesizer pedal, you can run your guitar through it and as it's running through, your guitar pick can tweak with the EQ and it will fluctuate the sound real fat, real slow. It's kind of like when you hear, just to give you an example, when you hear Tool's song, Schism, there's that break down in the middle and it sounds like a Micro synthesizer. At least it sounds like a Micro synthesizer to me--I don't know if it is or not, but that's the kind of sound. I used it on Youth of a Nation, in the solo, so the solo has kind of a weird sound to it.
GC: Were you tracking with it or were you adding it after the fact?
Marcos: No, we were tracking with it. I've always been the guy that just tracks the track with it. I've noticed that a lot of times when you're in the studio, there has always been guys that think, "We'll just put it in later. Don't mess with it." Then we get there later and I'm like, "It doesn't sound right. It doesn't have the same feel. It doesn't have the same vibe." Ever since then, when I record, I record with my pedals. I don't run them all at once. Live, you would run them all at once. I just take them out and decide which pedals to use and then I only run those so it will cut down on the noise. But, at the same time the noise is kind of what my sound is, too.
GC: You've talked in the past about music running in your family. Did that affect your decision to become a professional musician? How much does your musical background affect your playing with P.O.D.?
Marcos: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my mom has always sung. My grandpa was a Mariachi and he played violin and guitar. He played for President Roosevelt and I use to have to hear that story all the time. He had a big influence on me. He would always try to get me on the guitar when I was about 6 or so, but I wouldn't have it. I wanted to go play Spiderman or Superman or whatever outside.
Music has always been a big part of me. My family has always listened to it. They never really listened to the really heavy, heavy stuff; Zeppelin, Cream and some Hendrix was as heavy as they got. But in the 80s, I was getting into Metallica and all that stuff. My mom started listening to a lot of jazz and stuff and R&B and I was down with that, too. I love music, but I think it was just in the soul. I can't quite explain it. All I know is that before I was 14, I wanted to be an airline pilot or a pilot. I had pictures of F16s in my room and then I think I went to a rock concert, an old metal concert when I was 14 and I wanted to do that. It changed my life. I came home and I wanted to buy a guitar. My mom was like, "What?" We were pretty poor so she saved up some money for awhile just to get me a cheap Memphis Stratocaster wannabe with a Gorilla amp. I thought I was going to wail when I got it. I was going to tear it up. Then I realized that you have to practice. I just started to get way into it. I'd get home from school and go straight to it. I'd get kicked off the guitar to do some homework. My mom would make me do homework before hopping on that guitar.
Once you start to play, you start to meet people that play. Everyone at school was like, "hey look at what I learned." And they were all covers of Zeppelin or Guns 'n Roses or something. I could play that stuff, but I was always like, "hey man check this out." And they were like, "Who's that man?" And I was like, "it's my song." It made me kind of realize that songwriting was the way.
GC: What are the pros and cons of making and releasing a record independently verses on a major label?
Marcos: Independently, a lot of it has to do with the money. You know it comes out of your own pocket. I mean, you go inside a studio and you're like, I have no more money, we have to finish it tonight. So a lot of times the mix would be awful. But it worked to our advantage because it let people know what we could do. Like kids, we'd go out and tour and it gave people a piece of what we were at the time. They sold a lot more records than we thought. And then we got this major deal and once again no one in the mainstream, the big music business world knew who we were so they didn't care. As soon as we went platinum, without anyone's help, just by doing it the hard way, by touring, everyone was like, "What?!" And then this next record, Satellite, everybody was like "dude you guys are cool." Everyone just jumped on. It's all good. I mean we just do what we do. The cool thing about signing with a major label is that we kind of set what we wanted to be, how we wanted to be portrayed and had the freedom we wanted as far as writing.
GC: With the major label did you feel like you had more resources to tap into and use and therefore fully express what you wanted to on a record?
Marcos: Of course man, it is all about that. You get to work with a big producer. You get to have a great engineer and time. Our first record we did in six weeks, where all our previous records were done in a weekend or two weekends. So just having that kind of time was cool.
GC: Do you think there's any kind of pressure to be this or be that from a big label?
Marcos: No, when we signed there was one guy that believed in us, our A&R guy. The rest of the label wasn't sure how they were going to market it, they weren't sure if it was going to pop. So our A&R guy was like, that's one thing, when you get with a major label, it's a huge machine and you just have to know how to move it. Once you get the machine rolling for you, it's over. You have to keep proving yourselves. There are bands that sign and blow up right away, but I think it builds character if you have to work for it. We sort of had to. That's why we don't take anything for granted.
GC: I've read that there are guest performances by HR from Bad Brains and Eek-a-mouse on this record. How do you set something like that up?
Marcos: Well if you want one word, I'd say, luck! Actually, we're big reggae fans, to everything from Bob Marley to Steel Pulse to Third World to Michael Rose and Black Uhuru. Because we're influenced by reggae and we're influenced by punk, we always thought it would be kind of cool to get HR on our record one day. We wrote this punk song and we didn't know if he could be found cause a lot of people were like, "that dude just wanders." What ended up happening was our A&R guy called in and told us they found HR and he was here in LA. They got Bad Brains back together but they're not called Bad Brains anymore. They're called Soul Brains. He was going to come by the studio to check out the song to see if he wanted to do it. So that was the impression we were under. So he walks into the studio and the next thing we know, he's like, "All right, let's do it." We were all like, "Let's do it? We weren't expecting you to want to do it right now." So that song came about real, true punk-rock style. Our producer had never heard of him or who he was, but we just put a mic up and did it. He and Sonny went back and forth on what the song was going to be about and next thing you know he's in there wailing away. Our jaws were on the ground. Randy and Howie were like, "Who is this guy?" It was just cool. We were really excited about that. That was luck.
Eek-a-mouse we met because we wrote that song a year and a half prior to the record. And a friend of ours, a DJ, did the DJ work on Rock The Party, on The Fundamental Elements Of South Town album. We met through our friend and we had him come into one of the studios here in San Diego called Big Fish. He just came in and did some tracks. We always had this song and we wanted to use it for something.
GC: Do you have a home studio to write or do demos?
Marcos: I just use a digital recorder right now, a Roland VS-880. That's what I use right now. It's cool. I think I'm starting to outgrow it a little bit. I'm ready to move to the next level.
GC: What about mics?
Marcos: Sometimes I'll go direct and then a lot of times I'll use the Shure SM58. I don't really have any high tech stuff at home yet. I have a cheap Casio keyboard that I mess with.
GC: Do you play other instruments?
Marcos: Yeah, but I'm way better at guitar than I am on anything else. I guess when you have the ear and you know what you want, you can get the sound you want without getting the technical side down. When I play bass, I'll play with a pick. But I'll still get a cool quick sounding tone on it. I guess I can play bass all right--rock and roll style. I'm not really a thumper or anything. So I can't go off. Keyboard is the same thing. I can't really go crazy, like play a million scales on the piano but I know exactly where to go because I know the chords. I can mess with it. I just imagine it. I get it on the Roland VS-880 and get the idea down. I'll end up going to the studio and actually expanding on the idea that I started here at home.
GC: Do you practice a lot?
Marcos: If anything, I just do a lot more warm ups. I'm not really a technical kind of guy. I don't like to be. I like to mess around with some technical stuff. There are people out there that just concentrate on that nonstop. I just like to be a guy that plays by feeling. A lot of times I just write. I get on my guitar and make a new riff or a new chord progression. It's kind of cool. It's not like I get on there and just practice. Before we go on tour I have a set run through on my own to make sure I have my stuff together. I don't necessarily practice like when I was a kid, like I use to practice all the time. It's more natural now. I can pick up any guitar and play. I do a lot of warm ups before a show, just running up and down the board. If you don't, you start to get really sore wrists.
GC: How does the band write material? What's the typical process for one song? From beginning to end?
Marcos: They come in two ways. A lot of times, because it's guitar-based rock, I have to do my homework and actually write riffs and chords and stuff like that. A lot of times I'll go show the guys and I don't go with a whole song because that's not the way we work. I just go with pieces and say, "What do you guys think?" And then we start to jam and it either turns into a song or it doesn't because someone doesn't like it. If we're trying too hard to make it work, then it doesn't flow. It's got to flow. I think a lot of it has to do with the guitar. I start and if everyone approves of it and starts jamming and starts to feel good, then everyone starts to add. Traa will start adding to it and Wuv will start adding his drum beat--that kind of stuff. That's one way. The other way is we start jamming at sound check and stuff will just come up. It just pops up from jamming.
GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center at all?
Marcos: Of course we do! We all do. It's the only store that we can count on when we need something. It's just now, we have a lot of endorsements and a lot of times we walk in and we're don't really need anything. But if we do, our techs are sent off to Guitar Center and they get what we need. It's always good to go in there and see what you guys have set up. We love that, if something new is out we like to go in there and check it out. It's like the big-kid toy store! We love that store and we've been going there since we were all kids.