Artist Profile - Pollstar
September 18, 1995
By Suzanne Kayian
Artist Profile: Sublime
Sublime's punk-reggae-rap sound has taken the band from its position as the "below average garage punk band that every kid wants to play his party" to the rabble-rousing live act that fans flock to see. The members of Long Beach-based Sublime, Brad Nowell (guitar & vocals), Eric Wilson (bass) and Floyd "Bud" Gaugh (drums), mix thrash punk with ska and dub rhythms and have created an act that started the summer on the top of the radio charts and toured its way to oblivion - well, at least as far as mainstream radio is concerned.
Sublime's single Date Rape from the 1992 Skunk Records release 40 oz. to Freedom (which sold in excess of 30,000 units without major distribution) shot to the top of radio request charts after seminal Los Angeles alternative station KROQ-FM added the song to its playlist. Modern rock station across the country followed suit and after six years of plugging away on its own as an underground act, Sublime suddently found itself thurst upon the mainstream. But it seems the mainstream wasn't quite ready for Sublime. The band's manager, Blaine Kaplan, told POLLSTAR he sees Sublime as the quintessential rock band, complete with bad boys pissing off the industry. "The mainstream isn't prepared to do what it takes to break Sublime," Kaplan said. "But promoters can't deny the band's fan base - it's unbelievable. And we're ahving no problem securing dates for the fall."
Sublime isn't having problems booking dates but the band has had trouble keeping its songs on the radio and making it to the stage. When the bad did its first interview on KROQ, the guys fired up joints and chugged Tequila as the D.J., Jed the Fish, did a play-by-play for listeners. Needless to say, it didn't bo over well with the brass at KROQ and Date Rape was pulled from the playlist. But the strength of the single got Sublime on the bill for a few summer radio festivals as well as on the bill for "The Warped Tour," which featured cutting edge punk bands combined with extreme sports. Sublime "didn't make any friends" when the played the radio fests and the band got booted from four dates on "The Warped Tour," despite fans' objections, Kaplan said.
"The Warped Tour," which recently wrapped in L.A., threw Sublime in with a bunch of punk bands, many of whom have a bad attitude towards reggae influenced music, Sublime's frontman Brad Nowell told POLLSTAR. Though many of the acts on the tour, which included No Use For A Name, Quicksand and L7 to name a few, became buddies with the guys from Sublime, Nowell and his crew managed to alienate some of the others. "We're kind of on the outs actually," he said of the bands Sublime shared a bill with. "No one likes reggae music too much anymore."
Kaplan said Sublime has some "dynamic" problems with some of the bands on "The Warped Tour," specifically Orange 9mm who they shared a bus with. And the band members trashed a hotel room (which they paid for), broke a table on the bus (which they paid for) showed up for a couple of shows stinking drunk (not unusual) and mooned the audience during one show. Plus, Nowell's dalmatian Louie, which traditionally tours with Sublime but wasn't supposed to be on "The Warped Tour," surprisingly showed up with two of the band's home boys and bit two audience members during one concert. Then Bud got arrested for possession of pot and Valiums (his non-prescribed broken rib treatment) and had to miss a show. So the band needed a bit of talking to during the midst of the tour. Kaplan said Sublime had a meeting with the tour's primary investor, the production manager and tour manager and the came to some resolution. But only moments after that meeting, Bud tried to sneak a couple of people into the meal area and that was the proverbial straw...Sublime was forced to sit on the bench for the tour's next four stops in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto.
When they do make it to stage, the members of Sublime take a free-form approach to performing. They occaisionally miss sound-checks and they rarely follow a set list so they can honor requests shouted from the audience. The band needs an agent that can deal with its bad boy rock'n'roll style so Rick Bonde at The Tahoe Agency was recently recruited to handle the booking.
Nowell said Sublime's audiences are made up partially of young surfer, skater type people. "Then we have out-of-control punker dudes that raise hell and give us a bad name, which we've enjoyed having. I love any kind of positive response to the music. Even if people hate us, isn't that much better than having people say, 'Ahh, they were alright.' You want people to either love you or hate you [then you know] you're doing something right."
Nowell said "The Warped Tour" was beneficial in that every time a band tours, it gathers new fans. "We've got a pretty hard core little following at every place," he said. "Not a following like the Dead or anything, but people dig our shit in every town. And every time you come through a town, you turn some people on and you sell some records. Then those people dub the records for their friends and [word] gets out. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here and we wouldn't have been [on tour] the last however many fucking times we've been across the country at our own expense."
For a band like Sublime that doesn't "fit" into the mainstream industry, touring is essential to its development. "That's pretty much the only way to do it for us," Nowell said. "And I'm not just talking about us. There's all kind of other bands that people would just love. I just know it. And the only avenue they have is to get out there and work their asses off because the industry is inherently conservative and it always will be."
Just off "The Warped Tour," Sublime hits the road again at the end of October for a West Coast tour. And its five album deal with Gasoline Alley mean fans can expect a new album soon. But with Sublime, no one can really be sure.