Interview With Sublime - Axis Magazine
Axis Magazine - July 23, 1995
By Jason Swancey
Interview With Sublime in Orlando
It was two years ago this past summer that the Warped Tour stopped at the now defunct Edge in Downtown O-town. In preparation, the magazine staff did interviews with all of the bands performing on the bill, in which we had the opportunity to talk with one of the staff favorites, Bradley Nowell and Sublime. Of course, to greet them, in true fashion, we set up our site at the tour with an overhead tent, a stack of Sublime singles and about six cases of Busch Lite.
The band signed the CD's for anyone that stopped by, as we all polished off the cheap beer and sang the necessary odes, ""You're not the only one... but you're the best Bradley... BA... BA!" In tribute to the late Bradley Nowell, and their recent mainstream success, we will reprint the exclusive interview we did with him back in July of '95.
Rap, ska, punk or reggae: if you like any and especially if you like them all, you'll love Sublime. The eclectic-sounding musicians out of Long Beach, California have seen their song "Date Rape" blow up nationally, as well as on local Orlando radio stations.
"I've never raped anyone as far as I can remember," the group's frontman Brad Nowell explained. "We were at a party a long time ago and we were all talking about how bad date rape was. This guy was like, 'Date rape isn't so bad if it wasn't for date rape I'd never get laid.' Everyone at the party was bummed out about it, but I was cracking up and I wrote a funny song about it."
Although the cynical song about violating women has a ska flavor it doesn't at all indicate the three-man band's versastyles. Most of their stuff is reggae with a smattering of punk and ska to pick up the pace. In between, they flavor it with movie samples and obscure television cuts. Imagine a sample from an old black and white movie that starts out normal and then takes a turn: "I constructed you, fuck you," says the male voice in a James Cagney tone. "She sucked my cock and fell in love got locked in, she's gonna' have her second chance to suck my cock again." That's an excerpt from Sublime's 1994 release, Robbin' The Hood. The track is called "Raleigh soliloquy Pt. 1." "We just run some RCA cables right into the four-track from the VCR," Nowell said. "We just use whatever sounds right, we do a lot of freestyle."
Nowell and the boys have too many influences to even mention. Listen to one of their CD's and you'll hear songs that begin with cheesy organ from The Doors or electric licks via Santana. Nowell credits Paul's Boutique as one of his all-time favorite albums, and that's not the first time the group has drawn comparisons to the trio from the other coast. In fact, they've been dubbed the Beastie Boys on reggae. And as if that's not enough, the group also sprinkles a bit of folksy sound with a Dick Dale-like surf guitar slice to it.
Robbin' the Hood has 13 self-produced four track home recordings, so it was as cheap as it was versatile. Both of their albums, including 40 OZ. To Freedom, were recorded for under $10,000, yet they managed to sell 30,000 copies with no help from a major label (so, yes it's O.K. for you "punks" to still like them because they haven't sold out). NOTE: To date they have sold nearly 1,000,000 copies of their first two CD's. Still, the only place they have sold out is on the store shelves! "We sold all those just by playing a lot of shows and selling them there," Brad said. The group never got calls for a second album so they had to do it themselves. "It cost us $500 to make it," he said. "Now we have a nice one-inch four-track studio downstairs that cost us $5,000."
Don't let the upgrading scare you, Sublime remains indie to the core. They're still on the label they started, Skunk Records. Just like the animal their label is named after, they caused quite a stink at their first gig on July 4, 1988. The incident went down in the Long Beach annals of history as the "Peninsula Incident." "The ramifications are still there, unless you're a resident you have to have an invite to get onto the peninsula," Nowell boasted. "I don't know where they got all those cops that were working on the Fourth of July, but they dragged them up and brought them to where we were jamming. They put on the riot gear and cleared everyone out, and they've been like Nazi's ever since down there.
You know how the sun shines and people drink all day, their faces get all red and they just go fucking nuts." One might think that incident would sour them on another gig on the peninsula. "We're going to try and play another show out there. There are other ways to get thereÑmaybe we'll swim or hide in the trunk or something." They won't have to swim all the way to Orlando, but no doubt they'll be diving off the Warped Tour's main stage. They're sharing the headline title with L7, and the stage with Face to Face, No Use For A Name. None of these bands tickle Nowell's fickle fancy. "No, not really," was his response when asked if he was looking forward to playing with any of the other groups.
He is excited about the tour bus because it's the first time they've ever been on an actual tour bus. In the past, a Ford Van always sufficed. The only setback is that Sublime has to ride with other groups and he's not sure of he'll be able to bring his Dalmatian Louie. "Hopefully he'll be able to come on the bus with us as long as people aren't being assholes," he said. "I'm thinking about just blowing the whole tour if they don't let me bring my dog."
Luckily Brad was just joking, so he will be in Orlando come August for the second time, but playing for the first. "I just remember driving through there, and we picked up some teenage runaway that was all strung out on those cough drops that they sell at the gas station," he explained. "We bailed on her the next day before she woke up she was the full troll."