Relix Magazine - 10 Years Without Sublime Article

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Remembering Brad Nowell and the Music of Sublime

Bradley James Nowell February 22, 1968 - May 25, 1996

Rock music in the 1990's felt a little like that Charles Dickens line; It was the best of times, It was the worst of times. While bands like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Red Hot Chili Peppers flourished, the genre suffered irreparable losses: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana ('94), Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon ('95) and Brad Nowell of Sublime ('96). While all three died of heroin overdoses, non made their struggles with addiction as painfully clear as Nowell did on Sublime's 1994 release of Robbin' The Hood, in the song "Pool Shark":

Now I've got that needle And I can't bleed, but I can't breathe Take it away and I want more and more One day I'm gonna lose the war

While Sublime's eventual multi-platinum success was bittersweet - Nowell died about two months shy of the band's third release, which made them a household name- it never pretended to be anything other than what it was; three guys from Long Beach, California, who liked partying, performing and creating a visceral form of music that seamlessly wave together punk, reggae and hip-hop. Catalyzing the concoction of edgy guitar, Eric Wilson's rolling bass and Bud Gaugh's frenetic drumming were Nowell's raw and pointed lyrics, which captured the angst and ennui of an audience that love, fair play and nine-to-five a burden to its independence. His voice reflected his lyrics and the band's own ethos, by turns sweet and lifting while the next minute gruff and ragged. Coming up out of Long Beach's punk-surf ethos, the trio organically grew itself from to go-to party band to one that played increasingly larger shows to showcase a music that had become an acute soundtrack for a generation. Like good gamblers, fans always came out in force to test their luck with each show. While there were certainly losing nights, the payoff on the winning nights was a transcendent musical force like few others; a tattooed and shirtless trio pouring sweat and vamping on a sardine-packed crowd's manic energy with a gut-wrenching catharsis. With the help of fellow artists, family and friends, we celebrate the music of Sublime and the spirit of Brad Nowell. If the band were around today, they'd be the reason you went to that festival, the reason you road-tripped with a carload of friends that sent you hurling across the night blaring the stereo reckless abandon, the reason you got the girl. They'd be that soundtrack, yet again, to those moments of raucous laughter, to smiles and cheers. They'd be your band. And perhaps, for many reading this, they already are your band. Josh Haron

"I remember surfing in Huntington Beach and playing in backyards. Going on the road and playing to the soundman, waitress and bartender, those being the best memories. Brad was very intelligent and very free spirited... and hide your daughters. He reallly knew how to write great songs. He was a great musician. He'd create a loop and we would come up with songs on a four-track. If we were still around today it would still be backyard parties but with bigger backyards, bigger clubs with more waitresses, bartenders and bigger crowds." Eric Wilson, Sublime bassist

"We started playing shows with them, and I remember this feeling that they were doing something above and beyond everyone else in that scene, at that time. Number one, they had a way of mixing punk, rock, reggae and hip-hop and adding in a touch of the Grateful Dead---somehow they made all those styles work together in a way that was credible, that did justice to each of those genres. Number two, those guys played really well together: Bud and Eric really had a deep, deep groove together; they absolutely gave Sublime that sound. Number three, of course, was Brad who had the soul that indefinable soul in his voice and his songs. He was on another level, on the level of the all-time greats. And sometimes you'd see them play a show on an off night, but the off nights were part of the charm. And the on nights were nothing less than magic. Mucially manscendent." Tom Dumont, No Doubt

"We had a feeling that the music we were playing was golden. It was our duty, our job to get it out there. We wanted to play it as often and as long as possible. There were times when they had to peel us off the stage. We just did things our own way and did what we wanted to because we knew what we were trying to do was deliver the music as best and we as we could. We knew we were doing the right thing, no matter what. If we were around our instruments, we were doing the right thing. If we would have stayed together, we would have been definitely one of the top, number-one bands in the world." Bud Gaugh, Sublime drummer

"Sublime always made a great bridge between saying something solid in their songs and at the same time making the sound exciting in a popular way. That combination is why they keep a committed following and that's what fueled their incendiary performances." Chuck D., Public Enemy

"What made Sublime unique is their musical ability to think as one - changing styles, grooves- as well as come up with great songwriting that tells stories. This is a songwriting syyle which only they had a good grasp on, compared to many other artists at their time in the genre. It's a skill that relates with the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan or any other of these great songwriters." Asdru, Ozomatti