How I Discovered Sublime…

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How I Discovered Sublime…

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By Eric Rachmany of Rebelution:

I was probably 13 when I first heard Sublime. Back then I would try to record songs I liked on the radio to a cassette tape. One day I heard “What I Got” and was instantly hooked. Next time it came on the radio I remembered to record it. At some point my family got a CD player and I bought the self-titled album. I never realized back then that Sublime was influenced by Reggae music. There was nothing about Sublime back then that led me to look up more Reggae. Once I got into Reggae several years later I realized how many classic roots reggae songs Sublime took and flipped to make it their own style. My initial impression was that it was feel good music, although I can’t say I was really listening closely to the lyrics. The groove was fun and it was good music to play along to on the guitar… “Garden Grove” is one of my favorites; I love the west coast vibe of that song.

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By Jon Phillips of Silverback Music Management:
[Sublime manager 1994-’96 /Gasoline Alley Records AR responsible for signing Sublime ]

Sublime was introduced to me by “Groovy” Greg Abramson while we both worked at the label Gasoline Alley in Los Angeles. It was late ’93 and Sublime was in the period between “40 oz to Freedom” and “Robbin’ the Hood (which was not yet released). Groovy Greg became my friend at the label. We both shared an affinity for good music and good herb. He had been down in the LBC at Cal State Long Beach and was chronicling the band’s exploits on video, helping them with their unique DIY grass roots promotion through Skunk Records, and generally spreading the sound to the music industry at large while working at both Gasoline Alley and Rick Rubin’s American Records. As a young AR rep myself, at a new label venture called Gasoline Alley which ran thru MCA records (now Universal), Greg gave me some original cassettes of “Jah Wont Pay The Bills” and the purple clear cassette which i think was a rare version of “40 oz”. I remember putting the cassettes into my ’93 Ford Ranger pick-up and hearing “Ruca,” “40 oz,” “BadFish” and “Scarlet Begonias” for the first time. I basically didn’t remove the tapes from my stereo until i signed the band at Gasoline Alley in June of 1994. The first thing I did after meeting the band was invite them to play an afternoon party on a Hollywood Hills balcony where Ron Jeremy used to shoot pornos! I gave them a 1/4 oz of high grade chronic and all the beer they could drink and them (and a small crew of their posse from the LBC) showed up and played 2 sets in the living room until the cops knocked on the door and shut them down. Bradley and the boys were in a good mood that day… I remember some of the guys in the band DFL were hangin out at the house, and a few random music biz people i was trying to convince that Sublime were “the next big thing” LOL! Well a few folks, including myself, got treated to an afternoon of a lifetime. Sublime became my friends first before I was able to get the music industry to catch up to them, lets just say their reputation scared a lot of “suits” but their music was something no one had ever heard before , nor have heard since. I have to thank “Groovy Greg” for the introduction, as it changed my life more profoundly than anything else in this world, and i just want to say much respect to the one and only Bradley Nowell and Sublime for giving us this music as it will live forever. I am eternally Grateful for the “First Time I Heard Sublime”. Thank you Bradley for “Shootin Heaven on Down to Me”!

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By Fat Mike of NOFX:

I first saw them at Club Commotion in San Francisco, CA in the early 90’s. After I got 40oz to Freedom I loved it! Never heard anything like it before. I like their song “Seed” because it is a utter and complete ripoff of the NOFX song “Lori Meyers”. Michael (Happoldt) even told me they ripped it off. I met Bradley a few times. He was always kind of unfriendly, unlike Bud and Eric who were always super cool. In short, I was a big fan mostly because they were the band that would get more wasted than everybody else, and could sometimes make magic on stage, and sometimes were a total disaster. Perfect!

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By Ted Bowne of Passafire:
I watched MTV as soon as I got home from school every day when I was in 8th grade. (This was back when MTV played music videos). I was also way into skateboarding, turntablism, reggae music, playing drums, and drawing. When I first saw the video for “What I Got” I was immediately a fan because it included all of my favorite things in one video (and it was a great song). Soon after that song became a hit, Santeria started getting heavy radio play on rock radio in my hometown. I also started hearing it at school dances and in skate/surf videos. It was something I had to know more about as soon as I got ahold of it so I bought “Robbin’ the Hood” and “40 oz.” along with the self titled album. The Internet was not very advanced at that point so it wasn’t until “Second Hand Smoke” came out that I found out that Bradley had already passed. I remember it being a sad realization that this singer I truly loved and identified with was gone forever. My favorite Sublime song to cover when I play solo gigs is Saw Red. I love that Gwen and Brad were friends before all of the fame. They make a great pair on that track. The coolest thing was getting Paul Leary to work with us on Start From Scratch. He had a lot of great stories from the recording sessions with Sublime. Another cool Sublime moment was when Brad’s sister came up to me at a show in Santa Ana and said she really likes our band and that she thinks we are carrying the torch for the Sublime reggae rock movement that her brother created. That was an amazing moment for me that I’ll never forget. All this being said… I will forever be a fan of Sublime.

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By Micah Pueschel of Iration:

We first discovered Sublime back in high school on the Big Island of Hawaii. My friend (and original member of Iration) Catlin Peterson had gone to the mainland and
came back with new music. A copy of Adam Sandler’s ‘What the Hell Happened to Me?’ and 2 albums by a band called Sublime.

The first song I remember hearing was ‘Waiting for my Ruca’. The first thing that stood out was how stripped down the song was. The second, was the singer’s voice. At that point, I had no idea who Brad Nowell was, but I knew he could sing. His voice had a mix of grit and emotion with an undercurrent of pain. However, at a base level, he just had a really pretty singing voice. He also had an ear for melody. I think what struck us was that here was a band that incorporated all the styles of music we loved: Reggae, Punk, Hip Hop, Rock with the surf culture we were all a part of. Sublime had great original songs like ‘Date Rape’ and ‘What I Got’ and ‘Badfish’ but also were able to take familiar songs and translate them to their style; ‘Pawn Shop’, ‘Scarlett Begonias’, ‘Summertime’ etc.

Sublime became the soundtrack to every school dance, party, dawn patrol and smoke session. It was universal music. My favorite song is ‘Boss DJ’ simply because of the way Brad’s voice sounds when the chorus hits. It’s so melodic and incorporates all the things that I feel made him such a great singer. Sublime was a style and an attitude as much as it was a great band. I think that’s why they will always live on.

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By Yesod Williams of Pepper:

I first heard Sublime on a surf video called “Momentum 2” from a filmmaker named Taylor Steele who was really leading the charge in, not only the surf video game, but the music game in a sense too (at least from my perspective as a 14 or 15 year old growing up on a rock in the middle of the pacific ocean).

It was because of the soundtracks that he had on his videos; it was all NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion, No Fun At All, Good Riddance, and a ton of the stuff that was coming from the California independent record labels called Epitaph and Fat
Wreck-Chords. That’s what gave me such a “trust” in those labels and then
later in my life with LAW Records, but that’s another whole story in itself.

“Hope”, the Decendents cover from Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom was the song that was featured on Momentum 2, hence me first thinking that Sublime was this epic new punk band a la the bands of Epitaph and Pennywise. But even the guitar tone, when thinking back on it, had a softer, more inviting distortion, instead of your typical rip your face off, 2nd wave of punk rock distortion; and it was amazing! As these soundtracks hit us in Kona like a ton of bricks, “Hope” from Sublime quickly rose to a favorite around our little town.

I’ll tell you about the first time I actually heard a Sublime album after hearing them on Momentum 2… A friend from California who was a bit older than me, had a car. He had a CD copy of 40 oz to Freedom, quite possibly the only copy on the island cause anything outside of local music and real mainstream music, was real hard to get. You could possibly fly to Honolulu and go to a spot called “Jelly’s” and get a copy, which I actually had my mom take me there on an inter-island trip, but they only had a CD with a weird looking guy with missing teeth and an air conditioner called ‘Robbin the Hood’ whic, without hesitation, I bought. I took it home and remember being so bummed because, as we know, Robbin The Hood is nothing like 40oz to Freedom besides a couple songs and my early teen music tastes just weren’t ready for it. That being said, it could be my favorite all time Sublime album but then again that’s nearly impossible to say.

Back to the first time I heard 40oz to Freedom, I heard the song “Don’t Push, and remember being so pleasantly confused. It was nothing like what I heard on Momentum 2, it was even better I thought. I just wanted to listen to it over and over, talking about Bob Marley and shit, but I didn’t put together that it was reggae at first. Now that I think about it, I pretty much fell in love with that song and all I wanted to do was hear it again which was hard until my uncle from Santa Cruz went to Streetlight Records and sent me what I think was one of the first pressings, it was a see through purple tape, I believe they made all different colors on those early printings. Needless to say, it was a hot commodity within our friends. And to make a long story long, once I made the reggae connection it just blew open a whole new world for me, musically, and I started a journey that lasted years of discovering where Brad and the boys had “adapted” all this amazing music, making it their own.

As for my favorite song, let me preface this by saying this is a nearly impossible question for me to answer as it’s just all so good and the music will go in waves for me. BUT today, and maybe just today, because it could change tomorrow, I’m gonna say “Mary.” And I’m gonna throw it back to a song we used to cover in like 1998 before we moved to the mainland: “Romeo”.

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By Dave Hillyard of The Slackers/Hepcat

I first saw Sublime around 1991 in Long Beach. I was playing in a band called Hepcat at the time. We were playing at Fenders Ballroom in Long Beach and there was this band on before us.

I remember them playing to a really small crowd. Mostly friends it seemed. I remember someone yelling ‘play freebird.’ It was one of those nights. They sort of stumbled through the set. Lots of long breaks and goofing. Just seemed like a party band but I noted they sounded real good when they covered ‘danger’ by the selecter.

Flash forward to 1996. I saw the video for ‘wrong way’ on TV and went ‘whaaaat? Who are these guys?’ Original melodies. Lots of presence. I was blown away then to my surprise they told me it was SUblime, that band from Long Beach from 5 years before.

Then I was told that the singer had just died. A real shame. Just as it seemed like they were finding a real original voice.

‘Wrong way’ remains my favorite Sublime song and I like playing the melody on my saxophone. It just flows so nicely. Ive snuck quotes from it into a couple solos now.

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By Howi Spangler of Ballyhoo!:

I actually didn’t hear of Sublime until Brad’s death unfortunately. I saw the report
on MTV News that day. Looking back, it was a pretty shitty way to discover a band. I
realize now what a loss it was. I sometimes wonder what amazing songs he would have
written in the last 20 years. He definitely had the ability. As a songwriter myself,
sometimes I tend to over think and second guess my lyrics and it becomes this difficult task to complete a song. Brad made it look easy.

Fast forward a few months that fall of ’96, a friend of ours would take us to school each morning and he had the self-titled album in the tape deck. I had seen the “What I Got” video on MTV but I wasn’t really feeling it for some reason. I remember hearing songs like “Seed”, “Same in the End” and “Wrong Way” on the way to school and I liked the lyrics. Still didn’t buy the album though. Then I saw the “Santeria” video a few months after that and thought “Wow, this song is great!” The dude could sing and the song was so simple and bouncy. That was the first time I remember thinking they were dope.

Sometime in ’97 I came across the Surfrider compilation. I was skipping around the
CD and “Badfish” came on. I loved the lo-fi sound, it sounded like something
recorded in the early 80’s. The verses and choruses were all fire. The melodies kept coming. I immediately grabbed my guitar, went to my garage and started learning it. I was there for hours singing and playing that song in my garage. I just fell in love with all of it at that point.

After that, I got 40 Oz To Freedom and Robbin the Hood and Sublime quickly became one of my favorite bands. I somehow won a promo copy of Second Hand Smoke and I spun the shit out of “Superstar Punani” and “Slow Ride” on our Winter break. Later that year, I got Stand By Your Van and bumped that one all summer. I was in a record store in Ocean City, MD back in 1998 and I found a VHS copy of what would later become the 3 Ring Circus live album that came out in 2014. A song called “Mad Love” from our first album is greatly inspired by (we maybe even ripped off) that b-side “Foolish Fool”. Big thanks to Chris Pichler and the Sublime Archive too! I had a lot of that stuff that ended up on Everything Under The Sun. Sublime was a huge influence on my band and I’m proud to say it. I wanted to sound like Brad when I sang and I wanted our music to connect with others the way I had with Sublime.

A few years ago I received a message from Brad’s sister, Kellie. She wrote me this
long letter telling me how much my music has helped her cope with his death. I had
to read it several times. It took a few minutes to process because here’s the sister
of “the guy”… The guy that influenced my style and helped me get through my own
mother’s passing. It was a pretty heavy read. But it was a validating moment for
sure.

I think “Seed” and “Same in the End” are great songs. I love the
dynamics there. But I would also loved to have heard a final version of “89 Vision”. That demo has a lot potential. I love the vibe.

We used to do a pretty rad medley of “Smoke 2 Joints/Garden Grove/Don’t Push” in our bar band days. That was always a crowd-pleaser. Fun to play. I fucking love that band.

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By Roger Lewis of Inner Circle:

The first time I heard Sublime I was at a club in New York called Reggae Lounge. I can’t remember which song I heard, that was a long time ago. It was primarily a reggae club but they would play anything that they figured was good. I think Brad really had vibe and love for the Reggae, he would put his heart in it that’s why it sounds unique. You have a lot of people that sing reggae but don’t feel it. I think he genuinely felt it.

Note* Inner Circle releasing a cover of Santeria in the summer.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, February 28th, 2016 at 12:10 am and is filed under Special Features, Sublime, Topic Articles.
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