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Sublime (band)

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Sublime (band)

Floyd "Bud" Gaugh, Eric Wilson, and Brad Nowell in a 1996 promotional picture
Background information
Origin Long Beach, California
Genres Ska punk, alternative rock, alternative hip hop, reggae rock hardcore punk (early)
Years active 1988–1996
Labels MCA, Skunk
Associated acts Long Beach Dub Allstars, Long Beach Shortbus, Perro Bravo, Eyes Adrift, Volcano, Juice Bros., Hogan's Heros, Sloppy Seconds, Gwen Stefani, Bad Brains, Del Mar, Phil & the Blanx
Past members Bradley Nowell
Eric Wilson
Bud Gaugh

Sublime was an American ska punk and alternative rock band from Long Beach, California, formed in 1988.[1] The band's line-up, unchanged until their breakup, consisted of Bradley Nowell (vocals and guitar), Eric Wilson (bass) and Bud Gaugh (drums). Lou Dog, Nowell's dalmatian, was the mascot of the band. Michael 'Miguel' Happoldt and Marshall Goodman "Ras MG" contributed to and co-wrote several Sublime songs. Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996. In 1997, posthumous songs such as "Santeria", "Wrong Way", "Doin' Time", and "April 29, 1992 (Miami)" were released to U.S. radio.[2]

Sublime released three studio albums, one live album, five compilation albums (one of which also contains never-before released material), three EPs and one box set. Although their first two albums—40oz. to Freedom (1992) and Robbin' the Hood (1994)—were quite popular in the United States, Sublime did not experience major commercial success until 1996 with their self-titled third album, released two months after Nowell's death, which peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, and spawned the single "What I Got", which remains the band's only number one hit single (on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart) in their musical career. As of 2009, the band has sold over 17 million albums worldwide,[3] including about 10 million in the U.S. alone.

In 2009, the surviving members decided to reform the band with Rome Ramirez, a young guitarist and admitted Sublime fan from California.[4] However, not long after performing at Cypress Hill's Smokeout Festival, a Los Angeles judge banned the new lineup from using the Sublime name.[5] This was because Nowell had owned rights to the Sublime name, and as a result, they were not allowed to use it without approval and permission from his estate. In January 2010, the lawsuit was settled and the new lineup now performs together as Sublime with Rome, who released their debut album Yours Truly on July 12, 2011. Five months after its release, Gaugh announced his departure from the band.


Early career (1988–1991)

Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh were childhood friends, having grown up in the same Long Beach neighborhood. Eric's father Billy Wilson taught Gaugh how to read music and play the drums. Gaugh and Wilson together with future Sublime manager Michael Happoldt formed a three-piece punk band called The Juice Bros during their high school years. About this time, Bradley Nowell, who had recently dropped out of University of California, Santa Cruz, joined the band. Nowell helped introduce Gaugh and Wilson to reggae and ska, who at the time listened exclusively to punk rock.[6]

Sublime played its first gig on the Fourth of July, 1988 in a small club. Music venues were skeptical of the band's eclectic musical fusion and many refused to book the band. In response, the band created their own music label, Skunk Records, and told venues that they were "Skunk Records recording artists", which helped the band seem more accomplished and subsequently book more shows.[6] For the next several years, the group focused primarily on playing at parties and small clubs with local ska bands Smokestacks, No Doubt and Skeletones to name a few throughout Southern California. The trio recorded a few songs and put forth a number of short demos.

In February 1990, Nowell adopted an abused dalmatian puppy from a shelter and named him "Louie" after his grandfather.[7] Louie Nowell, King Louie, or "Lou Dog" as he was called, became something of a mascot for the band. Gaugh recalled that "Lou Dog just loved Brad because it was the first time he had ever actually been shown love."[7] Lou Dog was often allowed to wander around the stage during the band's concert performances. One of Sublime's early club venues in 1990 was at a downtown club in Long Beach called Toe Jam. This Club was owned and operated by David Rice, James Walker, Jason Burch and Jeff King. A private party was held in February 1991 at Toe Jam for one of the owners. Special thanks can be found for Toe Jam and the owners on the back of the later produced album 40oz to Freedom. In late 1990, music student Michael "Miguel" Happoldt approached the band, offering to let the band record in the studio at the school where Happoldt was studying. The band enthusiastically agreed and trespassed into the school at night, where they recorded from midnight to seven in the morning.[7] The recording session resulted in the popular cassette tape called Jah Won't Pay the Bills, which was released in 1991 and featured songs that would later appear on the band's future albums. The tape helped the band gain a grassroots following throughout Southern California.[7]

40oz. to Freedom and Robbin' the Hood (1992–1995)

Eventually, Sublime developed a large following in California. After concentrating on playing live shows, the band released 40oz. to Freedom in 1992 under Nowell's label, Skunk Records. The record established Sublime's blend of ska, reggae, punk, surf rock, and hip hop, and helped to further strengthen the group's growing California following. Initially being sold exclusively at their live shows, the album became widely known in the greater Los Angeles area after rock radio station KROQ began playing the song, "Date Rape". By 1996, 40oz. to Freedom had sold more than 209,000 units, beating the future self-titled album's running total of 145,000 unit sales.[8]

In 1992/1993, Sublime was briefly signed to Danny Holloway's True Sound imprint.[2] However, the band stayed on Skunk Records and then in June 1994, they were signed to the label Gasoline Alley of MCA Records by Jon Phillips who subsequently became Sublime's manager. Sublime released their second album Robbin' the Hood in 1994, an experimental effort with its diffuse mixture of rock, rap, spoken-word nonsense and folk-leaning acoustic home recordings. Robbin' the Hood was a commercial failure and did not produce any singles. The band toured extensively throughout 1994-1995, their popularity increasing gradually beyond the West Coast as "Date Rape" began earning radio play. In 1995, the band co-headlined the inaugural nationwide Vans Warped Tour. The band's drug use led to tensions with the tour management as Gaugh was arrested several times for possessing marijuana. The band was eventually asked to leave the tour for a week due to unruly behavior after an incident on June 17, 1995 at KRQQ Weenie Roast in which Nowell's dalmatian Lou Dog bit a record executives's daughter while the band was partying with friends and family backstage.[9] Gaugh reflected on the experience: "Basically, our daily regimen was wake up, drink, drink more, play, and then drink a lot more. We'd call people names. Nobody got our sense of humor. Then we brought the dog out and he bit a few skaters, and that was the last straw."[6] After the Warped Tour and the subsequent Three Ring Circus Tour, the band was pressured to begin producing new studio material as a follow-up to Robbin' the Hood.

Nowell's death, final album and breakup (1996)

In early 1996, Sublime headlined the very first SnoCore Tour. In February, they began recording what would comprise the band's self-titled third record and their major label debut album. They completed it before Nowell died of a heroin overdose on May 25, 1996 at a motel in San Francisco, California,[10] which was a day after their last live show in Petaluma, California, 5/24/96, and two months prior to the release. The album became a huge success, including the single "What I Got", which made it to No.1 at the Modern Rock Chart.[11] The album earned the band worldwide fame, and has since gone five-times platinum. In addition to "What I Got", the album included several popular 'posthumous' singles including "Santeria", "Doin' Time", "Wrong Way" and "April 29, 1992 (Miami)", all of which received heavy airplay.

Jason Westfall, one of Sublime's managers, was quoted as saying that "the surviving members of Sublime had no interest in continuing to perform and record under the 'Sublime' name. "Just like Nirvana, Sublime died when Brad died," Westfall said.[12]

Post-breakup (1997–present)

A number of posthumous releases followed, among them Second-Hand Smoke in 1997 and both Stand by Your Van and Sublime Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends in 1998.[2] Second-Hand Smoke, produced by Michael "Miguel" Happoldt, is described as an "assemblage of leftovers, remixes and rarities" that sheds light on a possible direction that Sublime may have sought out if Nowell had not met a tragic end.[13] By the release of their Greatest Hits compilation in 1999 the band had released as many albums after Nowell's death as during his lifetime.[14] A box set of demos, rarities and live recordings, entitled Everything Under the Sun, was released on November 14, 2006.[15] The band later released several vinyl picture discs including 40 Oz. To Freedom, Second Hand Smoke, and Stand By Your Van. On June 16, 2012, the group reunited to give a show at the D-Tox Rockfest in Montebello, Quebec (under the Sublime with Rome moniker).

Following Sublime's demise, its surviving members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh formed the Long Beach Dub Allstars in 1997, which also included many frequent Sublime contributors such as Michael "Miguel" Happoldt (former member of The Ziggens), Marshall Goodman "Ras MG" (former Sublime member), and Todd Forman (3rd Alley). LBDA disbanded in 2002, due to several members of the band breaking a no-drug vow they had taken.

Nowell's widow, Troy was in recent negotiations with label execs as well as entertainment impresario Paul Ruffino to produce a documentary based on Sublime's rise led by Bradley Nowell. Troy Holmes (Nowell) was delayed from making the project a reality until the estate of Nowell could be settled.

Bud Gaugh joined the short-lived Eyes Adrift, a supergroup consisting of Bud on drums, Krist Novoselic (of Nirvana) on bass and Curt Kirkwood (of the Meat Puppets) on guitar and lead vocals. On September 24, 2002, Eyes Adrift released their only album, a self-titled LP consisting of 12 songs. They released one single from the CD, entitled, "Alaska".

On June 5, 2013 it was announced that Sublime would be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their first show (which happened on July 4, 1988) with the release of their first live album/concert film. The album, titled 3 Ring Circus: Live at the Palace – October 21, 1995, will feature footage recorded at a show in Hollywood and will be released on June 18, 2013. The deluxe version will feature all sorts of extras including a poster, backstage pass and a completely separate concert film of the bands performance recorded in 1995 at the Las Palmas Theatre.[16]

Musical style and influences

Sublime was one of the most popular bands of the third wave of ska, specifically characterized as ska punk.[17]

Bob Marley and associated Jamaican reggae acts The Wailers, and Peter Tosh feature prominently in Sublime's songs, as do other Jamaican reggae and dancehall acts such as Born Jamericans, Toots & the Maytals, The Melodians, Wayne Smith, Tenor Saw, Frankie Paul, The Wailing Souls, Barrington Levy, Half Pint and Yellowman. The band additionally covered "Smoke Two Joints" originally by Oregon-based reggae group The Toyes.[18]

Sublime was also heavily influenced by the 1980s and 1990s hip-hop and rap scene of Los Angeles and New York City, alluding to or borrowing from such acts as N.W.A and Eazy-E (who died 14 months before Nowell), the Beastie Boys, Just-Ice, Public Enemy and Flavor Flav, KRS-One, Doug E. Fresh, Too $hort, Mobb Deep, as well as the Philadelphia-based rapper Steady B and Texas hip-hop The Geto Boys.[18]

The southern California metal, surf rock and punk scene influencing Sublime includes Big Drill Car (who were thanked in the first two albums), The Ziggens, Minutemen, The Descendents, Bad Religion, The Bel-Airs, Butthole Surfers, Secret Hate, as well as fellow fusion band Fishbone. Sublime was also influenced by Washington, DC hardcore acts such as Minor Threat, Fugazi (who were also thanked in the first album) and Bad Brains. The band also referenced popular California bands like Grateful Dead, The Doors, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the famous British rock band The Beatles as well as Swedish pop band ABBA. They also influenced local LA composer Frank Zappa. [18]

A few references are made to funk, R&B, and soul bands such as James Brown, the Ohio Players, Jimi Hendrix, Aswad, as well as a smattering of Irish, Scottish and English bands like Boomtown Rats, The Specials, and Primal Scream.

Sublime's music was highlighted by bass-driven grooves, reggae rhythms, elaborately cadenced rhyme schemes and transitions between paces and styles throughout a given song, sometimes alternating between thrash punk, ska and reggae within the same song (see "Seed"). Their music often contains psychedelic, harmonic minor-based or bluesy guitar solos, rhythmically improvised bass solos or dub-lines, turntable scratching and rolling drum transitions and heavy bass lines. They are known for being one of the first and most influential reggae fusion musicians.

Impact and legacy

With the mainstream success of their self-titled album, going six times Multi-platinum and earning worldwide airplay, Sublime's impact persists to this day.[19] As one of the most popular ska-punk bands, it is credited with reviving popular interest in ska, as well as bringing punk rock into the mainstream. Their signature sound and their songs are often associated with the beach/coastal areas of Southern California, such as San Diego, Orange County, Venice Beach and Long Beach as well as areas of Northern California like Santa Cruz. Over a decade after Nowell's death and the band's breakup, Sublime remains immensely popular throughout North America, especially in its state of origin, California. Its songs have been featured via soundtrack in a variety of media. Los Angeles alternative rock radio station KROQ has listed Sublime at No. 3 in their annual "Top 106.7 biggest KROQ bands of all time" list for the past six years in a row,[20] behind Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana,[21] and No. 81 at the "Top 166 Artists of 1980-2008" list.[22] With over 17 million units sold worldwide, Sublime is one of the most successful, and 'powerfully moving' ska-punk acts of all time influencing many modern reggae and ska acts.


Bradley Nowell


  • Dan MacDonald Custom Electric Guitar - Body based on a mix of a 1960s Vox Hurricane and a G&L 100 guitar - Ebony Fretboard - Fitted with a Floyd Rose Vibrato System
  • Ibanez S-540 Saber Series Electric Guitar - Smoke Black - Flame Top
  • Ibanez S-470 Blue
  • 70's Fender Stratocaster
  • Gibson FJN (acoustic)
  • Gibson F-25 Folksinger (acoustic)

Bradley borrowed guitars many times from other bands.


  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
  • Boss OS-2 Overdrive Distortion
  • Whirlwind A/B Selector




For Sublime with Rome's discography, see Sublime with Rome discography.


  1. ^ "Sublime: How did the members meet and become sublime?, hogans heroes, roots of creation". Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  2. ^ a b c Bush, John. Sublime. Allmusic. Retrieved November 23, 2007.
  3. ^ Montgomery, James (2009-09-02). "Sublime Reunion: New Lead Singer, Same Old Dysfunction - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News". Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  4. ^ Sublime To Reunite For Cypress Hill's Smokeout Fest. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  5. ^ "Judge's ruling could put a damper on a Sublime reunion".  
  6. ^ a b c Farley, Christopher John (1996-08-12). "Sublime: When the Music's Over". Time. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Sublime". Behind the Music. 2001-05-30. VH1.
  8. ^ Reece, Doug (Oct 5, 1996). "MCA's Sublime Climbs Up From Grass Roots" (180.40). Prometheus Global Media. Billboard - The International Newsweekly of Music, Video and Home Entertainment. 
  9. ^ Kemp, Mark (1997-12-25). "Life After Death". Rolling Stone (776/777): 104. 
  10. ^ "Band's singer found dead in motel". 1996-05-27. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  11. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "X-Games, Vol. 2". Allmusic: 1997
  12. ^ "Hometown paper talks about Brad". 1996-05-27. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  13. ^ Considine, J.D. (Jan 8, 1988). "Sublime's `Second-Hand' shows the promise that went up in smoke: [FINAL Edition]". Tribune Publishing Company LLC. The Sun. 
  14. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Greatest Hits" (Sublime album). Allmusic: 1999.
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Everything Under the Sun". Allmusic: 2006
  16. ^ [1]"Sublime Celebrates 25th Anniversary In 2013 With Live CD/DVD" 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  17. ^ Joel Selvin (2008-03-23). "Selvin, Joel, ''San Francisco Chronicle'', "A brief history of ska" Sunday, March 23, 2008". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  18. ^ a b c "sublime STP". sublime STP. 1992-04-29. Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  19. ^ "New Style: The Return of Sublime – Latest Nerdy Pop Culture News". 2009-11-03. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  20. ^ "Sublime with Rome". Retrieved November 10, 2014. 
  21. ^ "KROQ". 2008-04-12. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  22. ^ "The KROQ Top Artists of 1980-2008". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 

External links

  • Sublime official site
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