Peer Reviews

Other musicians have a few Brad Nowell stories to tell

BUD GAUGH: 'I Think About Brad Every Day, Regardless of Where I Am At'

Sublime's origins were as effortless and as intrinsic to Long Beach as their music was. Floyd "Bud" Gaugh, the drummer for Sublime (and now Sublime With Rome) and bassist Eric Wilson were childhood friends who grew up across the alley from each other; Wilson knew Nowell from sixth grade as a neighborhood kid. He introduced Gaugh to Nowell while they were in college, and the trio started jamming.

What Gaugh likes to remember now about Nowell is "how much fun he was to be with, on- or off-stage. Brad was the type who liked to enjoy life all the time."

In talking about the late, great Nowell, one thing that always came up was how crazy Sublime was as a trio, the chaos that surrounded them and how you never knew what you were going to get when they were around. "I think about Brad every day, regardless of where I am at," Gaugh says. "He was a great friend and is truly missed in my life. I know he is proud of Eric and me in our professional and personal lives."

Gaugh, who had the shock of discovering Nowell's body in their shared hotel room the day the singer OD'ed on heroin ("He and I were sharing a room that night; I found him the next morning on the bed next to mine"), says that if Nowell were still alive, "I know we would be still playing great music with him today."

When asked about Nowell's musical legacy, Gaugh says, "Brad was a superstar of a front man and musician. But it took input from all three of us to create the music that is Sublime, so our musical legacy is the great music that will withstand the test of time. It transcends generational and social barriers, and it is music that just about everyone can relate to. I have often heard of it being referred to as the 'soundtrack to our lives,' as the 'anthem that got me through school' and has 'helped me get through the toughest of times' from others. Our songs are classic in the sense that they have no real genre and will last forever."(Lilledeshan Bose)

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MICHAEL "MIGUEL" HAPPOLDT: 'I Learned a Lot From That Guy, and I Sneak Some of That Stuff Into What I Do'
"I think the success would've really helped Brad get on the right path," says Michael "Miguel" Happoldt, Sublime's producer, manager and friend, whose voice was immortalized in the band's "Scarlet Begonias" track from Sublime's 1992 debut, 40 oz. to Freedom. Released on Skunk Records (which Happoldt ran with Nowell), the album contained "Date Rape," a song played obsessively on KROQ two years later, which helped put Sublime on the Soundscan alternative chart for 70 straight weeks.

"When you're dealing with addiction, you just never know, but I think a lot of Brad's struggle was he never really tasted big success," Happoldt says. "We were selling thousand-seaters, and we're grateful for that, but to know they were playing our stuff on the radio would've just been a sense of accomplishment for him."

Like others who knew Nowell personally, Happoldt says the album Sublime would've made after their self-titled, major-label release would've been unbelievable had Nowell lived. "He would've taken it more seriously, and he would've felt an obligation to rise to the occasion. It would've been one of the greatest records of all time."

Happoldt remembers Sublime as an unparalleled improvisational live band, a completely free-spirited act. "It was anything goes," he says. "We were lucky to be at a sustainable level—paying our bills, having fun, progressing. That was enough for us, and that was the amount of success Brad was able to taste."

Happoldt vividly describes the day Nowell died. The band were doing a mini-tour of the California coast before a European tour. They traveled in a motor home, and to save money, the band would get a motel room and switch off staying in the motor home with the dogs. "Me and Eric Wilson were in the motor home that night. Brad and Bud Gaugh were in the room, and Bud had the shock and horror of finding him," he recalls. "[Gaugh] ran and got us, and we tried to our best to revive him. We took turns with mouth-to-mouth, trying to revive him until the cops came, but it was too late."

At the time, no one knew Sublime's sound was going to give birth to a classic, iconic Southern California sound, reinventing the reggae/punk rock/ska fusion. "To say then that we'd get this big was a long shot," he says. "The public was really slow to warm up to Brad's vision of the sound."

Nowell had an uncanny sense for making music, Happoldt says. "Really, what I miss the most about him was that he was really sure of what he wanted to do, musically. He was very adamant about how his music was recorded, produced, presented. Brad had no ProTools, no Auto-Tune, no time-stretching. If we wanted to do any of that shit back in the day, it was called 'Do it again.' He was a maverick. We had to do it all by hand. We had to let a couple of little flaws in there rather than redo the whole thing. It was funner, it was realer, and that's why the music hasn't aged."

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