By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
To this day, Happoldt still thinks about Nowell, especially when he performs with his band, Perro Bravo. "Brad used to tell me, 'You know, Mike, it's harder than it looks.' When I'm up onstage and I think about how you have to play guitar, sing, hit the pedals, entertain the crowd, I realize it is harder than it looks!" Happoldt says, laughing. "With all the lessons Brad taught me—I learned a lot from that guy, and I sneak some of that stuff into what I do. And hopefully it resonates with some people." (Lilledeshan Bose)
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MILES DOUGHTY: 'The Reggae/Rock/Surf Scene of Southern California Expanded Into the World'
Slightly Stoopid's Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald were big fans of Sublime. "We'd go surf and listen to them before we paddled out, and it was part of our culture growing up," Doughty remembers. "As kids, we idolized [Bradley Nowell]; Sublime were one of our favorite bands."
Nowell discovered the Ocean Beach band as teenagers and signed them onto Skunk Records, his label with friend and Sublime producer Michael "Miguel" Happoldt, in 1995.
"He and Miguel really took us under their wing when we were 15, 16 years old," Doughty says. "We owe them so much. It really opened the doors for Slightly Stoopid in the music world, even a couple of years after he passed. They brought us to their studio in Long Beach and let us record our first record. They were really supportive and positive toward us."
Doughty credits Nowell with not only teaching him how to play a reggae chord ("before then, we were more of a punk rock band"), but also opening their eyes to being a successful touring band. "They taught us to always go back to these towns multiple times a year," he says. "You gain your fans that way. They said, 'Boys, get on the road,' and we haven't stopped since."
The day Nowell died, it was Slightly Stoopid bassist Kyle McDonald's birthday, and the band were playing a house party in Ocean Beach. "Everyone just gathered around, and we played for hours—it was a good day, even though it was a bad day," he recalls. "It brought a lot of people together."
After Nowell was cremated, Doughty was part of the group that scattered some of the ashes at Nowell's favorite surf spot in Surfside: "We all took a bit of his ashes in our hands, paddled out in the ocean, sprinkled them out and surfed."
Doughty says it doesn't feel like Nowell has been gone for 15 years. "It's tragic that his life was cut short; I can only imagine the kind of music they would've made if he were still alive," he says. "He was a great songwriter, great vocalist, and they were the biggest band at the time when he passed. A lot of people—kids—hear their music for the first time and don't even realize he's gone."
Sublime's sound marked a paradigm shift in the popular music of the day, Doughty says. "Kind of the way Nirvana changed the style of music from hair metal—Sublime came and changed it from grunge. The reggae/rock/surf scene of Southern California expanded into the world."
"I don't think anyone realized the impact his music was going to have," Doughty continues. "No one could see at the time how much the music touched people's lives, how much people loved Sublime. The world was crushed by his death. But in the end, he gave a lot."
There's one final lesson Doughty takes from Nowell: "We'll always be grateful for what he did for us. He's irreplaceable. But you have to learn from people's mistakes. I smoke herb, and I drink alcohol. That's about it. Don't do hard drugs—that is what you take from it. We've learned from losing brothers what not to do." (Lilledeshan Bose)
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TONY KANAL: 'It Was Either the Greatest, Most Incredible, Unbelievable Show or a Train Wreck'
In the early '90s, the two most prominent OC/LB bands were No Doubt and Sublime, and they were entwined in more ways than geography. The two were fans of each other's music and performed together; Gwen Stefani even guested on the track "Saw Red" from Sublime's second full-length, Robbin' the Hood.
No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal remembers the first time he heard Sublime in 1990. "One of their friends came to a No Doubt show and gave me a demo tape—the one with a green cover. Gwen and I listened to that tape like crazy, over and over again, until it almost started to fade in some parts," he recalls. "I think we listened to it so much we broke it. Our favorite song on it was 'DJs,' and that was the beginning of us becoming huge fans of Sublime."
Sometime later, Kanal was introduced to Sublime's producer/manager, Miguel Happoldt. "We always tried to figure out when we could play together," Kanal says. When they finally set up a gig together (Hawaiian Gardens, 1991), Sublime were supposed to open for No Doubt. But in true Sublime form, the band didn't show up in time to do sound check—or even set up their instruments. "There was a curfew for playing, so we had to play first, and Sublime played after us. The club kind of cleared out, and we all stayed around to watch them, and we got our own private Sublime show that night.