Peer Reviews

Other musicians have a few Brad Nowell stories to tell

"The thing about Subime was, when you went to see them play, you never knew what you were gonna get," Kanal explains. "It was either the greatest, most incredible, unbelievable show or a train wreck." And even when it was a mess and total chaos, you'd always go back and see them again, Kanal adds. "Because there was something so great and beautiful and real in that chaos. The sincerity in that chaos was addicting, and you wanted to see it again and again. When they were great, they were great."

One reason for that was that Nowell was an incredible front man: "The best way to describe him was real. He would just wear his heart on his sleeve and let things pour out," Kanal said.

Of course, most of Kanal's memories of Nowell are happy: Sublime played at a surprise party No Doubt vocalist (and Kanal's then-girlfriend) Stefani threw for him on his 22nd birthday. "The instruments were set up my in my parents' living room in Yorba Linda, the same house they live in now," he says. "I will never forget my mom was walking around, serving hors d'oeuvres, and Brad was singing about licking pussy. It was so surreal. That was pretty rad."

Also: "In 1994, No Doubt, the Offspring and Sublime played a snowboarding or spring-break tour," he recalls. "When we got to Utah, they were late for sound check, and they arrived all frazzled. We found out they flipped their van with Lou Dog in it. And they came and played the show. It was just par for the course with Sublime. You just never knew. . . ."

Kanal says Sublime were just scratching the surface of their potential when Nowell died. "That's just proven by how iconic and legendary their self-titled album is and how much it has become part of the Southern California lifestyle. It just becomes bigger and bigger as years go by. That album is spectacular, and the writing shows how incredible a songwriter Bradley was." (Lilledeshan Bose)

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DEXTER HOLLAND, THE OFFSPRING: 'Bradley Nowell Was Really a True Voice of Southern California'
"Maybe the best way to describe [Sublime's] influence is that Bradley Nowell was really a true voice of Southern California. His lyrics were raw—nothing was sugar-coated—but it rang true on both the good times and the frustrations of living in SoCal. Cigarettes, tattoos and flip-flops . . . It felt real because it was real, and people could really relate.

"I remember Brad's dog bit the head KROQ guy at the Weenie Roast one year—that's one guy you probably don't want to piss off. Luckily for him, they were already in heavy rotation . . . otherwise his dog might have put Sublime in the 'Where are they now?' file!" (As told to Gustavo Arellano)

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JOE ESCALANTE, THE VANDALS: 'He Did It. That Record Has Nothing But Hits on It'
"It was 1995, I think. Bradley was backstage at a Vandals/Sublime show in San Diego at the club that later became Canes.

"He was telling Dave Quackenbush and me that he was writing their new album and what was different about it was that it was going to have all hits on it. He was like, 'No, seriously, I'm only writing hits. Every song a hit, a classic, a single, front to back.'

"We were amused by the thought of only putting hits on an album and no deep cuts. Genius. 'Good luck with that, Bradley,' we were thinking, but later, when we got to hear the songs on the self-titled album, we were pretty stunned. He did it. That record has nothing but hits on it.

"I've heard other people say they were going to do that. They usually end up with exactly zero good songs on their crappy albums. Bradley was a gift to this world that was gone in a blink of an eye. I always thought there would be time later to get to know him better. What a loss." (As told to Vickie Chang)

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PAUL LEARY, BUTTHOLE SURFERS: 'As a Musician, He Was Incredible'
"I went out to California to do pre-production for the album [Sublime], and we didn't connect until the third day, when we finally had breakfast—the whole band got drunk and went to Mexico except for Brad. So Brad and I got to hang out for quite a bit, and I saw a little bit of what was going on with him.

"I could see him struggling with heroin. It was a drag and a dilemma; I wondered how to address it and what to do. Shoot, and now he's not here anymore.

"As a musician, he was incredible—a lot of what you hear on that album was recorded live with a drummer on the studio. Brad was really able to sing and play guitar during the tracking, and you could use it all on the record. He could really sing. That was before pitch correction and all that; we were just recording on analog tape. It's really rare to come across a musician like that.

"He was always joking around in the studio. Always sticking his thumb up his dog's butt, stuff like that. I remember after the recording of it ground to a halt, I became really concerned for Brad's health, and I sent the whole band home and tried to finish the whole album myself. When I saw him off, I had a sick feeling I was never going to see him again. I was worried that I wouldn't get paid! I was in Belgium when I got the news that he passed away. I was devastated." (As told to Lilledeshan Bose)

CLICK HERE: Read remembrances of Bradley Nowell by his father, Jim, and widow, Troy Holmes.

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