Tomorrow marks the official 25th anniversary of Sublime's very first gig on July 4th, 1988. But if you're a true Sublime aficionado, you probably already know that. What you may not know, however, is that the son of the band's immortal frontman, Brad Nowell, is also finally picking up the guitar and making his music heard. Having just turned 18 years-old last month, Jakob Nowell and his band LAW played their very first gig in June at DiPiazza's to a packed house who all came out to see the first musical steps of the kid who has the blood of one of Long Beach's biggest legends flowing through his veins. He handled all the pressure in stride and says that since that first gig, he's truly become addicted to the stage. This is the first interview he's ever given. Read on below as we talk to Jakob about dealing with his father's legacy growing up, his influences outside of Sublime, and what it was like to to be on stage for the very first time.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): Would you say you've been able to grow up reasonably normal despite all the interest in your dad's legacy?
Jakob Nowell: I have, honestly. I've had a very unique way of growing up. When I was a kid, I'd just mess around in the house and play video games and pick up guitar and draw and stuff but I wasn't really super active until I moved to Long Beach recently. I'm working a job three days a week and going to school four days a week. Now my life is about making time to play music and do art and stuff.
You just had your very first gig last month. What was it like setting up on stage for the first time and playing in public? What kind of response did you get?
It was basically like the craziest LSD trip, but at the same time completely natural. We decided to not smoke weed or drink before the show. At first, we were a little nervous and slowly people we knew started to arrive and we realized that there were so many people coming that were like 'wow there really is like a little community here of people who were all our friends' and immediately I just got this rush of energy. And before I knew it, it was our turn to go on. So we started setting up and there's a bunch of people and a bunch of girls and stuff and it was awesome. So Miguel [Happoldt] is there just helping us set everything up and then I look over and he'd gotten off the stage and the crowd is just looking at us and the sound guy has his thumbs up and I'm like “oh shit, do we go now?”
So we just started jamming around. And as soon as we started getting into the songs, it was the best fucking feeling I've ever had in my entire life. Hands down. Before I knew it, it was over and it was the craziest rush of brain energy. And the last song we played was “Re-Ignition” [by Bad Brains] and Miguel played guitar with us and we just started going off. It was one of the best nights of my life, it was just really weird. The center of attention was totally on us and it was weird knowing that to some degree that was part of our music.
What do you love most about performing after doing it for the first time?
With performing, I really live for that crazy energy you can get just performing for people. But at the same time I wanna take it very slow, like do the right thing with it and eventually get to really awesome place in the correct way.
When did you start your band LAW?
We started four months ago when my bassist Dakota Ethridge and I moved up here to Long Beach. And our drummer Nicholas Aguilar lives in San Pedro and we just started jamming with him and it just became a regular thing. We had our first show on June 14.
Do you feel any sort of spiritual presence from your dad when you're playing music? Or is that something you don't really think about as much?
Growing up, the very first thing mom told me about my dad is that he's always gonna be in my heart. And I'm a pretty spiritual person. So those beliefs were instilled in my head at a very young age. Only this year have I really come to realize that my dad's music created this humungous entity with the whole culture and all the people and lives on through that. And I very much feel a connection to him through a chemical, spiritual, connection. Everything that I have in my entire life is all thanks to my father. And it's like a really empowering feeling and it makes me want to do as much as possible with the gift that he's given me.
Do you have a favorite Sublime cover you like to play or a song that means a lot to you when you play it?
As far as what I can play now, my favorite song to play is “Burritos” and the song I think has the most meaning to me is “Boss DJ.” It always gets me every time.
What's your opinion on the endless number of bands who've adopted your dad's style and the sound Sublime created?
The way I feel about it, it's the perfect style of music that Sublime and my dad created. Every time I hear it…I've heard it since I was a kid, ya know, my mom always had it playing. But getting to this age, I've realized that it's just so notably better than pretty much anything I've listened to because of all the influences it has. I think a lot of bands nowadays would do good to take influence from Sublime like any other influential band, but in the words of Miguel, there's a fine line between innovating and imitating. But anything that's done for the love of music is good. So I have a love for all the bands, regardless.
What are some music influences you have outside of Sublime?
What I personally listen to as far as my top five bands would be The Sword–a newer band, not so well known, but they do old school metal. They' number one. I also love Tool, Mastadon, Queens of the Stone Age and Tenacious D.
Any plans for your band coming up that you want to talk about?
For the upcoming months, we want to play one bigger show per month over the summer and then mostly play a lot of backyard parties and kickbacks when we can and try to meet people and have fun. Right now we're just trying to learn what we can from all of our influences and all of our uncles up here.
You obviously have access to a lot of great people who were instrumental in your dad's career with Sublime, how would you describe how some of those people interact with you these days?
I look at all of my older male influences in my life as like a ring of wizards. They're all sort of knowledgeable at a certain aspect of something vital. And while they're not all fully connected together, and while some used to be homies and some are not anymore, they are very intelligent people. I have varying contact with all of them. But my band's major number one influence would be Miguel Happoldt. He's Gandolf.
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