AC/DC, Van Halen, Genesis, INXS, Alice in Chains and Sublime. See anything in common with these bands?
All of them replaced their lead singers, and as history shows, they’ve done it with varying degrees of success. Sublime, the reggae-rock band that exploded on the charts only after lead singer Brad Nowell’s untimely death in 1996, is the newest band to give it a whirl with a new singer. And Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh, who lives in South Reno with his wife and toddler daughter, says that the time is right and the singer is right for Sublime 2.0.
Fans can judge for themselves when the new lineup hit the stage at the Knitting Factory on Saturday.
Gaugh said that when Nowell died of a drug overdose, it was like the band was on a magic carpet ride and the rug was yanked out from under them. The band’s major-label debut was about to be released and the future was wide open. Sublime did go on to sell 13 million albums, but there were no concert tours and no follow-up albums. Gaugh and Sublime bassist Eric Wilson formed Long Beach Dub Allstars, which played some Sublime material, before going their separate ways.
Early in 2009, Gaugh, Wilson and a friend named Rome Ramirez played a secret show at the Cantina Los Tres Hombres in Sparks — a set of Sublime music that featured Rome (the single name he goes by) on guitar and vocals. Fans dubbed the show “Sublime With Rome” on YouTube videos, and the name stuck. It was one of only four shows the band has done so far. But with a tour that just launched this week that will continue through the summer, there will be many more.
“My whole feeling is, you change somebody in the band, it’s going to change the band’s sound, maybe slightly, maybe a lot,” Gaugh said of reforming the group as Sublime With Rome (there was also a lawsuit late in 2009 that prevented the band from using the Sublime name without Nowell). “AC/DC’s (Brian Johnson) had a similar sound, he didn’t sound exactly like Bon Scott, and they were able to rock it. They came back with “Back in Black” and it’s still one of my favorite albums. And (Brad was) one of my best friends, too, and I don’t want to walk all over him. Eric and I deserve to have credit for what we had done in the past, but we also want to let people know that this is something new.”
Since Sublime’s demise, the band’s popularity hasn’t waned. When there was no Sublime to go out on the road, Sublime tribute bands — at least three of them that tour — emerged. The Sublime music catalog continues to sell as well.
“The music’s cross-generational, and it’s kinda lived forever,” Gaugh said. “You might as well see two of the three guys who started it all.”
Gaugh said that when Sublime With Rome played a surprise show a few months back near Los Angeles, the crowd went crazy.
“We started playing and people were just screaming the lyrics,” Gaugh said. “It was so loud in there, you could hear the crowd singing over (us).”
That undying love for the band’s songs including “What I Got,” “Smoke Two Joints” and “Santeria,” is part of the reason that Gaugh and Wilson are giving Sublime another shot. But there are other factors.
“Eric cleaned up, that was one of my first and foremost requirements,” Gaugh said. “Eric had been struggling with a few different things and he decided to turn his life around. My other main concern was my family and how my family’s going to deal with this.”
Gaugh said he put off having a family until he was basically ready to retire. He started a new band in recent years, the surf-punk band Del Mar, but had no intentions of doing it for more than a few kicks.
“Doing something of this caliber (with Sublime) is quite different that what we had planned on.”
But things will be different on this tour. Gaugh’s family will join him, including wife Nicole, who also plays in Del Mar, one of the opening acts on the tour. They’ll play three weeks at a time, with a week back at home, and they’ll have days off in larger cities where they can hit zoos and other attractions. Also this time around, the indulgences that derailed the band the first time around will be absent on this family-friendly tour.
“Sublime never knew family friendly,” Gaugh said with a laugh. “(Now) we have a sober crew, a sober backstage area, and we have an alcohol-friendly green room where we can entertain guests and friends.”
Gaugh said that Rome is working out well, and that they’ll record new songs and are planning a new album for next year.
“When he came up and jammed with us in (2009), he was like an old friend from the get go,” Gaugh said.
He added that when Wilson first called to tell him about Rome, he said almost the same things he said about Nowell years ago when introducing Nowell and Gaugh.
“It was kind of creepy,” Gaugh said. “I checked him out online and said that if Eric holds him in that high a regard, I owe it to my friend and my family to give this guy a try.”
Still, he realizes there will be skeptics.
“Come on down and check it out,” Gaugh said. “After you’ve heard us perform, I’ll listen to anything you have to say, good or bad. Until then, my ears are closed, because I feel like you’re not really making your best judgment not having all the information.”