Bradley Nowell Biography


Bradley James Nowell was born February 22, 1968 in Long Beach, California. He got his first guitar at the age of 12. He grew up listening to punk rock, bands like the Circle Jerks were a favorite. He also listened to British ska. When he got to college, he was playing guitar in a band with Eric Wilson, the bass player. They decided to form a side group, with Floyd "Bud" Gaugh on drums. They named the band Sublime. The band was affectionately known as the "garage punk band that nobody liked, but everybody wanted to play at their party". They were the most popular band on the campus of CSULB (California State University at Long Beach). It was during the fall of 1988 when Sublime's history would change forever. Brad and Micheal "Miguel" Happoldt were both students at CSULB, and Miguel was playing in a band called the Ziggens. Brad occasionaly let them open up for Sublime. Miguel had decided to release some Ziggens songs on a fictional label.

>Brad decided to sign Sublime to the label. They started up Skunk Records. Each band's demo tapes were distributed at shows, and local record stores. A few years later, Brad and Sublime recorded for the first time in a real studio, then released "Jah Won't Pay The Bills". Brad was anxious to tour with the new material, but Bud, their loyal drummer, decided to take a break from music and go into drug rehabilitation. So instead of touring, they kept recording. They decided to make a CD recording, and in 1992, "40 Oz. To Freedom" was born. Kelly Vargas sat in on drums while Bud was gone. The album sold its first 60,000 copies out of Brad's car.

A few years later, a man named Tazy Phillipz brought a copy of "40 Oz." to Los Angeles radio station KROQ, and asked that "Date Rape" be added to the playlist. It was, and the song was such an underground hit, MCA Records picked up the album for national distribution, and it cracked the Billboard Heetseekers chart. Brad was thrilled to be doing what he loved, but his fans were starting to wonder if he was in it for the money. Brad wrote a now infamous 'letter (We're Not Selling Out)' to the fans, stating how he and Sublime were not selling out. The 'letter' was sent out with flyers to promote shows. In 1994, Bud came back and Sublime started recording again. Brad and Gwen Stefani (of No Doubt) recorded a duet called "Saw Red". The band also made 13 4-track recordings, and added the other 5 songs from the "Saw Red" session at Epitaph Records, and released an album called "Robbin' The Hood".

By this time, Brad had not only started smoking more marijuana, but he was starting to do heroin as well. His knowledge of the dangers of heroin are expressed in the song "Pool Shark", with the lyrics "One day I'm going to lose the war". Sublime toured, and toured some more. It was in mid 1994 when Brad met Troy Den Dekker. He fell in love with her, but she "just really liked him". They dated for several months, and Troy became pregnant in September of 1994. Brad tried to clean up his act for his girlfriend and coming child. He was partly successful. But by the time Jakob James Nowell was born in June of 1995, Brad felt like he needed the heroin to make it through each day. Brad had also taken time out to "re-pay" Gwen from No Doubt, by recording a duet with her for their 1995 "Beacon Street Collection" CD, called "Total Hate 95".

Sublime was now signed to Gasoline Alley, a division of MCA Records, and MCA wanted an album. They went into the studio to record in January of 1996. They worked with Paul Leary in Texas and David Kahne in L.A. Both producers mentioned all the drugs involved in the Sublime recording process, and how difficult it was to get work done. The album was almost finished when Sublime decided to go out to California and do a few shows to let the fans know what the new stuff would sound like. Brad and Troy were married on May 18, 1996, and their son Jake was now 11 months old.

On May 24, Sublime played a show that was recorded by Albino Brown, who works with Tazy Phillipz at KROQ (This show is one of the most controversial tapings in music history.). Early the next morning, Brad was on the phone with Troy. She sensed he was using heroin, but he assured her he was not. At approx. 8 A.M that same morning, Sublime was ready to leave.

They went to Brad's hotel room and knocked on the door. No answer. The door was opened, whether it was locked or not has not yet been disclosed. Brad's dalmation, Lou Dog, ran over to where Brad was lying on the floor, and licked his face. Brad had died of a heroin overdose, just hours after talking to his wife. The songs that Sublime had been working on in the studio were put on ice.

The friends and family of Sublime had a choice. They could release the songs that were already finished, or they could put the entire session in a vault and release old demos. They decided to release the studio recordings.

A few months later, the first single from the self titled (the title had previously been "Killin' It", but it was decided that the irony was too much, and the title was changed) album, "What I Got", hit the charts. Then later that winter, a second single, "Santeria" was released. It charted even higher on than "What I Got". The album was quickly approaching multi-platinum status. But neither of the videos featured Brad, as there was no time to film videos ahead of time. On May 25, 1997, one year after Brad's death, the 3rd single was released, and the video for "Wrong Way" premiered on MTV.

The band was nominated for several MTV awards, they also won a Billboard Award. In October of 1997, a rarities and outtakes album, "Second Hand Smoke" was released. On July 23, 1998, a live album was released. "Stand By Your Van" was compiled from live shows ranging from 1994 through April of 1996. A minor disappointment to the fans, there were no songs from Sublime's last show on this CD.

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