OC Weekly has posted an article to mark the 15th anniversary of the passing of Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell,and one of the close friends and fellow musicians interviewed for the piece was Tony;it’s touching to read Tony’s tribute to such a longtime friend of ND who left the world much too soon but whose legacy lives on.
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.
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)
**UPDATE MAY 26** Thanks to Hannah for finding and sharing,check out a touching Bradley Nowell tribute video that features Tony’s quotes from OC Weekly;Tony can be heard from 1:35-2:10 and again from 3:15-3:33.