Sublime, widely known as singer/guitarist Brad Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh, has many more layers and players to the group than the commercially promoted 3-piece. You’ll find out by reading below that Sublime had a different drummer during the recording sessions of 40oz to Freedom and that the writing process involved more than just the aforementioned 3 members.
I spoke with former Sublime drummer and DJ, Marshall Goodman (aka Ras MG, aka The Field Marshall), over the phone for more than an hour and 20minutes. The interview was so long and drenched in so much great perspective and information that we decided to split the interview up in to 2 parts. Part 1 of our interview below explains how Marshall met Brad Nowell, joined Sublime and how the writing process took place to form that Sublime legacy. In addition to Marshall Goodman, this legacy would not be complete without Skunk Records and it’s owner, Miguel Happoldt, who was very much in Sublime as a producer, writer & sound engineer.
Part 2 of this interview with Marshall Goodman will Publish on Tuesday, April 8th where Ras MG pulls back the curtain a bit on the rise and fall of Long Beach Dub Allstars. He discusses whether or not he was asked to join Sublime with Rome and where he plans on taking his music into the future following the Skunk 25th Anniversary show at this year’s California Roots Festival in May. Enjoy the read…
Part 2 of this Interview can be read by clicking HERE!
The Pier: I know you’ve told the story a thousand times, but for the sake of being thorough, can you tell us when you first met Brad Nowell and how it came together with you joining Sublime?
Marshall: I met Brad, I was about 13, 14 maybe. He was in a band with my sister, Ruth Goodman. The band’s name was Sloppy Seconds, and Eric Wilson was in the band as well. My sister was 3 years older than me and was known around Long Beach as a great saxophonist. So Sloppy Seconds came to our house to rehearse one time. I didn’t have drums yet, I just had turntables. As a youngster I was a break-dancer, I was into the entire Hip Hop scene, and I had a set of turntables. Brad came by once when I was in the room spinning some records. He came in and didn’t understand how I was making the song repeat because it didn’t look like I was operating an echo system. I was using the turntables to make the song repeat. He was intrigued at how I was doing that, and that’s how I first met Brad.
As time went on, Sublime formed and I believe that Sloppy Seconds kind of spun into it. The styles of Sloppy Seconds kind of formulated and rolled into Sublime and they played a bunch of backyard parties. Now I’m in high school, I’m 17, I’m still into Hip Hop, rapping & free-styling. My friends and I would go to these backyard parties. I had friends that were in athletics, friends that were in gangs, and friends that were from the Cambodian-Vietnamese community. That’s how Long Beach is, it’s a very brilliant frame of a lot of cultures, similar to New York, but in a small town beach fashion. So we’re at these backyard parties and it’s a mix of a whole bunch of people and Sublime would be playing at these parties. I’d jump up there sometimes and free-style because I knew Brad and I knew Eric.
On a side-note, I met Eric in junior high school. I knew Eric before I met Brad. Eric and I were in the band class together at Jefferson Junior High. Him and I got along because he stuck out, you know? He had on the eyeliner and big creepers, I used to call them Frankenstein Shoes [haha]. Everybody was wearing the eyeliner at the time, all the punk rockers and he definitely got my attention. He was funny, you know? He was real cool too. He got kicked out of class more than he was there. I was probably 13 when I met Eric.
So at these back-yard parties, I knew Eric, I knew Brad; and the other musician in Sublime at the time was Bud. I would go up at these parties and free-style. I got to know Bud a little bit by that time. I got my first drum set when I was 15. Then at 17, 18, I was going to these parties, free-styling. One time, Bud went out to talk to his girlfriend and they had an argument. They were arguing a lot is what Eric & Brad implied, and Eric said: “Well, Marshall plays drums!” So I jumped on the drums and jammed, I played with them. So the issues continued with Bud and Brad asked me if I’d join the band and I said: “Sure, that sounds great!” So I joined the group, I think in 1990 or ’91, during my first year of college and that was it! I was the drummer of Sublime!
And you were 19 when you first recorded with Sublime?
Yeah, I was 19 when I first recorded with them. Actually, I recorded with them during the transition period. There were the backyard parties, I was free-styling, I would sit in and jam for a period of time, that happened. Then maybe a month or two went by and I joined the band. But during that month or two was when we did the sessions at Cal State Dominquez Hills with Miguel (Happoldt) for the Jah Wont Pay The Bills demo. They were finishing it up, putting some final touches on it and we did a song called “Live At E’s.” I went in and played drums and free-styled on it. I did what I use to do at the backyard parties and that’s “Live At E’s” from 40oz to Freedom. The song was moved from Jah Wont Pay The Bills, there were about 4 songs that were taken off Jah Wont Pay The Bills, and put on 40oz to Freedom. “Live At E’s” was one of them. It is called “Live At E’s” because Dominquez Hills is near Compton, CA and Miguel and Brad were intrigued by Eazy E being from Compton. Cal State Dominquez is right next to Compton so that’s why it was called “Live At E’s” because we were “live in Compton” essentially.
So you went in to record that first session and that’s when you first met Miguel Happoldt?
Correct. However, Miguel and I had crossed paths previously. When he was a student in the Cal-State Dominquez music program, I believe it was the audio engineering program, he came to Cal-State Long Beach and recorded the Steel Drum orchestra for which I was a bass pan player and drummer. Miguel came in as a project and recorded us. When I was playing on “Live At E’s” he was like, “you seem familiar.” We talked a little bit and he realized: “I recorded that whole session that you did!” That was previous to when I officially met him, but I didn’t know he was there or that he had recorded it. So our official meeting was at Cal-state Dominquez during the “Live At E’s” (recording) session.
A lot of people know who RAS MG is, but not a lot of people know that you were the main drummer on the 40oz to Freedom album, including drums on “Date Rape”. The music video shows Bud Gaugh on drums but that’s you on the recording, right?
Correct. Yes. That’s me on pretty much everything except a handful of songs. Whatever songs besides “Live at E’s” that were on Jah Wont Pay The Bills and brought over to 40oz to Freedom. “New Song”, “Lets Go Get Stoned” and I believe 2 others, I didn’t play drums on those. There were 4 of them I believe. But everything else I played the drums, including “Hope”, “New Thrash”, “Chica Mi Tipo”, “What Happened,” all that! I played drums on almost everything on that album! At the time that we recorded 40oz to Freedom I was THE drummer of Sublime. I’ve read around where Sublime with Rome and Bud have done interviews talking about the past, even during the Long Beach Dub Allstars days. It was always kind of construed a certain way but I was the drummer of Sublime! It was my position and that was it! I didn’t replace Bud for a while, or stand in for Bud, or “while he was in rehab I came in and sat on the throne.” I’ve heard that said, and that’s cool, that’s one person’s perspective. My perspective is different and many others that were there will vouch for me. The person that would vouch for me the most, unfortunately, has passed, and that’s Brad.
Brad was always my biggest advocate in this whole program, in essence, because him and I were the ones that were working together. I wasn’t working with Bud, Eric, or Miguel independently. I mean we worked together, but I worked independently with Brad! We, along with Miguel, were the guys that were creating some groundbreaking sounds like: “Doin’ Time,” “April 29th,” “What I Got,” and “Get Out,” you know? Brad and I got together on the song “Right Back” from 40oz to Freedom. We got together on the title song as well. I mean those songs were formulated by Brad and I. The beat on “Right Back” was a Jazz fusion type of thing that I brought to the table and it inspired Brad to write the rhythm of his vocal line. I brought this kind of “double-backbeat” thing that you don’t typically hear in reggae and a bridge section that’s played on the toms. People don’t normally play that in Reggae, but I brought it to the table because I was really into that fusion-type of musicality. Also, on the “40oz to Freedom” song, Brad wanted everything on the snare to be a hard two-four backbeat. He wanted everything smacking hard! But I said: “There’s no one-drops on this record!” And he’s like: “Nah man, we gotta play backbeat man, you gotta hit that snare.” But I said: “Nope, I’m playing the one-drop and that’s it!” That’s how the one-drop drum pattern in the song “40oz to Freedom” is the only song of that sort found on that album, or on any songs Brad co-wrote/conducted for that matter!
When Bud came back into the band, every time they played the song “40oz to Freedom” live, Bud did not play the one-drop drum pattern because that’s the way Brad had always wanted it! I forced the hand and made “40oz to Freedom” a one-drop song. So more evidence that I was in there, that I was creating with Brad and the position was mine to keep or give up, and I consequently chose to give it up because of Brad’s growing drug affliction. I watched it get worse and worse, from one level to the next level, to the next level to the next! For me it was: “Lets focus on the band, and lets make sure we’re playing the music well. These drugs and things aren’t helping. We need you on point!” Him and I would discuss this ALL the time. So finally I said: “That’s enough, I gotta go” and I left. Then they hired Kelly Vargas (to play drums) because they didn’t want Bud yet, or he was not available. They had Kelly in the band for years! Then after they got the (record) deal, they made amends with Bud or he got out of rehab, I don’t know exactly how it went down, but Bud came back and rejoined Sublime as the official drummer.
During 40oz to Freedom, the line up for Sublime was Marshall, Brad, Eric & Miguel, is that right?
Correct. Miguel was the engineer, producer, label co-owner. Miguel was the co-owner of Skunk (Records) and Brad was in there with him. They grew it together during that time. Miguel did come on stage with us for a period of time, yeah! Miguel did a tour with us and then shortly thereafter he assumed the sound position.
Would everyone know Sublime today as a 4-piece with you, Miguel, Brad and Eric if you didn’t decide to leave and drugs weren’t a distraction? Could that be today’s reality?
I mean, again, the position was mine to keep or leave. I’ll be completely honest with you, Brad asked me back after they got their (record) deal. I mean that will tell you, it wasn’t to be the drummer again, it was to write music. To bring back what I gave during 40oz to Freedom during my run as the drummer of Sublime. He brought me back to do that. So it was Eric, myself, Brad and Miguel once again for the self-titled. Writing music and making records, you know? Bud was there and involved as well so it was a 5-person thing. And I was going to be back on board as a band member on stage as the “DJ” beginning with their European tour, that’s where it was going to jump off. I was going to rejoin the band officially, but Brad unfortunately passed.
As far as Miguel, I mean, he really assumed the role as producer and sound engineer! I think after that run of being on stage and performing live, that happened for a small amount of time, however, Miguel has always been a part of the writing, formulation, & brainstorming. Him and I used the same formula with Long Beach Dub Allstars! So had I not left the band, I think the line-up would have been very similar to what it was with the Long Beach Dub Allstars. Maybe Bud may have gotten burnt out if he was not able to rejoin Sublime and would possibly not have been around. Miguel stayed affiliated with Sublime, I was asked back, rekindled the formula from the 40oz to Freedom days. What it was during 40oz to Freedom it was during Self-Titled! We brought it back!
I don’t know whether it really matters that I quit the band officially as a member or as the drummer or what not, because I came back and played drums on “What I Got” and I played percussion parts on the entire record. I was not the front, first chair drummer, but I would say it may have been the ONLY time period that I could be considered the second chair drummer, during the self-titled sessions. Because on “What I Got,” when it was desired that someone play to a click-track, I was the preferred person to fit that bill. That’s what I can do. That’s my job, I’m a session drummer! I can play to a click, I can play punk rock, I can play reggae or jazz or what have you. They did a session for “What I Got” with Bud on drums, and then (Producer) David Kahne and Miguel asked me to come in and play on the song, so I did. They used what I played for “What I Got.” There’s a live drum take on it that I did but I also recorded the drum loop used on the song with Brad at a small little studio many years earlier, this was at his little studio storefront set-up. Brad did a build-out in a storefront, a little soundproof room, and we put a drum set in there and tracked. He had a Tascam 4-track cassette tape recorder and I played a bunch of drum loops and we tracked them. Again, this is what we use to do! We were making records, we were making music, and we were coming up with these different concepts. I told him: “get off the drum loops, lets make our own!” So that’s what we did. And the drum loop from “What I Got,” the song starts off with those drums. That’s me playing into this 4-track cassette recorder. Brad is recording and we’re using some little rickety drum set that he had thrown in the soundproof room. That was one of the 20 drum loops that we did that day. Brad took it, looped it up, and created the main drum loop for “What I Got” with it. Then I came in after the fact and played live drums over the song during the David Kahne sessions.
I left the band, sure, but I came right back. I was at the Arlyn sessions in Texas as well. They have a picture of me in the Self-Titled credits where I’m wearing headphones, sitting in front of a turntable. I was looking for the samples and sound bytes I used on Miami and other songs on that record. I also played percussion and did backing vocals on “What I Got”, the reprise. Brad was really messed up at that time so him and I really didn’t get a long, but yeah, I was in Texas for the Arlyn sessions.
Then there was “Doin’ Time” as well, which was obviously a HUGE hit. That lead to a ton of remixes with Mad Lion, Pharcyde, Wyclef Jean, but there was also a bootleg remix with Snoop Dogg?
Yeah I did that one. Well, there’s an underground bootleg that Snoop Dogg did with Dave Aron, but I also did one. Dave Aron did a completely different beat; a west coast beat, gangster rap, at a completely different, slower tempo. I took Snoop’s vocals and was able to get them all lined up to the original song’s tempo. I did my version with Snoop, Pharcyde, and Brad all on one mix, that one is kind of circulating around. I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not. But yes, there is also a version with Snoop that is a gangster rap rendition of ‘Summer Time’.
Why was this collaboration never done professionally in the studio? Seems like something the fans would love, especially with both Snoop & Sublime from Long Beach. Was this ever discussed?
I’ll tell you Mike, during that time, there was a specific team that made all the business decisions; I mean I had my thoughts too, like you’re expressing, but it wasn’t too often that I tried to get into the mix of their business. There was a certain way that they did business. During the Long Beach Dub Allstars years, I got a little bit more involved. I was a voting member, I actually pressed for that because I was not going to allow two guys, Eric and Bud, to be the only partners in this limited liability partnership. Initially, they were the only partners so I had to become involved somehow. So I became a voting member so that we three had to discuss things before they could just go and move.
The business that happened back then, the strategy of the remixes, the strategies of local Long Beach talent coming together and making a record and Sublime being a part of it, its like, I’ll be honest with you Mike, right now, that’s one of the things I’m truly contemplating. I went back to school. I left school for Long Beach Dub Allstars but I went back in 2009 and graduated. I have a minor in entrepreneurship and a bunch of experience so I’m looking to make some of those ties, make some of those connections.
15 years now this music has been ingrained in the United States and other parts of the world and there’s no reason why we can’t take it to that next level. I’m talking about the Sublime catalog, the Sublime legacy. I’ve watched for the past 7-8 years, attentively, and it’s kind of grown, it’s done some things. The box-set was released, but there’s nothing like you’re speaking of, there’s nothing like what the fans are talking about, like: “What about Snoop & Sublime? What about Warren G & Sublime? What about Xzibit or the Alcoholics & Sublime?” I’m talking about this southern California, this west coast sound that was developed in the ‘90s. You have one genre, say in San Francisco with The Hieroglyphics, of which a member (Del the Funky Homosapien) is the cousin of Ice-Cube (who’s a southern California rapper), but Del was more artistic. Interview him and see how he felt about Sublime. Then interview us, you will find that we use to listen to the Hieroglyphics. Eric was inspired by the Alcoholics, he use to listen to them non-stop, underground hip-hop, especially the Alcoholics, and he liked the Beatnuts and different things. But what about those west coast/Southern California ties? Where’s the big project with Snoop & Sublime, Snoop & ‘Dub Allstars? Snoop is a big figure, worldwide, yet he came from southern California. As small as the world has become with these Long Beach figures, there should be a lot more cross-genre collaborations. That’s going to be a push that I do here over the next 3-4 years. I’m going to try to bring it all together. It’s in the works! The question you posed is being addressed as we speak!
Collectively, you guys essentially created a genre of music. Were you guys aware of what you were creating at the time? You guys created a genre that folks still have trouble identifying today and it’s a movement that continues to build. What was the mindset back then during this creation?
I can speak for myself…I believe I can speak for Bradley as well. Brad had insight with regard to knowing that we had something brewing. There was some magic happening or he just had a very well established confidence. But one of the things that Brad said, when I let him know: “I gotta leave the band, Brad.” We were sitting in front of Eric’s house, he said: “Are you sure Marshall? Because we’re going somewhere!” I remember that vividly. It has stuck in my head after all these years. He was high at that time, but regardless, when he said that it stayed with me. I don’t know if it was from his confidence or if he truly knew that there was a formula happening. However, when we did 40oz to Freedom, which I think stands as the marker for the beginning of this tie-in of styles with hip-hop, reggae, punk rock, blended together to make the Sublime sound, we weren’t making a record to be famous. We weren’t making a record to be cool. We were making a record because it was a project that was something fun to do.
Bradley was extremely cerebral, that’s one way that we got along, not to say I’m extremely cerebral or anything, but I do like thinking deeply and discussing history and philosophy, and that’s what him and I use to discuss more than any other thing; historical things, philosophical things, life things. Music was a consequence of our relationship. It was all great creativity. With talent, we were all well rehearsed and conflict to create struggle, to create movement; there was no stagnation. We didn’t all fit-in the same way and that was the beauty of it. Those are all of the elements that bring that kind of creativity to the table. We just made records. It wasn’t like: “This is going to be the next big thing man, Yeaaa!” It was never that. It was us using our experiences and our individual ingenuity. We used our own ingenuity and we created things! We didn’t imitate everything, copy it, and just play it. We got inspired by something and we put it in. That’s what Sublime did. That’s what we did to make those records. There was no vision for stardom and Grammy Awards. It was a process of making something using the experiences we had. That’s why it is magical. That’s why it’ll play forever, in my opinion. It’ll touch people in every generation from here on out.
We came together and did something. Even though our context and our material may not be as “Substantial” to the entire human race as other timeless music, it is “Substantial” to certain people within the human race. It’s substantial to people who are having certain difficulties. Not everybody has the struggles that Brad had, that our music expressed, but there’s a certain age-range that this music addresses and it has lasted generation after generation. I think we’re into the 3rd generation now and that’s impressive to me. I’m shocked by that. And I’m kind of worried sometimes as well.
I was coaching my daughter’s 12 and under softball team and some of her teammates asked me: “You knew Brad?” and I was like: “You know, Brad? I mean, what is this? You’re 12-years-old and you’re listening to Sublime?” It was kind of like, all I can think of is that lyric: “Saw you in the bedroom sucking someone else’s dick” and I’m hoping these 12-year-old girls aren’t singing these songs at home in their rooms! However, they have passed on to the next generation. I don’t think this girl has a drug problem or has serious issues with a boyfriend, but I think the songs are genuine and they project emotion without young people knowing exactly what the lyrics mean. That’s the key to writing timeless music and I truly believe we accomplished that. We made that magic, twice! With 40oz to Freedom and then the Self-titled record.
Once you are touched by that raw emotion coming out of those speakers, when you listen to the lyrics, when you listen to a song like “Poolshark” or “Jailhouse” you go, “Damn, this shit is deep. This is dope!” Then you listen to the tongue-in-cheek content in songs like “Don’t Push” or “Santeria” with “Pop a cap in Sancho and I smack her down.” It’s clever tongue-in-cheek, it’s fun, its raw and exciting like a novel with a bunch of different elements in it. That’s that legacy!
Part 2 of this Interview can be read by clicking HERE!
Click the link above to read Part 2 of this Interview as Field Marshall Goodman talks about Long Beach Dub All Stars, Sublime with Rome & plans for the future following Skunk Records 25th Anniversary show at California Roots Music Festival!
Watch: Sublime – “Doin’ Time”
Watch: Sublime – “What I Got”