Welcome to Part 1 of our Exclusive Interview with Opie Ortiz. Part 2 of this lengthy interview will be published April 29th, 2014. I spoke with Opie Ortiz on the phone for about an hour and he couldn’t have been a more humble person to speak with. We talked about his days hanging around Sublime to designing all of their artwork as well as the rise & fall of Long Beach Dub Allstars.
Opie Ortiz is the visual artist that we associate the music of Sublime and Long Beach Dub Allstars with. He designed the 40oz to Freedom cover, his actual face is on the cover of Sublime’s Robbin’ The Hood and in addition to being a vocalist, he provided all of the tattoo-styled artwork for Long Beach Dub Allstars. He’s as much a member of Sublime than most would give him credit for. It’s his artwork and imagery that Sublime fans represent with t-shirts, posters, lighters etc., all showcasing that 40oz Sun and iconic Sublime art.
While preparing for this interview, I saw that there’s not much out there on Opie Ortiz and his connection to Sublime. He hasn’t spoken much to his background with meeting Brad Nowell, Bud Gaugh, Eric Wilson, Marshall Goodman or Miguel Happoldt. I had a hard time finding anything with regards to his transition into Long Beach Dub Allstars or how his face came to be on the cover of Robbin The Hood. With all of these questions, read Opie’s answers below. Come back April 29th for Part 2 of this interview discussing Sublime with Rome, today’s reggae-rock music and what he has planned for the future…
You Can Read Part 2 of this Interview by clicking HERE
The Pier: There’s a lot of excitement coming up for the Skunk 25th Anniversary Show at Cali-Roots. How were you personally approached to be a part of this & is there anything you have planned for Cali-roots specifically?
Opie Ortiz: We were in the midst of recording some stuff & we had been talking about doing some actual shows based on this newer material we have. It was weird because we were talking about something similar to this and then all of the sudden it was happening. What I’m bringing, is I have 2 new songs that I’ve written and just some flavor of how we like the Skunk thing. Playing with some guys who are affiliated with us and have been affiliated with us for a long time and just playing some good music.
Yeah! Fans are excited for your return to the stage, especially now that there’s new material! Before we get into that, a little background, can you tell me about the first time you met Miguel Happoldt & Brad Nowell?
I actually knew Eric Wilson & Bud Gaugh before I met Brad. I was in school with Eric Wilson at Rodgers Junior High and we had a science class together. And then later, we both got kicked out & went to Jefferson Junior High together. But I was good friends with Eric and witnessed his first band, this punk band that he had, I think it was a band called Contraband. They opened up for Social Distortion in LA a couple times and they were a pretty good punk-rock band. Later on, he started jamming with Brad, who I met later. They had a band and they would jam. I think it was the beginning of them starting to play some covers and some Ska stuff, but they were mostly punk-rock. That’s how I met Brad and later on, Miguel came in the picture and that was the beginning of Skunk Records, basically.
Okay. Would that be the same time period in which you met Marshall Goodman as well?
No, we had all gone to school together; Marshall was always in the picture as a drummer. We had mutual friends. We were always real cordial. I don’t know if it was our ethnic backgrounds that made us closer or whatever, but we were always really tight. I think it was because we had a mutual friend that was really close to both of us, so we just became friends automatically. When Marshall started drumming for Sublime, I think that was like a musical venture that they needed to go on because they weren’t all really synced together. They weren’t really all from the same background; Eric & Brad were, but Marshall was from a different background. They all became good friends and jamming together and we were just all friends. It wasn’t like anything was forced, you know? They needed a drummer and Marshall was a drummer.
How did you fit in musically? I mean, you were referenced on ‘Robbin the Hood’, singing. Were you doing music with Sublime at the time?
I was just a ‘hang-around’, you know what I mean? I was just always there. When no one was on the drum kit or whatever, I would pick up the drums & play drums. I had to play a show one time. Bud didn’t show up and they had a show lined up in Santa Barbara. I pulled up and Eric was like “You ready to play drums?” and I think I played like 3 songs and that was it. I played drums for Sublime and it was a really weird feeling. I wasn’t really that good at drums. I could keep a straight forward beat, but the fills and all that other shit was on me. I was just always hanging around and singing with Brad and doing free-styles with him and stuff like that. Our appreciation for Reggae music made that. It’s not because we wanted to be in the lime light and we wanted everyone to know about what we were listening to, it’s because we just loved reggae music and we loved the feeling. We loved the unknown of what they were singing about, trying to figure it out.
And it seems like you were a pretty big part of that whole movement with Sublime. You were on the first 2 cover arts with designing 40oz to Freedom and then you’re on the cover of Robbin the Hood with a still shot of you from the “STP” music video. How did that still-shot come to be the cover?
Yeah, ask Miguel (haha!) — You know you’re searching for something that you want to be cool and I think that’s where Miguel comes in where his ideas are different from ours! Like me coming from tattoo, I mean you’ve seen the covers I do, that’s the style of art that I like to do! Obviously, Miguel had a different feeling; he wanted Robbin the Hood to be more underground looking, I guess. When I saw that, I was bummed, I was like “Oh, I’m going to be on the cover?” I didn’t even want that.
Well I’m sure as an artist, you’d rather use your artwork rather than your face. Did that take some adjusting when you started to see it printed and promoted everywhere?
Yea I got kind of mad. I was just like “Oh they’re just using me,” or whatever. But I think later I appreciated it. If they didn’t have that cover, what would the cover have been?
Possibly some of your artwork?
Yeah I think the artwork that I was doing at that time – it was a weird period of time where I wasn’t really creating stuff like that. It was more just painting kind of stuff. There were some images that are in that album that are from that era. Me & Miguel put the 40oz (artwork) together at Kinkos! We did that with Slightly Stoopid’s first album too. We did the whole album layout at Kinkos! So they show me Robbin the Hood and my initial response was like: “Fuck that!” But I didn’t give a full ear to that album until later. I love 40oz to Freedom, that period of time and that whole sound but my favorite album, and not because I’m on the cover, is Robbin the Hood! It developed the rawness of what Brad’s ideas were. You can hear him raw on those 4-track recordings. To me, it means more than the computerized re-mastered remix. It holds more weight to me because I’m old school! I don’t like the over-effects and all that shit. I don’t like modern stuff, I like old stuff.
Do you think that may have turned you off towards writing music, with the evolution of everything going digital?
Yeah, we were right in the whole mix of that and it just made me turn away from music. I still like to create music and if I can create music on old analog shit and make it sound the way I want then so be it, that’s the way I’ll do it.
Talking about the 40oz cover – Did you design the 40oz Sun specifically for that album or was it something that you had, that they decided to use later? How did that design come about?
I was air-brushing t-shirts as a form of income as a young artist growing up. You kind of find avenues to make money. So I had air-brushed a t-shirt and if you look in the 40oz to Freedom (booklet), you see the picture of Sublime standing in the street & Brad is wearing an air-brushed t-shirt that I did a long time ago around that era and that’s the image where we got the idea for the sun for 40oz.
I read somewhere, with regards to the sun, that its symbolism of Decay and the different ways to get there, is that right?
No, not really, it’s just imagination. I had like Mexican Aztec images in my mind when I was doing that, but I had to put it in a modern day twist. So it’s just like, life & death! You look at the flames and they’re kind of like black & white & they look like sperm almost. Inside is death and life and rebirth and all of that. It’s just a combination of images to form a central image.
When I think of Sublime or Long Beach Dub Allstars, the first visuals that come to my mind, is every bit of your artwork. Were you the guy that was also tattooing the members? Is that how you came to be the visual presence of Sublime?
I was just always there and if you’re homies that’s what you do. You have your homies do it instead of going out and having someone else do it who doesn’t know you. I feel like they were comfortable with me relaying an image that represented them. Miguel and Brad saw that in me! Eric always saw that in me and was always a good friend. Even when I got my tattoo equipment, I was like: “Lets tattoo you guys!” He was like: “I’ll just wait until you’re good.” It’s not saying “No”, but he’s saying “I’ll wait until you do a couple tattoos before you tattoo me.” (haha!) When I did that sun, it was like a verbal agreement. That’s what I was going to paint and then I painted it. In a sense, it was like the icing on the cake for that album for me.
And people can’t think of Sublime without visualizing that sun — you see it everywhere! That’s got to be a huge nod to you as an artist! People who love Sublime want it tattooed on them, they want the shirts, the lighters, they just want to embody all of that because it represents Sublime and you provided that visual presence…
Yea I think I just if it wasn’t me it probably would have been some other artist, you know what I mean? But in a different visual way. I don’t know, it was a definitive piece that, for me artistically, I have to create more! Visually, I just think I’ve come a long way since that was done. I’m totally admirable to them for giving me that stage to do that art.
I want to talk about Long Beach Dub Allstars – I know it started with the Enough Already Benefit Show and with ‘Dub Allstars came your visual presence, as well as being a vocalist. How did all of that transpire? How were you approached to be a part of ‘Dub Allstars?
It was weird; after Brad had passed we were all devastated. Our arms were open for all the homies and we were all just hanging out and jamming to help with the remorse. That was the only way Bud & Eric could deal, was to keep playing. I really don’t remember how it all came about, but it was the Enough Already Benefit show; that’s what we were practicing for. I think we just started getting calls to play, so we just did a mini tour for Cali. I don’t know if it was just therapy for them or all of us, but we all came together and we kind of figured it out. The first shows were really rough, especially the Enough Already Benefit Show. If you listen, it just sounds so rough. But we worked out a lot of the kinks and we started sounding really good live. When we started really nailing it live, getting a really good response from the crowd and feeling good about it, I think that’s what music’s about.
You hung out with Sublime early on, then you lose a brother in Brad and you guys do this Enough Already concert & all the sudden you start to get a lot of attention, catching that wave of success with ‘Dub Allstars, that Sublime missed. How is it for you to go from being behind the canvas, hanging out, to being on stage with a microphone, singing in front of hundreds to thousands of fans?
It was cool and then the whole realization would always rear its head of: “You’re doing this because your friend died.” I mean that’s the only real reason I was doing it, other than my love of music. Brad, he knew that I loved Reggae music and he would come over to my house and record my mom’s albums. I’d be like “Oh I got this album” and he’d come over and record. And then I’d hear direct snippets of him listening to that music and it would play into his writing.
I felt it sucked in the beginning, because it was real hard for me to just take on that whole thing. After awhile, you kind of just let it go and try not to get too wasted in that environment. Eventually it was working out, but I think I had other issues in me; I was ailing. We pulled through, we did 2 albums, we did some tours and luckily no one else died. Obviously, drug problems are relevant in music and stuff like that. I’m glad we pretty much all learned from that and we can say we went to Europe, we went to Japan playing music!
Is that something you hope to continue doing now with LBDA after reforming back in 2012? You guys were recording some music and you have some new songs — is that something you hope to do again with taking the band on the road and producing new music?
Yea it’s straight out of doing it for the love of music! When Miguel talked about it, I told him “I don’t want to make music to try and make money! If I make money, so be it.” But good music is just good music! It doesn’t fuckin’ matter what label it’s on, it doesn’t matter about any of that bullshit! I can’t stand the way music is going. I’m not like Justin Timberlake or Bob Dylan or anybody like that; you know what I’m saying? I just like good music. I was raised on real good music with Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, soul, and funk – all of that stuff! You can’t play this new stuff and tell me this is good music.
You Can Read Part 2 of this Interview by clicking HERE
Exclusive Sublime Blog
Miguel Happoldt Exclusive Interview
Marshall Goodman Exclusive Interview Pt 1
Marshall Goodman Exclusive Interview Pt 2
Interview by: Mike Patti
Recent Photos by: David Norris
Watch: Sublime – “STP”
Listen: Long Beach Dub Allstars – “My Own Life”