Long Beach Dub Allstars frontman Opie Ortiz is a legend within the reggae-rock world.
Ortiz, who is also a painter and tattoo artist, penned the iconic “Sublime Sun” artwork in addition to being a founding member of Long Beach Dub Allstars
Today’s generation of reggae-rock fans may not fully understand how critical Long Beach Dub Allstars were to the reggae-rock genre following Sublime’s conclusion in 1996. They played at a time when social media was non-existent. Live-videos of their early performances are mostly of grainy VHS quality, while most live-photos shot by fans were with throw-away cameras. There was no Youtube, Facebook, and this was before Myspace or even iTunes.
They were the torchbearers of a genre that Sublime introduced and the original ‘Dub Allstars lineup included most of the players who were involved in cultivating that reggae-rock sound with Brad Nowell. Long Beach Dub Allstars picked up the torch and helped usher in the next generation of rock-reggae.
Opie Ortiz released his first-ever solo album Sound Sensation Vol. 1 under the Opie & Family moniker. The new record was co-written by Ortiz and The Aggrolites frontman Jesse Wagner, who also produced the work with additional engineering and mixing by Chris Brennan (The Aggrolites, The Expanders). The album is a sonic journey into a vortex of easy-going roots reggae and feel-good vibrations.
The Pier.org sat down with Opie to break down the history from his hand in creating the iconic Sublime Sun to the formation of Long Beach Dub Allstars, as well as talk about his new solo record Opie & Family, his new art project, and give an update on the next LBDA record.
Adoo: We are here today with a living legend, the one and only Opie Ortiz, how are you doing today, brother?
Opie: I’m good. Thank you for your kind words.
Adoo: Absolutely, we appreciate your time. So, last year the Opie & Family record came out. Tell us a little bit about the creative process and how the record came about.
Opie: That project was just kind of like excerpts and little ideas that I was coming up with when I was writing for the Dub All-Stars self-titled album. We had toured with Jesse Wagner of the Aggrolites and I had hinted to him about these extra tracks that I had, and he wanted to hear the ideas and it kind of just snowballed into song after song. We just kept going. So that’s what transpired during those. My son was on the album at 10 or 11 and now he’s 13. His voice totally changed. He can’t do the young little screams that he did on the album. But yeah, it was fun working on that.
Adoo: So I did want to ask you about working with Jesse Wagner because obviously there’s a lot of chemistry there. How did that relationship come about? Was it just from touring, was there a past relationship, how did you build that chemistry?
Opie: We have a pretty long relationship. We had a mutual friend, a bunch of mutual friends, but we had a mutual friend in a group I played music with when we had a project called Dub Cat and the friend was Dave Fuentes. He played bass in Dub Cat and he was like an anchor to a lot of our creation and inception.
We had actually played a show with Jesse. He filled in for guitar. We did a small run up north and that’s when we bonded and we met initially, and Jesse was pretty young. We all were, I think was after Dub Allstars were kind of, taking a hiatus after we had to kind of disband it, and so, I didn’t even know Jesse, you know his qualifications or anything. I just knew he was filling in, playing guitar, he can sing. So that was my initial meeting of him, many many years ago.
We just remain friends and I’m a huge fan of the Aggrolites and obviously everything that Roger and those guys do. So, you know picking his brain on tour with them, you know, just speaking, we became tighter and tighter so I just kind of became kind of like, hey, you know, what do you think about this project or leading this project and he was stoked on it.
Adoo: There’s nothing like being on the road with somebody, you really get to know them good, bad and everything in between. So it’s great when there is a real tight bond and you find somebody that you can connect with on that same wavelength.
Opie: When it’s like a learning experience, it’s really kind of just like, sit back and watch, you know, the leaders do their thing. The Aggrolites are very seasoned musicians and, you know, a touring band. So, I felt it was very, very, very lucky to have them open up for Dub-Allstars on that last tour.
Adoo: As of right now, are there plans for another Opie & Family album?
Opie: I’ve been writing a lot of material. Some of it, I think falls in the narrative for Opie and Family. Now I just kind of like whatever I finish up first. It’s just, it’s whatever it is, you know what I mean? It’s not necessarily Opie and Family or Dub Allstars, it’s just finishing a song I guess.
Adoo: Now, Long Beach Dub Allstars second album Wonders of the World just hit 20 years old. So now looking back on that record, 20 years later. How do you feel about that record? What kind of emotions, you know, like 20 years later, and it still holds up.
Opie: That was like a really good time, I feel with the band like we were vibing together a lot. You know, we were writing together and separately, you know? So we were all vibing on a good high energy, I feel it’s a classic album that has a good variety of all the stuff that we do, you know, some dubs and some instrumentals So, yeah, I stand behind that album. I feel that album was great.
Adoo: I don’t know if people realize that, that record actually dropped on 9/11. Obviously, one of, if not the biggest tragedies in American history. So kind of walk us through that day. I’m sure that you guys are all super excited, the record’s about to come out. There’s obviously a lot of hype behind it at that time and kind of take us back.
Opie: Well, when we when I woke up that morning it was like you know, we had planned for that day and everything and we were really stoked on the album. It was just a lot of emotions, a lot of like everybody just waiting, and then that had happened. It kind of just took all this the wind out of the sails, you know that our album dropping became nothing pretty much because as you’re watching on TV.
My oldest son, he was watching TV and he’s watching these images, and I’m just looking at it. And I’m like, I don’t really want him watching this, you know. So I just turn it off, and kind of just took all the wind out of the sails and but, I knew we would bounce back and stuff like that but it was just taking that time to, you know, It seems like the same thing almost happened with the last self-titled album too because COVID-19 had happened. Right. So, same situation. You know, we just kept pushing through.
Adoo: Yeah. Now, for those that don’t know your history, you created the Sublime logo. At the time when you were inking that, did you have any idea that this was going to become iconic?
Opie: I mean which one are you talking about, the sun? Well, I didn’t ink it till later. It was an airbrushed image. So yeah, I never thought that I would be tattooing it. I was into tattooing a little bit later, like two or three years later, fully, but to me, that image seemed way too hard to even fathom tattooing, but now it’s like commonplace.
Adoo: So, at the time, when that was drawn, you weren’t even tattooing?
Opie: No, I wasn’t. I mean, tattooing was in my mindset, but like, there’s no way I was thinking that, oh, this should be a cool tattoo. It’s crazy hard and intense to do, you know, it’s like an airbrushed image transferred into tattooing is kind of hard, but there’s ways around it
Adoo: Was there a certain point when you realized that this was bigger than just your normal illustrations?
Opie: Yeah, there’s a couple times when we started to see it like everywhere, like my kids would notice it, you know, obviously my wife noticed it. I never paid it too much to, you know, I was just like oh cool people representing you know but on that huge level of being in a different state or something like that and seeing it. It’s pretty cool. Yeah, I never thought it was going to be that huge. Obviously their music is super huge to a lot of people. I imagined whatever image, you know, was associated with them would be large like them, but I think it has a tale. It’s a crazy image so it tends to fit in with what they’re vibing with.
Adoo: What’s the farthest someone has traveled to ask you to tattoo them?
Opie: It happens. I’ve had people from Japan, England, Germany all over the world, you know. I got to hang out with another fellow tattoo artist named Matt Jordan and I think he’s one of the best tattooers out there right now and he came and was hanging out and took some photos of me and did a painting of me. I just feel so honored, you know, people think that I’m somebody. Obviously they’re somebody also, you know, I try to be humble and take it day by day, I guess.
Adoo: So, tell us a little bit about the new art that you’re dropping with SRH.
Opie: Obviously I’m an artist you know first and foremost. I find in times like when I’m kind of stressed out or whatever, I tend to go to my art. So I was just doing a lot of different paintings that were like in my mindset like working out these different color combinations. I did like eight in a series of skulls and palm trees and sunsets and stuff. Just trying to get them out of my thought process and just work different things out. But yeah, they’re pretty cool. We did prints and we’re going to be selling some of them online and stuff.
Adoo: One of my very favorite Long Beach Dub All-Stars songs is “Holding Out”. I have to ask you. Is there any strain of bud you hold out on?
Opie: Yeah, there’s a strain by a Long Beach company called Top-Shelf Cultivation and the strain is called Whoa-Si-Whoa . Yeah, and it’s a pretty heavy strain. Whenever I get it, I don’t tend to smoke it too much with everybody because it’s so heavy that people tend to get lost and get stuck. But, yeah check it out.
Adoo: Whoa-Si-Whoa Well I wonder if it’s a cross with the Do-Si-Do.
Opie: Yeah it is. I can’t really explain all the genetics but I remember them saying, Yeah, it is from the Do-Si-Do.
Adoo: What’s a day in the life of Opie look like? Are you painting, are you tattooing, are you doing music, a little bit of everything?
Opie: Usually, it depends on what my goal is, like the end goal is what I’m working on at the moment. I try to separate each thing that I’m doing. So when I’m doing music, I try to do music. I don’t really do art unless it’s minimal and stuff like that. Like if I’m painting, I’m painting, you know, like I separate it and try not to multitask. If you devote that whole day to music or painting or, you know, working in the backyard with my plants, or chilling, listening to music.
Adoo: Is there any status on a new Long Beach Dub Allstars record?
Opie: Funny that you say that. We are finishing up with 13 songs. 10 are finished and we have to put the final touches on the 3 last songs.
Adoo: Yeah. That’s great news. That’s great news.
Opie: Yeah, we’re pretty fired up about it.
Interview/Story by Adoo & James Wright