Interview: Rome Ramirez

Interview: Rome Ramirez

One topic that has remained constant for the past three years was one’s perspective of Rome Ramirez, lead singer of Sublime with Rome, and frontman of his new solo venture. The line has been drawn in the sand, and there are absolutely two sides to this musical tug of war.

There are those who enjoy the timeless sounds of Sublime and Bradley Nowell, continuing to be played, and then there are those that feel no one will ever fill the shoes of Brad, so why try to live up to a fallen musical legend? That side, typically agrees with the fact that Nirvana died along with Kurt Cobain.

However, if you have attended a Sublime with Rome show recently, the amphitheaters and stadiums are normally packed. So, obviously the fans are still showing support at the live performances of Sublime and Sublime with Rome music, played by Rome. However, The Pier was in attendance for Rome’s first solo national tour on his stop in Denver, Colorado.

Obviously, with a high-profile performer like Rome Ramirez, the topics are endless, yet there were plenty of details that had to be discussed. In his responses, Rome was truthful, forthright, straight to the point and displayed the passion that makes a great artist or musician. Rome also opened up about what the journey as Rome in Sublime with Rome meant to him, the transition of Bud Gaugh leaving the drum kit, and what would have to be done for a possible return to the band.

Rome also responded directly to the critics who will always be there, quite simply. There was no trash talking or mud throwing, just very direct answers to each and every question, while exuding emotion within his responses.

So, without further interruption, here is The Pier’s Exclusive Interview with Rome Ramirez…

The Pier: It is a pleasure to sit down with you, Rome! Tonight was a good look at your solo venture. Give us your thoughts on the first three dates of the tour in southern California. What was the setup for the shows? Were you completely solo or did you have a backing band?
Rome: I mean, those are the first three shows that I have ever done as a solo artist. To go out and do that is pretty nerve racking, for sure. The first show is always the hardest, it was at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA, but it was a super significant moment, in at least my career. It’s like the very first show that I can show exactly what I can do, not what I can write because I am in Sublime or what I can write because I am in the studio with the Dirty Heads, you know? It’s just me. No one has really heard of just me. So…

The Pier: It is you, Rome Ramirez, as Rome Ramirez of Rome Ramirez…
Rome: Exactly! Yes, of Rome Ramirez. That’s exactly right! With that kind of pressure, it was a little stressful to go into it, but I had all my friends and family there, thankfully. Thank God I had my boys HB Surround Sound around and opening up the show, because it was some familiar faces… I mean, this was a big deal for me. That first show over at the Belly Up was like the very first show again. It was like the debut at Smokeout Festival all over again. It was the same nerves three years later and it was for a fraction of the people. But to me, it doesn’t matter.

The Pier: Even you said it yourself tonight speaking to the crowd, “You went from Red Rocks Amphitheatre to here” at the Bluebird with everyone up close and in your face. How does that make you feel that even in a smaller venue, the fans are still up close in your face and packing the clubs for your music?
Rome: Dude, we used to do this shit back in the day, and there used to be three people, four people, five people, you know? DiPiazzas, Mozambique’s, wherever. I have done the small clubs before and the experience of being in front of 10,000 people. So, I have seen both sides of it. I have played a lot of small acoustic shows, because that is all that I was able to rely on was myself and my guitar. I finally found a batch of really great musicians that can supply the right backing, and I sure as fuck have enough songs that I wrote. So, we are playing most of them all tour long.

The Pier: Give your backing band members a little spotlight here. Can we get an introduction for the fans reading as to who the drummer, bassist and DJ were?
Rome: Yeah, absolutely! On bass is Thomas Norman, playing drums we have Michael McDermott from the Bouncing Souls, and my DJ is LD. (recently featured w/ Philieano on Philieano vs. LD on the Cut)

The Pier: Now, I know that DJ Rocky Rock was touring with you and was the DJ for Sublime with Rome, what is his status as far as your solo career or tours with Sublime with Rome in the future?
Rome: Yeah, Rocky was my old DJ. I mean, we still have our publishing company Fresh Goods, plus we do a lot of business together. It was as simple as Rocky dropped a song in Europe and it blew the fuck up. The song is called, “Best Party in Town”. It’s a great song, you can see it on YouTube. It already has over a million hits. So, he is doing his thing, getting all kinds of offers overseas. He has his break and is doing it. So, he is spreading his wings and literally flying everywhere.

The Pier: You have done solo shows in the past, but this time you have Anuhea along for the ride. How did this lineup come about, and how do you feel sharing the stage as one of the most recognizable male lead singers with the genre’s leading female artist, much like Brad did with Gwen Stefani from No Doubt?
Rome: Well, I have been a big fan of Anuhea for a long time. Her music is really amazing. She said she was really inspired by Sublime and Sublime with Rome. So, we wanted to do a full acoustic tour, and she kills it with her acoustic guitar. I really didn’t even think about being like Brad and Gwen. I mean, Anuhea has a great voice and she has a lot of talent. We will be out touring for over a week, so maybe at some point we can collaborate on a song. I think everyone would be all for that! (Laughs)

The Pier: Now, getting back to your live show, tonight the only technical Sublime song that you played was “Slow Ride”. How do you feel, personally, about the reception tonight and the previous tour dates playing in large part all your songs?
Rome: I could not ask for anything better. It was great! Nobody expected me to play Sublime songs. At Red Rocks, people are there to here Sublime and Sublime with Rome songs, so they will call for it. But at this show, for Rome, I expect people to expect me to play a few Sublime songs… I totally understand that. However, this is my solo venture. I am strictly playing the songs that I 100% write. If someone calls out a song they want to here, I’ll probably play it!

The Pier: Now you released your Dedication EP in June, and worked with producers Benny Blanco, Robo Pop and others, compare that recording time to working with Paul Leary and Lew Richards on the Sublime with Rome album.
Rome: Basically, for the Sublime with Rome album, it was very much about the band. It was us together; everything was a group effort in recording. For my album, everything is 100% me, because I am in control of every note that goes on the album. It was a scary feeling, because you don’t have two other big names to hide behind, whether it is producers or musicians. It’s something to take pride in though. It is all your work and your efforts. For Sublime with Rome, there were other faces. Whereas, this is me, this is who I am and this is my music. This is my face on it. If people think the songs suck balls, then it is on me. It is not on anyone else. It’s not on Bud. It’s not on Eric. It’s not on anyone else. So, I accept the full responsibility and after the shows thus far, I don’t think I have let anyone down.

The Pier: Switching gears, after this tour, you will be touring in Brazil with the Dirty Heads for a week. This is now the second tour in South America for Sublime with Rome, compare the crowd reaction and environment down there to here locally in the states or Europe.
Rome: Yeah. It will be the second time with Sublime with Rome…We do great out there too. The kids fucking love the music, they love the sound and even though it is in a completely different language, they sing the lyrics almost word for word. But, we have never been able to go there with Bud… but Matty O from the Dirty Heads played with us last time, and he fucking crushed it! I don’t need to say that, everyone knows that Matty is an amazing drummer. But, the shows down there are pretty huge. In numbers alone, they are bigger down there than here in the U.S., but lately it has been tough to find a bad show anywhere we have played.

[Editor’s Note: The seven-date Brazilian tour featuring Sublime with Rome and the Dirty Heads, scheduled for Nov. 23rd-Dec. 1st, ran into a stop sign prior to their 1st show in Sao Paolo. The two bands’ joint tour has been postponed until March 2013. The Dirty Heads released this statement: “You know that feeling you have when you are sick, stuck at home the night your friends are having a huge party. That feeling like your missing out on something absolutely bonkers and magical. That’s how we feel right now. We are very sorry to all our fans and we will get down there very soon!”]

The Pier: Now, you brought up Bud Gaugh a few times, already. We are coming up to almost a year since Bud announced he was leaving Sublime with Rome. Talk about Josh Freese filling in, the transition, and is there still a chance Bud returns to play drums?
Rome: Personally, Bud is the greatest drummer for Sublime. Period. That is that. We all know that is a fact. But, Josh Freese is like the greatest drummer. Period. He is just so fucking awesome at everything. Even more than that, man, am I going to say the songs sound better with Josh? No. I am not going to say that. But, what I will say is—and you can quote me on this, the overall touring experience is so much more fucking fun. It is so much fun. You can go ahead and go to Eric Wilson’s house and ask him the same fucking question. He would tell you right now, if Bud wanted to comeback into the band, we would probably tell him to change his attitude before we did anything. We love Bud to fucking death, he is an amazing drummer, but the whole Sublime with Rome project was supposed to be about positive feelings, playing great music for the fans, and anything that gets in the way of that goal doesn’t mesh well with playing great music.

The Pier: That’s pretty heavy. Along those lines, it has been nearly four years since you became the lead singer of Sublime with Rome. You have every reggae fan from the 1980s and ‘90s dream job. Describe the journey for you, personally.
Rome: I have never, honest to God, thought that I was the Brad of 2012, or whatever. Brad created a whole genre of music. If he had still been alive today, music would probably be different. I almost know for a fact that music would be different right now. However, I am very, very blessed and excited that I get to go out there and play the amazing music that he made. It’s really fucking amazing. As far as someone having that job, a role to fill and prolonging this music, I never thought anybody, let alone myself would be in that position. Sublime is a very important band to a lot of people all over the world. It’s not one of those bands or sounds that you just grow out of. It is something that sticks with your forever. It’s a very close thing to a lot of people. It is music that you listen to for the rest of your fucking life. In the time frame of music, that doesn’t happen very often. Being able to channel that to kids who have never even seen Sublime live, Brad, or were even alive when Brad performed is something special for a whole new generation. For me, to see older couples, guys, girls, bringing their infants to shows…Being the guy to make that happen for them is meaningful for me. It is just so fucking inspirational, you have no idea. It really makes you take a look at everything else you are doing in life and line it up and see if it lives up to that positive momentum you’re creating. But, it is really a blessing to be able to live that out.

The Pier: And, just seeing you right here, expressing those feelings, it does mean a lot to you going up on stage and playing those songs…
Rome: Everyday, man! Every single day that I wake up, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to just play music. To play Brad’s music is almost unreal to me. But, for so many fans of his music, without Brad, nobody would be able to experience it.

The Pier: For today, the music that you played live and from your Dedication EP, it sounds nothing like Sublime or even in the realm of generic reggae-rock…
Rome: Oh, it sounds nothing like Sublime! You can quote me on that shit! (Laughs) This album sounds nothing like anything Sublime ever did. It’s not going to either. It’s me. It’s not Sublime. Do you know how easy it would be for me to do another “Lay Me Down”, and just go and milk this cow? Fuck that, man! I am not that guy and I have never been that guy. People may think I am that guy, because they only know me from those reggae songs and those rock songs, and fusing them together. No one has ever really gotten to know me, but now is the time. Honestly, I like the fact that I am starting over from scratch. That is what things that last forever do; they start from the ground up.

The Pier: So, getting to know more about you, what were you listening to while recording the Dedication EP?
Rome: Well, a lot of Motown, a lot Coldplay, a lot of U2, and a lot of Meek Mill and Rick Ross. I know that doesn’t sound like it adds up, but somehow it does! I swear! (Laughs) I mean, I love writing songs. I have been working on Enrique Iglesias’ last album for a couple months now, and I go back and work on it in December. I am a songwriter of everything, whatever it is. Because of that fact, you better believe I take advantage of every element of songwriting I am capable of doing… shy of country, because I haven’t got into country yet. But, I know I can write it. (Laughs)

The Pier: That’s probably a good thing that you have stayed away from country, similarly, no matter what, there will always be cynical critics out there comparing you and Brad, because of the role you play, what would you say to anyone reading to change their opinion of you?

Rome: Thank you… I can’t say anything more. It’s either that or go back to Starbucks, or working at Staples and living in my Mom’s garage. I am a fan of music, and it is in a lot of varying styles. I am going to play the music that I love for as long as I can, because that is what I have always done. If you are a fan of Sublime, so am I. I am the biggest fan of Sublime. I would have never done any of what I did if I didn’t love Sublime. No matter what I am doing, any songs that I play, I will enjoy playing the music, and that’s the bottom line.

The Pier: Rome, it has been a pleasure. I enjoyed the set tonight and absolutely appreciate you taking the time out to chat.
Rome: Oh, not at all. Thank you very much.

Rome Links:
Rome Website
Rome Facebook

Sublime with Rome Links:
Sublime with Rome Website
Sublime with Rome Facebook

Interview By: Kris Siuta
Photos By: Amanda Zancanella & Bill Colbridge

Watch: Sublime with Rome – “Take It Or Leave It” Official Music Video

Watch: Rome – “Dedication” Official Music Video