On July 17th, 2015, Sublime with Rome put out their second album in 7 years with the 11 track release of Sirens that features a guest appearance by the Dirty Heads on the opening titled track. Yours Truly was Sublime with Romes debut release that dropped in July of 2011.
For those reading that may not know, Sublime with Rome’s music is not a continuation of the original Sublime catalog. If you’re new to the discussion, Sublime guitarist/vocalist Bradley Nowell passed away in 1996 from a drug overdose. In 2009, the surviving members, drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson, reformed with a 20-year-old guitarist/vocalsit named Rome Ramirez. After much debate over the use of the name Sublime, there was a settlement with the Nowell estate for permission to use the name Sublime with Rome; a decision that has not resonated well with some die-hard original Sublime fans.
Sublime with Rome now consists of (guitarist/vocalist) Rome Ramirez, (bassist) Eric Wilson, and (drummer) Josh Freese. The Pier caught up with Rome over a call that lasted 35minutes discussing new album Sirens, (not so) new SWR drummer Josh Freese, the name Sublime, working with Marshall ‘Ras MG’ Goodman, the Nowell family, and progressing as a producer…
Sublime with Rome is looking a bit different than they did in 2011 when they released their debut album Yours Truly. Bud Gaugh is no longer in SWR as he stepped away back in 2012 after an escalating disagreement with management. With Bud no longer in the group, the band turned to former Devo drummer Josh Freese to be the backbone of the band.
When I asked Rome if he had any say on the use of Sublime, or if any talks came up with changing the name after Bud left, Rome said: “That’s all Eric. Whatever Eric wants to do, that’s his call. I’m with him with whatever he wants to call the band. It’s Eric’s band. If he wants to call it Sublime with Rome, then I’m with him. He’s my bro.”
In a separate interview with AlternativeNation.net, Eric was quoted on the subject of continuing on using the Sublime name by saying “As long as there are still fans out there that want to hear the music, why stop? Most of the old fans never got to see the songs live… Sublime with Rome takes old feel and new excitement and combines them together. It’s not the same band but we are able to take the feel and go further with it. We’re creating new music with Sublime with Rome.”
While Sublime with Rome parted ways with former Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh, they did step into the studio with another former Sublime drummer and DJ in Marshall Goodman, also known as Ras MG. Marshall was the drummer of Sublime from 1991-1993 where he drummed on the majority of the 40oz to Freedom album. In addition to that album, Marshall’s production and contribution can be heard on such Sublime favorites as: “What I Got”, “Doin’ Time”, “April 29th 1992”, “Date Rape”, “40oz to Freedom”, “Get Out” among many more.
Back in February 2015, Goodman ran into Rome at a movie premiere in Los Angeles, CA and Marshall told The Pier: “While we were talking, Rome suggested that we work together on something and I agreed… He’s a very talented musician, songwriter, and producer. From what I’ve heard, he’s got great vision and a well balanced knowledge of music which are both necessary for success and longevity as a musician, songwriter, and producer. I like working with musicians that have respect for and knowledge of our art.”
Fast forward to our July 2015 discussion with Rome and a collaboration between the two had since taken place over a remix of “Gasoline”, the final track on Sirens. It was also the first time in more than 10 years that Marshall got to collaborate with his former band-mate in Eric Wilson, whom he also shared a band with in Long Beach Dub Allstars from 1997-2002.
Rome explained that: “We did a really bad-ass remix of ‘Gasoline’. Marshall’s killer man, he’s obviously got a vision and I had this track in mind and I hit him up to see if he wanted to do a collab on it and yeah, he just really dropped the grime out of it and did it really sick man!”
We’ll have to take Rome’s word for it since the remix of “Gasoline” didn’t make the final cut of Sirens and has yet to be released. As for the backlash Sublime With Rome has received moving forward from some longtime Sublime fans, Marshall acknowledged: “Everyone involved with the project had to have known that there was going to be some sort of backlash – Sublime fans are true fanatics! I’ve always felt that Sublime with Rome is good for Sublime’s legacy in that they are taking the music world-wide for people to experience. I think they are a big part of the legacy catching hold in a new generation and they represent a more authentic presentation of the Sublime material than any of the other groups that tour playing Sublime songs. In addition, they have their own songs and evolving style, very similar to what we did with the Long Beach Dub Allstars. Overall, to me, Sublime with Rome has not been a bad thing at all. But at the same time, I can not deny any person their position regarding SWR and Sublime – their experience with the music is most likely different than mine and they deserve to express themselves as humbly or harshly as they wish.”
I asked Rome about his relationship with the Nowell family and estate where he’s met Jim Nowell, Brad Nowell’s dad, once while in Hawaii, but remains close with Brad’s wife Troy Nowell and son Jakob Nowell. Rome hosted Jake’s new band LAW at a show opening up for SWR. “As soon as Jake started doing shows, I caught wind of it and I had to put him on a SWR show. Jake is so incredibly fucking talented. He can sing his ass off and shreds on the guitar. His dad would be so fucking proud of him. There’s a treat waiting to happen for him. Troy is super sweet, she knows what the point of the band is. Jake is obviously a super intelligent kid. We try to do things as much as possible. They’re always coming over to the house to go swimming.”
During that show, Rome and Eric invited the Nowell family up on stage to help sing along to “What I Got”.
Rome Ramirez: The Songwriter, Musician and Producer…
Back in 2008-2009, Rome was technically homeless having moved from Northern, CA to southern, CA where he would meet Lew Richards at 17th Street Recording Studio in Costa Mesa, CA. Lew would later introduce him to Sublime bassist, Eric Wilson who would later introduce Rome to Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh and as a result, Sublime with Rome was born.
Another group that Rome was introduced to at 17th Street Recording Studio was Dirty Heads and a result of that connection came in the form of the hit single “Lay Me Down”. Rome acknowledged that he learned everything from Dirty Heads: “They Taught me how to open up a beer with a lighter, no kidding. How to cover up a smoke alarm when you’re smoking in a hotel room. I hadn’t gone on tour with Sublime yet so I sunk in my teeth with those guys. They’re just fucking the coolest guys, all of them, just super nice. So when it came down to them doing another record, they hit me up and wanted to do some songs.”
Since working with Dirty Heads and joining Sublime with Rome, Rome has been sought out from multiple artists and bands, not just as a guest vocal feature, but to produce songs and albums. Rome has worked in production with Enrique Iglesias, Blues Traveler, Wiz Khalifa, Mickey Avalon, Pepper, Dirty Heads, Ballyhoo! and I’m sure this list is only growing as we speak.
Die-hard Sublime fans who object to Rome being at the helm of a band using the name Sublime could be missing out on someone who, when not compared to Brad Nowell, is a pretty talented musician and artist in his own light. It’s rather difficult to find success in the music industry as he did with Dirty Heads and the release of “Lay Me Down”. The song went gold and for eleven-straight weeks, was #1, at the top of the charts, setting a new record for an independent release, beating out the previous mark held by Everlast’s “What It’s Like” back in 1999.
Other respectable and talented artists wouldn’t be reaching out to Rome for production if they just viewed him as a singer of a cover band or someone attempting to replace Brad Nowell. I think he’s done more with the opportunity he was given from 2009 to present day. He’s done a great job of ignoring the constant negativity from some of those die-hard Sublime fans that oppose his association with Sublime. He’s turned to creativity, proving himself to be a progressive musician and producer outside of the Sublime moniker.
“Well, it’s all I do, man. I don’t really have much of a life other than music,” Rome admits. “I go on the road and I play shows and if I’m not on the road, I’m in the studio working on music. Whether its for me or one of my artists or another artists signed or whoever. I have a team of producers and writers under me that I let use the studio to work and provide me with all kinds of work. And in return, they just pump out lots of great songs that I try to find placements to keep the movement going.”
Sounding the Sirens
Sublime with Rome’s new 11 track album kicks off with the titled track “Sirens” as Rome repeats throughout the track: “You’re going to hear me singing like a Siren”. The album includes a multitude of genres expected for a Sublime-esque release with reggae, pop, some grime, punk rock and ska.
Rome explains: “The song ‘Sirens’ came about first and when it came down to picking an album title I felt the name was pretty fitting. ‘Sirens’ is a really loud departure from ‘Yours Truly’, sonically, and it feels very much like a siren; it’s loud, its refreshing and it’ll wake your ass up.”
San Clemente artist Drew Brophy designed the album art after being referred to Rome by a member of SWR’s management who was a previous fan of Brophy’s work. The concept of the album came about when Rome explained to me that: “I had this idea of a giant siren in the middle of the album, kind of blaring off into the town. It was just some shitty sketch that I did, and 2 days later, it was THAT album cover! Drew Brophy is super talented. That came out better than anyone could have expected. It matches ‘Sirens’ so well, it just screams at you!”
While fans will most certainly miss the high hand snare drop of Bud Gaugh, new addition Josh Freese is no spring chicken as he has a resume of drumming for such groups as Nine Inch Nails, Devo, the Vandals, Sting, Guns N’ Roses, Ween, the Offspring, Weezer and Mötley Crüe, just to name a few.
“He plays guitar, he plays keys, he sings a little bit,” Rome says of Freese. “His whole family is super talented, man. Like that weird family on the block that’s good at everything (haha), that’s fucking Josh Freese! But he’s a total sweetheart… He’s very hands on in the studio, he spoke his mind and is very verbal about everything. Much more of a community effort from everybody. It definitely has a certain inspiration all coming together at once. With the first album, we didn’t really have that luxury and we were still getting to know each other as just friends, really. This album was definitely an evolution for us.”
Eric Wilson agreed, saying: “It was great to work with Paul (Leary) again, and with Josh Freese on drums, our chemistry was excellent. We had a great time recording the album. With ‘Sirens’, we have had time to really get to know each other on stage and in the studio, and that is hugely important to the overall direction of the band.”
The album was recorded and produced out of Sonic Ranch in Texas, again working with musician, engineer and producer, Paul Leary. All but 2 songs on the album were recorded live as Rome shares: “a lot of the album was all done together live in the same room. And we did everything with really vintage microphones and vintage instruments. We meticulously made sure that vocals coming in, to pro-tools so to speak, were at like the pristine warmth and sound we could get.”
Rome continues on: “When we did the production, Paul and I, we didn’t have to polish or do anything crazy because we felt the vibe of all the music together in the same room… So we just kept doing song after song like that. There were 2 songs that we took it piece by piece, where we cut the drums first, then the guitars etc.”
The 2 songs on the album that were recorded piece by piece, oppose to live in the same room, were “Sirens” and “House Party”.
The song “Sirens” originated from a beat that Rome initially had made for Mickey Avalon: “then I showed it to Eric and he fucking loved it so much, he was like ‘We should cover that song’ and I was like ‘Fuck that, its not even out yet’. I called Mick back up asking if I can have it back and he was like ‘No fucking worries man, no problem’. I hooked him up with another beat and it was all good.”
[Watch: Sublime with Rome – ‘Wherever You Go’]
“Sirens” wasn’t the only song Rome produced for another band that he later requested back for SWR. During the pre-order of Sirens, fans would receive a bonus MP3 of the song “Day By Day”, which is a song that was originally written by Rome for Pepper. Pepper vocalist/guitarist Kaleo Wassman received a co-writing credit on the song and there’s even a version out there with Kaleo singing.
“I originally wrote the song for Pepper and then I loved the song so much I asked if I could use it for Sublime with Rome (haha).”
Covering Dennis Brown, Fishbone & Sampling Wasted Youth…
There are two loose covers on the album with Dennis Brown’s “Promise Land Dub” and Fishbone’s “Skankin'”. The latter was pursued as Rome and Eric really loved “Skankin'” progression. Rome shares that: “Eric had been jamming it and we were just kind of like ‘that’s tight’ (haha). I don’t know what (vocalist) Angelo Moore is saying in the verses so I just kind of made it up. Then it just kind of stuck. We liked it so much that by the end of production, on the chopping board for selecting the songs, that one just… we all loved it and that was the first song we recorded for the album.”
“Promise Land Dub” came about much different while the group was wrapping up production in the studio. “I’m on Instagram and I see a bunch fans commenting ‘You should do Promise Land Dub’ and a bunch of them were saying it, like maybe 4 or 5 different people had said that. So I was like ‘Hey Eric, we should do ‘Promise Land Dub’, and boom, we just drum through to it. Josh did some crazy ass drums to it and it was bad man. But its solely because I had read it in the comments.”
One of the more bass heavy tracks off Sirens is “Brazilia” that the group wrote while they were in Brazil. “That was probably the 2nd or 3rd song that was cut and that was relatively quick, man. We probably got that song done in two takes. We had some help on some of the production from my boy DJ LD on the Cut. Eric had a real cool ass idea, just a real dark kind of thing on bass… I incorporated some inspiration from Wasted Youth with their song called ‘Big Boy’. The same chord progression, kind of, and we did a part that sounded just like it and we had to take it out (Haha)… That and ‘Sirens’ are probably my favorite songs on the album.”
A lot of times when bands go into the studio for a new album, not every track ends up making the record. When I asked if any songs were cut from Sirens that may be released later, Rome explained that: “these songs aren’t meant to be heard. Even Eric told me that Brad Nowell would fucking cry if he knew some of these songs came out. Like if he knew that ’89 Vision’ came out, he’d be so bummed because he was just fucking around in the studio. Not everything is meant to be heard. It’s just such a weird world where everybody wants everything. Everything they can get their hands on and that’s not always the best shit, you know? There’s a reason why we chose the songs to be on the album because those are the best ones.”
With that said, its my hope that the “Gasoline” remix featuring Marshall Goodman gets released. That’s a collaboration that gives us another perspective with a former principled writer of Sublime once again writing with Eric Wilson, and for the first time with Rome. Plus “Day By Day” didn’t make the final album cut and that song was more than capable of being the 12th track on the record.
The opportunity, however, isn’t lost on Rome and he understands how lucky he is to be in the position he is when he stepped into a built-in fan base that the original Sublime developed. With that, a once homeless 20-year-old Rome Ramirez would later maximize this opportunity to establish himself as a player in the music industry. He’s becoming a sought out musician, songwriter and producer who is now working on other projects with other talented musicians across multiple genres.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to do this. This is the only thing I’m good at, I swear to god, I can’t do anything else. I just know how to work on music. It’s the love of my life, its everything! It’s my hobby, it’s the first thing I think of, it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. And I still look at my guitar-tech sometimes, like right before I go walk on stage, and I see little kids out there and I go: ‘This is my fucking job, bro!’ It’s crazy, I wish everybody could feel and get to have what I have, because its a wonderful feeling. It’s freedom. Complete happiness is freedom.”
Watch: Sublime with Rome – “Take It Or Leave It”