Songwriter Interviews

Eric Wilson of Sublime

by Greg Prato

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After the tragic death of Sublime singer/guitarist Brad Nowell in 1996, the other members of the band - bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh - have remained in the public eye as members of the Long Beach Dub Allstars, and subsequently, Sublime with Rome (which saw the duo fronted by another singer/guitarist, Rome Ramirez - hence the name).

Gaugh opted out of the group in 2011, but Wilson and Ramirez have carried on, with the ever-popular Josh Freese (who has played with everyone from Devo to Guns N' Roses) keeping the beat. And in 2015, the trio issued their sophomore full-length, Sirens, which also saw the band "partner with the cannabis industry's top talent to create a full range of Sublime with Rome products and bundles"!

Wilson spoke to Songfacts from the road, while the trio were in the middle of their 2015 summer tour, to chat about Sirens, memories of several Sublime classics, and what he feels is the group's most misunderstood tune.


Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's discuss the new Sublime with Rome release, Sirens.

Eric Wilson: We recorded with Paul Leary, who produced our Sublime self-titled album. We've had a great relationship ever since we did that album. We went to Texas to this place called Sonic Ranch - it's a good place to go to record in seclusion. So we just sat down and started tracking and it came out the way it did.

Songfacts: What sticks out about the video for "Wherever You Go"?

Eric: It was pretty cool - we did it in some warehouse in downtown LA. The storyline for the video is a fighter guy that falls in love with a girl. They live in poverty, and he goes to fight to make some money. We have a chain-link fence behind us and a bunch of people - it looks like we're in an underground fighting place. But I haven't seen any footage of it since that day.

Songfacts: The video reminded me a bit of the film Fight Club.

Eric: Oh yeah, that's the idea!

Although he's a founding member of the Butthole Surfers, Paul Leary is best known as a producer of other artists' recordings.

Over the years, Mr. Leary has manned the boards on such hits as Sublime's self-titled release and the Meat Puppets' Too High to Die, plus recordings by Pepper (Pink Crustaceans and Good Vibrations), Slightly Stoopid (Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet Stoopid), The Reverend Horton Heat (25 to Life), and Supersuckers (How the Supersuckers Became the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World).
Songfacts: Before, you mentioned Paul Leary. Why do you think he's such a good fit to produce Sublime?

Eric: I think the original reason we got back together with him in the first place is we're huge Butthole Surfers fans, and Paul produced all of their albums - except for one that John Paul Jones produced [1993's Independent Worm Saloon].

During the time in '96, he was producing a few bands, and we heard a lot of good stuff about him. He heard our song "Date Rape" on the radio, so we hooked up back then. And ever since then, there's no reason looking for anyone else. He's such a perfectionist when it comes to producing.

Songfacts: An album he produced back in the '90s that I always liked the sound and production of was the Meat Puppets' Too High to Die.

Eric: Oh yeah!

Songfacts: Was Brad a fan of the Meat Puppets?

Eric: Yeah. We used to play acoustically when we'd go camping - "Lake of Fire." We were huge fans of them.

Songfacts: How did Sublime get the idea to rework "Summertime" as "Doin' Time"?

Eric: That was Brad's idea. I guess it was a pretty popular thing in the '90s and today: a prison inmate. Getting in trouble.

Songfacts: What was it like recording "Pool Shark," because looking back at the lyrics now, it seems like Brad is talking about his bleak situation.

Eric: Really, he wrote that song about this girlfriend that he wrote most of his songs about. When we'd go on the road, he wasn't the most loyal boyfriend. He screwed around on the road, and his girlfriend knew that.

She was really good at pool - it turns out she was hanging out with some guys and she got good at pool. They broke up shortly after that, but that's what he wrote that about.

Songfacts: What do you recall about "What I Got"?

Eric: It's a true Sublime song. It seems to be like an anthem-type thing.

Half Pint is a reggae/dancehall artist originally from Kingston, Jamaica. How does Mr. Pint (real name, Lindon Andrew Roberts) fit into the Sublime story? As Eric describes below, Brad Nowell nicked the chorus of an obscure Half Pint tune, "Loving," for Sublime's breakthrough hit, "What I Got," which resulted in the song being credited to all three Sublime members plus the reggae artist.
Songfacts: Did you have any idea that it was a special song when you recorded it?

Eric: Yeah, I thought so. Actually, that song was produced by David Kahne. And then we ended up doing that one again with Paul.

I was fortunate to meet Half Pint - he's a legend and an inspiration. And it turns out that Brad had gotten parts of that song from one of his songs that was like a B-side.

I thought I'd heard all his stuff, but I found out it was one of his songs, but not one of his hits. Brad turned that song into something totally different than what it originally was. Half Pint wanted to get paid for it, so then we got a relationship through that, and when we did the Dub Allstars, Half Pint went on the road with us for a summer, and I got to know him really well and play with him every day. That was a blessing in itself.

Songfacts: What about "Santeria"?

Eric: "Santeria," I wrote the music. Originally I did it on a four-track on the previous album, Robbin' the Hood, and the name of it is "Lincoln Highway Dub." It's an instrumental song on that album, and Brad jut put words on it.

I couldn't really tell you what inspired "Santeria" lyrically, but that's how the song came about. It was the music from a four-track, I wrote it in my head, and we re-tracked it and put those lyrics on it. And it went on to be one of our biggest songs.

Songfacts: Were songs like "Wrong Way" and "Caress Me Down" based on real events?

Eric: Yeah. "Wrong Way" is about a girl that we knew in Long Beach. It's almost a true story. And "Caress Me Down," when Brad was around, he was pretty popular with the ladies, and he could have been writing about all of them all together, for all I know!

Songfacts: Are there any Sublime songs that are misunderstood?

Eric: "Date Rape" is a fictional song, but I've never heard anybody say anything to misunderstand it. That song, before we even had the band together, we went to see Fishbone one day at a free concert in Reseda. We came home from that and were just writing songs. And we came home from that concert and wrote "Date Rape."

It was really cool that a few years later, Fishbone covered that song. And then now, on our new album, we cover "Skankin' to the Beat," which is one of their first songs. Every time I've played gigs with them, I tell them that's my favorite song by them. Play "Skankin' to the Beat." And they'd say they don't play it anymore. I was thinking, Well, they covered "Date Rape," it would be just right to cover "Skankin' to the Beat." So we put that on Sirens.

August 14, 2015.
For more info about Sublime with Rome, visit sublimewithrome.com
Photos: Bryan Sheffield

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