The summer of 1996 marked Sublime's first hit song, "What I Got," and the release of their self-titled major-label debut. Only a few months earlier, the band's singer/guitarist/songwriter, Brad Nowell, died from a fatal heroin overdose that devastated his wife, son, friends and family, as well as bandmates Bud Gaugh (drums) and Eric Wilson (bass). Even though they couldn't tour to support the album, it still went on to sell more than 3.5 million copies, which led to numerous releases of outtakes, remix and live albums.
In the wake of Nowell's tragic death, Gaugh and Wilson organized the "Enough Already" benefit concert at the Hollywood Palladium. Proceeds went to Nowell's young son and the nonprofit Musicians' Assistance Program (MAP). Pennywise, No Doubt, HR of the Bad Brains and others shared the stage, including Wilson, Gaugh and various Sublime friends and collaborators, who decided to play together under the moniker Long Beach Dub All Stars.
After delivering a stunning set of Sublime songs mixed with choice covers, the guys responded to their burning desire to further explore the musical progression. That's when LBDAS took on a life of its own, joining Gaugh and Wilson with "Field" Marshall Goodman (drums, percussion, turntables, co-production), Opie Ortiz (lead vocals), Jack Maness (keyboards, vocals), RAS-1 (guitar, lead vocals) and Tim Wu (saxophone). This is the team that took Sublime's genre-defying attitude and ran with it.
"The Dub All Stars have really been morphing into something new and different, too, in the sense that there are new players involved," says Gaugh. "We're kinda like a combination of the two: We have our Sublime moments, and then we have our Long Beach Dub All Stars moments. We definitely became more of a collective. With the expanded lineup we were finally able to get across onstage everything we were doing with Sublime in the studio, like horns and turntables. We never really got to that level with Sublime -- that was all coming next."
In early summer, the band started work on a debut CD, reaching back to their extensive roots in reggae, rock, dancehall and hip-hop to come up with the unique sound that is the LBDAS. They performed only a few shows, including one at the Hollywood House of Blues, where a DreamWorks Records executive happened to catch it. He quickly signed the band to DreamWorks Records, which releases LBDAS's debut, "Right Back," on the day they play Orlando -- Tuesday, Sept. 21.
On "Right Back" the band does not disappoint, and it's not hard to imagine the collaborative spontaneity that would take over live versions. The musical foundation is similar to Sublime -- jam-oriented dancehall, reggae and dub -- sans the punk/thrash influence. But with so many instruments and collaborators, LBDAS' sound is much fuller than Sublime's, and it doesn't have that tortured-soul feel to it that sometimes came out in Nowell's songwriting.
On the second song, "Rosarito," Ortiz's vocals could easily be mistaken for Nowell's. The band covers the song "Saw Red," which Nowell and Gwen Stefani (No Doubt) sang on Sublime's "Hobbin' the Hood," but this time with reggae legend Barrington Levy on vocal duties. Other special guests include longtime friend and supporter HR of the Bad Brains and Half Pint, which left the band in awe, as Gaugh tells it.
"We've got this camaraderie -- these guys are looking at us as peers. Eric and I are still star-struck, with our chins on the floor."