Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Drama over the use of Sublime's name continues to build

October 24, 2009 |  1:34 pm


A re-formed Sublime, minus late lead singer Bradley Nowell, is set to take the stage this afternoon in Devore as part of the two-day Cypress Hill Smokeout festival. Yet despite this being the first major appearance under the Sublime name by original members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh in more than a decade, the drama continues to happen off stage.

Silverback Management's Jon Phillips, who has acted as Sublime's co-manager since 2003, has responded to the increasingly heated battle over ownership of the name Sublime. Wilson and Gaugh recently opted to re-form under the Sublime name with a new lead singer. The estate of Nowell has criticized the decision by Gaugh and Wilson and has threatened legal action. Gaugh himself had earlier posted online that Silverback "would love to derail" the intended reunion.

Phillips has responded with a statement of his own. He writes that although Wilson and Gaugh are free to perform Sublime songs, "the fact that they have chosen to use the name Sublime is what has created a situation where there is confusion amongst fans, and disagreement between them and the Estate of Bradley Nowell."

To further complicate matters, Phillips writes that "Wilson is still under contract with us a management firm," although he notes that Wilson "has ceased his communication with me after a friendship and business relationship that dates back to 1993." Phillips notes that Gaugh is no longer associated with Silverback.

On Friday, Nowell's surviving family members distributed a statement to the media that threatened legal action if Wilson and Gaugh performed under the Sublime name. "We have always refused to endorse any group performing as ‘Sublime,’ and now with great reluctance feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad's legacy," read the statement.

Yet even before the estate released a statement, the battle over the use of the Sublime name was already playing out in public forums. Gaugh had earlier posted online that a "suit & tie operation" was trying to prevent the planned Sublime reunion, singling out SIlverback Management. He posted the e-mail address of Silverback's Phillips and urged fans to write the manager and express support for a re-formed Sublime

Phillips writes that he has, indeed, received  "about 10 total e-mails from fans with varying sentiment," and writes, "First and foremost, I DO NOT have the legal authority in this matter to prevent Eric and Bud from performing or recording as Sublime.  That power rests within the legal parameters as they relate to Brad’s Estate, or to simplify things, his family, and the subsequent agreements with the other members."

The all-caps emphasis is that of Phillips. He continues, "I wholeheartedly feel that a move to 're-unite' (can’t be done -- Brad is dead), or 'reform' a band as special as Sublime, without the presence of the band’s deceased leader, founder, principal songwriter, vocalist and guitarist is improper. It is an action which doesn’t feel right in my heart as a fan, and from my own professional standpoint, seems like a risk which could become potentially damaging to the long term credibility of the unique sublime legacy, and an undertaking that deserves scrutiny."

His full statement can be read here. Earlier Pop & Hiss coverage on the battle over Sublime's name can be read here.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Bradley Nowell, left, with Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh. Credit: John Dunne Ho