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Battle over Sublime name: Brad Nowell’s estate dismayed by ‘reunion’

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SoCal ska-punk trio Sublime, who went multi-platinum in the ’90s with hits like “What I Got,” “Santeria,” and “Wrong Way,” didn’t break through to mainstream success until the passing of frontman Brad Nowell, who died of a heroin overdose in 1996 two months before their seminal self-titled third album was released.

Surviving members Eric Wilson and Floyd “Bud” Gaugh subsequently formed the Long Beach Dub All Stars, which often included performing (with Nowell’s estate’s permission) songs from the Sublime catalog live.

But when the pair recently announced an October 24 date at California’s Smokeout Festival under the Sublime name, and promised to perform the band’s hits with a new frontman, Rome Ramirez, Nowell’s surviving family members sent out a media statement, saying, in part:

“It was Brad’s expressed intention that no one use the name Sublime in any group that did not include him, and Brad even registered the trademark ‘Sublime’ under his own name. As Brad’s heirs, and with the support of his entire family, we only want to respect his wishes and therefore have not consented to Bud and Eric calling their new project ‘Sublime.’

“We have always supported Bud and Eric’s musical endeavors and their desire to continue to play Sublime’s music,” it continues, “but, now with great reluctance [we] feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad’s legacy. Our hope is that Brad’s ex-bandmates will respect his wishes and find a new name to perform under, so as to enhance the ‘Sublime’ legacy without the confusion and disappointment that many fans have expressed upon seeing the announcement.”

Watch Rome in action with Sublime’s surviving members, below:

Ramirez joins, of course, a long line of latter-stage frontmen filling a spot left empty by death (see Queen, Blind Melon, Alice in Chains), and a struggle over ownership of band names as well (just this year, Ozzy sued for the rights to Black Sabbath’s title). Who do you think is in the right here, readers?

UPDATE: Gaugh and Wilson have just released a statement of their own:

“On behalf of the band Sublime, founding members Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson are thrilled by the opportunity to reconnect with their fans around the world. While we all mourn the passing of our brother and bandmate Bradley Nowell some thirteen years ago, Sublime still has a strong message of hope and love to share — a message that is especially important in these difficult times.

Brad’s heirs apparently do not share this vision and do not want the band Sublime to continue and tried — unsuccessfully — to file a temporary restraining order to prevent the band from carrying on. Despite those objections, we are pleased that the United States District Court has allowed us to perform as Sublime for all of our fans.”

We urge everyone to join us in our message of peace and love, and we look forward to sharing the music we created — the music that defines us.”

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