Bud Gaugh: Hot Dub Time Machine

Bud Gaugh

Of all the superfan wish-list items, the second coming of Sublime ranks way high. Maybe not Marley-back-from-the-dead high, but nobody — especially drummer Bud Gaugh — thought the SoCal crew would survive the death of singer Brad Nowell, who overdosed in 1996.

That was before Sublime bassist Eric Wilson bumped into this Rome guy one day in 2009 in the band’s Long Beach studio. Wilson was so jazzed about the encounter he immediately called Gaugh. “Not that Eric’s a music snob but he’s such a talented musician that for him to hold somebody in that regard I was like‚ ‘Whoa! Maybe this is something I should look into.’” Gaugh says on the phone from Reno.

So after all three men convened for an informal jam, it was clear Wilson had not been exaggerating. “I closed my eyes and opened them expecting to see Brad, practically,” Gaugh recalls. “Rome’s voice is different, but it was close enough to bring up those feelings and I was like, ‘Man, this is real.’;

If you thought core fans would have second thoughts about this new iteration of the band, the positive ju-ju and 420-scented air on the night DRUM! caught Gaugh and company tearing it up at the Fox Theater in Oakland last year said otherwise. Rechristened Sublime With Rome, the reggae-punk rocksteady jamz are mostly about relationships, and maybe some One Love politics thrown in. Rome Ramirez slices cleanly on his guitar as he croons self-penned lyrics with breathy swagger.

New album Yours Truly opens with “Panic,” a buzzy anthem that’s got to be tiring Bud’s right hand (“I’m kind of like Popeye a little bit on that arm”). A super-controlled right foot goes into funky overdrive on “Murdera.” As far as kick-foot strength requirements go, the skank beat on “Paper Cuts” has to be killing his Tibialis anterior muscle. “I had a double kick pedal for awhile,” Gaugh says. “But I found I was overusing it.”

Tracked in one or two takes per song at Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas, the tunes on Yours Truly were mostly collaborative but some were material Rome brought independently, which “was then run through the Sublime-inator.” The album is so slick and tight it’s hard to believe it was recorded live mostly without a metronome. “I find that recording with a click I tend to concentrate on the meter more than the creative aspect of things and it gets stifled at times,” Gaugh says. “But some of the songs we wanted to have to a click for more of like a dancier club-type song.”

Yours Truly also has electronic drum sounds played in real time, such as the echo-y “timbale” produced by a DTX pad left of the hats, and others on a kick pad underneath the floor tom (he also has acoustic timbales). But for all the genre signifiers, Gaugh is really your solid, straight-ahead rock and punk player more than he is a dub purist (cf. Carlton Barrett, Sly Dunbar), which brings us to reggae drumming’s myths. “In a lot of ways it closely resembles the swing style of country music,” Gaugh says. “And then especially with rock-steady it’s just like old country — half-notes on the kick and the snare: ‘Boom, ka. Boom, ka. Boom, ka.’”

Gaugh started jamming with Wilson as far back as 1980, just after the future Sublime bassist moved in next door into the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach. Gaugh got lessons from Wilson’s dad, who taught him jazz and Afro Cuban licks, and how to read, studying mostly out of Rubank Fundamentals, a classic method book from 1946.

The kernel of Sublime was there even before the band made it official with the addition of Nowell in 1988. While the singer’s drug problems are well documented, Gaugh’s own fondness for opiates predates it by a few years. In 1993, after the release of Sublime’s debut, 40 Oz. To Freedom, the drummer left the band and checked into Set Free, a Christian rehab center in Anaheim, California. Only three months into the rehab stint, Nowell and Wilson begged him to come back, but he turned them down cold fearing a backslide into addiction.

Besides, he was actually enjoying himself in his clean-and-sober environment. “They were not your everyday Christians,” Gaugh says of Set Free. “The pastor was a biker with tattoos, a reformed heroin addict who found God in prison. I ended up riding with them in their motorcycle club for a while, too.”

Once Gaugh finished the program, he started up a Christian reggae band playing all over the States. “We played popular reggae songs and changed the words into something that would edify Christ.”

{pagebreak} Bud Gaugh

After Sublime officially disbanded in 1996, Gaugh had plenty on his plate music-wise. In the late ’90s he and Wilson formed the Long Beach Dub All Stars. There was also Eyes Adrift, an alt-rock supergroup including Krist Novoselec from Nirvana. Currently there’s Del Mar, a high-energy surf-rock band he has with wife Nicole. A dollar from each sale of Del Mar’s new record goes to Earthquake victims in Fukishima, Japan.

Watching Gaugh last fall at the Fox, we marveled at how far back he drew his stick before each snare stroke. “Sometimes I’m almost scratching my back,” he says. It’s a technique he developed from playing backyard parties without a proper PA. It was also the result of trying to appease Nowell, who always wanted him to hit harder. “It was just kind of a visual effect, the raising your arms. So I remembered that and I was like, ‘Now I know what I have to do: I just have to fake you out.’”

Maybe Gaugh is confident and comfortable these days because he never had to change his playing approach, picking up where he left off with the first edition of Sublime. “If anything it was the other way around,” he says. “Rome had to adapt to our style. Eric and I have been playing for years so when we lock in it’s really good. And I am sure that makes it easy for Rome to play with us.”

The only possible downside is the band’s glaring qualifier: “…With Rome” doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue. “It’s a sensitive subject with the fans and with [Nowell]’s family and with Eric and I,” Gaugh explains. “Since we’re playing [the older] Sublime music, a complete name change would kind of make us feel like a cover band. The new element is Rome, so it just seemed like the right thing to do.”


Band Sublime With Rome
Current Release Yours Truly
Age 43
Birthplace Long Beach, California
Influences Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Bill Wilson
Web Site sublimewithrome.com


Drums Yamaha Phoenix
Cymbals Zildjian (“As and Ks”)
Hardware Yamaha, DW
Sticks Vic Firth 5A
Heads Remo
Electronics Yamaha


Quick Licks

On “Only,” Gaugh’s mastery of the half-time, reggae-infused pop groove is quite evident. It’s clear from the sound of this groove that with his right hand, the fingers, wrist, and arm are working mechanically in perfect concert to create what is going on in the hi-hat. Notice, too, after coming off the intro fill in the first measure, instead of playing the full hi-hat part right from the downbeat of the verse, Gaugh sort of settles into the groove for a second with some eighth-notes before filling it out with the sixteenths. This is a helpful technique jazz drummers frequently employ when returning to a swing pattern after playing a fill. Finally, be sure to stick the 4-stroke ruff on beat 4 of the first measure as swift singles.

DRUM! Notation Guide

Bud Gaugh

Inside Tracks

Bud Gaugh

Sublime With Rome
Yours Truly
Fueled By Ramen

The 15 years since lead singer Brad Nowell’s death have been surprsingly kind to Sublime, both in their unwavering fan support and, judging by the dutiful preservation of the band’s disctinctive aesthetic on Yours Truly, to the musical instincts of the two remaining members. New singer/guitarist Rome Ramirez, admirably adopting his predecessor’s characteristic vibrato vocal inflections and confident delivery, gleefully frolics atop bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh’s infectious bounce like a kid on a new trampoline. Meanwhile, Gaugh’s dynamic tumbling tom runs and acres-deep backbeat are a happy reminder of what made Sublime ska’s greatest guilty pleasure to begin with ... not that we ever forgot.