Sublime Movie Honors Nowell's Memory

Sublime's romp in the pop-culture spotlight may have been relatively brief, but drummer Bud Gaugh, bassist Eric Wilson, and late singer/guitarist Brad Nowell provided more than enough grist in their tenure as kings of ska-punk for a documentary -- so much, in fact, that the final edit posed some interesting issues for Sublime documentarian Josh Fischel.

"Oh yeah!" Fischel laughs when he's asked if anything was caught on film for the recently released Stories, Tales, Lies, & Exaggerations that absolutely, positively could not be shown in the final edit. He continues, choosing his words carefully, "There's actually some highly illegal activity that I couldn't put in there!" Considering that a bowl and bag rest in Bud's lap during one interview sequence, the question is raised if the "activity" he's referring to would come with a stiffer sentence. "Uh-huh. Yeah, yeah," he answers and then quickly changes course. "I did have to do some convincing to get the whole Denny's story in there, too," Fischel says, referring to the band's revenge on the eatery that allegedly gave them bad attitudes along with bad service.

Aside from editing out the antics of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Fischel faced his biggest challenge when it came to addressing the subject of Nowell's heroin overdose. "There was a lot of stuff with people talking about Brad's death. Bud [gave] a very graphic account of the night Brad died," Fischel recalls. "For a while it was in there. And I just thought, people don't need to hear this. Everyone knows how a heroin addict dies, or has some idea. Everyone's seen Trainspotting.

"I have a lot of responsibility here," Fischel says, looking back at the consideration that shaped much of the film's final version. "This [film] is really how Jake, Brad's son, is going to remember his dad. The only way he's gonna be able to see his dad as a musician and truly who he was is through this documentary and whatever other documentaries people make in the future. I just wanted to present him with an honest account, as much as I can, of who his dad was professionally. Because of the nature of Sublime, it spilled over into the personal, too. There's certain stuff that Brad's dad and son and wife don't need to hear."

In the end, a story involving the youngest member of the Sublime family, Jakob Nowell, influenced the direction of Fischel's film the most. "It started from a story that Troy, Brad's wife, had told me," Fischel says, recounting the incident that served as the determining factor in establishing Stories' tone. "She told me at Jakob's birthday party last year, a bunch of kids were there talking about what their daddy does or what their mommy does. Some kid [asked] Jake, 'What does your daddy do?' And some little girl turned around and said Jake doesn't have a daddy. He did drugs and he died. And then Jake turned to the little girl and said, 'I do too have a daddy -- he's in my heart.' After hearing that I was like, my God, he needs to know who his dad was."

Fischel and his film definitely show the many sides of Bud, Eric and Brad and the family affair that was Sublime. But in the end, Fischel saw his commitment to his late friend and a little boy as his ultimate responsibility. "So many people are going to tell Jake so many different things throughout his life," he says. "I tried to present Brad in as honest of a way as possible, without trying to lean too hard either way. You can definitely tell Brad had some problems and he didn't always handle things the best way. But at the same time he had a great heart and really loved the people around him."