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From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

New documentary seeks to set record straight on ska band’s myth

It is hard to imagine a more fitting title for a documentary
describing the convoluted tale of Long Beach ska-men Sublime than
Stories, Tales, Lies, And Exaggerations. The long-awaited
biopic hit stores this week and has already carved out the No. 20
spot on the Billboard music video charts.

As a tribute to the band, the video is a must-have for Sublime
fans. Poignant interviews with the band’s family members and
hilarious tales of road-bred lunacy are inter-cut with live footage
that is alternately electrifying and horrifying, especially when
self-destructive behaviors start to interfere with
performances.

But as the film’s director Josh Fischel is quick to point out,
the mythology that has become part of the band’s legacy is filled
with surprising misinformation. For a band that’s so wildly
popular, there’s a key piece of the story that somehow gets
routinely overlooked.

“I think a lot of people still don’t know Brad [Nowell] passed
away,” Fischel says without a trace of disbelief. Nowell, the
soulful front man who put the skank in the band’s ska, died of a
heroin overdose on May 25, 1996.

“The guys at Skunk Records/Cornerstone R.A.S. [the indie label
that was the band’s home before they signed to MCA] who get the
Sublime e-mail find people are still asking, ‘Is Sublime coming to
our town?’ and ‘How can we reach Brad?’

“I don’t think it’s been a big conspiracy,” Fischel laughs
before adding, “I think in some ways people have tried to cover it
up [Brad’s death] just because of how it happened.”

“A perfect example is that the “Wrong Way” video was premiered
on MTV on the one-year anniversary of Brad’s death, and they didn’t
even mention it,” Fischel says. “They sure had a lot to say about
Lou Dog [the Sublime Dalmatian] being in the video, but they
couldn’t mention the fact that Brad had died a year ago that
day.”

While Stories, Tales, Lies, And Exaggerations does
address the issue of Nowell’s death, the film concentrates on
setting the record straight regarding another Sublime
misconception.

“The biggest myth would be that the band was just Brad,” Fischel
says, switching focus in his conversation as he does in the film.
“We wanted to say that Sublime wasn’t just Brad, or that it wasn’t
just Brad, Bud and Eric. It was all the people surrounding them and
all thepeople who meant so much to them and to the music.”

Fischel’s family portrait of Sublime was certainly shot from an
insider’s view. In addition to being a longtime friend of the band,
he also shot their “Wrong Way” and “Doin’ Time” videos. The video
comes on the heels of last week’s release of Stand By Your
Van
, a collection of the early live tracks.

Read more next week about Fischel’s inside scoop on the band,
Brad’s son, and the scenes that were — yep, you guessed it — too
shocking to make the final cut.

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