Sublime with Rome, in all of its iterations, has become one of the most important and popular reggae/rock acts in recent memory, selling over 17 million albums as either Sublime or Sublime with Rome. Many bands over the years would attempt to duplicate the sound of Sublime with Rome—fusing punk, reggae, ska and hip-hop.
The reigns of lead vocalist were handed to Rome Ramirez in 2009, which led to a slight name change, creating a new synergy. The trio now consists of Ramirez, original bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Carlos Verdugo.
Over the last decade, Ramirez has taken Sublime with Rome back into the charts as one of the top reggae acts in America—including a top 10 album on the Billboard 200 and a charting a top 10 single on U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs. Rome Ramirez also hit number one on the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs and U.S. Billboard Rock Songs providing vocals for his duet “Lay me Down” with The Dirty Heads in 2010. Ramirez then went on to record extensively with Enrique Iglesias on tracks including a song co-written by Pitbull. On July 27, Sublime with Rome debuted its new single, “Wicked Heart” from its forthcoming new studio album, and fans love it. CULTURE caught up Ramirez to discuss the new album, the creative process and of course, cannabis.
CULTURE: Good morning, how are you?
[Bubbler noise as Rome takes a dab] How’s it going, bro? I’m just getting ready to take off to Canada. We’ve got a cool show happening there.
What are you currently working on in the studio?
Right now we’re just finishing up our new record. Eric is actually cutting some bass tracks today up in North Hollywood near Burbank. We’re finishing up the last touches for our third studio album. It’s fuckin’ nuts. We’ve been working on it for a minute, so it’s really been nice to arrive at this 10-year stretch.
What is it like working with producer Rob Cavallo—a legend himself—with so many albums under his belt?
It’s just been amazing. It’s been a real life blessing, being able to work with a bunch of legends. I mean, all these guys really know what the fuck they’re doing. It’s constantly a learning experience. I’m like a sponge by nature—so I probably ask too many questions, and I just observe how everyone does things, because I myself am a producer as well. I’m really lucky. From an educational standpoint, it’s like the fuckin’ ultimate crash course.
“I smoke all day. That’s my thing. I don’t even know what a day without smoking cannabis is like—to put it that way. I smoke herb when I do the dishes. I smoke herb in the studio. I smoke herb to work out. I just smoke herb all the time, basically.”
Are there any details about when readers can expect your upcoming album?
[We dropped] a single [Wicked Heart on July 27]. And then, I can imagine that the album will be released [in] not too long—probably early next year. The album title is kind of under wraps.
Sublime has always been a genre-jumping force in the world of music. Beyond reggae, were you shaped by punk rock and hip-hop?
For me personally, I just kind of see the evolution of what punk has become, and also edgier hip-hop music. But it’s kind of morphed into a pseudo-genre, it feels like. I feel like, as far as what we do, and how we encompass those kinds of genres on an album, we just find a way to go there sonically. And then, we make it cohesive, and we work backwards from there. We’ll start out with a super rough cut of a song and then we’ll be like, “Let’s take it back,” so we can fit it into Sublime’s world a little bit more. That’s how we’ve always done it. When I started working with the guys, that was how we were able to shake [things up]. I think it’s really cool. Eric has a really good system. It’s not like we just play a song and then that’s all there is to it. We have to rough it up, then chop it up in a very unique way.
After you took the reigns as lead vocalist of the band, how much did your life change?
My life changed completely. It completely changed. I went from sleeping in a van to owning a house. Now, I’m traveling around the world, and I’m able to buy myself a car, get married and have a baby. I’d say every little aspect of my life changed 100 percent.
Do you remember which song you sang that impressed Sublime and made them decide to have you join the band?
I never really auditioned for it. I would just go over to Eric’s house and get high and jam. This one day, he asked me to play a set at his house at a party, and the two of us played five Sublime songs. After that, everyone wanted me to be in the band. I think we played “Johnny Butt.” We played “Ebin” a lot. We also played “Pool Shark” and a bunch of covers.
“I feel that if you only do one kind of music, you’re limited geographically as to where you can travel. With reggae music, there’s a huge pocket for it everywhere around the world.”
Is there a different vibe surrounding your live shows when you travel to remote areas like Japan?
As far as the vibe of the people, they are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Japanese culture is incredible. Every place has different laws, so the weed thing changes depending on where we go. For the most part, Sublime has a certain type of fan. In our band, everybody is on the same page, and we’re the same kind of people, on and off the stage. We really get along well with them. Everyone is always super respectful.
Obviously, cannabis is important in your daily lives. But do fans hook you up with bud?
A lot. When we’re somewhere that we’ve never been, or somewhere where we don’t have a lot of friends, that shit comes in handy. As soon as we get into town, we’re like “Who’s got the fuckin’ herb?” It’s always the same. Fans always get us hooked up first. Before the promoter can or before a stage hand can. Fans always provide it first.
Sublime with Rome is notorious for working alongside cannabis companies to create exclusive products. What is an Orange Dynamite Stick, and how did the name originate?
We have the song “Dynamite” on the first album. We really wanted to infuse some citrus flavors and at the time, we were doing a chocolate bar with Dixie Brands. It was going really, really well. It was orange chocolate with 100mg of THC. We sold a fuckin’ butt-ton of those. We were like, “Yo. Let’s work with our boy Brett to release a really badass citrus strain.” He was already doing Orange Cookies. We hit up him, and I was like, “I’d really like to do some sort of Orange Cookies cross with a really nice hybrid.” So we used Orange Wreck and crossed it with Bubblegum, which was a Cannabis Cup winner back in the ’90s. So, we came up with Orange Dynamite. That was a really big seller for us as well. We’re in the process of coming up with some new stuff as well.
We distinctly remember reviewing WonderBrett’s Orange Dynamite Stick Sauce, and the concentrate was honestly incredible—both sweet and potent. Do you have any more cannabis-related endorsements?
Dude—it’s fuckin’ crazy. Nobody makes sauce like Brett does. Harvest Moon Gardens is really bomb, too. It’s just a small handful of guys who really know what they’re doing when it comes to sauce. There are a lot of people who can really kill the shatter game, but sauce can be a really particular thing, and you gotta know what you’re looking for, as far as terpene profiles, etc.
Do you use cannabis to enhance creativity in the studio, or do you incorporate more like a work hard, play hard later mantra?
I’ve already done two dabs since we’ve been talking. I smoke all day. That’s my thing. I don’t even know what a day without smoking cannabis is like—to put it that way. I smoke herb when I do the dishes. I smoke herb in the studio. I smoke herb to work out. I just smoke herb all the time, basically. Dabs, weed, whatever. I don’t like edibles too much. I know this sounds real sales-ey, but I really do like our line of bars, which are currently out of stock.
About eight years ago, we had Dirty Heads on the cover of CULTURE. Can we expect any more collabs with Dirty Heads in the future?
Yes. Those are my brothers. I’m on some of their older albums. I do [cut] beats with Jared [Watson], whenever he’s in the mood to do music outside of Dirty Heads. I worked with Duddy [Dustin Bushnell] on his solo work. They’re literally like my brothers, in the sense that sometimes they annoy me, and sometimes I annoy the fuck out of them. A lot of the time we get together and play music together. I’ll work with them forever. As far as I know, we’ll probably skip them on this album, but you know, we’ll work with them on the next. Who knows.
Reggae is a language that everyone seems to understand. Do you thrive on diversity in the crowds at your shows?
Yes. That’s a really big thing for us. Like you said, it’s a really versatile type of music, and we have a versatile fan base. So we fuckin’ eat that shit up. What’s become of that is that we’re able to go to a lot of other countries. I feel that if you only do one kind of music, you’re limited geographically as to where you can travel. With reggae music, there’s a huge pocket for it everywhere around the world. Specifically, what Sublime did and what [it] did for the genre in the ’90s and moving forward, it allows us to exist in different genres and still be able to travel.
Are there any noteworthy shows coming up in the following months that readers should plan for?
We have the new album that’s coming next year, at the top of the year. We have a lot of shows planned for the end of summer. One of the biggest is going to be Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, [Nevada]. We’re really excited about that. That’s always a really big show for us. We touring now in preparation for the new album, and after it drops, we’ll be doing a formal tour.
Dropping a Bassline with Eric Wilson
Eric Wilson has been playing for Sublime or Sublime spinoff bands since 1988. In the early days, Wilson, along with Floyd “Bud” Gaugh VI and Bradley Nowell, played music at locations as small as house parties with the then-unknown starlet Gwen Stefani and her band, No Doubt. Stefani later recorded the duet “Saw Red” with Sublime.
Through the mid-1990s, the sound of California included third wave ska, a blend of punk and ska that dominated the airwaves. Sublime mirrored bands like Save Ferris, No Doubt, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and The Offspring, as well as Bay Area punk bands emerging from Gilman St. in Oakland, California, such as Green Day, Rancid, Operation Ivy and more. But Sublime incorporated both third wave ska and the G funk sound of Long Beach along the lines of Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G. Rolling Stone ranked Sublime’s self-titled album as number 25 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the ’90s. The album documented the 1992 riots perfectly with “April 29, 1992” and songs like “Santeria” still get radio play.
While Sublime purists still mourn the loss of the band’s original legendary front man Nowell, who left us over 20 years ago, fortunately the band forged on and embarked on a new era. After the death of Nowell, Wilson and Gaugh formed Long Beach Dub Allstars. Following that, Wilson went on to form Long Beach Shortbus while Gaugh formed Eyes Adrift and Volcano. The two would reunite in 2009 to reform Sublime—but this time with Rome Ramirez. A lawsuit forced them to slightly change the name. The rest is history. Drummers Gaugh and Josh Freese would eventually be replaced by Carlos Verdugo.
Cannabis constantly plays an important role. While Rome is clearly a dabber, Wilson prefers the tried-and-true classic delivery method. When CULTURE asked him if he prefers dabs or flower, “Flowers,” Wilson quickly said.
Sublime with Rome’s last full-length studio album Sirens incorporated a level of experimentation including some psychedelic elements. Wilson tried to explain the direction of the new album. “Oh I definitely don’t know how to describe it,” Wilson said. “[We’re] getting away from the psychedelic thing.”
As an original member of Sublime since 1988, Eric represents a connection to the past while Rome brings a whole new creative direction to the band.