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Heroin's Toll Is Nothing Sublime

Singer's Widow, Band Learn to Deal With Death

July 23, 1996|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I didn't really want to [do interviews] for the longest time," Wilson says, "but I figured it was in our best interests in putting this album out. Brad would have wanted us to do this because he was just as stoked as all of us about this album. We've got to keep our name out there as long as we can."

What's next for the band?

"Sublime died when Brad did," Gaugh says. "It's time to work on something new. We have a couple of ideas, but nothing really solid. We're trying to find something that we believe in."

They all believed in Sublime, but heroin got in the way. Nowell, his bandmates say, was strung out all during the recording of the new album in Texas--and even had to be sent home a few days early.

"We all knew that one day it would probably come to this," Gaugh says. "It was always a question of when. . . .

"The problem with drugs is, they're a one-way street. Unfortunately, this is usually where they lead. This wasn't the first time that Brad had ODd. It was always a factor in the puzzle."

*

Nowell never could figure out the puzzle. He battled his addiction everyday for the last four years of his life, tormenting his family as he repeatedly vowed to get straight.

"It really consumed us," Troy says. "Not in a productive way, but in an angry, scared, fearful way. We were always afraid he was going to use again. Afraid that one day it would be the last time."

When the last time finally came, it brought sadness, of course--but also an unburdening.

"I felt a lot of relief in a way because I knew that the fight was over," Troy says softly. "He wasn't much of a fighter, so fighting everyday took its toll on him.

"Even if they'd revived him that day, he probably still would have messed with it down the line."

She vividly remembers the dread that enveloped her last October when she and Brad heard on the news that Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon, who had battled heroin addiction, had died of a cocaine overdose.

"I looked at Brad and it was like nonreality to him," she says. "That just had nothing to do with him. His attitude was, 'That guy was just stupid. He just [screwed] up.' It scared the hell out of me."

Fans from across the country wrote to express their sorrow when Nowell died seven months later.

"It's nice that his songs had so much effect on people," says his father, Jim, a Long Beach contractor who has taken over Sublime's business affairs. "But I'd rather he was an accountant and still around.

"I feel like I gave my son to the music industry. And I didn't get anything back."

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