The Breakdown: Sublime’s Drummer, Producers Talk About Making “Santeria”

Twenty-five years after the release of Sublime’s classic self-titled album, drummer Bud Gaugh reunited with the LP’s producer Paul Leary and engineer Stuart Sullivan in the studio where the album was recorded for the latest installment of Rolling Stone’s The Breakdown, with the three detailing the story behind Sublime’s most enduring track, “Santeria.”

Prior to recording in Austin, Texas, Leary traveled to the band’s native California to meet with Sublime, and things got off to a rocky start.

“I didn’t know what to expect. There was supposed to be a week of preproduction, and I flew out to Long Beach and go to the hotel and putting in phone calls to the band, and I didn’t hear back, and the next day I put in more phone calls and didn’t hear back, and I was like, ‘Is this album gonna happen?’”

Leary, Sublime and I finally connected with the band. We went out for brunch, beers, and then some members went down Mexico to surf. “and that was preproduction,”Leary.

When Sublime finally entered the studio, they revisited a track they’d recorded for their 1994 indie LP Robbin’ the HoodThe instrumental “Lincoln Highway Dub.”

“We were kind of stumped and having trouble working out which arrangement we wanted to work through,”Gaugh comments. The studio was almost destroyed in a sauna-related accident.The song was completed.

“We had all the trappings of a big thing,”Sullivan: We had drummer techs and guitar techs so they had all the opportunity to be slow and assembly-based. But what actually happened was that we just waited for the right moment when Bradley would arrive. [Nowell] would feel it, and just go,” Sullivan says. “And ‘Santeria,’ my memory, largely that was it.”

The producer and engineer also praised the Gaugh’s “magic”That he made while playing “Santeria,” while noting that his butt crack was visible throughout the song’s recording.

Gaugh, Sullivan and Leary also discussed Eric Wilson’s bass-playing on the song, as well as how Nowell struggled over the guitar part before an accidental note created the now-iconic solo.

“Santeria” became a huge hit for Sublime, spending over a year on the charts, which ultimately messed with the rest of the self-titled album’s release cycle. “The story I heard is that [the label] had to call up the radio stations and ask them to stop playing the song so they could get to the third single,”Leary.

“That album was on fire, there were so many good tracks. We could tell just from the rough cuts,”Gaugh says.

“That was the sound we were trying to achieve from the very beginning, and we finally got there. We were able to pull out this sound that we were trying to achieve for years.”

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