Whats up Andy. Just a quick question. How was bard a a human being fame and fortune aside and from you own personal experience. Was he generally quiet,sociable,spontaneous,funny, etc. From his songs and such it almost seemed like he was a wildcard or a daredevil. always singing about getting into fights and using heroin and such. but from what ive read he came from a pretty well off family. was he like that one friend you knew that you would think about him and be like "hes out of control, one day hes gonna be dead or in jail" or was he more of the "thats a chill guy, right on!"
The reason why I really like your question is that you fleshed it out and gave me options to respond to. I get a sparse and trimmed down version of your question frequently and I generally find it hard to answer because Brad was generally a pretty complex person. He wasn't very predictable and his behavior really did depend on what kind of a mood he was in. Or it's possible his behavior varied due to factors that I wasn't even aware of.
I also knew Brad when he was 18 and barely out of high school and then Brad when he was starting to gain a little notoriety in Southern California. It's pretty important to remember that Sublime had not hit it big yet when Brad died so Brad and others didn't have to deal with that other beast called fame. Sure they got a dose of it when they played shows but it is not the same as being a household name.
Okay to finally try to answer your question... What was Brad like as a human being? Generally speaking, I would say that it was hard to really get to know or get close to Brad. The only reason I did was because we were put together as room mates in college and we ended up hitting it off. We both loved to surf back then so that kind of ensured that we would spend a decent amount of time together.
Another key to understanding Brad was that he really bought into the whole mid 80's punk ethos. In many ways he was very punk rock. There was a definite anti establishment and independent thinking streak there. There was also a fair amount of f*%k you attitude too. He just didn't buy into most things that people thought of as conventional wisdom. If an authority figure or "society" said not to do something you would have Brad on the other end saying and thinking, "Really? Well I'm not really buying into that yet. I have to figure that out for myself."
Along with this, Brad was also very intellectually curious. He excelled in his 2 years at UCSC (University of California at Santa Cruz). Later, Brad created his own Bradley Nowell library service. Take a book from where he was crashing or hanging out, read it and then leave it somewhere else.
Brad could be quiet at times especially when he was absorbed with something like reading or figuring out a song. He seemed to get a little more quiet or even introverted when he was using heavy drugs. Basically after using, he was many times pretty depressed and low. But normally Brad really wasn't that quiet of a person. He was not the guy screaming at the top of his lungs either... When he was hanging out with people, he was pretty focused on socializing with those people. He really got into whatever they were talking about.
At times, especially when drinking, Brad was a little too spontaneous (i.e. poor impulse control). Obviously, he didn't always think everything through. He just reacted or said something.
I wouldn't really say that Brad was a total daredevil even though he did ski/snowboard and surf. He could totally be wild at times, especially in a party situation. It was when he was partying too much was when he could be kind of a dick.
For the record, I can't remember one time that Brad got into a fight for the ten years that I knew him. Fighting was just not his thing.
Another key to understanding Brad is that he was a true musician. He was consumed by music and it coursed through him like good books or sports for other people. Listening to, playing, composing was just who he was. At one point he said to me that he didn't think that he was a very good dancer because he heard and felt all of the rhythm. It was like his body was going in too many directions because he was hearing every little nuance of the song and he didn't just concentrate on one basic strand like the melody or just the percussion rhythm.
Brad was not all about the crazy stuff that found its way into his songs. Some of that stuff just makes more compelling lyrics. I can't tell you too many songs about that awesome book that the songwriter just read or about that hilarious conversation they had the night before last or the discussion of Nietzsche that he had 2 weeks ago with the bouncer at the club where they played.
Brad did come from a relatively well off family. His dad was a hard working and successful contractor. Brad would sometimes work at his dad's construction sites but he would get distracted with talking Spanish to all of the workers. He just wasn't someone who was going to spend his entire life in construction and/or being a contractor. The magnetic pull of music was just way too strong for him.
For all of Brad's problems with drugs, I didn't see his death coming at all. Even though he was out of control at times, I didn't see him dying super young. I obviously should have seen it coming. Maybe it was my form of denial or just youthful ignorance. His last couple of weeks were pretty good. He was clean and in good spirits. At his wedding, the week before he was doing great and looked healthy. It really looked like he was turning the corner with his addiction. So his overdose came as a huge and horrible shock.
Before I forget, if you want to read more about Brad in college go to the sublimewiki web site. It is not wikipedia. After going to sublimewiki then go to "Articles/Interviews" and then read the only entry under the year 2010. Maybe you've already read it.
All right dude. I hope that this helps a little and answers all of your questions.