Episode 018 of *The Upful LIFE Podcast* returns with very special guest JON PHILLIPS, founder of Silverback Music, a management company based in Southern California. Jon is the former manager of Sublime– going back to the early 90’s – and currently works with George Porter Jr., Fishbone, Dumpstaphunk, The Grouch and Eligh, Slightly Stoopid, among other successful contemporary artists. Jon and I have a little bit of a personal friendship and professional relationship over the past few years, but I don’t really know him well at all. As such, it was like a class in session, as Jon took me back to the beginning of his long, strange trip in the music industry. Jon tells the tale of how he has carved his own lane in the game, doing so based on super-solid relationships, an ear for what’s next, his penchant for putting the artist first, and he reflects on a humble and efficient approach to managing his eclectic roster at Silverback.
Episode 018 begins with a short tribute to JamBase.com on the occasion of their 20th anniversary. Just wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the impact that JamBase had on my life, my career, the culture, and so many other fantastic individuals who were crucial to La Costa Nostra for many moons. JamBase remains a crucial part of chronicling the culture and it was an absolute joy to celebrate their two decades of covering various jam scenes.
JON PHILLIPS INTERVIEW STARTS AT 17:00
We begin with a bit about the city of New Orleans, and Jazz Fest, as that was where and when this interview was taking place. In addition to his personal history going to NOLA, Jon touches on the cosmic connection between Grateful Dead culture and New Orleans, from the Neville Brothers to getting busted on Bourbon and many points between. We also spoke a bit of the evolution of Jazz Fest as an event, and a culture unto itself. This was an interesting launching off point that connected our talk to Fest culture and NOLA funk, but allowed us to branch out as the conversation rolled on. We would return to NOLA a few times throughout the convo.
Jon’s experience in the music business had humble and serendipitous beginnings in SoCal, as he first connected with Bradley Nowell and Sublime. Jon was a major cog in the young band’s operation as they rocketed towards success. He was personally asked by Bradley to be their manager, and he made it his personal mission to get Sublime signed, after much effort they made it happen at Gasoline Alley. Phillips was somebody who helped light the fuse for Sublime’s meteoric rise to stardom, a gargantuan level of success, not just unprecedented but also something that Bradley sadly didn’t live to enjoy. From the magic of the early days, to the special nature of his relationship with Nowell, to the warning signs and demon fears, when KROCfirst played “Date Rape” to Sublime trying to refuse to play the song at the KROC Weenie Roast, Jon takes us all down an emotional memory lane. Inevitably we discuss Bradley’s tragic death from an overdose in May of 1996, and Jon is brutally honest about the way it all unfolded. Jon keeps it classy and places a focus on the triumph of the music that cannot and will not ever be denied. This is a powerful segment from someone who saw it all from the front lines. He pulls no punches yet at the same time shows such reverence for his fallen friend and his musical legacy. This is some of the realest shit this show has ever spoken. Rest in Power Bradley Nowell.
From there he embarks on his life’s work with Silverback Music, creating the company, signing the legendary Fishbone, and then setting out to develop another young band’s career, this time with Slightly Stoopid, who came out of the Sublime diaspora. What Jon has overseen with the evolution of Stoopid is remarkable, and he explains a little bit of the grassroots nature of how the band built an empire, while the rest of the music industry chased it’s tail in changing times. Stoopid has stayed ahead of the curve in developing their scene, their brand, and their culture, by staying true to themselves as fads come and go. Jon pulls back the curtain a little bit on how this band has set the bar for independent music, in so many creative ways.
We also discuss his NOLA clients like Dumpstaphunk, and his long-standing relationship with Ian and Ivan Neville. And of course we had to touch on George Porter Jr, who Jon has been working with for several years as well. Jon takes us through the blow-by-blow of how Foundation of Funk with Eric Krasno beckoned Phil Lesh to jam at the House of Blues in NOLA, and what Phil was like to hang with late night at Jazz Fest. Not to mention a bit about the Funk & Co LOCKN set that featured George, Zigaboo, Ivan and Cyril Neville. Finish strong with a quick reflection on his clients The Grouch & Eligh, a West Coast underground hip-hop institution. Large up to Jon Phillips of Silverback Music for the phenomenal history lesson and engaging storytelling.
SAM D’ARCANGELO of CANNABIS VOTER PROJECT : 1hr 11mins
From there we transition to SAM D’ARCANGELO, Director of the Cannabis Voter Project, an arm of Headcount.org. Sam is a journalist and activist, and a Masters student at University of Texas in Austin. Sam also is a Louisiana native, and spent many years of his life in and around NOLA. Sam and I discuss Austin and the Crescent City early in the convo, before transitioning to the political process, cannabis law, and of course cannabis politics. Sam breaks down Headcount’s Participation Row, and his role in the Cannabis Voter Project, which is on the road with Dead & Co, and has worked with Lettuce, among others. He and I have a spirited discussion around legalization that doesn’t go precisely how you’d think. Stoked to be able to offer a platform to people like Sam, and organizations like Headcount and Cannabis Voter Project.
*Vibe Junkie JAM of the Week*
I received the news of Dr. John’s passing just before this podcast went live. Scrapped the original Vibe Junkie JAM and instead we will have a tribute to Mac Rebennack, aka the Night Tripper. Please enjoy “Gris Gris” live from the Piknic Dutch Festival in Velsen, 1970. Condolences to Dr. John’s family, friends, and millions of fans around the world. His music and legacy shall live on in the hearts and minds of all who were blessed to enjoy his myriad gifts.
Malcolm John Rebennack (November 20, 1941 – June 6, 2019)
Upful LIFE says *THANK YOU* to the great CITY OF NEW ORLEANS!