On Tony Sly’s Death

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Punk Rock. It’s certainly no secret.

A Little History

I remember, being a teenager, listening to Metallica, yeah, not punk, I know, but it was the beginning.

From there, it was bands like Soulfly, and Pantera, but eventually, it moved over to Punk. even with a two or three year hiatus to electronic dance.

Unfortunately, I missed the golden eras of a lot of bands that I now love, respect, and greatly appreciate. Even the Gimmes, a band that are strictly covers, but a band that helped me realize what I needed to do in a bad situation.

No Use for a Name – Also known as NUFAN

I got into these guys really, really, really late. Given I was already listening to bands like NOFX and Lagwagon, it’s absurd it didn’t happen earlier. I loved their work, particularly the middle of their career so far.

And as with most bands I like, I do some research, try and learn who is in it, so I did that, but I never looked deep enough.

The Death of Tony Sly

On 31st July, 2012, Tony Sly died, aged 41, leaving behind a wife and two children. This is when I started to look deeper into the ‘who’ of Tony Sly. Fat Wreck wrote in memoriam of Tony,

It is with great sorrow that we must say goodbye to Tony Sly of No Use For A Name. We received a call earlier today of his passing, and are devastated. We have lost an incredible talent, friend, and father – one of the true greats. Fat Mike had this to say: “One of my dearest friends and favorite song writers has gone way too soon. Tony, you will be greatly missed.”
Tony Sly

A shame, on so many fronts. For his family, his friends, and his fans.

I tried to find out why he died, but there wasn’t much information on the internet at the time. After some time I wanted to know why, so I set out to find out.

The Lead Up

Tony Sly had been working on his solo career for a couple of years, releasing two albums, 12 Song Program, and Sad Bear. It proably goes without saying that the latter was a very sad record. In particular, there was one song that really got me thinking, Homecoming.

I’m not sure why, but it struck a chord with me. The whole album is sad, but this song in particular, wow. It feels weird, but after looking into it, it feels obvious that it was about to happen.

Then there was also another band he was in, Scorpios. They’re great, but check out the album cover, he looks… not so great I’m afraid.

Scorpios Album Cover

The End

So, as mentioned, I was looking for information and answers. From what I can find on the internet, I can reasonably deduce a few things

  • He was in chronic back pain from a herniated disk
  • Loads of medication to deal with the pain
  • As per the article above, Fat Mike mentions Xanax, which would suggest a minimum of sleeping probles, and a probable anxiety and/or depression problem
  • Possibly digestive problems: he’d recently had an operation on his stomach, which could have easily compounded other issues

The Final Show

Tony Sly played an acoustic show with Joey Cape a few days before his death. Very, very fortunately, a fan, who drove three hours to see it, managed to record it. Tony even dedicated a song to him and his wife’s anniversary. Here’s the playlist for the show.

However, the final song was Linoleum. It’s almost a little surreal that two best friends, and massive shapers of the punk scene, were to perform an amazing, almost eerie cover, of a song by a band that had the same influence. Here it is, and in any case I hope you enjoy it, because it’s amazing.

He was a great singer, and an amazing songwriter.

I am sad that it happened, of course, even a little upset. It’s really quite sad, and it’s weird to be effected by the detah of someone you’ve never met or never known, but here we are. It really fucked up Fat Mike, Joey Cape, and NUFAN, his family, friends, but also, so many fans. One guy even said he met Tony at a show, thanked him for his music, that it got him through a hard time. So Tony gave him a hug and cried on his shoulder. It must be amazing, but maybe even a burden, to know you helped so many people in such a way. It’s still amazing, no less.

I can’t even imagine it.


  1. A fan says

    Stumbled upon this and especially that last paragraph struck a chord. I saw NUFAN a couple of times and even talked with Tony for a while but still I can’t say I knew him. But dear god I miss him.

    It’s funny, sometimes the people halfway around the world are those who affect you the most.

  2. Leilah says

    I found out just the other day that Tony Sly had passed, and it has been weighing heavily on me. I have listened to nothing but NUFAN since, and I am so sad that I will never get the chance to meet him again and have him sign my dress. But I am SO grateful I was able to see them four times live, more than any other band.

    Your piece here really touched me, and I felt at home when you discussed your taste in music leading up to NUFAN (Metallica, Pantera- YES!). I have been searching for answers surrounding the death of Tony, and through this, I have learned more about him in life, and have answers to questions no longer lingering. For that, I thank you.

    “It’s too late to talk to you, and it’s too soon to say goodbye. Listen, wherever you may be, you still live inside my mind. Something tells me that you are free again, in a place that feels like home. It’s never easy to understand why memories hold our hand, but people let go.”

  3. RIP SLY says

    ….I have been listening to the Fat Wreck Chords family for a long time (now 36) NOFX, Strung Out, Lagwagon specially No Use For A Name …. got to see the last two mentioned at a small bar we used to have here in Miami called Cheers….. Tony was an incredible song writer…..

  4. doyle says

    Along with the sex pistols and nofx no use was the band that got me into punk sometime around 1996. So sad to hear of slys death.I’ve obeen listening to the acoustic album he did with joey and juSt reminiscing.
    U mentioned tony was prescribed xanax … The same prescription drug that killed heath ledger.. along with a few personal friends .I realy don’t know why doctors still prescribe this shit.
    I have an anxiety disorder and the doctor tried to prescribe me xanax , well I could’ve bitch slapped him there and then.
    Anyway its realy sad to hear that one of my idols has been taken long before his time..
    R.I.P tony I never had the pleasure of meeting u but u will always seem like an old friend whenever I hear your music

  5. Randy Cool says

    I seen Nufan years ago and only one time but Tony and I sat and talked for what seemed to be hours and it was really before I had even known who the band was. He gave me the best advice of my life and was such a great guy to talk to. Death hurts, but it seems his lyrics and songwriting made that much harder. You get to know someone so well thru the expression they share with the world.
    Tony will forever be missed and my life was forever changed by him and Nufan. I don’t think the sorrow will ever fade just like the beautiful music he left us with
    Another musician to form an awesome band in the after life

  6. Scott says

    I saw went to a Strung Out show here in Ottawa and when we got there, Jason said “We met some friends on the road and we invited them to play. Gee, I hope you like them.”
    NUFAN comes out and we lost our minds.

    I got the Tony Sly Tribute album and it’s gold front to back.

  7. Jeff says

    I’m glad I had the chance to meet Tony Sly, it was years ago when they played the 96X Fest in Hampton, VA. I’d say 1996 or so. He was really cool for the few minutes I met him. I told him his voice reminded me of Greg Graffin and he seemed to really appreciate that compliment and told me Bad Religion was one of his favorite bands. It was quite awhile till I got a chance to see them again which was about 6 or 7 years later. I don’t remember who else was on the bill but them and Strung Out. Tells you how “GREAT” the main band was if I don’t remember seeing them or who it was and that NUFAN and Strung Out are what I remember.

  8. Tom says

    Having been out of the punk scene for a while now I found out about this by stumbling on the tribute album… I have to say that I haven’t been this impacted by the death of an artist since we lost Dimebag. This is due to how much they’re music meant to me and how big of an influence they had on me.

    I grew up in the Bay Area punk scene having started to go to shows at the age of 13/14 or so… There are only 3 bands out there where I’ve seen them at least 10 times live and No Use was one of them. I always considered No Use to be the best song writer’s in the scene and Tony’s lyric definitely resonated with me in a special way. I will miss him and be thankful for the music he left us with.

    “So it looks like I’ll be here for a long time now. Some things are better left mysteries. Can’t change the future when living in the past. So do what you want, I’ll decide my own history.”

    RIP Tony

  9. says

    Mon. Oct.27th/2014
    Feeling like a sad bear and I cant figure out why.
    The next day is a big day, one of many in a line.
    I stare at the others, moving one step at a a time,
    Sitting in their cars, just one day in a line.
    From here we move closer to a good day or one so bad
    I turned to you , you always gave me strength and found out you’ve been had.
    Your words, your thoughts, your music
    My buoyant ballast, bitter sweet. Since ’97
    2 years later, I just found out.
    My condolences to the entire Sly family and friends.

  10. Crash says

    Guess I’ve been out of the loop too long. Found out today of Tony’s death, searched for a cause and this page came up. Thank you for writing this, another good one lost to the pills. Like another poster above stated, I have all kinds of anxiety/add problems and have chose to simply live with it and not take any medication.

    First heard NUFAN on a Fat-Wreck Chords comp CD, “Soulmate”. Instantly loved these guys. When I think of late 90s punk, it’s NOFX, Less Than Jake, Lagwagon, and NUFAN. All of these guys were approachable and interactive. Such great shows.

    Going to find the cape/sly album, looking forward to hearing it. RIP Tony.

  11. Tjeerd says

    Hi Aaron,

    nice to read someone’s story that resembles my own. Going from Metallica and Pantera (through grunge) into punk rock in the early-mid 90s. Soon enough, Lagwagon and NUFAN were my favorite bands, because of their sincerity in both songwriting and voice (both using their own voice, no punk singing voice). I was stoked to notice my favorite bands were also befriended really close. When Joey and Tony recorded and released Acoustic, I was in my late 20s and hoping they’d tour together to witness them playing together. That didn’t happen. At least not in the Netherlands. After a couple of years, I saw that they were touring again, this time with some guy named Jon Snodgrass, who was unknown to me back then. At the show, I saw the chemistry between the guys, not only Joey and Tony, but also Jon and Brian, the keyboard player. They didn’t come out as being Scorpios back then. We were standing on the side of the stage, between the stage and the bar, where the guys were also standing when not playing. So we started to throw in Jägermeisters and they’d return the favor. It was a great evening, where I shot some pictures as well, of which one of Joey and Brian ended up in the record of Joey Cape’s Bad Loud. In October 2011, a couple of months before Tony’s death, we saw Scorpios play live in Münster, Germany. I noticed Tony not being cheerful as he can be in both NUFAN or Scorpios shows. He was being kind of a loner in and after the show. Where the other guys were drinking backstage or frontstage with their fans, Tony was on stage, alone, packing his gear. So I went up there and started a talk. We talked about all sorts of things for like 10 minutes, but I kept noticing there was something that was deep and kept him sad or maybe even down. I even worried a little about someone who was sort of and idol to me.
    When I heard about his death that next summer, I immediately thought of suicide. Especially since his cause of death was kept sort of a secret. But reading your story and findings, I think it might have been his struggles with health and medication, that lead to his end. He needed to be on the road with his friends and with his family in between, but his health issues made it a burdon, which may well have caused his dark mood during some or most of the shows.
    I’m still kind of sad about his death. Even just now, when I was listening to Lagwagon’s new album Hang, the line “One more song, Tony. We’ll always long for one more song” really gets to me. Every time. I agree what you said and I feel the same. It’s weird to be still sad and upset by the death of someone who is not like a close friend or relative, but it feels like he was, although I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have a clue who I am.

    Thanks for this article. Never forget Tony Sly.

  12. Chris jay says

    I loved Tony so much. My fondest memory of him was in 95 , I had gotten a job working with nufan, lagwagon and sublime. It was my first show and I was standing next to the steps the guys used to walk up to the stage. Everyone from nufan was standing next to me waiting to go on. Tony was standing next to me and he had these insanely cool shorts on. I said “Tony, those shots are sick!” He looks at em and pulls em down hands them to me, then runs on stage in his underwear and plays their set. It was so funny. The guy had a golden heart. I literary listen to his solo albums everyday. I miss him tremendously

  13. Mia says

    I was honored to have met Tony at a show in Philly. He was so nice to me and my friends! I told him my story and he listened like we had known one another for years. He told me ” Never give up hope. Because there is always someone out there who is going to need me!” I will remember this forever!

  14. Steph says

    I saw nufan several times but the most noticable one was unfortunately when he wasnt there… I had the chance to see the very last show of nufan, which was basically without him…a tribute. It was in Quebec city few months after his death. Lagwagon and some former nufan guys were there as well as his wife. It was really emotionnal and its the best show I saw in my life. Tony was a great songwriter and we trully lost a great guy and a great father I’m sure.

    soon, it will be 3 years ago and this moment is still very much in my mind..

    Sorry for my english, I’m used to speak french.

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