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.”

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 self titled 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.

30 thoughts on “On Tony Sly’s Death”

  1. 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.

    1. I’m jelly as f#@k that you saw them a couple of times. I had a chance to see them in LA a decade ago but was so hung over from the night before I couldn’t make it out and was thinking…”Yeah, I’ll catch them the next show”…. dammit !

    2. I meet Tony after a show in London, I was going though such a hard time and found it hard to even leave the house but NUFAN music always help me get thought because it felt like someone got how I was feeling inside. I bumped into Tony after the gig and he just looked at me and said you look like you need a beer and a chat. Not going to say what we talked about but it made a big impact on my life.
      Every time I hear one of his songs I miss my friend and at the same time the words he said to me ring in my ears.

  2. 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. ….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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. It´s been 2 years since I started listening Tony´s songs. Everything began when I fell in love with Rise Against´s tribute For Fiona, that song opened the gate of a amazing music world I knew nothing about: NUFAN, Lagwagon & Joey Cape… and Tony. I instantly loved his songs, the voice and the lyrics.

      Today, I´ve decided to search deeper about his death too, because after realizing how sad his last albums are (english ain´t my main language so I dont get the lyrics just by listening the songs) I suspected that it could have been a suicide. So I want to thank the author of this post for the information given, even if it´s already 2017.

      The other objective of this text is to point out that part of the live show that you mentioned ( in The Netherlands, giving the Scorpios Jagger shots) is recorded and uploaded to Youtube. I´m pretty sure that you already know this, but I just wanted to be sure that you can get those memories back, because it must be PRICELESS to share such an experience with them. I´ve never had that chance and I´m so envious.

      Here´s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms8dpobdIwc

      It´s beautiful how Tony improvises in the beginning of Cape´s song and talks to you about those Jagger shots in Amsterdam. I´ve never met him but I miss him and I miss his kindness. Rest in peace Tony, you´re one in a million.

  12. 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. 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. 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.

  15. “The Atheists Creed”
    There is no god or gods.
    There is no devil or angels.
    There is no heaven or hell.
    There is no afterlife of any kind.
    The only world we’ll ever know is this one in the here and now.

  16. I like to congratulate you Aaron for this article, but also say that I loved all the comments till now.
    It´s overwhelming the way Tony touched so many people, and all the beautiful interactions with his fans, all the memories I hope all the people continue to comment.

    I follow NUFAN since the beginning, enjoy them a few times live, but I always will cherish the picture with them and few words, he was always kind and greatful.

    It´s funny how every year near his passing day I always start listening a lot of NUFAN, watching videos, etc, I did that today and realize this week will be his annyversary, sad but at the same time enjoying his legacy, his words and music always makes me sing and feel stuff, since his passing a few tears with some songs like international you day, and for fiona.

    He was a great human being with great talent, so much to live for and few time with us 🙁

    Thanks Aaron.

  17. I also got into NUFAN late “The Feel Good Record of The Year” was in a word, amazing. I heard “Under the Garden” and knew my new favorite songwriter, he died before writing a follow up to No Use’s BEST, most personal album. “Night of the Living Living”, “Sleeping Between Trucks”, “I Wanna Be Wrong” all AMAZING SONGS from a songwriting point of view… R.I.P. Tony “I’m So Sorry Tony” by NOFX made me want to dig it up… That song made me want to cry.

  18. The first sing I ever heard by NUFAN was Apparition during my parents divorce in 2001.. Listening to it now it very sad. Hence the end of the song… I apologize for sharing this

  19. Felt particulary melancholic today and decided to listen some NUFAN to remember a little of the good old times.

    Damn, been crying for a while now… I never had the chance to see nufan live (living in south america doesnt help at all)… I wish I could meet Tony just to hug him, look him in the eye and tell him “Thank you man”.

  20. I know this is an old post, but I found it, thought it was great and felt like sharing my thoughts on what Tony/NUFAN meant to me.

    I was 13 years old when “More Betterness” came out. Before then Blink-182, Mozart and John Williams were the only artists I’ve ever heard. Christmas came around and my Mom bought me “More Betterness” for Christmas.

    I had a paper route and in Michigan, 2000 was the most brutal winter we’d ever seen. I had to deliver the morning paper on Christmas that year (at 5am). My mom woke up early to see me off and gave me the CD. I put it in my diskman and set off. What should have been a miserable Christmas morning became more and more lovely as I listened to this incredible music. It took me 2 1/2 hours to get through my route that Christmas morning, but I relished every fucking second of it. I had discovered something truly beautiful and it transformed a shitty, miserable morning into a memory that I cherish even now as a 28 year old man.

    It sucks that Tony is gone, it sucks that kids who discover him nowadays won’t have anything new to look forward to. All I know is that I am forever grateful that he came into my life when he did.

    Tony Sly made a difference with what he did with his life. That is the definition of a true success.

    Good job brother.

  21. Ive been a hard core NOFX fan for 20 years and only just started to listen to NUFAN late last year and OOOOH BOY where have i been ? under a rock in a cave a NOFX slave ? so bummed i never got into them earlier on, FUCKING AWESOME !!!!!! and disappointed that ill never get to see them live.

  22. I just found this article by trying to get more information about Tony’s death. I have been listening his acoustic albums tonight and remembered the night of his death.
    My friend and I were devastated. I started listening to Nufan on 2001, Leche con carne being my first album. I wish so much his death was a bad dream but it’s been almost 5 years now.
    I will always miss him. Thank you Tony

  23. I got into No Use For A Name back in 1999. By that moment I had 19 years old and I had some typical adolescent problems adding some depression issues. I remember that No Use music helped me a lot. It gave me one good reason to be happy and a lot of energy by that time.

    When More Betterness! was released I just got completely engaged with the album. Such beautiful crafted melodies and punk energy. And Tony’s voice sounded perfect. I had the chance to see the band two times live those years. Those shows are relly marked inside my head, pure punk energy. I remember Tony Sly in the streets of my town just stopping and signing some CDs to the fans. He was a humble person and a rock superstar at the same time.

    Years passed by and, I don’t know why, but for some years I lost interest in punk music in general. I had different problems, a job and I had a rent to pay. But in 2011, for some reason, I was interested in NUFAN again. I digged into Tony’s acoustic material and the most recent No Use albums. I saw the band live again and I also had the privilege to see Tony Sly and Joey Cape acoustic, a show that had really impact on me.

    By 2012, while my wife was pregnant, it felt that it was a really important moment in my life and I felt really connected to that music that made my days some years ago. That summer Tony died and I was completeley shocked. Some months later my daughter was born, which seemed a big contrast for me: life and death. Still nowadays I sing Tony’s songs to my daughters a lot of times and keep his memory alive with me.

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