Published on February 14th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore Keep the Fishbone Vibe Alive
Diligence and positivity have been at the core of bassist Norwood Fisher’s musical work since his high school days in the early 1980s as a budding musician in South central L.A. As one of the founding members of the power-packed rock band Fishbone, he’s led a wild and productive musical adventure so far — and there’s more to come.
“I really appreciate that, for my entire adult life, I’ve been able to express myself artistically, pay my rent, and put food on the table,” Fisher says. “I don’t have to paint houses or lay bricks for a living — and there ain’t nothing wrong with painting houses or laying bricks, because it’s real work, and you gotta do what you gotta do. But I’m fortunate. I want to be able to buy my mother a house and pay for my daughter’s education. I’m working for those things, too — like anybody else. But my ability to do it artistically, I do not take for granted.”
Fisher and his longtime bandmate/soulmate Angelo Moore (vocals, Sax, theremin) celebrated an official 25th anniversary in 2010. In 2011, they hit the road hard with a solidified lineup, a new studio album titled Crazy Glue, and a critically acclaimed full-length feature documentary titled Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Fishbone blazed through Charleston for a fiery show at the Pour House last February, and they’ve been red-hot ever since.
“We’re experiencing a career upswing, you know?” Fisher says. “Crazy Glue and the documentary definitely had an impact on how it’s unfolding. We are a fortunate band, and we’ve never stopped moving forward. We’re always working somewhere in the world.
“Honestly, we don’t know any other way,” he adds. “We used to say that we played with feeling, and I believe we still do. It’s not contrived. It comes out with a little more aggressive energy, sometimes. It’s a celebration. That’s what we’re here for. Even when things don’t go well for us personally, we kind of get to work out our problems in the moment on stage.”
Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, Everyday Sunshine chronicles Fishbone’s roller-coaster career. Directors Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler start at the band’s earliest days in the Hollywood rock scene of the 1980s when Fisher and Moore were still in high school. They formed Fishbone with neighborhood pals Walt Kibby (trumpet, vocals), Chris Down (keys, trombone), and Fish (drums). Their early material drew equally from old-school funk and soul, acid-rock, political punk rock, ska, reggae, and metal.
“It was important for us to be as real as possible under the circumstances of having cameras on us for the good portion of the day,” Fisher says of the making of Everyday Sunshine. “The camera never seemed to disappear. But I did get to the point where I could just do what I normally did. At that point, I just felt kind of free.”
Edited between concert footage and close-up clips of the bandmates are testimonials from a colorful variety of California musicians like Gwen Stefani (No Doubt), Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE), Flea, Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Les Claypool (Primus), Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Ice-T, and others. They all sing the praises of Fishbone.
The film documented the band’s history, but it mainly focused on the dynamic and often strained relationship between Fisher and Moore, who could argue and annoy each other like brothers.
“It was about living honestly and allowing the directors to interpret it as they saw fit,” Fisher says. “We knew that they were good at what they do. They could have really twisted it — especially when it got gnarly and ugly. And it did get gnarly and ugly, but that’s what it was all about.”
Despite chaotic commercial dealings, frequent lineup changes, and artistic clashes, Fishbone survived relatively intact. Released in 2011 on the DJ Jam label, the band’s latest studio collection Crazy Glue followed a few live releases and a ska/funk-infused 2006 studio album titled Still Stuck in Your Throat, which featured Moore and Fisher with a mostly new lineup of musicians behind them. Crisp production, tight performances, and zany arrangements made Crazy Glue an instant Fishbone fan fave. Check out “Deepshit Backstroke” and “Akafoo” — two of Fisher’s riffy compositions on Crazy Glue that lean into hardcore punk and metallic territory.
“We’ve had some awesome opportunities to record, and we had to jump at them,” Fisher says of the band’s studio work in recent years. “We didn’t even have a solid lineup when we started making Still Stuck in Your Throat. We had to jump into Crazy Glue really quickly after touring, too.”
Of course, the Crazy Glue title suits the band’s story of survival and determination, as Fisher and Moore somehow weathered every challenge together and pushed ahead as two individuals on the same team.
“I gotta hand it to Angelo for actually capturing the situation in his lyrics,” Fisher says. “He’s the professor of our relationship, and he encapsulates the band’s journey as a whole. I think we have a greater command of our instruments and we’re able to better express ourselves these days. What I hear in my head … it takes less effort to get it into reality. The way that we tour, you can’t help but get better and tighter.”
Fishbone hit the road in January for a lengthy, almost non-stop tour across the U.S. The current lineup includes Walter Kibby on vocals and trumpet, John “Wet Daddy” Steward on drums, Rocky George on guitar, Jay Armant on trombone, and Dre Gipson on keys. They’ll travel around the country through early March.
“We improvise a lot, and we push ourselves musically, and we always have,” Fisher says. “There’s always a part of us that strives to be better musicians — to learn something along the way, as in life. You learn how to become a better human being, too. We’re fortunate to be able to do this. We consider ourselves to be experimental scientists in the realm of music. We push the boundaries of things, which keeps life exciting.”
“I can see in our future that we might find different ways to expand on the music, with recording and playing,” he adds. “We’re still looking for new ways to put something together where people might say, ‘Hey, no one’s ever done it like that before.'”
Fishbone shares the Pour House stage with the Mike Dillon Band at 9 p.m. on Tues. Feb. 19. Tickets are available for $17 (advance) and $20 (door). Visit fishbonedocumentary.com and fishbone.net for more.
Top photo by Jeff Farsai.
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