“I still feel that when you’re Black and you’re playing Rock and Roll and all these other styles of music it’s a lot harder for America to recognize you and appreciate you because it’s very linear in America. “
Angelo Moore is Fishbone’s prismatic frontman known for leading their Pentecost meets punk funk charge with his jaunty vocals, vibrant kinetics and a third stage role as a quirky instrumentalist. Twenty-five years of inimitable genre-smashing and exhilarating concerts secured the band’s place as innovators of the alternative rock scene. But their swarthy hue and inability to squeeze their expansive sonic palette into 3-minute radio commercials made them the bane of record label marketing departments. Last year the Laurence Fishburne-narrated documentary, “Everyday Sunshine: The Story Of Fishbone “ gave a candid abstract of the band’s nonstop musical adventures aided with Fat Albert type animation and personal video footage from their archives. And around the same time The Roots covered “Lyin Ass B*tch” after Michelle Bachmann appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show making Fishbone a Twitter trend and soon after the incident having their own appearance on the show. They are currently finishing their Adhesive Tour and the recently released Crazy Glue EP comes out on vinyl next month. Moore’s incessant stage-diving was halted earlier this year when he was hospitalized for a leg injury that morphed into a staph infection. He has temporarily lost his trademarked leaps but his funk frenzies are still intact. When his creativity in the band goes into overload he becomes his solo alter ego Dr. Madd Vibe. The Angelo Show is Dr. Madd Vibe’s 5th album of eccentric fun and the first video for “Optimistic Yes” is a post James Brown hustle of cheerful energy.
What did you think of the documentary and what impact has it had on the band?
I always describe it like this; it’s like an autopsy with all your guts and legs in different places. So if you really wanted to tell the story of Fishbone it would probably take like a little over a week. But the way that the filmmakers put it together they made a good story. I don’t get attached to it, I’ve seen it and I’m glad it’s out there. It’s turning a lot of people who really watch movies to Fishbone and the fact that we’ve been around and what we’re doing.
What do you remember most about making Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge?
I remember we were trying to get fired off of Sony because they wanted us to make radio music and we wanted just to not have that s–t to think about. We tried to make the music as radical as we possibly could. We had already tried selling out and it didn’t work. We already had tried changing lyrics for the sake of radio and we didn’t make it there anyway. I won’t be doing that s..t again.
Fishbone played Detroit’s St. Andrews Hall Thursday night and “The Suffering,” “Bustin’ Loose” and “Fat Chicks” was on the setlist. Bushwick Bill surprised the audience during the encore and did freestyle rap and his “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me” verses.
“Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” will make its US national TV debut on 50+ Public Television stations tonight at 9PM EST. It will be the season premiere episode of WORLD TV’s AfroPoP series hosted by Comedy Central’s the Daily Show comedian Wyatt Cenac. You can pre-order the DVD from the filmmaker’s website. In other Fishbone news the band is now eligible to be inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame and you can download the Fishbone postcard, sign it and mail it to the nominating committee. Norwood Fisher fulfilled his dream and made the cover of Bass Player magazine this month as the band finished their tour to promote the Crazy Glue EP. Check the Facebook page of the film to see what station it’s on in your area.
Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson’s almost two-hour documentary on Afro-Punk godfathers Fishbone is an interior look at the band’s origins, their internal battles and external battles with an industry that never had a prominent place for swarthy genre-crossing rockers. Fishbone became rare Black punk rockers who melded funk, ska, reggae and R&B into a lone sound that had a minor flirtation with mainstream audiences in the mid 90’s. Laurence Fishburne narrates the story of how Angelo Moore, Norwood Fisher, Kendall Jones, Walter A. Kibby II, Phillip Fisher and Christopher Dowd got together as a band while attending junior high school in South Central Los Angeles. They happily declared a musical outsiderism passed down from Arthur Lee, Jimi Hendrix and Bad Brains where their version of Blackness could only resonate with mostly white audiences. Despite the influence of Sly Stone, George Clinton and Prince their confrontational and unapologetic depth of references never cracked the level of popularity those artists achieved. As young musical insurrectionists, the band became a guiding light for groups like Jane’s Addiction, No Doubt and The Red Hot Chili Peppers as they became legendary on the punk scene for their kinetic showmanship.
Their originality became a blessing and a curse once they entered the segregated music industry that failed to find a commercially viable place for them. David Kahne, who signed them to their first recording contract with Columbia, recants the way the company’s Black music division looked at Fishbone with scorn and immediately categorized them as a rock/ white band. The only problem was that the industry had never made a Black rock star save for Jimi Hendrix. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Ike Turner and Bo Diddley were successful but never had the major spotlight of a Pat Boone or Elvis Presley. Consequently after the disappointing sales of The Reality Of My Surroundings Sony gave them another chance with Give A Monkey A Brain and He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe and then released them from their only contract with a major label. The problems with the industry were exacerbated by their inside wars that climaxed with kidnapping charges and various members leaving the fold. Attempts at democracy were difficult with six egos and competing creativities to manage. Angelo Moore’s thermin-loving alter ego named Dr. Maddvibe became a violent annoyance to other members. Christopher Dowd felt underappreciated for his songwriting skills and everyone ultimately believed that his voice had no equal footing among the rest. History has taught music fans via The Beatles, The Temptations and so many more groups that any band worth its stay is replete with warfare.
Commentary from peers like Vernon Reid adds perspective and more legitimacy to the narrative especially when Reid comments on the quandary of Fishbone recordings never being able to duplicate the live experience. Reid’s status as a Black rocker who also experienced a brief but more accomplished bout with the industry is the kind of insight needed to illuminate Fishbone’s story. Little Richard, who recorded with Fishbone, would have also been a great resource in addition to the other living Black granddaddies of rock and the industry’s chosen token Lenny Kravitz.
Ice-T, who carries the unique double badge for being a credible rapper and rocker also opines on the absence of a neat mold and compartment to market the guys. Despite this never-ending conundrum Fishbone made it through the ‘90’s by constantly touring and releasing the soulful thrashing of Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge on Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records. The camera follows the group into the 2000’s and we see the crestfallen release of Still Stuck In Your Throat from 2007 but there is no mention of 2000’s Fishbone and the Familyhood Nextperience Present: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx. The album from 2000 put them on a cultural ascendance manifested in a Sly Stone cover with guest appearances from Gwen Stefani, Rick James and George Clinton and more musically and socially accomplished songs. Casual viewers will read the film as the story of a band that failed instead of an industry that holds the dominant narrative of rock captive and ignores those who fall outside of it. Other audiences will find a unique posse of artists making music that exposes several textures of Blackness purely on commission from the soul.
Fishbone have been at for 25 years only to watch lesser bands surpass them in commercial success. It’s been a hard road for them as Black men doing a blend of rock, funk, ska and R&B. From ’86 to ’96 they had a deal with Columbia and produced some of the most wickedly good music around. But by the late ’90′s they lost their contract and went with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records to record the intensely fierce Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge which Austin also produced. They’ve continued to record marvelous albums and tour but they remain mostly unknown outside of the underground because they had the bad luck to have swarthy complexions. Even the so-called best rock critics have been too ignorant to understand the rhythmic Nettwerx that is Fishbone. Thankfully Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler have shot Everyday Sunshine, a new documentary about the band narrated by Laurence Fishburne. Make sure to check out the website to see if it’s coming near you.
My brother are still going strong after 30 years! Here there are performing “Party At Ground Zero” this past weekend at Dr. Greenthumb’s Spring Gathering. Methodman, Redman, Supernatural and others performed while B-Real hosted at this event put together by Tommy Chong and Dr. Greenthumb.