Thursday, September 18, 2014
Interview: Norwood Fisher of Fishbone

Interview: Norwood Fisher of Fishbone

For the Love of Punk Exclusive by Ross Hostage

My first exposure to Fishbone was their performance on Saturday Night Live in 1991, a year that saw the explosion of “alternative” music. However, Fishbone was in a category all their own. The rhythm section, fueled by earth-shaking bass lines and seemingly unplayable guitar riffs, were as perplexing as they were revelatory. My young, band geek mind marveled at the then-unknown (to me) use of horns in a hard rock context. The acrobatic antics and ferocity of front man and saxophonist, Angelo Moore, were a visual overload in a video landscape of grungers, replete in flannel bindings, which encouraged movement from their audience but who rarely seemed to move on stage themselves. Now, 20 years after that performance and 25 years into their legendary career, the band is the focus of a new documentary eponymously titled after a song played during that moment of TV magic, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, and featuring testimonials to the band’s influence by Flea, Gwen Stefani, Questlove, Jerry Cantrell, amongst a host of others, the film has already garnered critical acclaim and will receive a theatrical and DVD release in October. I had the overwhelming opportunity of chatting with original member and bassist Norwood Fisher about the documentary process and why Fishbone is still relevant and innovative 25 years later.

(Ross Hostage): As one of Fishbone’s founding fathers, what is it about the band that keeps the songs and experience fresh after 25 years? What keeps the band together and striving toward new projects/goals?

(Norwood Fisher): I appreciate the privilege of being an artist with the ability to reach an audience of any kind, because for the majority of my career, I’ve been able to experiment and express what is in my heart. I’m in a band that has a difficult to define musical expression, for some people at least. They say we defy category, and that pleases me to no end. We’re still growing and figuring out what it means to be Fishbone, which in itself keeps things interesting. I genuinely love what I do for a living, striving to create great art with my band mates.

The theatrical release of Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, explores the past but also looks forward to the re-invigoration of the band over the last few years. More often than not, music documentaries are made after a band has broken up and been inactive. What was it like to revisit the highs and lows of your career while still being a current band? Was it difficult to relive some of the more painful moments as you continue to tour and work on new endeavors?

I don’t have it that anything shouldn’t have been as it was, so although the experiences themselves were painful, as I accept that the experience brought me to my present state, and I can see there was a lesson to learn, the pain of revisiting things is not so great. There was a situation that was happening in real-time, as we were being taped, that was painful. I’m sure you could see what we were going through.

Not only has your vast catalog influenced countless musicians, as documented in this latest film to retrospectively examine the band, but I’d say the ferocity of your live performance is a contributing factor to the impact you’ve had, as well. Where would you rather a potentially uninitiated fan start, with an album or a show?

YouTube!!!! What an amazing way to feel out a potential love affair with music. There are amazing ways to experience new music all over the internet. Bootleg live shows for free!!!

If you’ll pardon me a moment for gushing a bit like a fan boy, I think no one plays a meaner, funky-ass bass line than you. Is it at all bittersweet to have guys like Flea and Les Claypool, who are, at this point, world-renowned bassists, cite you as an inspiration when Norwood Fisher isn’t necessarily a household name in modern rock music?

It’s not at all bittersweet. I’m still in the game, striving to grow and expand on many levels, and I’m extremely happy for their success. They both inspire me to this day.

The movie also examines your relationship with singer and co-founder, Angelo Moore, which seems to be, at times, strained and contentious. In one portion of the film, he says something to the effect that you two are in a marriage and occasionally want to divorce but can’t because of your children, the music. What’s the dynamic between the two of you, currently, as far as songwriting and performing? Do you guys still hang outside of Fishbone?

Our personal lives have gotten so complex that there’s not much opportunity to hang outside of touring, recording, rehearsing and songwriting. Actually, I can honestly say, that like any relationship, I understand that the time apart is quite precious, but I still fully enjoy when we get together to do the Fishbone thang, and bring the special ruckus that only we bring.

On top of the documentary, you’ve also got a new seven track EP, Crazy Glue, which comes out on October 11th. What can people expect from your first recorded output in five years? If you’ve started playing the songs live, are you pleased with the early response?

We started playing a couple of songs during the European portion of our previous world tour, and the response to the new material was awesome. Better than that, it felt great to present unheard material to those audiences, and it seemed to inject a great energy to the shows, from a performance point of view.

With albums such as In Your Face, The Reality of My Surroundings, Truth and Soul, and Still Stuck in Your Throat, it seems like the titles of your records encompass the tunes contained within. What does Crazy Glue mean to Fishbone?

There seems to be a story of some kind woven through the compositions. I see the Crazy Glue EP as a recognition of the insanity it takes to do what we do. It’s kind of dark overall, but I’m still celebrating throughout. There’s one track that speaks of the liberation from it all, but most of the release expresses a frustration. This EP deserves a part two follow up, and maybe a part three. I’ve been thinking about this.

Ok, so while I’ve got you, I have to ask about your unique style. For years, you’ve been rockin’ the single dreadlock and, at this point, it’s pretty massive. Also, you’ve been known to take the stage wearing, *ahem*, very little clothing. Do you feel it gives you any special abilities, like Samson, or is your look strictly for comfort?

There are special abilities for sure! Not the Samson strength, but I call my dreadlock my sacred antenna. I can receive impulses from the source of consciousness, when I surrender to the music. That’s why I like to do improvising as much as possible, with other musicians. Getting wide open and staying there. I write that way most of the time. Accessing a space of nothingness, to attain a truly creative state.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Before you go, what would you say is the overall outlook for Fishbone right now? Has the release and acclaim of the documentary at all refueled your passion or are you just as excited about the band as ever?

I have never had a problem with being excited about making music, or performing live. y passion for what I do runs deep, a bottomless well, so to speak. It is nice to see the rest of the world excited though.

*featured photo by Jeff Farsai

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Fishbone’s highly anticipated new seven song EP, Crazy Glue (DC-Jam Records) is set for release worldwide on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, alongside the theatrical premiere of their monumental documentary, “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone!”

Updated 09.29.11: Stream FOUR songs from the upcoming album Crazy Glue exclusively on For the Love of Punk 

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onTheWeb: Fishbone | DC-Jam Records

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About Ross Hostage

Album Reviews Editor, Lead Contributor, Singer, Punk Rocker.