At the conclusion of the 2010 documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, it appears as though the original Fishbone lineup has mended their differences, and a future reunion may be in the cards. But as the band's longtime singer/saxophonist Angelo Moore tells us, Fishbone's current state is hardly rosy.
It wasn't always that way - during the late '80s/early '90s, Fishbone was one of the leaders of the "funk metal" or "punk funk" movement - a genre which also included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, and Primus. But unlike these other acts, Fishbone never scored that bonafide breakthrough hit, despite penning many classic songs of the genre ("Party at Ground Zero," "Bonin' in the Boneyard," "Everyday Sunshine") and albums (In Your Face, Truth and Soul, The Reality of My Surroundings).
Intra-band tensions eventually splintered the original line-up, which nowadays features half of its original members (Moore, as well as bassist John Norwood Fisher and trumpet player/singer Walter Kibby).
Moore talked to us about the Everyday Sunshine documentary, the stories behind several Fishbone classics, his many projects, and the current state of the group.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): I thought the documentary, Everyday Sunshine, was great. Were you happy with the way it turned out?
Angelo Moore: Yeah. You know, I was happy with it, man. For the most part, I'm glad that they got something out there for the people to see and enjoy about Fishbone, so they can get somewhat of the story about Fishbone. You know, it's not exactly how it went down, but it's close enough to where people can see what's going on with the band. Sort of like an autopsy of the body with all the guts rearranged when you open it up.
Songfacts: I thought it was a very revealing documentary as far as how the band members get along.
Angelo: Yeah. That's right. And I guess they leave it open ended.
Angelo: They leave the movie open ended to where it just leaves room for whatever's going to happen with Fishbone in the future. At least it doesn't end up dismal. It doesn't end up bling bling, either, like we all turn out to be millionaires in the end with a mansion, yacht, bitches, and all that shit. That's unrealistic. And it doesn't end up where the band just breaks up and people die.
Songfacts: It was cool to find out what exactly happened with Kendall [Jones, Fishbone's original guitarist].
Angelo: Well, after Kendall left the band, he went through all that shit with the manic depressive episode and the demons and the court and Norwood kidnapping, blah blah blah. So Kendall, after the band quit, he ended up working at the Guitar Center and living up in Marin County and he was singing with his own band for a minute. So he's okay. He's all right now. He's got a place up in Mendocino County with a couple of guys - he lives in a big house. Last time I remember seeing Kendall was when they was premiering the movie up there. And so yeah, he seems like he's okay.
Songfacts: That was a pretty touching part of the documentary when it's Kendall playing "Change" on the acoustic guitar and he's standing in that valley at the end.
Angelo: Oh, yeah. He's standing on the valley with that road behind him and he's playing guitar. I don't look at the movie too much because right now in real life it's still like the movie. Me and Norwood, I'll just put it like this: We haven't been able to calibrate and collaborate easily and properly like we should. So we're working on some internal problems, we're replacing some wiring and some cogs. Going to a little therapy. You know, like a marriage. Like I say in the movie, a marriage with a bunch of kids, which is the songs.
Songfacts: What exactly is Fishbone currently up to? Are you guys working on a new album?
Angelo: Well, Fishbone is going through an overhaul. I feel like Fishbone needed an overhaul badly, because the wheels have fallen off, and we don't want to be riding a car out in the street on brake shoes. So we had to go to a lot of therapy and we've had to cancel some tours because I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to go. I felt like Fishbone needed an overhaul, so that's what we're doing. We got spot gigs here and there. We're not completely shut down, but we're just going through some inner repairs, that's all.
Songfacts: How would you say that the songwriting works with Fishbone?
Angelo: Well, the songwriting process in Fishbone, sometimes some members come in with their own songs. Sometimes we make up songs that are just band collaborations. And that's been some of the issues lately. Norwood had some songs before that he contributed to the band, and they sound good. And I had some lyrics that I put to some songs that we were able to put together on the last release, which is called Crazy Glue.
Songfacts: Wasn't Crazy Glue an EP?
Angelo: Yeah. Crazy Glue was the EP. But the next record, we don't know when it's coming out, but we're going to have one coming once we do some catch up on songwriting. There are a couple of songs I've been waiting to do in Fishbone that we've been having trouble manifesting, so we're going to make sure those songs get manifested so that we can continue to step out there again and everybody can be satisfied within the band.
Songfacts: And could you give some titles of songs that the band's working on right now?
Angelo: We're going to start playing "Fishbone is Red Hot Again." And then we got this other song coming out called "Road Dogs in the Can of Ill Repute." It's about a band, just any band, that tours in a van. They get in a van, they tour, they crumple up into this real tight little can on wheels. A 16 passenger van, and you've got 10 people crumpled up with some suitcases, and everybody's in their own little pod with laptops and iPhones. Some people are smoking, some people got headphones on, everybody closes off.
Then by the time you finally get there over hill and dale, you get to become super hero for one whole hour. And after that you get back in the van and ride five or six hours again. [Laughing] Lord have mercy. Man, I just sat in with this band, the Dave Miller Band or something like that. They got a girl trombone player. I can't remember the name of the band, but we went on tour with them. We were on tour with them about four or five days in the South on the last Fishbone tour, and they're on the road for like three months in a van. And there's five of 'em.
So they're going to reach that spiritual plane, like Gandhi. They're young and they're doing it, and that's good. They're building that road muscle up in that music. They can really play that music and translate it properly, and give it the proper spiritual nourishment that all music should have. Those tours really pull that out of you.
Songfacts: Let's discuss some of Fishbone's classic songs. "Party at Ground Zero," what do you remember about the writing and recording of that song?
Angelo: Well, with "Party at Ground Zero," we started it out in the bedroom, Norwood and Fish's [drummer Phil Fisher] bedroom at their mom's house down in LA, around La Cienega and Cadillac - that's the aquarium. So I don't know who started playing that horn part, but somebody started playing it. Kendall wrote the lyrics, and he wrote the music. Norwood wrote a change, I wrote that change, [singing] "That Fishbone is here to say," I wrote that part. Kendall wrote all the other words, that [singing], "Johnny, go get your gun, I'm going to party at Ground Zero," he wrote that part, too. I think Norwood wrote a piece in there.
Yeah, so it's just like while we're noodling around, some shit'll come up and then we keep repeating it, and before you know it, you've got some kind of riff going on. Then somebody'll go, "Hey, let's add this here," and they just sing a little riff or something and then we go into that part. We play it from where we started and we go off into that different riff that somebody else has made up. Before you know it, you got a song.
Songfacts: And what about the song "Bonin' in the Boneyard"?
Angelo: "Bonin' in the Boneyard," that was about having sex, man. Bonin'. Everybody in high school, all the guys, they want to get the pussy. They want to bone. You know, got me bonin'. I remember David Kahne [Fishbone's producer] was in the studio writing about that: My pole is in your hole, got me bonin', man. We were just sittin' around clownin' and writing it down. Oh, the gold rush.
Angelo takes a tangent...
It's funny, I'm over at my friend's house. Ricky Quick, his name is DJ Ricky Quick. We grew up, man, we've been knowing each other since seven years old in Woodland Hills, and so he was around before Fishbone was even in existence. He grew up to be a millionaire family man in the hills of Glendale, I grew up to be a rock star. And now we're seeing each other's lives from the whole other spectrum.
When Fishbone formed that was in Hale Junior High Elementary. DJ Quick said that Philip [Fish's real name] used to sock him in the jaw. He liked hittin' people. He was a real good drummer and that's about it.
Songfacts: What about "Everyday Sunshine." What do you remember about the writing and recording of that?
Angelo: "Everyday Sunshine," that's a Sly Stone influenced song. Chris Dowd [original keyboard/trombone player] wrote that one. He wrote the first half and I wrote the end. It was a church-style song. We were just going into it, man. Because back then we were emulating a lot of our favorite bands: The Specials, Sly Stone, Funkadelic, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, all those people. All those different styles would pop up while we were doing different jams. Rick James was another one. We be playing Rick James up in there.
Songfacts: Something that's discussed in the documentary, which I also totally agree with, is how surprising it was that "Everyday Sunshine" wasn't a huge hit when it came out.
Angelo: Yeah. Well, you know, I'm surprised a lot of shit didn't become a hit. But, you know, when I think about the music business and I think about white privilege in America, I feel like it probably has something to do with it. I'm not stuck on it like I was, but it definitely is a factor. We were an all-black band playing rock & roll and controversial music right along with R&B and pop, but America is a segregated culture and country, unfortunately. And so it has an effect on the music, too.
Once we started going overseas, we got a better reception. There wasn't so much politics in the music business, and people accepted eclectic music. America's pretty linear, and in Europe and Japan it's not. Especially Europe.
Songfacts: That was something that I've always loved about Fishbone, is that Fishbone touched upon a variety of different styles. It wasn't just stuck on a single style.
Angelo: Yeah. That's right, man. Because it's all out there. All the music you listen to on the radio. You don't just listen to one station, you listen to a whole bunch of stations. Especially if your ear's open like that.
Songfacts: That's something that I definitely give Fishbone props for. Because especially back in the '80s, heavy metal bands didn't really go outside their comfort zone, and R&B bands didn't play rock music. So that's something I really give Fishbone a lot of credit for, for touching upon a lot of different styles when there weren't those many bands doing it. I saw that as an extension of Sly and the Family Stone.
Angelo: Yeah, well, Sly Stone is definitely one of them. We touch on a lot. We originated in R&B and funk and soul and stuff like that. But then later on the ska and the reggae came along - we started discovering that in the '80s. I myself, grew up with a lot of soul and jazz.
Songfacts: And then a song like "Sunless Saturday" is a very heavy, almost hard rock/metal song.
Angelo: Yeah. That's almost like [sings "Carry On Wayward Son"]. Who was that?
Angelo: Is that the Eagles?
Songfacts: No, Kansas.
Angelo: That was Kansas? Okay. Kansas or... who did Kendall like? Styx, Journey, Foreigner...
Songfacts: Rush he was a fan of.
Angelo: That's right, the guy with the high squiggly voice. So that was like a Rush inspired song, too.
Songfacts: At the end of the documentary it's kind of hinted that maybe in the future the original lineup could get back together. Is that something that you'd still like to see happen and what are the chances of that happening?
Angelo: I always leave the possibilities open. It's hard enough keeping the band alive now. I can't even entertain the original lineup getting back together, because Fishbone is barely alive now, even though we still play. Fishbone is on life support.
I've got to make light of it, man. I have to make a little comedy out of it just to keep it all nice, to make sure I can laugh about it all in the end. Because being in the business this long without stopping is tough, and then you've got to get along with the other guys in the band. Some quit, some come back. Keep on steppin'. Kick rocks and keep moving, soldier.
Songfacts: But it always seems like Fishbone finds a way to carry on in the end.
Angelo: Yeah. Seems like it, huh? I guess that's what we're doing.
Songfacts: Another great song was "Ma & Pa." What do you remember about the writing and recording of that?
Angelo: "Ma & Pa," that's about my mom and dad. My mom and dad were going through a divorce at the time and I was up in my room writing it down, just writing down what was going on. I brought it to rehearsal, the lyrics. Kendall and Norwood had some musical riffs that they had put together, and the lyrics fit right in there. They fit right in, and "Hey, that's a song right there."
Songfacts: Like a lot of fans, I'm curious to see what Fishbone's next album is going to sound like and how everything's going to turn out.
Angelo: Yeah, we're going to put something out there and it's going to sound good. It's been simmering for a long time. Like a good pot of soul food, like a good pot of gumbo, man. Let it simmer for a long time. Then when you finally serve it up, everybody's just hooked.
Now, remember this, I got a CD called Angelo Show, it's my solo CD.
Songfacts: Tell me about that.
Angelo: It brings you the Angelo Show, the Olegna phenomena, Olegna is Angelo spelled backwards. I got 17 songs on there and I'm playing everything. I'm playing drums, bass, sax, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano, keyboard, percussion, background and lead vocals.
I did that off of Kickstarter, so I got T-shirts to go with it. The single is called "Optimistic Yes," which I believe was the second song on the CD. And then I got a video for it that I did in New York with Raised Fist Propaganda Productions - you can see it on YouTube.
And then I got a Web site, go to drmadvibe.com. I got this thing called Storytime Theatre where I got my extended stories from the songs on the CD. You go in there, drop in a dollar or two, and you can listen to the stories. And I got comic books. I got a record company, MooreMapp Records, we put out a lot of artists. And me and my partner named Keno Mapp, "Officer Mapp," we put out 10, 15 artists on our label already. We got a literary department we just opened up called Wondernote Publishing. So the musicians who want to write their books, they can put their books out.
Oh, yeah, I got a book coming out, too. It's called Angelo's So Booked. So that's another one that's in the making. And I got a Japanese release that I'm finalizing that I'm going to release some time in November, like 11 songs. Half are covers and half are originals. I'm doing it with this girl out of Baltimore. And this other one I'm doing with Kris Jensen is called Brand New Step by Angelo Moore. That's coming out of San Francisco, and that's like 11 songs.
September 29, 2013.
Get more Fishbone at fishbone.net.