Fishbone started as a group of six high school buddies who, instead of picking and choosing between influences, decided to channel them all: Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Dead Kennedys and everyone in between. But when Columbia Records signed Fishbone and released its debut EP in 1985, it struggled to market the band.
Columbia eventually dropped Fishbone, even though bands like No Doubt, Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers catapulted to mainstream success while bearing Fishbone’s influence. But tonight the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone makes its American Public Television debut. Bassist Norwood Fisher, one of three original members left, reflected on some of those defining moments in Fishbone’s 25-year career: what sparked its initial, infectious camaraderie and the painful fracturing of the band’s founding line-up.
1. Watching Los Angeles neighbors join gangs
I understood. Actually, there was a point where I might have considered it. I remember some of the cats who were musicians that ended up being in neighborhood gangs, and I remember those guys coming over to my house. One of them would hang out with other gangs in front of the local school, and it sounded like a fun time. I wasn’t about it all the time; it was just something that I didn’t mind doing. And I kept wondering, “What would happen if I tagged along?” Then punk rock gave me another option.
2. Seeing Parliament perform live
Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins – no matter how many times I’d seen them perform, I still knew that I was getting something I’m gonna love.
I was a fan of that band from a very young age. The first time I got to see them in 1978, I got to see the real Mothership land. When I think back on it, what I get from P-Funk was that it was 100 percent — it was the blackest thing you could get, and they ain’t making no apologies for how black it was. He built his own spaceship.
3. Having Fishbone songs still resonate today
Sometimes if you write a song, you don’t know how it’s going to apply. There’s a couple of songs that I wrote where I was basically trying to attach it to a feeling, but they weren’t outward feelings. I wrote a song called “Gittin’ in That Ass,” and there’s another song called “Akkafoo.” Both of those songs are about generalized frustration. I was trying not to point directly at anybody, but after the fact, after the time it was released, these songs actually echo America’s frustrations right now.
4. Working through disagreements, then moving on
Actually on the current record, the title track is “Crazy Glue.” I think word for word, [lead singer Angelo Moore] actually captured the essence of his — of our relationship, between he and I as a band. It’s so on point that I can’t argue with it.
We have these breakdowns. Sometimes they go on for long periods of time, and it’s not easy to work through them. But the bottom line is, we both recognize what’s important: the art and that attempt to make great art. So we compromise. We bend. We work through those times, in effort to keep the legacy of Fishbone alive. We both see it as important; that’s why we’re a band that doesn’t go around and play the oldies, man. We still try to push forward into the future and hopefully push boundaries.
5. Being an uncategorical band from the the start
At this point in my life looking back, that gives me a good sense of pride. We’re fans of fully expressed artistic freedom. We were making the choice to be vanguards every step of the way, and if that makes us difficult for people to categorize, then I think we’ve done our job well.
Everyday Sunshine arrives February 1 at the iTunes store and on DVD February 22.
Watch the original video for “Everyday Sunshine” here: