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Jeff Moehlis: Party at Ground Zero With Fishbone

Catch the eclectic band at Velvet Jones on Saturday night.

Fishbone will bring a catalog of eclectic jams to Velvet Jones Saturday, Feb. 6.
Fishbone will bring a catalog of eclectic jams to Velvet Jones Saturday, Feb. 6. (Marc Millman photo)

"Eclectic" is a word that often gets thrown around by lazy music journalists trying to describe a band, but it's truly the right word for describing Fishbone, who will perform at Velvet Jones Saturday, Feb. 6.  

Tickets are available here.

Fishbone has been throwing ska, funk, hard rock, soul and more into the mix for over three decades. 

To get a sense of their diversity (and overflowing talent) listen to "Party at Ground Zero," "Sunless Saturday" and "Everyday Sunshine" and try to wrap your head around the fact that these were all recorded by the same band —​ and that's just scratching the surface

The current line-up for Fishbone includes original vocalist and sax man Angelo Moore (aka Dr. Madd Vibe), bassist Norwood Fisher and trumpeter Dirty Walt.  

Fisher talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and the early days of the band. The full interview is available here

                                                                 •        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming show?

Norwood Fisher: We're going to come through and give a full retrospective musically. We change what we play from night to night on some level.  

It's not necessary to play something off of every recording, but it is absolutely like you get a full sense of the history of the band, and you get plenty of current material.

You know, we come, we bring the A-game, man. The musicianship is as high as we can ratchet it up.  

We're going to bring you the stage show and give physically as much as we can, in hopes that the audience receives it and gives it back to us, and we just keep rising higher.

JM: I'm guessing that it's hard for you to believe, but Fishbone's first recordings were released about 30 years ago. What was the LA music scene like when you were working on those, and what are your reflections on those first recordings.

NF: We had an amazing energy, a youthful exuberance that got captured on that first EP. We're very fortunate that the things that we laid down there kind of influenced a generation of musicians, and that influenced another generation.  

With the exception of some very specific subject matter, a lot of it is still relevant, for better or for worse. 

It feels amazing to be able to say that, to be able to know that there are people who are still discovering the band, and the gateway a lot of times is still "Party at Ground Zero." 

It makes for an incredible ride.

JM: I understand that back in the early days Fishbone had some kindred spirits in bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, a little later, Jane's Addiction. What was it like interacting with those guys when you all were just starting to become known as bands?

NF: It was a great time in music in Southern California. There was music all over California, actually.  

We came in just after that initial burst of California punk rock. Some of the more popular bands like Fear, the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, X, all of those bands laid the groundwork before we came up.  

We stood on that, and enjoyed the freedom that they kind of stood on the barbed wire and pushed the boundaries for.

With those bands like Chili Peppers and later Jane's Addiction, The Untouchables, it felt good to have bands that you could respect. We were all in a mutual admiration club.

And then there was some friendly competition, because we were all trying to take it to the stage and make it amazing. It was great for audiences, you know?  It felt good, it felt good.  

Most of those bands at some level, everybody that I mentioned, we still have some kind of connection to them and consider them friends. Thelonious Monster, as well.

JM: Are there any crazy tour stories that you're willing to share from that time? I know that in the 1980s you toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beastie Boys.

NF: You know what? It was wild. There was no social media, so you could do certain things and maybe the charges wouldn't be so severe [laughs] as they are today.  

There was a lot of nudity. The Chili Peppers, we ran around naked a lot, like in hotels, jumping in pools naked, being onstage naked. You'd have a sex offender charge right now [laughs].

JM: Is it safe to say that there won't be any nudity when you play here in Santa Barbara?

NF: Yeah, you know that nudity thing don't quite work the same.

JM: One of the things that the fans like about Fishbone is that you guys play in such a diverse set of styles. Where does that come from? What drove the band to keep exploring new things?

NF: Musically it was a fertile time. A lot of things were brand new, and for us personally maybe it represented our record collections.  

There were some people who had, like, one thing in their record collection — "I only listen to metal" or "I only listen to soul" or "I only listen to jazz." 

Most people that we knew had diverse record collections. For us, in my mind, it was totally natural, because we were just playing what felt right to us.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future? Are you guys talking about recording some new stuff?

NF: Yeah, we've been writing new material. Hopefully we'll have a new release, and have some new surprises, explore some different areas, keep on trying to create something that's never been done before.  

Whether we are successful or not, you be the judge. But we just keep trying, and that's what keeps it interesting for us.  

Ultimately, we stay creative and we've got a lot of options before us, and we plan on exploring them all.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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