Fishbone is an American rock band formed in 1979 in Los Angeles, California, which plays a fusion of ska, punk rock, funk, hard rock and soul. Critics have noted of the band: "Fishbone was one of the most distinctive and eclectic alternative rock bands of the late '80s. With their hyperactive, self-conscious diversity, goofy sense of humor, and sharp social commentary, the group gained a sizable cult following during the late '80s, yet they were never able to earn a mainstream audience."
Fishbone first assembled in 1979 with John Norwood Fisher (bass); his brother Phillip "Fish" Fisher (drums); Angelo Moore, who sometimes uses the stage name "Dr. Madd Vibe" (vocals, saxophones ranging from sopranino to bass, theremin); Kendall Jones (guitar); "Dirty" Walter A. Kibby II (vocals, trumpet); and Christopher Dowd, who sometimes uses the pseudonym "Charlie Down" (keyboards, trombone, vocals). Founding members John Norwood Fisher, Angelo Moore, and Walter Kibby remain with the band as of 2014.
Early career (1979-1987):
Fishbone got started in 1979 as a "disparate, all-black oddball crew" when the members were in junior high school. The Fisher brothers, Jones, Dowd, and Kibby were all from South Central Los Angeles and were included in a school busing program that sent them daily to the San Fernando Valley, where they met Moore, who was native to the area. After first using the name Megatron with Titus Norris on vocals, the sextet adopted the name Fishbone and formed a unique stew of different styles that became popular in the Los Angeles club scene and was a great influence on several subsequent alternative bands. They were close friends with Los Angeles bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Thelonious Monster. Fishbone were signed to Columbia Records in 1983 after being spotted at a club gig by producer David Kahne. Their first release was the 1985 single "Party at Ground Zero", followed by a self-titled EP, Fishbone. In 1987, in support of their first full-length album, In Your Face, the band performed "Jamaica Ska" in the Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon reunion movie Back to the Beach. Fishbone's first major international tour was as the opening act for the Beastie Boys.
Rise to fame (1988-1994):
Fishbone was mostly considered to be a ska and funk band in their early years, but later became more guitar-driven with a focus on rock and soul music. The 1988 album Truth and Soul brought Fishbone wide critical acclaim. With this album, the band also added left-leaning social commentary to their lyrics, covering important topics such as the breakup of families, early 1990s racism, fascism, nuclear war, and oppression in lower income housing projects. The album was highlighted by a hard rock-inspired version of Curtis Mayfield's classic "Freddie's Dead" from the film Super Fly. The music video, directed by Douglas Gayeton, became the band's first hit on MTV. That same year, the group toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and became nationally known in the burgeoning alternative music scene. Also that year, Fishbone and Little Richard recorded the Lead Belly song "Rock Island Line" for the tribute album Folkways: A Vision Shared.
The band added former Miles Davis sideman John Bigham on guitar and keyboards in 1989. The 1991 album The Reality of My Surroundings was a critical and commercial success, reaching #49 on the Billboard albums chart. One month before the album's release, the group played a memorable performance on Saturday Night Live of "Sunless Saturday," a song which later featured an MTV video directed by Spike Lee. The song "Everyday Sunshine" also became a modest hit on radio and MTV.
While the band retained their roots in funk and ska, the 1993 album Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe included songs with hard rock, punk, and heavy metal elements. At the time of the album's release, the band began to tear apart internally. Just before Fishbone joined the 1993 Lollapalooza tour, guitarist Kendall Jones, reportedly suffering from mental instability, quit the band and joined a religious group. Bassist John Norwood Fisher tracked Jones down in the belief that he needed rescue from the religious group, only to be charged with attempted kidnapping; Fisher was acquitted at trial. A benefit concert to help with Fisher's legal expenses featured Porno for Pyros, Primus, Tool, and Alice in Chains. Keyboardist Christopher Dowd left Fishbone in 1994 and released an album titled Puzzle in 1997 under the name The Seedy Arkhestra, with various guests including Jeff Buckley and N'Dea Davenport. The album included an anti-Fishbone song called "Flog Your Dead Horse."
Post-Sony years (1995-2002):
Now a five-piece, Fishbone was dropped by Sony Records (formerly Columbia) in 1995, upon presenting their next album. The band added more heavy metal and hardcore punk influences to their sound on the 1996 concept album Chim Chim's Badass Revenge, released by Rowdy Records and produced by Dallas Austin. The album did well in the underground music scene, but went largely unnoticed by the general public, peaking at just #158 on the Billboard albums chart. In 1996, the band contributed to the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization. In 1998 the band lost another founding member, drummer Phillip "Fish" Fisher, who became a session drummer and later appeared in the heavy metal band Wicked Wisdom. After brief periods with various drummers, the position was filled definitively by John Steward. John Bigham also left the band during this period to pursue his own career, later founding the band The Soul of John Black; Bigham was replaced by former Sound Barrier and Mother's Finest guitarist Tracey "Spacey T" Singleton. After a short stint by keyboardist Anthony Brewster, John McKnight (from Ben Harper's band) joined on keyboards, trombone, and guitar. During the latter part of the 1990s, Fishbone was without a recording contract and earned their keep through constant touring.
Fishbone maintained their dedicated fan base and achieved another major record deal with Hollywood Records in 2000. They were given the chance to record a new album with several special guests, including H.R. of Bad Brains, Gwen Stefani, George Clinton, Rick James, Donny Osmond, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The resulting album, Fishbone and the Familyhood Nextperience Present: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx, was a critical success, but saw poor sales. The band was dropped from Hollywood Records and headed back on the road. John McKnight left the band in 2001, and the group continued on as a five-piece. In 2002, on their own independent record label, they released Live at the Temple Bar and More which contained all brand new original material recorded live throughout 2001 and 2002. This was later complemented by a live CD/DVD, Live in Amsterdam, containing most of their hits and filmed at the 2002 Cannabis Cup Festival in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Recent history (2003-present):
In late 2003 Fishbone lost another founding member when Walter Kibby left the band (he returned in 2010). Guitarist Tracy Singleton departed as well. Kibby and Singleton later formed the band Year of the Dragon, releasing the albums A Time to Love Is a Time to Bleed (2006) and Blunt Force Karma (2009). Kibby has also released two albums with his band Dirty Walt & The Columbus Sanitation, To Put It Bluntly (2000) and Still Smokin' (2009). Kibby and Singleton recorded tracks with Swade G (Kibby's younger brother Wade Antonio Kibby) for the album Ghetto Life (2010).
After the 2003 departure of Kibby and Singleton, the last two founding members John Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore, along with drummer John Steward, restarted Fishbone with Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies and Tori Ruffin of The Time on guitars (though Ruffin left soon thereafter), and Dre Gipson on keyboards. In 2005 John McKnight returned on trombone and guitar. Trumpet players during this period were PaDre Holmes, Fernando Pullum, Mervin Campbell, and Curtis Storey. The line-up of Fisher, Moore, Steward, George, Gipson, Storey, and McKnight recorded the studio album Still Stuck In Your Throat with producer David Kahne, who had worked on the band's early albums. The album was released in October 2006 in Europe, and in April 2007 in the United States. Music videos were recorded for the cover song "Date Rape" by Sublime, and for the song "Let Dem Ho's Fight."
In 2008 and 2009, departed original members Walter Kibby, Christopher Dowd, and Kendall Jones joined Fishbone on stage on various occasions, most notably for the shoot of the Pepsi "Pass" commercial, which aired in January 2009. In April 2008, Stephan Kraemer directed the shoot of a live CD/DVD recorded in Bordeaux, France. The DVD Fishbone Live was released on May 10, 2009.
In late January 2010, John McKnight again left Fishbone. During this period original member Walter Kibby returned on trumpet and vocals. During the Winter 2011 tour, Tom "Tom-Bone" Ralls, formerly of Weapon of Choice, filled in on trombone. Tori Ruffin also briefly returned to play guitar in place of Rocky George, who was unable to tour. After the tour, Jay Armant, a former student of Fernando Pullum, joined as the new trombone player.
Fishbone released a seven-track EP titled Crazy Glue on October 11, 2011.
Current and former members of the band were deeply involved in the making of the documentary film Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne and featuring interviews with Les Claypool, Gwen Stefani, Flea, Branford Marsalis, George Clinton, Ice-T, and Gogol Bordello, the film debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19, 2010. The film has screened at more than 100 film festivals in twenty countries, winning 12 awards for Best Documentary. One of the top-reviewed documentaries of 2011-2012, the film has a certified fresh ranking of 100% on RottenTomatoes.com and was nominated for a Golden Tomato Award. The film was rolled out in United States theaters nationwide with bookings in over seventy-five cities, including extended runs in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, plus week-long engagements in 20+ cities including Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Kansas City. A DVD was released by The Cinema Guild on February 21, 2012 and received a national TV broadcast on the public television series AfroPoP.
In February 2013, keyboardist Dre Gipson left the band after nine years to focus on a new project called Hunter Green. Fishbone was in the midst of a US tour, and reggae musician Freddie Flint filled in temporarily on keyboards. In July 2013, John Norwood Fisher announced in an interview that Paul Hampton (formerly of The Skeletones) is Fishbone's new keyboardist.
In February 2014, federal judge Jan E. DuBois ruled that Fishbone had to pay $1.4 million to a woman who broke her skull and collarbone during a 2010 concert in Philadelphia when Angelo Moore stage-dove and landed on top of her.
A 5-track EP titled Intrinsically Intertwined was released on April 22, 2014.
Film and television appearances:
Angelo Moore appeared briefly in the 1984 movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.,
In 1985, Angelo Moore and Walter Kibby appeared in the Eurythmics video "Would I Lie To You?",
Angelo Moore appeared in the 1986 music video for Do Fries Go with That Shake? by George Clinton.,
The band is featured in the 1987 movie Back to the Beach, performing a rendition of "Jamaica Ska" with Annette Funicello singing lead vocals.,
Fishbone appears in the 1988 John Cusack/Tim Robbins film Tapeheads as "Ranchbone" in the bar scene, playing the song "Slow Bus Movin' (Howard Beach Party)". They supplied an incidental score for the film as well.,
In the 1988 blaxploitation-spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, members of Fishbone appear on the street as hecklers of Antonio Fargas' character Flyguy, and also as a back-up band.,
In 1994 Fishbone plays "Let The Good Times Roll" in the Chuck Russell film The Mask. Fishbone is also on The Mask soundtrack.,
Fishbone is mentioned by Janeane Garofalo as the musical guest on February 12, 1997 episode of The Larry Sanders Show titled "Pain Equals Funny.",
Angelo Moore, John Norwood Fisher, and John Steward appear in the 2006 film Idlewild as members of the band led by Rooster, the character played by Big Boi of OutKast.,
In 2007 Fishbone appeared in the David Arquette movie The Tripper.,
Fishbone shirts were often featured in movies and TV throughout the late '80's and early '90's, mostly as fashion choices by actors who were fans.,
Marlon Wayans (in the role of Seymour Stewart) wears a Fishbone T-shirt in Mo' Money (1992).,
The characters Freddie and Lena of A Different World wore the shirts (both are fans).,
John Cusack wears a Fishbone shirt in the film Say Anything.... (In that movie's iconic "boombox" scene, Cusack is actually blasting Fishbone from the radio. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" was added later).,
In the movie Bull Durham, Tim Robbins' character Ebby "Nuke" Laloosh is wearing a Fishbone T-shirt with his suit while giving his first interview after getting called up to the big leagues.,
In 2010's Hot Tub Time Machine, Cusack pulls out and clearly advertises a black T-shirt with the band's logo from his character's suitcase.,
In the TV show Northern Exposure, Ed Chigliak (Darren E. Burrows) is frequently spotted with a Fishbone shirt under his leather jacket.,
Early episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 had scenes filmed against a set of lockers that featured a Fishbone sticker in almost every shot.,
On November 21, 2011, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was played on to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to the Fishbone song "Lyin' Ass Bitch". The Roots drummer Questlove later explained that the playing of the song was "tongue in cheek." Fallon and the NBC network later apologized.,
In the video for the Ramones song "I Believe in Miracles" the band's name appears as part of the scrolling text on the upper and lower part of the screen.,
For a complete list and timeline, see List of Fishbone members.
Angelo Moore - vocals, saxophones, theremin, percussion (1979-present),
John Norwood Fisher - bass, vocals (1979-present),
"Dirty" Walter A. Kibby II - trumpet, vocals (1979-2003, 2010-present),
John Steward - drums (1999-present),
Rocky George - guitar (2003-present),
Jay Armant - trombone, vocals (2011-present),
Paul Hampton - keyboards (2013-present),
Kendall Jones (1979-1993) - guitar, vocals,
Chris Dowd (1979-1994) - keyboards, trombone, vocals,
John "JB" Bigham (1989-1997) - guitar, keyboards,
Philip "Fish" Fisher (1979-1998) - drums,
Anthony Brewster (1997-1998) - keyboards,
Dion Murdock (1998-1999) - drums,
Tracey "Spacey T" Singleton (1997-2003) - guitars,
Curtis Storey (2005--2007) - trumpet, vocals,
André "PaDre" Holmes (2004-2005, 2007-2008) - trumpet, guitar, vocals,
John McKnight (1998-2001, 2005-2011) - keyboards, trombone, guitar,
Dre Gipson - keyboards, vocals (2004-2013),
Torrell (Tori) Ruffin (sporadically, 2004-2011) - guitar,
Freddie Flint (2013) - keyboards
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license