Fishbone Pack Upcoming Album With Guest Artists

Eclectic group enlists help from George Clinton, Perry Farrell, Flea, Gwen Stefani, others.

Fishbone's upcoming album Fishbone & the Familyhood Nextperience Presents: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx comes with a guest list that's as long and convoluted as its title.

Pitching in on the LP — which comes out March 21 — are funk legend George Clinton; Bad Brains' H.R.; Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell; the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith; No Doubt's Gwen Stefani; Bronx Style Bob; X-rated soul singer Blowfly; and Charles and Ivan Neville.

"It's such a bigger album than the band Fishbone," bassist Norwood Fisher said. "When you get Donny Osmond and Rick James on the same CD, man, that's happening."

Fishbone, who were spawned from the same anti-new-wave/anti-hair-band Orange County, Calif., scene as the Chili Peppers, broke into radio with the 1985 hit "Party at Ground Zero" (RealAudio excerpt), from their self-titled debut EP.

And though their groundbreaking concoction of punk, soul, reggae, jazz, blues and funk never enjoyed the commercial success of today's rock hybrids, Fishbone's nine albums and captivating live shows have won the band an enormous underground fanbase.

"I think that we finally made a record that was in time and not ahead of its time," Fisher said. "I don't mind being ahead of time, but it was time to make a pit stop in the present."

A Heavy Title

Unlike past albums, the new one boasts a steady flow of funk and only skims the surface of some of their past hardcore moments. "Shakey Ground" kicks off the album with all of the soul and kinetic energy of Sly & the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On" and features assistance from both Flea and Funkadelic member Billy "Bass" Nelson.

"There may be things we didn't make very prevalent on this record, like, you know, real heavy tunes," Fisher said.

But they did give it a heavy title. Something Clinton had his own ideas about.

"He gave me some pretty cool titles," Fisher said, laughing. "Prozactivated. Now that's just going to be a word in my vocabulary. He also said, call it Viagravated Assault. That's clever. Those may be used in the future."

But for now, the boisterous funk posse that formed at a Los Angeles junior high more than 20 years ago has settled on an album title that fits Fishbone's foibles.

"The title represents the fact that all great art comes with a tinge of lunacy," Fisher said. "Some of my best jokes are friends. All of that is in there. ... It's a nod out there to all of the people who stayed with us throughout the years."

Reconnecting With Roots

John Dee, the Hollywood Records executive who signed the band in the early '80s, said Fishbone & the Familyhood Nextperience Presents gets back to the band's soulful roots.

"I'm an old-school Fishbone fan; I got into them when I was really young," Dee said. "So this has been about going back to what excited me as a fan. Underlying all their music is traditional soul and funk music, which they've been pretty far away from on the past couple records."

The new album marks the introduction of three new members: guitarist Spacey T, trumpeter John McKnight and drummer John Steward. It's also the first recording that features charismatic frontman Angelo Moore hiding behind drums, on the upbeat "Karma Tsunami."

As Santana's multiplatinum Supernatural proved, big-name guest artists can provide a way for older bands to reconnect with fans — and Fishbone would be more than pleased to achieve the same results. But, either way, they know their mark on music was etched years ago.

"Fishbone most definitely was part of something that paved the way for what is acceptable now in music," Fisher said. "When we started, somebody said that s--- is nuts. ... Nobody else was doing it how we were doing it, and taking a stance how we were taking it. There were other people around us who were knocking down barriers, but no one actually mixed it up quite the way that Fishbone did."