Fishbone has been around for three decades and show no sign of slowing down with their brand of funk and musical hysteria. Hot off a US tour with The English Beat, the band recently released a live CD/DVD called Live in Bordeaux. ReadJunk journalist in the field, Ray Manuud, delivers this latest installment of Q&A featuring Fishbone founding member and bassist, Norwood Fisher. Read on as Norwood discusses his thoughts on music, slap bass, and messages from outer space.
Fishbone’s influence is deeply rooted in ska and funk, how did this mutual interest in these types of music bring you all together?
Fishbone is a band that was, very fortunately, brought together for the love of music in general. The dominant influence and common thread for the original line up would be Parliament/Funkadelic. Together, we turn each other on to a vast universe of musical discovery. And I really thought that we invented Ska, until Dirty Walt brought in The Selector and English Beat on cassette. He was hip, I didn’t know shit!
What were your biggest influences in regards to ska and reggae?
Early on, we were mostly influenced by reggae. Like I said, I personally knew nothing of Ska, at least at first. The black radio stations in L.A. had been playing some Bob Marley, then Steel Pulse and Black Uhuru. Peter Tosh was iconic as well, having performed on SNL with The Rolling Stones. Those were our early reggae influences. We sped up the reggae beat, and I thought we invented a punk/reggae hybrid, that we needed to name immediately. Walt straightened me out and introduced us all to Two Tone.
Were you turned on more by the roots and ska’s first wave or through the UK’s interpretation with the 2 tone era?
The 2 tone bands and other English ska bands inspired us to dig deeper to find the Jamaican ska bands that started it all. The idea that this music had its roots in blackness was a source of pride and inspiration.
What do you make of Fishbone’s three decade cultural impact in pop culture? Seems like there are always younger kids discovering Fishbone everyday.
We were 14 years old thirty years ago. We didn’t begin to make a cultural impact, until at least 1985, when our first record came out! So, 25 years ago, and our cultural impact is still being felt, through the power of the current line up, through the various bands we’ve influenced that have become taste-makers themselves. Then there are the bands that they’ve influenced that eventually discover us, and then bands that they’ve influenced, and some of them have no idea who Fishbone is, and some don’t give a fuck! It’s nice to be a new band to people after all this time, is the main thing. We just toured with The English Beat, and there was discovery on all levels on that tour! 25-50 year olds, that had never heard of Fishbone, along side die-hard ska fanatics that are fully aware of what a Fishbone is. Parents bringing their kids, kids turning their parents on to Fishbone! I feel privileged to have this experience.
How much current ska, reggae, soul, and funk do you still listen to or is it just something that you simply play?
I am a fan of music but I do find myself stuck in the oldies sometimes. I find it easier to find and follow current ska and reggae artist. Quality funk and soul can be hard to come by.
Ska and funk has made a periodical return to mainstream or commercial success in the past but for the most part stays below the mainstream radar though still holding its place in the music sub-culture. Thoughts on the future of ska and funk and its place in this century?
In my opinion, all forms of music have to evolve. Grown ups usually don’t like the evolution that different styles of music grow into, but eventually it all boils down to song writing anyway and parents find something they can groove to in their kids collection. And by the way, grown up means “Those that have stopped growing”, not adults. Some forms of music, in order to evolve, must go back to the roots, to discover the nuances that were looked over, to fuel the necessary evolution.
Do you ever make yourself dizzy from looking at your hands while fanning the bass?
That depends on how much I might have had to drink before the show, but that was long ago.
Do your hands ever get numb from years of slap bass?
There is something to that question, but not really is the answer.
Worst hand injury from playing the bass?
Blisters in the fun, wide open and oozing!
Thoughts on the upright bass?
It will be my personal gift to myself, with the next major influx of cash.
What is Norwood spinning these days, music-wise?
I’m really into Gogol Bordello, Viva Voce, Westbound Train, Outlaw Nation, The Swellers, The Thermals
What type of messages does the sacred antennae pick up?
The dream is the royal road to the sea of the unconscious.
Astonishing wisdom revealed is in dreams
The unconscious operates beyond the categories of time and space
A future event sometimes casts it’s shadow backwards
We circumambulate the things that are beyond our ability to fully grasp in our descriptions.
What does the world need more of today?
More youth rebellion/revelation songs!
The fuel of discovery!
Check out Fishbone.net for all things Fishbone. Listen to their music at MySpace, or perhaps follow them on Twitter here. Also, be sure to pick up their live album as well! Thanks to Norwood for answering some questions too!