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Fishbone

Biography

Fishbone (1980-present): a Funk Metal band from Los Angeles, California, USA.

F

ormed by school buddies Angelo Moore (vocals/sax), Kendall Jones (guitar/vocals), Walter A. Kibby II (vocals), Chris Dowd (trombone/keyboards), John Norwood Fisher (bass/vocals), Philip 'Fish' Fisher (drums) and Charlie Down (guitar). Using a variety of musical styles including funk, jazz, ska and then later (after leaving 'Columbia' (now 'Sony Music') in 1995 began to incorporate heavy metal and hard rock while influenced by Bad Brains, Sex Pistols and Duke Elington but later drifted more into the soul music direction. Fishbone initially displayed their eclectic style at live shows supporting the likes of Dead Kennedys (Norwood getting stabbed at one show). The shows were noted for the wacky hairdo of Angelo who played saxophone while doing back flips, and later in their career he was known to play completely naked, although his sax usually hid his essentials.

Their self-titled debut EP, Columbia (1985), should have brought them commercial notice, but acts like Living Color and Red Hot Chili Peppers were offering much stronger competition and gaining much wider attention. In Your Face (1986) followed and proved to be an improvement on their previous effort, but it still failed to achieve its goal of market success.

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Their third set, Truth And Soul, came in the fall of 1988 and managed to nudge the US charts at 9 mostly on the strength of their version of Curtis Mayfield's Heddies's Dead and Ma & Pa, the latter featuring Bonin' In The Boneyard on the flip-side. Indeed, Truth and Soul brought Fishbone wide critical acclaim. With this album, the band also added left-leaning social commentary to their lyrics, covering topics such as the breakup of families, contemporary racism, fascism, nuclear war, and oppression in lower income housing projects.

After touring, Fishbone returned with a new guitarist, John Bigham to replace the departing Down to play on their follow-up, The Reality Of My Surroundings (1991). This Sly Stone-influenced set got them some attention and a US 49/UK 75 was their reward powered greatly by the Everyday Sunshine track getting 60 UK on its own. But the band's party was cut short for just before the release of the next album, the band began to tear apart internally. Just before Fishbone joined the 1993 Lollapalooza tour, Jones was accused of mental instability and quit the band, moving to Northern California. Bassist John Norwood Fisher tracked him down in the belief that he needed rescue from a religious cult, only to be charged with attempted kidnapping and subsiquently acquitted at trial. A benefit concert to help with Fisher's legal expenses featured Porno for Pyros, Primus, Tool and Alice In Chains. Keyboardist 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.

The legal situation aside, the follow-up album failed to accomplish the height of the past by only managing a 99 in the US with Give a Monkey a Brain And He'll Swear He's The Center Of The Universe (1993). While retaining their roots in funk and ska, the album included songs with free jazz, hard rock, punk, and heavy metal elements. It would take them three years to return with the over indulgent concept album, Chim Chim's Badass Revenge (1996) resulting in Fishbone being dropped by 'Sony Records' (formerly 'Columbia') in 1995, upon presenting the album. In the album, the band added even more heavy metal and hardcore punk influences to their sound. Released by 'Rowdy Records', the album went largely unnoticed by the general public, peaking at just #158 on the Billboard albums charts.

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 Philip "Fish" Fisher, who became a session drummer and later appeared in the nu-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. Keyboardist and horn player Anthony Brewster (The Untouchables) was a member of the group from 1997 to 1998, while 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 and 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 (2000), saw poor sales all the same despite all the names and Fishbone were once again shown the door and dropped.

John McKnight left in 2001, and the group continued as a five-piece. In 2002, on their own independent record label, they released Live at the Temple Bar and More containing all new songs 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.

In late 2003 Fishbone lost another founding member when Walter Kibby left the band, with guitarist Tracy Singleton departing soon after as well.

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 resulting album Still Stuck in Your Throat (2006) was accompanied by music videos for the cover song Date Rape by Sublime, and for Let Dem Ho's Fight.

2008 and 2009 saw the return of Kibby, Dowd and Jones on stage temporarily on various occasions, most notably for the shoot of the Pepsi "Pass" commercial, which aired in January 2009.

In January 2010, McKnight left for the second time. During this period Kibby returned on trumpet and vocals. During a 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. 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. The film has screened at more than 100 film festivals in twenty countries, winning 12 awards for Best Documentary.

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, Paul Hampton (formerly of The Skeletones) joined as 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 suffered a fractured skull and collarbone during a 2010 concert in Philadelphia when Angelo Moore stage-dove and landed on top of her.

A five-track EP titled Intrinsically Intertwined was released on April 22, 2014.

On November 18, 2016 founding member and original drummer Philip "Fish" Fisher played his first show with the band since his departure in 1998. On November 26, Fishbone performed at a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert at Harlem's Apollo Theater, at which time Steward departed Fishbone after 18 years to make room for the returning founder.

In January 2018, Dowd made a guest appearance with the band onstage and decided to rejoin, thus replacing both trombonist Jay Armant and keyboardist Paul Hampton. In December 2019, Bigham announced that he was no longer playing with the band to focus on his solo work. Guitarist Mark Phillips joined the band shortly after. In November 2020, Kendall Jones joined the band on stage for the first time since 1993 for a performance of Them Bones by Alice In Chains for a tribute to the band arranged by the Museum of Pop Culture. Phillip "Fish" Fisher left the group again in late 2021 and rejoined Wicked Wisdom. John Steward rejoined on drums.


Footnote: Fishbonehave also appeared in the films Back To The Beach, Tape Heads, Far Out Man' and I'm Gonna Git You.

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