Fishbone may be the most under-rated and hyphenated band in the world. The pioneering L.A. punk-rock-ska-funk-jazz ensemble came straight outta South Central by way of Hollywood to break down the walls between musical genres starting in 1979. As Everyday Sunshine, a new documentary about the band, puts it: "Fishbone made it okay for black kids to slam dance and brought the funk to the punk."
At their peak the band was signed to Columbia Records with great expectations of following contemporaries like Red Hot Chili Peppers to official “Rock Star Status.” But much like fellow black punk pioneers Bad Brains, they never managed to achieve the success for which they seemed destined.
This week Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler's hard-hitting new documentary about the band opens nationwide. Fishbone is also dropping a new EP called Crazy Glue and the band is currently touring across the United States. So the time is ripe for a rediscovery of these slept-on giants of the punk rock movement who also toured with The Beastie Boys and Schooly D while winning the appreciation of forward-thinking producers like Dr. Dre and Dallas Austin.
One of many Fishbone fans who recently expressed his appreciation for the new film via Twitter was the Trill O.G. himself, Bun B. Complex reached out to Bun and so he could do the knowledge with vocalist/saxophonist Angelo Moore and bassist John Norwood Fisher, two founding members of Fishbone. Click through as they talk about the shared struggles of hip-hop and punk rock, their battles to stay true to their outside-the-box vision in the mainstream music industry, and the joy of seeing racist skinheads get their ass kicked.
Interview by Bun B (@BunBTrillOG)
Moderated by Rob Kenner (@Boomshots)
Bun B: It’s an honor to be a part of this dialog. And i think it’s important to have these dialogs. I’m a Fishbone fan myself. As a matter of fact, we shouted out Fishbone on Ridin' Dirty. It wasn’t in a verse, it was a shout-out in the liner notes.
Angelo: What’s good Mr. Bun B?
Norwood: Bun B what’s happening man?
Bun B: Hey, It’s a pleasure. I’ve been into punk music for a while. If you listened punk, and L.A. punk, you know Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies and that type of shit, eventually you’re gonna make it over to Fishbone. And I like ska too. And when I researched ska, it always came back to y’all.
Angelo: Right on.
Bun B: I met you guys a long time ago with Gipp and Joi in Atlanta. Back when Mr. George was doing a lot of recording in Atlanta. But it’s a pleasure to talk to you brothers.
Angelo: Yeah man we still hanging in there dude.
Bun B: I know that’s right.
Angelo: So are you gonna come to the movie tonight?
Norwood: No, he’s in Texas. So how did you hear about the Fishbone documentary?
Bun B: I saw the trailer and I saw a couple people writing about it, and I thought it looked incredible. So what are y’all doin’ today?
Angelo: I was just outside trying to learn this solo man. [Plays a riff on his sax] What floor are we on? We’re on the 12th floor, I’m sitting on the edge of the balcony, just overlooking New York City, doing a little sax playing.
Bun B: That’s player. Now that’s a vibe, my brother. When you really look in the music industry, the best practitioners are usually the best students. Practice makes perfect in everything in life and music is no exception.
The best guitar players are the guys that sit in their rooms and play guitar for 12-14 hours, by themselves—that’s their life. The same way that the best basketball players are the kids who stay out on the court longer than everybody. It’s that kind of dedication and focus to what you want to do. Especially when people are telling you that you can’t do it. You’re even more motivated and more focused sometimes.
Angelo: Yeah, that’s right. “I’ll show them.”
Norwood: Just the willingness to do that which no one else would do. Wake up earlier in the morning to get it cracking. Whatever.
Bun B: Absolutely. Walking to the park if you can’t get a ride. Taking a bus or whatever. Just to make sure that you can get there and do what you need to do. You can’t sit still and wait for someone to help you. You gotta do it yourself.
Angelo: You gotta do it yourself. Exactly man, exactly. Well it seem like that’s what we’ve been doing the whole time. Shit. You know we’re going to be coming through Texas on tour. What part of Texas are you in?
Bun B: I live in Houston. I’m from Port Arthur, a small town about an hour and a half outside Houston. But we had to come to Houston to make our bones, to really work in the music scene where we were. But we’re from the same town as Janis Joplin. So we knew it was possible. You know what I’m sayin? History had already been made from our small town.
So it’s just a matter of us never losing sight of that. It’s already happened. A lot of people come up thinking, well, nobody from where I’m from ever really done anything like that. Well we had one success story. We vowed to be the second one.
Norwood: And actually sometimes that’s what makes the story really interesting. If no one’s done it before, then you become that anomaly that shines bright—that stood out and came from somewhere that was obscure, or just never had anybody rise up. We need more of that.