Q&A: Fishbone Bassist Norwood Fisher Talks to Knockdown Alley

Posted on Friday September 18th in

Since forming more than 35 years ago in South Central Los Angeles, Fishbone have been known for their keen sense of humor, a sharp social commentary, and a shake-your-ass mix of ska, punk, and funk with a little dash of heavy metal. Sounding something like the love child of Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, and Dead Kennedys, Fishbone (below, performing “Behind Closed Doors” for Jam in the Van) have gone on to influence big-name bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and No Doubt — and they remain vital to this day, regularly performing live, including this Sunday at Brooklyn Bowl. Ahead of their arrival, Knockdown Alley talked to founding member bassist Norwood Fisher.

Which New York City musician — past or present — would you most like to play with? Bernard Wright.

What’s the best part of playing New York City? And what’s the toughest part of playing New York City? The audiences are extra energetic to what Fishbone brings. The guest list gives me anxieties when we play NYC.

What music or song always makes you dance? Fela Kuti
and most Afrobeat.

As a band that’s been around for more than three decades, what do you do to keep things fresh when recording and performing live? We
have always improvised within the structure of our songs. Taking
chances keeps things fresh.

So much has changed in the music world since Fishbone first started playing — a lot of it probably not so great — but what are some things that have improved over the course of your career? Reggae has exploded across the whirl’d! All cultures feel like they own funk. Afropunk is a marketing boon!

Do you have any crutches when writing a song — are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? As a songwriter
I feel free as a bird. I draw inspiration from life, art, pop culture,
and music. I listen to my favorite bands and songwriters and flow.
Not sure if that constitutes a crutch.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you? I don’t need to currently be depressed to access the emotion
to write an authentic sad song, because I’ve been there enough to know what it’s like. True empathy can allow you to imagine someone else’s experience and nail it.

At your after-party there’s an endless jukebox, and we give you a buck. Which three songs are you playing? “One Nation Under a Groove,” Funkadelic, “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys, and “Ghost Town,” the Specials.

It’s 4 a.m. and last call has come and gone. What’s your next move? Find a recording studio and create the next episode!
—R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog


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