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The Fishbone adventure continues

Andy Stonehouse/Special to the Daily

COPPER MOUNTAIN – It’s occasionally reassuring for bands to discover that their influences spread a bit wider than the traditional American music market – and often to places they’d never imagined.

For Los Angeles-based musical mutants Fishbone, each year’s travels reveal groups of fans even more far-flung and fervent than those who regularly flock to the band’s stateside performances.

Norwood Fisher, bassist and co-founder of a group that recently settled into its third decade of chaotic, creative travels in funk, rap, rock and ska, says the band’s recent run through Europe served as a major personal motivation.

“For some reason, we’re mega-superstars in France,” Fisher says. “I guess they’ve recognized (lead singer) Angelo Moore’s genius since the beginning, way back to 1987 or so. We also just made our first trips to Mexico City and Argentina, and down there, we also got a huge audience, even though we’ve never released a CD in South America. Apparently a lot of people got turned on to us back in the day by trading cassettes in the park – back in those days before file sharing.”

Fishbone’s international success comes at a time when the band finds itself undergoing a bit of a reinvention in the American market. Buoyed by the early success of hits like “Party at Ground Zero,” “Freddie’s Dead” and “Everyday Sunshine,” Fishbone signed a lengthy record deal and established itself as one of the most energetic live acts in the country.

Since the mid-’90s, the band’s mostly gone at it alone, releasing CDs intermittently and keeping a lower profile – yet continuing to tour (and perform) like madmen.

Fisher says this year could signal a bit of a change for the band, with a new emphasis on marketing and promoting the band and an opportunity to try to pump up three recent releases: a live album, a Sony-issued best-of collection and last year’s EP “The Friendliest Psychosis of All,” a collaborative effort featuring Les Claypool, guitar oddball Buckethead and even David Baerwald of David and David fame.

“It does my ego well … especially now that we’re in the midst of a great repossession of the booty. And it warms the cockles of my heart that even Playboy TV would like to work with us – any time you get to spend some time in the house that Hef built, it’s OK with me.”

Fishbone’s roots go all the way back to a common Los Angeles junior high school busing experience, an almost pre-hip-hop time when teen-aged Fisher and Moore decided they’d create a band that could bridge the gap between rock, soul and ska – a little bit like Sly and the Family Stone on slightly stronger doses of nitrous oxide.

Living up to a long-established reputation as some of rock’s wildest performers has started to wear on the band, Fisher admits.

“It’s been a rough ride at times … I mean, when you’re the band that wrote “Party at Ground Zero,’ you’re inclined to live that way. On our last tour, though, it definitely brought out the age in us, although I don’t think anyone knew but the people on stage. By your mid-30s, it gets a little hard to handle the partying, and I realize you can’t just run around the planet drinking every night and think you can get away with it.”

And when Fisher sees the continued success of fellow veterans of the same L.A. scene that spawned the band – groups such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt and the recently revitalized Jane’s Addiction – he says he feels a certain affinity, even if other bands have managed to capture a bit more of the spotlight.

“We still get together to feel the love once in a while. We got to go snowboarding with guys from the Peppers when we played at Mammoth Mountain this year and Anthony did the first jump off the hit we made. And I recently saw (Jane’s Addiction drummer) Stephen Perkins for the first time in a long time when our drummer, John Steward was on Craig Kilborn. If Fishbone wasn’t on tour all the time I’d get to see those guys a lot more.”

Fisher says he’s also happy to accept Fishbone’s fate as an independent act or, should the right deal come along, a member of a major label family.

“We’ve recently spent some time trying to figure out what we want out of the rest of our career, and since Fishbone is something of a monolith, maybe the name itself deserves more that what you’d get from a small label.”


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