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March 14, 2017

If Fishbone were white would they be the next Beatles?

There are a number of common denominators

Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are both funk-punk bands who emerged out of the fertile Los Angeles scene a generation ago. Each act has a range, from soulful to metallic and features an unpredictable frontman and a dynamic rhythm section. Both groups deliver incendiary shows. Only Fishbone play this Friday at Undergound Arts

But why are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who sold out the Wells Fargo Center twice last month, playing to packed arenas and Fishbone, which performs Friday, March 17, at Underground Arts, relegated to club tours?

Did the color of the members of Fishbone’s skin hold the band back? 

“Hell yeah,” Fishbone bassist Norwood Fisher said, while calling from a San Pedro, Calif., studio. 

“That was an issue for us. That’s a reality that can’t be denied. But I’m not saying anything negative about [the Red Hot Chili Peppers.] When I look at their band, it’s the greatest show on earth. The Chili Peppers grew up to be Led Zeppelin and I’m going to see them pretty soon (in Los Angeles). I totally get their impact. We grew out of the same punk rock stew they did. It’s just that things turned out differently for us.”

Fishbone was formed by a collection of pals, who grew up weaned on seminal L.A. punk acts such as Fear and soul iconoclasts, like Sly and The Family Stone.

The adventurous Fishbone has recorded a number of albums that moved in many different directions. Fishbone easily veers from funk to soul to metal to ska.

“If we were white, we would be hailed as the next Beatles,” Fisher said.

Fisher isn’t talking songwriting, but stylistic shifts. Much like the Fabs, Fishbone was always a band that had no problem taking chances in the studio. The same can be said for Fishbone on stage. Vocalist Angelo Moore is one of the most daring, acrobatic frontmen in rock history.

“You never know what Angelo will do,” Fisher said. 

“That’s the way it was 30 years ago and that’s the way it is today. He unreal.”

Members have come and gone but Fishbone, which also includes Fisher’s brother, drummer Philip “Fish” Fisher, trumpet player Walter Kibby, guitarists John Bigham and Rocky George, keyboardist Paul Hampton, trombonist Jay Armant and percussionist John Steward, remains a potent live act and is more than capable in the studio.

“We still go all out,” Fisher said. “Even at 51, I want to try to make music that’s new. That’s hard to do when you consider that nothing has really been new since the ‘70s. There was a lot that happened that was new back then with punk and electronic and hip-hop but since then it’s been just about building on that.”

Fisher, who co-wrote the Fishbone tune “Subliminal Fascism” 30-years ago, believes that punk rock will be reinvigorated, courtesy of the Trump administration. 

“The silver lining of his presidency is that there is a wake-up call in music,” Fisher said. 

“The world is demanding commentary. We live in a world in which we need some artistic context. It’s going to be coming from bands like ours and I would imagine younger punk bands. I’m encouraged by all of the demonstrations that have been held since Trump has been elected. I think people finally realize that we have to fight back and not be so passive. It’s an exciting time to be in a band.”