For SF WEEKLY: A 2010 documentary, “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone,” made it abundantly clear that despite the accolades, the Los Angeles band Fishbone never achieved the high level of success of peers like No Doubt, Jane’s Addiction, and Sublime, and suffered deeply from inner-band turmoil and depression.
The band’s ironic sense of humor, lyrical critiques of racism, and genre-defying songs confused record labels and mainstream audiences. Their biggest hit, “Everyday Sunshine,” was an uplifting, upbeat tune with a bright, colourful Spike Lee video that was a big hit on MTV, but a large chunk of their catalog is more aggressive, metal- and punk-influenced songs not nearly as cheery.
Lead singer, saxophonist and theramin player Angelo Moore, 49, Fishbone’s de-facto front-man, continues to tour and record with the band (they perform September 13 at the Independent), but is involved in several side projects. With Bay Area guitarist/artist Kris Jensen, he fronts Brand New Step, a funky pop project currently at work on its second album here in San Francisco. He performs as his alter-ego Dr. Madd Vibe alongside San Francisco’s Vau De Vire Society, an avant-cabaret circus, and with in Los Angeles four-piece called Dr. Madd Vibe and the Missing Links.
SF Weekly spoke with Angelo Moore this week about being in the same band for 30 years, his solo projects, and a pending $1.4 million lawsuit filed by an audience member who was injured in a moshpit at a 2010 Fishbone show.
SF Weekly: You’re at work on a new album with the Brand New Step in San Francisco. How did that band come together? What do you enjoy most about this new project?
Angelo Moore: Fishbone is great, I’ve been with it since 79, but doing something fresh and new with new artists is always good. I’ve never done electronic music before. Some songs don’t have real drums, some do, some don’t. That’s a trip for me. It all came about after my knee operation. I had broken cartilage and a staff infection, I was literally getting my brand new step, my leg was still recovering. Hell I was learning to walk again at the same time. My leg is 80 percent better now. I can still dance, but I gotta be careful. Its a lot of brand new steps to be had, man.
You’re in the middle of a $1.4 million lawsuit filed by a woman who was injured at a 2010 Fishbone show. That must be slowing you down.
Stage-diving and mosh pits are things that normally happen at rock shows. They are raw forms of expression. Iggy Pop was the first person to do that shit, and countless others. How can you stop that? It’s like stopping someone from doing their job. This is what I do. It’s unfortunate for anyone who gets hurt. I don’t want to see anyone hurt, but what the fuck are you doing standing in the middle of a moshpit? There were all kinds of people jumping around catching their holy ghost. You see a church lady at church catch the holy ghost, its the same thing. You see people flipping out with a smile on their face. That’s the nature of what goes on at a rock show.
Your voice and lyrics are instantly recognisable, and distinct. How do you go about writing words for songs?
We live in a racist society. That is the biggest most ridiculous phenomenon of America. Social things going on, divorce, marriage, I’ve always written about stuff like that cuz I’ve been in it. These are reality-based lyrics. It’s hard for me to write about fantasy. Life is harsh, sticky, and prickly, but everyone is striving for love. We all know love is the ultimate answer, but on our way there to the apex of love, we experience all kinds of devils and monsters and all kinds of shit on our way to getting our angel wings. I write about all of that.
The documentary film “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” depicts you as someone who does many things that annoy the rest of the group but is also the main driving force in songwriting and in live performance. Is that accurate?
That sounds about right. I tell you, I had to take a break from Fishbone for about nine or 10 months sometime last year. I felt like I wasn’t getting the musical and artistic support for what I have in my head. I sing the majority of the songs in Fishbone. Anytime anyone asked me to sing, I said yes. But when it comes to a song I have, and I want the band to play it that way, I get complaints. It’s too hard, not radio friendly, not enough collaboration, too complicated. I tried collaborating on one song. Four years went by and nothing happened. I had to stop. I said you motherfuckers are killing me. The drinking, the liquor, I was trying to cover it all up, was kind of ruining me. I had to stop.
How have you kept things going with Fishbone then?
Sometimes it feels like a goddamn job, but I have to look at it as, what’s good about the job? I have to pick out the good things about it. I look at lyrics for songs like Ma and Pa, and think of it like I am a storyteller, not a victim. Different perspective is good for the music.
photo: courtesy of Brand New Step