Interview: Fishbone on Stage and Screen

From Mother Jones Magazine

Nowadays, nobody blinks an eye when hip-hop artists sample backwoods folkies and bands use multiple hyphens to describe their sound. But back in the ’80s when Fishbone, a black punk-funk-ska band, hit the LA music scene, no one quite knew what to make of their uncategorizable blend of styles and influences. Their unique sound, hyperactive live shows, and magnetic stage presence won them a fervent fan base, a record deal with Columbia, and an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

At the height of their popularity, Fishbone was the hottest band in SoCal, beloved by fans, admired by peers, and name-dropped by celebrities (Tim Robbins wore a Fishbone shirt in Bull Durham, as did John Cusack in Say Anything). The band seemed to be on the verge of mainstream success. But their big break never came. While bands that bore Fishbone’s influence, including No Doubt and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rose to fame and fortune, Fishbone struggled with the usual challenges of moderate success—addiction, clashing egos, struggles to preserve their integrity—and a few unusual ones: religious conversion, kidnapping charges, and people not didn’t quite knowing what to make of them.

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