BY NOE GUTIERREZ
Flashback to 1986: Fishbone performed on Prom Night at Indio High School. Flash-forward to present day: On Saturday, October 7, 2017, more than 31 years later, they return to the City of Festivals, Indio, California, for Desert Oasis Music Festival. Norwood Fisher, bassist for Fishbone, has not forgotten their deep-seated connection to Indio. “I ran into one person on this current tour that was there at the prom that night.” Their devotion to this area is unmistakable. “That’s the beauty of life. Instead of the vicious circle, you can get on the delicious circle.”
I spoke with Norwood about their attachment to the desert, the festival and the National Association of Music Merchants tradeshow.
ON THE DESERT OASIS MUSIC FESTIVAL
“We’re in Southern California; it’s early October. We’re outdoors. It’s the desert, c’mon now! It’s a beautiful time of the year. It’s gonna be magical! Plus all the bands that are performing; it’s a family affair. It’s like backyard BBQ kinda shit!
The bigger festivals, like this one, you get managers, you get booking agents, band members and a lot of different elements of the music industry converge. So you get to relate in another space. I like going in the audience and watching bands from the audience perspective as a fan. A lot of times you’ll see me in the audience just roaming. Sometimes I’m loud, sometimes I’m incognito.”
ON FITTING IN AND THEIR UNIVERSALITY
“The thing is, we were fortunate to come up at a time where our resolve is all just music. And the music that we chose to express and put together felt unusual to the industry. We get looked at as pioneers. We did a Cali-Roots festival a couple of years ago and people were saying we are the ultimate Cali-Roots band, the beginning of it. If people want to think that, it’s beautiful to me. That’s where all of this comes together. A band that’s able to fit in and have a meaningful relationship with all of the bands. Somebody like Damian Marley, he’s got a legacy that’s preceded him, Fishbone may not have anything to do with him personally but we were drawing from his dad’s legacy to become who we were. So there are relationships through and through.”
ON HIS DESERT PLANS
“My father lives in Palm Springs. I’m gonna take time out and hopefully get to spend a moment with him. He’ll come to the show and I’ll get to hang with him. That’s really what’s up. Ultimately, getting to see the different bands and be able to engage with the different musicians, it’s always fun. Some industries have conventions and musicians, fortunately, we have festivals. It’s like a convention.”
“Music connects all of the humans on the planet on some level. It is a connecting force. In a physics kinda way, maybe the whole universe is a big orchestra and we’re all linked to the vibrations that attach us all. That’s maybe why that’s the universal language. When I was a kid, I didn’t dream of anything like NAMM. So when I discovered it I was like WHOA! These are the people who make the tools of our trade. It’s actually a moment where I take the time to relate to those people as human beings. It’s like thanks. I have met Leo Fender and Jim Marshall, without those people the music industry would be a totally different place. There was a time early in NAMM, I used to go and talk to Leo every year. He was nice to me. I was never a big Fender-playing guy but I’m just grateful to people like him and Les Paul. Bottom line is, there’s gratitude in all of that. We’re thankful that people put the care into and make things that are durable, because some of us are very hard on our instruments, like me. The other side of NAMM is you get to meet people like fans that make their way into it. I’m still a fan of music so I’m walking around NAMM and meet people that I’m like WHOA! Sometimes you see Stevie Wonder rolling through NAMM. It’s a trip. Festivals are kinda like that without the manufacturers.”
ON FISHBONE’S CONTINUING VISITS
“We look forward to coming back and we’ll keep coming back. It’s a good energy in the desert. Whether we’re playing the Date Shed, Pappy and Harriet’s or The Hood, or wherever, we enjoy coming to the region. A few years ago we did this thing in the parking lot of The Hood with English Beat that was amazing! There are some great venues out here. It feels good going out there and partying down and bringing the music.”