Norwood Fisher Taking Legal Action After Getting Kicked Out Of Fishbone

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For decades, the eclectic California ska-punk band Fishbone has operated as a model of sustainability. Musicians have come and gone from Fishbone’s lineup, but the band’s creative core — singer Angelo Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher — has remained consistent since the band started in 1979. Now, that creative core has broken down. Norwood Fisher, founding trumpeter “Dirty” Walter Kibby, and drummer John Seward are no longer members of Fishbone, and Fisher is taking legal action against his former bandmates.

Over the weekend, Fishbone posted an Instagram statement claiming that the band “may look a little different” during their upcoming tour and offering refunds to fans who “don’t want to give this line up a chance”:

At a certain point, adults have to agree to disagree and step away from the table in order to preserve the bonds that brought them together in the first place.

As a result, in May, Fishbone may look a little different, and we hope you’ll give it a chance knowing that we did not make any decision lightly or without due process.

If anyone who has purchased tickets to see Fishbone this summer and feel you don’t want to give this line up a chance, while bummed, we will absolutely help in making sure you are fully refunded.

After seeing that Instagram post, Q spoke with keyboardist/trombonist Christopher Dowd, who told the magazine about a split within Fishbone. Dowd is a founding member of Fishbone who left the band in 1993 and then returned in 2018. Dowd didn’t like the way the band was portrayed in the 2010 documentary Everyday Sunsine, and when he rejoined the group, he says that he discovered that Norwood Fisher was “running everything.” Dowd was also frustrated that it took Fishbone longer to make new music and that they were playing smaller venues than when he left: “This went on for a very long time, and I noticed that, as time went on, some people were satisfied with the status quo. And in some regards I started to realize that people didn’t really want things to change or improve. They liked it.”

Dowd also felt that Fisher’s bass was mixed louder than anything else, both onstage and on record, and that “there was no transparency with what was going on creatively or financially… There were some financial shortfalls, and people were not taking responsibility for what was going on.” After group therapy, Dowd says that he and Angelo Moore wrote a letter to Fisher demanding “equity” in the band, and he says that Fisher denied them and that the band would continue to be a “dictatorship.” Dowd and Moore evidently took control of the band, which led to the departures of Walter Kibby and drummer John Steward. There’s a lot more in the Q article, which you can read here.

Shortly afterward, Norwood Fisher posted a response on Twitter:

I didn’t quit Fishbone. Neither did Dirty Walt or John Steward. Angelo called for a hiatus unless I agreed to his ultimatum. I chose the hiatus. They went forward booking shows as Fishbone, with promoters and talent buyers believing that Dirty Walt, John Steward and I would be present. Their management and booking agent knew this.

Fisher then posted a cease-and-desist letter from his lawyer, alleging trademark infringement and demanding unspecified payment and a formal settlement. The letter also names Ben Kweller, who is the founder of the management group known as the Noise Company.

Meanwhile Fishbone will be replaced by Puddles Pity Party on the upcoming Primus/Coheed & Cambria tour. “While we were looking forward to it, there are many unwritten codes in life,” the band writes. “In this case the bass code took effect.” Here’s their statement:

As it has been posted as of today, we will not be joining @primusville on the 10 shows we were slated to be on. While we were looking forward to it, there are many unwritten codes in life. In this case the bass code took effect. We respect that and accept it.Shout out to @coheed we were looking forward to meeting you and playing with you. As mentioned in previous posts, if anyone was planning on seeing Fishbone on any of these shows and would like refunds, I’m sure they will honor that. If there are any problems, please let us know via DM and we’ll try to assist any way we can. We WILL be playing No Values and any other shows that will be announced shortly. We spoke with all promoters and artists and they have no problem moving forward. We hope to see you soon and apologize for being removed from this particular tour, that was not our decision, but we were honored to be considered to be a part of such a great line up. We will always have nothing but love for Primus

Norwood’s dub reggae project the Familyhood Nextperience released their single “To The Hilt” this morning.