Fishbone’s Lineup Change Has Been a Major Mess

They're moving forward without founding members "Dirty" Walt Kibby and Norwood Fisher, the latter claiming that no one "quit"

Photo: Pablo Mathiason

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Apr 29, 2024

Los Angeles eclectics Fishbone have been making funky ska-punk since 1979. That's a long time! Back in January, drummer John Steward left the band — and late last week, in an ominous Facebook post beginning with, "Being married is hard," they indicated further lineup changes to come. 

Shortly thereafter, in an exclusive interview with Q Magazine, Fishbone announced that they were moving forward without founding trumpeter "Dirty" Walt Kibby and bassist Norwood Fisher. Founding keyboard player/trombonist Chris Dowd told the publication's Will Harris that the power dynamics had changed when he returned to the band in 2018, having left following the release of 1993's Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe

"I came back to Norwood running everything," Dowd said. "And when you come back to something, you don't want to come back and start going, 'I'm not doing anything unless these demands are met!' Especially when, as I began to discuss things with [founding frontman] Angelo [Moore] and other people, I realized that my departure had left things in a bad way. I wanted to try to change that. You know, some people came back, they wanted fanfare and magazines. That's not what I wanted. I'm kind of, like, 'Let the music talk. The music will tell us what to do. Let's listen to that.'"

According to Dowd, he and Moore formally complained in a joint letter written to Fisher last November. The complaint resulted in a Zoom meeting in December, where Fisher allegedly said he didn't respect any of the rest of the band to lead them anywhere, and "there was not going to be a democracy creatively or financially." Dowd alleged that the bass player said it was "to be a dictatorship, or he was going to shut the band down."

Fisher took to Twitter over the weekend to make it clear that neither he, Kibby, nor Steward quit the band. "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 wrote. He went on to claim that Moore had called for a hiatus unless the bassist "agreed to his ultimatum" of bringing more transparency and democracy into how the band was operating.

As per Dowd, Fisher's response was an emphatic, "No." A letter to Fisher from Moore and Dowd, posted to Fishbone's Facebook, reads, "Since you left no ambiguity about the possibility of doing things differently, it is with a heavy heart that we let you know formally, and with due respect, that we accept your 'no' as final, and we will have to find someone who shares our values with respect to how our business operates moving forward."

The same post also included a screenshot of a text message, allegedly from Fisher, where he wrote, "To continue on as FISHBONE without the aforementioned [himself and Moore] is doing more damage to the brand and legacy." Fisher also shared a screenshot of his own legal filing of a trademark infringement claim against Moore, with whom he says he had continuously made music from 1979 until 2023.

"We asked Walt to stay, because we knew that was something that we wanted to happen," Dowd said of the trumpeter's departure. "We did not want Walt out of the band. But he chose not to go on. The same with John Steward. So now we find ourselves here. We still feel as though we have some things to say creatively as a collective. Respectfully. Listening to each other. So we are going to continue with Fishbone, myself and Angelo."

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