Nobody answers a phone like Angelo Moore. “What’s happennnninnnnnnig?” he cackles, while heading from the front of the tour bus to its back (“Everything sounds better in the bathroom, and it’s the only place for privacy”) while driving with his longtime concern, Afro-punk avatars Fishbone. Together since 1979, Moore and his incendiary funny, fishy company have made raging ska-imbued punk funk that should make Red Hot Chili Peppers green with envy. Yet, it’s only since 2000 that the singer, instrumentalist and wise-assed lyricist focusing on all things racially equitable has created solo work. This month, he releases not only Centuries Of Heat (Rope-A-Dope) with his sampladelic the Brand New Step but also an eponymous album from his Project N-fidelikah ensemble. We spoke following the tragedy in Orlando where 49 people lost their lives at the hand of a terrorist—a story in league with several of Moore’s lyrics.
Speaking as an Italian-American, nobody calls a kid “Angelo” unless they have to. Do you have an uncle or grandfather who put you up to it?
My parents named me Angelo Carmen Christopher Moore. Angelo backwards is Olegna. I have this thing for the Olegna Phenomenon, a place for all of my stories, experiences I have amassed, a handful of audio plays. I got a lot of shit.
How is Fishbone? You guys have been doing this hard and remained crucial to the outsider black music. Has that been an easy road to hoe, preaching Fishbone’s gospel?
Not exactly. I mean, I get and hear a lot of gratitude from fans, old and new. I’ve experienced a lot of joy and a lot of triumph; respect and status for being an innovator and doing it for as long as I have—because it is not easy to not be bought. It’s hard to keep your art true.
True, but …
I have not sold out, and it’s good to have integrity, but Fishbone has had to do it all on our own, too. There have been record companies along the way, but when you are dangerous with your music—and daring and challenging—people on top don’t understand you. You may be fascinating to them, but rarely do you get the necessary help. They put you out there to grow and leave it up to you to water your own seeds. I wish I could redo certain things.
I wish I would’ve stepped out of my comfort zone sooner, artistically. We did a lot of good, but we didn’t do all of it. That’s why I got solo projects like the Brand New Step thing with Jeff Greer and Chris Jensen. I don’t use drum machines or electronic things in my usual music. I don’t need that type of shit, but those dudes do. They took my hand and said, “Come with us,” and it’s been cool. I’m not used to those sounds, but they made them work for what I was saying.
How did you hook up with the Brand New Step guys?
I met them at a Q&A session after a screening of Fishbone’s documentary Everyday Sunshine. They approached me as fans and as collaborators. I figured, “Why not?” Shit. I’ll try anything once.
You’re playing more sax and organ with the solo stuff.
There’s some on this new joint, more on Brand New Steps’ first album, even more on The Angelo Show: The Olegna Phenomenon along with my other Dr. Madd Vibe solo shit. I got some organ too on Project N-fidelikah with Pancho Tomaselli from War and George Lynch from Lynch Mob and Chris Moore from Sammy Hagar’s band—that’s some bad-ass rock. Sometimes you go to Koreatown, and sometimes you go to the ghetto and talk Ebonics. It’s about integrity—how would you use it? Anything I do—sax, no sax, whatever else—it’s got to make sense and be good. Is it something that I would throw a tomato or beer can at if I heard it?
You’ve been faithful to the Fishbone brand for some time. Had you been thirsty for another way in?
Yup. Sometimes, man, we have musical differences and personality clashes. That’s nature. Every family has differences. Sometimes, though, you want to go hang with another family, someone else’s house.
Did you ever feel like you were cheating on Fishbone?
For a while, yeah, as if I was cheating on my wife. Then again, if your wife ain’t giving up no pussy or doing the cooking, you look elsewhere. Same thing if she is cooking and she throws the plate and napkin in your face and says, “Here!” Then it’s, “OK, bitch. I love you, but I have to get some other pussy, something else to eat.” Crazy analogy, huh?
I’ve heard worse. Racism in all its absurdity has always been a steady part of your lyrical diet with Fishbone. How did you navigate that with Brand New Step?
I don’t want to have to embrace it at all, but I do. Just a different musical filter with Brand New Step. That subject matter, unfortunately, is always there. It’s a constant thorn in the side of a black man; big and ugly, and it doesn’t need to be here. But, it is here. So I got to write about it because I’m always looking for a solution to a problem. It could be Black Lives Matter and the dreamy psychedelia of “Built To Love” or any of my older songs. No matter how bad things are, you should be built for love, you know.
You’re ahead of the curve talking about global terrorism hitting home on “Centuries Of Heat” considering what just happened in Orlando. How do you feel?
“Anybody out there lollygagging is gonna get knocked down by that dragon tail wagging.” My lyric comes to mind seeing that vicious massacre in Orlando. The killer had some prehistoric shit building up in his head—he’s Godzilla with that tail, slaughtering innocents left and right.