Interview: Chris Dowd of Fishbone Talks Punk Rock Bowling and Returning to the Band After 24 Years

Fishbone are, undoubtedly, ska legends. The band has a new EP coming out on May 26 on Bottles to the Ground Records, the latest label to be birthed by NOFX frontman Fat Mike, who also produced the EP and guest starred on it with his band. Just like Fishbone’s debut EP in 1985, the new record is self-titled. In fact, the album cover is the cover of the original 1985 EP with all the band members’ faces covered up with duct tape. It’s appropriate considering that Fishbone is currently as close as they’ve ever been to having their original lineup back together.

Chris Dowd was one of the original members of the band, but he left in 1994. In 2018 he returned to the band, but Dowd says that calling it a reunion doesn’t sound quite right. “There are certain people in the band that I always spoke to, I’d never lost touch with,” Dowd explains about his history with his bandmates. “And there [were] guys in the band that I absolutely did lose touch with. Intentionally. So it was good getting past all of that. Because it takes a lot of energy to be angry or stay angry. You could power a couple of buildings with that kind of vibe, depending on how angry you want to remain. And so that’s what I did, I just put the past in the past.”

What exactly happens when one exits a legendary band, though? “I didn’t stop doing music,” Dowd explains. “I left the band and I built a recording studio, I got a few people signed to major deals, producing records, worked with Carly Simon. I did a bunch of stuff.” After a failed attempt to reunite the original lineup in 2013, Dowd started making music with guitarist Kendall Jones, an original member of Fishbone who isn’t a part of the current lineup. “We actually have like, an album’s worth of music that we never released. The business side of that, the people we were dealing with, were kind of funky. And I was not letting my music be put out through this apparatus.”

Despite the band finding their way back to each other, Dowd depicts Fishbone as a band with some inner tensions still brewing. Dowd refers to the completed EP as “nothing less than a miracle” saying “Either I was gonna kill [Fat] Mike or a band member or both.” Dowd poked fun at his bandmates as well, particularly the band’s famed frontman, Angelo Moore. “Angelo is what happens when you genetically splice Sun Ra with Dave Vanian from the Damned and throw in some sprinklings of George Clinton. You get the Ango-Bot 9000. It slices, it dices, it makes your bed.”

Dowd wrote two of the songs off the new EP, “I Don’t Care” and “Cubicle.” He says that the latter song was inspired by the time in his life after leaving Fishbone. “I had this experience when I stopped doing Fishbone. It was like my moment of Zen. The line in it is ‘I could have had it all if I just learned to keep my mouth shut.’  And I feel like that pretty much is like the story of my existence on this world. It’s just about when people feel sort of trapped in a situation that they don’t want to be trapped in. And there’s all types of boxes we feel trapped in. People always try to put you in a bag or box and tell you how you are or who you are.”

Fishbone is playing the Punk Rock Bowling festival that’s happening May 26-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as one of the club shows at Citrus Grand on May 28. While Dowd is excited about playing Punk Rock Bowling, he did have a bit of a warped perception of the event at first. “When they first said ‘Punk Rock Bowling’ to me, I just pictured this weird punk rock game show in my head,” Dowd says. “Brought to you by Rat Scabies. Rat Scabies in like a suit, but like a good suit, Florsheim and Men’s Warehouse, but still super drunk and raging in English.” While that’s not, strictly speaking, what typically happens at Punk Rock Bowling, Rat Scabies will be there, so there’s no reason he couldn’t show up in a nice suit while raging drunk.

The new Fishbone EP is available for pre-order on the Fat Wreck Chords website. Follow Fishbone on Facebook and Twitter for future updates. And don’t miss Fishbone at Punk Rock Bowling next week in Las Vegas!

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