Roddy “Radiation” Byers is a guitarist who played lead guitar in The Specials, The Tearjerkers and The Bonediggers and currently fronts the fantastic Skabilly Rebels. I asked Roddy to answer a few questions about his origins and what he’s up to now and this is what he had to say!
When did your dream of being a musician begin?I remember reading somewhere that you originally played trombone then moved onto guitar. When, why and what age did you pick up the guitar?
Roddy: Well, my father played trumpet in soul bands in the 1960’s and early 70’s (Jimmy Powel & the Dimensions,) and they also played blue beat which is another name for ska. My grandfather played trombone in dance bands and the Newcastle Orchestra in the 1930’s. So, my father got me and my brother on trombone and trumpet. I played trombone for three years then decided I’d rather play guitar and sing at the age of 13 years old.
Who are your major influences? What or who inspires you currently?
Roddy: My influences have changed over the years with the fashions of the day. At the age of 12 I loved the Monkees T.V. programme, then I started listening to blues and heavy rock; Hendrix, Cream, the Who, etc. I tend to go through phases; Pop/Rock /Blues/Glam /Punk/Ska/Reggae/Rockabilly/Country/ Flamenco.
What would you consider your biggest success?
Roddy: I guess my song “Rat Race” getting in the top ten in the U.K. and the song “Concrete Jungle” being featured in a Hollywood blockbuster movie, “Argo”. (The 2012 American historical drama film directed by Ben Affleck.)
Erin: What about failure?
Roddy: I shot myself in the foot so to speak, a couple of times.
I used to sing some lead vocals in the early Specials but decided when Neville Staple joined that I would concentrate on lead guitar. I sang lead vocal uncredited on “Concrete Jungle” on the first Specials album.
Any funny stories you care to share?
Roddy: Lots of funny stories but most of them unprintable!
What are your future plans? Upcoming tours, albums?
Roddy: It’s about time I recorded a new album, so that’s the next project. We have an east coast U.S.A. tour coming up in May if my work visa comes through in time. Played Argentina recently, so it would be nice to go back to South America again and do a few other countries as well.
Vinyl, cassette, CD or digital music? Which do you prefer and why?
Roddy: I like vinyl but I’m not too fussed. C.D.s are OK, I just miss the big sleeves and pictures I used to look at as a boy. I don’t download.
What do you think is the best thing that comes out of your music/playing music?
Roddy: The best thing the Specials did was make young people think about politics and race. Hopefully, we were an alternative to right wing groups.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
Roddy: Favourite song of mine to play live? Well, it changes from time to time. “Another Rusty Nail” is one of my more commercial new songs. Kinda punky rock steady.
Erin: What’s your favourite venue to play?
Roddy: Favourite Venue? Well, that depends on the country. In the U.K. Brixton Academy is a great old venue. The Specials sold out 8 shows in a row when I was still with them. In North America? The Phoenix in Toronto, Canada and the Ventura Theatre in California.
Do you think the internet enhances or destroys the creativity of the mind? Why?
Roddy: Good question. Sometimes sites like Facebook make me sad and sometimes they cheer me up. I don’t know really? How it will affect future generations, we will have to see. Now information is available to everyone and the T.V. and newspaper media can’t brainwash us like they did before.
Thursday, May 17: Teaneck, NJ
Venue: Debonair Music Hall, 1409 Queen Anne Rd.
Friday, May 18: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Hank’s Saloon, 46 3rd Ave.
Saturday, May 19: Providence, RI
Venue: The Parlour, 1119 N Main St.
*RI Ska Productions 10th Anniversary Show*
Sunday, May 20: Boston, MA
Venue: O’Brien’s, 3 Harvard Ave.
Advance ticket link: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1654906?utm_medium=bks
doors @ 8pm; 18+
Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/155594691824830/
Tuesday, May 22: Baltimore, MD
Venue: Holy Frijoles, 908 W 36th St
Wednesday, May 23: Durham, NC
Venue: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave.
Advance ticket link: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1658243?utm_medium=bks
doors @ 7pm; all ages
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/412832255821572/
Thursday, May 24: Charleston, SC
Venue: Tin Roof, 1117 Magnolia Rd.
Friday, May 25: Fredericksburg, VA
Venue: Specer Devon Brewery, 106 George St.
Supernova Ska Fest VIP Pre-Party
Saturday, May 26: Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA
Venue: 1781 Brewery, 11109 Plank Rd
Supernova Ska Fest