By: Ginger Coyote
I remember when I first saw The Specials and how blown away by their show that I was. You cannot begin to believe how excited I was to interview Roddy. Roddy is as warm and friendly as he is talented... It was such a pleasure to interview him.....
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Roddy. Can you give the readers some background on yourself?
Roddy Byers: Well I was born in 1955 in Coventry England, grew up in a coal mining village just outside of Coventry. My father played trumpet in a Soul band and his father played Trombone for the Newcastle orchestra. So I come from a musical family.
Punk Globe: How fun! Kind of like the Kiki Dee song " I Got The Music In Me"... Tell us about your first band and how old were you ?
Roddy Byers:My first band i formed while still at school at the age of 13 yrs, i called the band The Undead! We played youth clubs mainly.
Punk Globe: Tell us how you became Roddy Radiation?
Roddy Byers: Well my brother Chris called me that name in the early 1970,s when i was trying to be Ziggy Stardust - he meant it as a joke.
Punk Globe: Had you used Roddy Radiation prior to being with The Specials?
Roddy Byers: I used the name when punk came along for my band Roddy Radiation and the Wild Boys.
Punk Globe: The Specials, The English Beat and Madness were the first two bands that I had heard of that combined ska music with punk rock. Which band formed first?
Roddy Byers: Well like all good ideas we all came up with the Ska/punk idea independently in different parts of the U.K. The Specials had success first and we helped the other bands by letting them release their first singles on our label Two Tone records.
Punk Globe: Who else played with The Specials?
Roddy Byers: The Specials featured Jerry Dammers - the band leader keyboard player and main song writer, Terry Hall vocals, Lynval Golding 2nd guitar + vocals, Horace Panter bass, John Bradbury drums, Nevelle Staples vocals, and myself lead guitar vocals and 2nd major song writer.
Punk Globe: Were you friends with the guys in Madness and The English Beat?
Roddy Byers: Our first major U.K. tour featured ourselves + Madness and the Selecter so we all became buddies during that time as we all travelled on the same tour bus and stayed in the same hotels. A Two Tone Army if you like!
Punk Globe: Tell us about how you decided to record "Concrete Jungle" and were you surprised by how popular it became?
Roddy Byers: I wrote and sang "Concrete Jungle" with my band the Wild Boys and took the song with me when I joined the Specials, and sang it on our first album.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your follow up hit "Hey Little Rich Girl"?
Roddy Byers: I wrote "Hey Little Rich Girl" about a girlfriend from the early 1970,s it was included on our second Specials album "More Specials". It has recently been recorded by Amy Winehouse who is a big Specials fan.
Punk Globe: I love Amy Winehouse.. Such a talent... What was your experience with Chrysalis Records like?
Roddy Byers: They were the only label who wanted to sign us who would let us have our own label Two Tone Records independent but a part of Chrysalis records.
Punk Globe: Were you still with the label when they signed Blondie?
Roddy Byers: Yes and Debbie Harry introduced the Specials when we played Long Island on our first American tour - (Debbie gave me a big kiss backstage which was very nice) she also asked the band to back her on "The Tide Is High" but our leader Jerry Dammers said no I'm told.
Punk Globe: Did Chrysalis Records ever bill the band as Roddy Radiation and The Specials?
Roddy Byers: When we recorded our second album we had too many songs so my rock,a,billy song was given away as a free single with the album and credited to Roddy Radiation and the Specials.
Punk Globe: Did that cause any internal problems in the band?
Roddy Byers: The Specials were different people with very different musical tastes and as we were not close friends we disagreed quite alot.
Punk Globe: Nicely put Roddy.... I know that The Specials inspired so many bands.. How does that make you feel?
Roddy Byers: We toured with Rancid in the 90,s which was great and they said we inspired them when they first formed. Also No Doubt and many other bands say we influenced them, which is very cool!
Punk Globe: Who were some of your inspirations Roddy?
Roddy Byers: All the early punk stuff Ramones,the Clash, Sex Pistols etc etc I was a big fan of Johnny Thunders whom I met several times.
Punk Globe: Did the Specials have any problems with touring in the USA?
Roddy Byers: Jerry Dammers wasn't a big fan of the States and the long tours confined together finally caused us to split up.
Punk Globe: I know Dave Wakeling from Los Angeles. I know he was in The English Beat . Was he ever in The Specials?
Roddy Byers: Dave's a good friend, no he wasn't in the Specials but Horace our bass player later played with him in General Public.
Punk Globe: When did The Specials break up and what did you do next?
Roddy Byers: When the original Specials split I carried on with my Skabilly band the Tearjerkers touring mainly in Europe.
Punk Globe: Is it true that you had formed The Tearjerkers before The Specials folded?
Roddy Byers: Yes I've always written alot of songs and couldn't always get them all out in the Specials so while we were having a short break from touring I formed the Tearjerkers with my brother Mark and some mates.
Punk Globe: Who was in The Tearjerkers?
Roddy Byers: Myself lead guitar vocals, my bro Mark guitar vocals, Slim Pain Keys, Pete Davies drums ( U.K. Subs), Joe Hughes Bass vocals.
Punk Globe: Who were you signed with and tell us about your releases?
Roddy Byers: We were signed to Chiswick records and released one single my song "Desire" produced by Nick Lowe and a E.P. featuring 3 of my songs and one of Marks.
Punk Globe: How long were they together?
Roddy Byers: About 7 yrs.
Punk Globe: Tell us about The Bonediggers?
Roddy Byers: I formed the Bonediggers in the early 90,s similar to the Tearjerkers but featuring double bass more, stayed with them until some of the Specials reformed in 1994 which saw us touring the world again for 4 yrs.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your project with J.J. Burnel of The Stranglers?
Roddy Byers: I never actually toured J.J. I was part of an acoustic act which featured Pauline Black but would have different members depending on availability
Punk Globe: Who else was in Three Men & Black?
Roddy Byers: Dave Wakeling, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers, Nick Welsh of Bad Manners.
Punk Globe: You reformed The Specials. Tell us about that?
Roddy Byers: Lynval Golding the other Specials guitarist had been trying for years to talk us all into reforming, and it seemed the time was right.
Punk Globe: How about Skabilly Rebels another band you formed?
Roddy Byers: I formed the Skabilly Rebels about 5 years ago when a friend suggested I ought to give my Ska/ Rockabilly cross over another go.
Punk Globe: Does The Skabilly Rebels have anything out?
Roddy Byers: I've put a C.D. out myself recently called "Blues Attack" which is available from my web site.
Punk Globe: You are still touring with The Specials. Any shows or tours that you have coming up?
Roddy Byers: We start European festivals in June this year followed by a U.K. and European tour of Dance halls and Arenas.
Punk Globe: Tell us the lineup in the reformed The Specials
Roddy Byers: All the original members apart from Jerry Dammers.
Punk Globe: What is in the future for 2011 for you?
Roddy Byers: Busy busy busy!
Punk Globe: Do you have any web addresses that you would like to share with the readers?
Punk Globe: Would you ever consider doing a show like Big Brother.. I know that have had well known housemates in the past? Didn't Johnny Rotten do a show called "I'm A Celebrity.. Get Me Out Of Here" ?
Roddy Byers: No not my kind of thing at all. John did a show in the jungle but dropped out early.
Punk Globe: Any thoughts on Amy Winehouse?
Roddy Byers: I hope she covers some more of my songs.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Roddy?
Roddy Byers: Thankyou Cheers!