Roddy Radiation of The Specials on Rocking Steady with Skabilly Rebels

Roderick James Byers -- known to two-tone fanatics as Roddy Radiation -- has got ska credentials locked down. Not only did he play guitar in the seminal rude boy band The Specials, but he wrote some of the band's catchiest tunes, like "Concrete Jungle" and "Hey Little Rich Girl."

Radiation kept busy following the band's dissolution in '81, fronting rockabilly acts like The Tearjerkers and The Bonediggers. He worked with The Specials 2, backing Desmond Dekker for his King of Kings album. In recent years, he's focused on The Specials reunion (including a stop at Coachella in 2010) and his Skabilly Rebels, a band with both US and UK lineups that blends ska rhythms with rockabilly twang.

Radiation took some time to answer Up on the Sun's questions about the Rebels and the future of The Specials.

Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels are scheduled to perform with Liam & The Ladies and DJ Shameless on Thursday, March 1, at the Rhythm Room.

Up on the Sun: How did the Specials reunion shows go? Did you guys discuss making another album or touring again?

Roddy Radiation: The Specials reunion shows were brilliant! Very emotional affairs, as we had no idear how much we meant too so many people all over the world. We are discussing new material and hopefully some of my new songs will be considered.

The Skabilly Rebels mix rockabilly and ska. Here in the States it's very common for fans of both genres to enjoy the other. What do you think ties the two types of music together?

Well, ska originally was based on early R&B, artists such as Fats Domino...so the roots of rock 'n' roll are from the same beginnings. Jamaicans changed the back beats and put Caribbean influences into the mix.

You have a UK band and a US band. How long have you been playing with the US incarnation?

The U.S. Skabillys were hand picked by my good friend Danny Dean of The Homewreckers and are all great players from different musical back grounds. My U.K. Skabilly Rebels and I tour Europe, [but] the cost of bringing them over was too much this time round.

What's next for the Skabilly Rebels?

I've recorded three new songs recently towards a new CD, and will be back in the studio when I get home from the States.

What artists are exciting you these days, both new and old?

Well my musical tastes are many and varied, from early rock 'n' roll through to punk rock, swing jazz, hillbilly, ska and blues music. If you like The Specials, The Clash, and the Stray Cats you'll love the Skabilly Rebels.

Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels are scheduled to perform with Liam & The Ladies and DJ Shameless on Thursday, March 1, at the Rhythm Room.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.