Catching up with Roddy Byers
Most readers of "Hot Music Live" plus countless others around the world, will know Roddy "Radiation" Byers best as the lead guitarist with the classic Specials lineup & the writer of such well known & well loved songs as "Concrete Jungle", "Rat Race" and "Hey Little Rich Girl". However Roddy has also led his own bands for many years, releasing many records & touring internationally as well as continuing to play large numbers of gigs each year (well apart from 2020 obviously) around our own area to which he remains committed.
The impact of COVID19 has been democratic in hitting the music community, affecting everyone pretty equally badly, whether those still just known in their local area, those beginning their careers, all the way through to global names such as Roddy. I caught up with him (via prudent social distancing) the other day & checked in with how he's doing, deciding to focus more on positive plans for the future than detailing the disappointments of the past months.
I know it's not easy to be sure at the moment, but what gigs have you got booked in next & where can people hopefully see you play?
"Well hopefully these dates!
January 23rd (Solo) The Cluny in Newcastle, Afternoon & Evening Shows
March 6th (Solo) The Black Heart Pub in Camden, London
April 11th (Skabilly Rebels) Undercover festival
May 9th (Skabilly Rebels) Skamouth festival in Great Yarmouth
June 19th (Skabilly Rebels) Hare & Hounds in Birmingham
Sept 10th (Skabilly Rebels) Blam Blam Fever festival in Redcar"
What plans have you got for 2021? Any new releases coming up?
"I'm guesting on a couple of recordings with the AKA and a Rockabilly band from Blackpool way. I've recently contributed to a track for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' new album and hopefully doing a covers album later in the year"
Your current band are the Skabilly Rebels: which other musicians are members with you at the moment?
"The Skabillys change from time to time: the current line up is:
Joe Harcourt - 2nd Guitar
Adrian Lee - Sax & Keys
Connor O'Connor - Bass
Matt Hart – Drums"
Not many people have invented new musical genres: how would you describe skabilly?
"Well Tim Armstrong from Rancid said I invented Ska/Punk!
I've been mixing Rock'n'roll and Ska and Reggae since the 1980's Depending on the Song, a couple are Country/Reggae and some Ska/Punk. Also there's a fair bit of blues in there too!"
Judging by the international demand for touring, it sounds like skabilly has a global appeal?
"Well I've done these countries in the past few years after quitting the Specials -
Hong Kong, Argentina, USA, Australia and Europe & Ireland
As a ex member of the Specials, I get offers from all around the World"
How does this band compare with the music you were making with previous bands like the Tearjerkers & Bonediggers?
"My previous bands were very similar to the Skabilly Rebels and I do songs I've written from both of those bands"
Some readers may not know that you formed one of the first punk bands in Coventry (the Wild Boys). How much does the punk attitude still shape what you do?
"Well Punk Rock is an attitude that I will never lose..The Wild Boys started in 1975 and finished in 1977. We were sorta Glam Rock'n'roll and adapted when Punk came along. I saw the Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Damned in London all in 1976 at the beginning of British Punk Rock"
Have you any plans for getting involved in City of Culture activities?
" I've been asked to do interviews and hopefully do a show or two"
Are there any local artists you particularly enjoy which you could recommend to our readers?
"The Voodoo Kings. Another local band I like is Dragster "
How about any current artists from outside our area?
"The Rough Kutzs - Stoke on Trent
Skapones – Darlington"
As the music scene emerges from COVID19, are you generally optimistic or pessimistic?
"Good question. Hopefully it will go back to how it was before but I somehow doubt that"
If you had the chance to collaborate with any (living) musicians, who would you name?
For the latest news on Roddy Radiation & the Skabilly Rebels and to buy their music & merchandise, please visit
"Live in the Basement" by Stylusboy
It was only last week that I was telling you about the new Stylusboy single "This Is Where I Belong" which was released in advance of its parent EP "Live in the Basement" which in turn came out a few hours ago.
A six track collection which also includes live versions of "Out Upon the Ocean", "Keep You", "Embrace the View" , "Ride This Storm" and the Stylusboy classic "For the Souls of My Brothers" in addition to the aforementioned track, the larger set shares the virtues of the trail blazing song and I'll fairly shamelessly reprint some of my earlier comments since they hold true & I can't improve upon them: ".. there is a haunting element to his live performances which is difficult to capture in words ..... and the underground venue with its ambience serves to amplify this. Stylusboy works superbly with his performance style and the intimate nature of his music: you need to be enclosed with him & in proximity to him to get the most of out the opportunity & moment.". True last week, true today & pretty certain to be true for the rest of what hopefully will be a long career, though as I did say in my review of his last studio album, 'Routes', topping his recent compositions will be a challenge, though one I'm sure he'll rise to.
In fact, if you are new to Stylusboy's music, "Live in the Basement" might be a useful starting point: not only does it contain some of his very finest writing to date but if does really encapsulate his live performance skills & show you in a nutshell precisely why people appreciate his craft. I can only hope that the clinical situation permits live performances in the intimate setting where this works so effectively as soon as is safe. In the meantime Stylusboy has been live streaming quite a lot: please check out the videos on his pages & they should all also be on the "Hot Music Live Presents" Facebook page.
"This Is Where I Belong" by Stylusboy
You'll no doubt have enjoyed that masterpiece of Stylusboy, namely "For the Souls of My Brothers" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two' and we have said on numerous occasions how much we like his work.
We also told you last September of his most recent album ‘Routes' that "if an album has been so well & lovingly wrought that it has no flaws, then one might call it "flawless"": a sentiment which Stylusboy has been kind enough to quote on his own webpage. We stand by that assessment too.
Now he is releasing a live version of one of the songs from ‘Routes', namely "This Is Where I Belong" which will in turn appear on his live EP ‘Live in the Basement' which is released on all major digital platforms on 31st July.
"Flawless" as the studio version of this song might be (in the context of where it appeared on ‘Routes', I said last year that it "sets an agenda for the future in the light of the preceding songs' self examination: a coherent end to a very well structured album") then taken by itself without that relationship to preceding tracks, the single does offer new insights.
As often with this artist, there is a haunting element to his live performances which is difficult to capture in words (though the live EP will surely articulate this aspect perfectly) and the underground venue with its ambience serves to amplify this. Stylusboy works superbly with his performance style and the intimate nature of his music: you need to be enclosed with him & in proximity to him to get the most of out the opportunity & moment. I've been fortunate enough to do this & I suspect that a stadium gig might not be his ideal venue.
Hence one greatly appreciates the optimism, the quiet & considered optimism of "This Is Where I Belong" (in light of my above paragraph, you might well apply its sentiments to the space in which it was recorded in this version I suppose): one of those "manifesto" statements of values which the best artists occasionally release. This song of course long predates lockdown, but given Stylusboy's tendency to the reflective, it will be interesting to hear whatever songs he may have written in recent months.
"Open Your Eyes" by Bethany Dyson
Did you enjoy the sumptuous, popular & acclaimed track "Just You & Me" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three'? If, like me, you did, you'll be delighted to learn that Bethany Dyson has managed to release a new single "Open Your Eyes", beating lockdown to record it.
As a follow up to "Just You & Me" (which was her last single as well as appearing on our local showcase of the finest talent in Coventry & Warwickshire), the new song (written by Bethany with guitarist/keyboard player Chris Hague) also features Joel White on piano, Style Councillor Steve White on drums & bass player David Glover and was produced by Chris and David, the mastering being courtesy of Simon Francis.
As "Just You & Me" turned its gaze upon issues of mental well being, "Open Your Eyes" inhabits a similarly compassionate world and at this point it is worth saying that Bethany's words in this respect are greatly enhanced by her choice of delivery style. A few too many singers with obvious natural ability choose to use songs as showcase vehicles for their range, power & tricks (I'm sorry but in my experience the term "diva" was far from being some sort of compliment necessarily): Bethany is emphatically not one of these. I'm not quite sure I'd go with the "raw" description of her work (her writing is as polished as her warm vocal tones) but I'd most definitely agree with "straight talking" and "honest" and such virtues as I say are as inherent in how she sings this song as what she says in it.
As with the previous single, you can't really ignore the pedigree of the musicians she is fortunate enough to work with (and I'm sure they would not choose to work with Bethany unless they admired and respected her work as I do) but the result is not some sort of high end professional piece, all gloss & little substance, but the work of players who have also played with artists of the unquestionable integrity of Paul Weller, Pulp, Finlay Quaye etc. Let's hope Bethany's eventual commercial success matches some of those.
As before, I'm glad that we can use "cross genre" about her work as this song is styled to its own meaning & not a rigid stylistic classification. Elements of blues & jazz lurk agreeably but I'd say that in this instance soul possibly has the upper hand with strong echoes of early 1970s versions of that style.
It all works very well as "an irresistible piece of dreamy and soulful pop" yet I think that it is so much more than that & I'm sure Bethany intends it to be so. It exhorts us to rise to the challenges around us and to use a pathway of honesty & truth to do so. Clearly viewing the world in such a way is vital to this, but we should not forget that we are part of that world & we should examine ourselves just as objectively.
As I say, it's not just what Bethany writes & sings, however beautiful & uplifting a first listen might be. Listen again (and again) please and really take onboard her deeper meanings & the spirit in which she performs the song. Then go out and live your way as she recommends. It's for the best.
Check out also the charming video Bethany again just managed to get completed with Paul Newbold of Lightspark Music Photography while such things were still possible: it's at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puYGxBYreNY&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR28IkNlOYzG95IqEc3eA52GxRT7JlA9DyRMJFxKXdtxJxmcXtn7UvrwKMY
"Little Brave" by Henery
In February (and how long ago that feels today), I had the pleasure of telling you about "In The Moment", the debut single by singer-songwriter Henery and the first released fruits of his sessions with John Rivers at Woodbine Street Recording Studios, which will in time come out in their full glory as an album.
Today, amidst all the madness, the second track & hence single, "Little Brave" is available for you. Henery herein demonstrates how wide his range in writing & performing is. If "In The Moment" "grabs you from the very first bar, opening with a most imaginative almost madrigal setting (how often do you hear that?), the haunting melody sounds totally fresh yet at the same time, almost timeless" as I suggested, then with its follow up he goes for something less fragile (though he does ironically feature the word in his lyrics) & more driving: just as memorable, based upon an insistent & compelling guitar riff. With once again his strong & confident singing sitting nicely & prominently on top of the arrangement (which features an attractive almost skiffle type drum) and unlike its predecessor there is a little light and tasteful processing.
If the musical tone is breezy, the words are rather self deprecatory and the tension between the two works well: there seems a deal of good will being offered to the subject of the song, the person for whom he doesn't feel that he's good news.
One highlight of the whole piece is the way the arrangement suddenly kicks into greater complexity, adding depth & majesty (as his voice still rides above it) yet despite the simultaneous introduction of new sounds, the production is so good that each is crystal clear & the arrangement & performance so inventive that you can actually delight in each individual part: the guitar, keyboards and especially the funky bass all have something interesting to say.
This song will grab you & stay in your head from first hearing (a quality his songs all have) & I hope in these strange times it will get the play & publicity it deserves since it has the qualities to be a commercial success. For the time being you can also chalk it up as a critical success too.
Back from his recent extended European tour, one would normally very much look forwards to hearing Henery promote this material live (as I have mentioned previously, he has a really strong set of originals & is a powerful solo performer). That can't happen just yet, but it's really worth looking forwards to & I hope he'll be back out playing in time for his album launch.