A pair of heavyweight bands from San Diego’s past is reuniting on the stages of this year’s Adams Avenue Street Fair: Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper and the Paladins. “We haven’t played San Diego in a while,” Paladins bassist Thomas Yearsley says. “Maybe eight years.” When they did play here last, the trio invited other artists to sit in. “It’s just us this time.” Originally from North County, the Paladins gained worldwide fame during the rockabilly revival era.
“In the ’80s, it was fiercely competitive. Our manager was Tim Mays (Casbah) and he’d have us opening for the Blasters, the Stray Cats, and every other ’80s band. We were relatively unknown. We needed something entirely our own. And there were two ways to do that.” One way to break through was via alcohol. The Paladins brewed their own beer and shared it backstage. “Dark beer,” Yearsley says, “and we’d bring it to the shows in old Coke bottles. And then we’d do a kick-ass show that involved me doing backflips.”
Paladins guitarist Dave Gonzalez checks in by phone from Austin. “It’ll be nice to get back together again and knock the dust off.” He says the Paladins tour Europe with semi-regularity, but that San Diego gigs are far and few between. “It’s cool to be playing in our hometown again,” he says. “The sound of the late ’90s.” For which Paladins set the bar, I say. He laughs. “We opened the bar.”
I catch Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr., better known as Mojo Nixon, at home in Coronado, where he is boning up for a radio show. That’s what the writer of such songs as “Stuffin Martha’s Muffin” and “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child” does now — he’s a satellite-radio host. He plans to hook up with Skid Roper (Richard Banke), a National City guitarist with whom he had a psychobilly duo here during the ’80s. “Me and Skid? We haven’t played in 20 years.”
Roper recently released Rock and Roll, Part Three, but Nixon has backed away from music. “I’m pretty much retired. I only play five times a year. This may be something that will bring me out of retirement.” Meaning, the door is open to future Mojo-and-Skid collaborations? “You never know. Cash talks and bullshit walks,” he laughs. “We’ll play all the hits from those first five albums, and a few more.” Are he and Roper still friends?
“I see Skid every now and then. People say, ‘When’s the big reunion tour? When are you guys gonna play again?’” Then, Nixon, shock jock to the end, says this: “I’ll try not to get in trouble by saying motherf--ker too many times. I think they give you a three-motherf--ker limit.”