The Real McKenzies celebrate a quarter century of bagpipes and beers

By Tiina Liimu
Photo: Kit Woodland

Photo: Kit Woodland

VANCOUVER — How do these tartan-clad pranksters do it? What is their secret sauce? Showing little slack and growing after 20-something years of steady road touring and full houses isn’t easy.

“To tell you the truth, even we don’t know how we do it. I suppose it’s kind of like bowling. You grab the ball, throw it down the lane, and try to knock as many pins over as possible,” explains enduring frontman Paul McKenzie.

They might just be onto something sporting one of the strongest and longest running work and party ethics to hit this town. “We have an agenda. We have consulted our Scottish physician concerning this matter and she gave us all a slightly soiled bill of health,” he adds. As for that secret sauce, ingredients such as beer and whiskey seem to have leaked in from unnamed informant, and yes, McKenzie did indeed confirm.

Another contributing factor is the collective spirit of this band, with all members contributing and writing, “This circumvents a plateau effect and keeps us on the up and up,” he adds.

Their 2014 release, Rats In The Burlap, is well onto to its second year of touring. This one was recorded at Motor Studios in San Francisco with Josh Garcia as engineer and Fat Mike producing, plus JJ Heath engineering vocals in Vancouver. The punch of this album is every much R’n’R as it is punk, boosting that familiar McKenzie’s sound. The frontman confirms it: “Yes, we are in accordance that Rats in the Burlap is just as much a R’n’R album as a punk rock album. Please remember that before there was punk, there was R’n’R. The album is doing very well, and it has expanded the Real McKenzies’ fan base. Now we have just as many fans punching the air as we do those punching the haggis,” he says.

On the topic of longevity, there is a landmark 25th anniversary recording in the mix. “In celebration of a quarter of a century performing, touring, and recording. We are looking forward to our 26th,” he explains. To add to this, they managed to recruit new lads into the fold: “Two new guitar player/vocalists and one huge piper from Basque Country,” says McKenzie.

With several songs in the demo state, it will be exciting to hear that massive undertaking in its full form. “One of our pipers, Gord Taylor is writing a lot of the material. New songs from our newest members Dan Garrison and Jono Jak also adding refreshing sounds,” explains bassist Troy Zak.

The Vancouver show has a special line-up. The McKenzies will have two pipers on stage for this tour kick off and the first tour with guitarists Jono and Dan. “We’re reunited with BOIDS and have the honour of sharing the stage with Bishops Green,” adds McKenzie.

“Getting Bishops Green on the bill was a big deal for us,” says Zak, sharing former bands with BG guitarist Scott Farquarson and bassist Adam Payne plus recording with the latter in his studio. “The last two releases from this band have really put them on the map globally and we are huge fans. They’re a punk band with substance, and in case you haven’t seen them live they’re fucking terrifying, they will be a hard act to follow,” explains Zak.

With kegs and cases being loaded in the transport, the upcoming show promises to be an incredible experience. “We have written a new set with 32 songs, spanning from the beginning of our career to present day,” says McKenzie. “It’s a carefully selected set, with tunes arranged to fuel an unforgettable extravaganza. On behalf of myself and The Real McKenzies, we are looking forward to performing and sharing an excellent St. Patrick’s Day celebration!”

The Real McKenzies perform at Venue in Vancouver on March 10. In Calgary, catch them for St. Patrick’s Day at Dickens March 17. See them March 18 at the Starlite Room in Edmonton.

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