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The Real McKenzies on 25 years of Canadian Celtic punk rock

By Justine Apostolopoulos

VANCOUVER — Frontman Paul McKenzie has the kind of drive and passion that builds legends. He quit high school at age 17 to tour across Canada with his then band TT Racer, leaving his Catholic upbringing in a cloud of dust.

“My parents had said ‘If you go on this tour, don’t bother coming back!’ so I didn’t,” says McKenzie, who went on to spearhead a wave of Celtic punk music that’s taken him “easily one million miles” on the road so far.

The Real McKenzies are celebrating 25 years of ripping bagpipes and electric guitar fueled Scot-rock this spring. In March, they release their tenth studio album, Two Devils Will Talk, which McKenzie describes as an arsenal of Dan Garrison’s (McKenzie guitarist since 2015) songs. “Dan brought the idea of the album to me and I was right on board,” he says, looking forward to performing the new record of anthem-inspiring songs. “I love the adrenaline rush of performing and connecting with the audience. The times when the audience knows the lyrics better than I do, those are proud moments. It’s all about the collective positive energy.”

The current line-up of the band has two electric guitars and three bagpipes, which exceeds the limits of what any practicing Celt-punk lover reasonably hopes for, including Paul McKenzie: the one consistent member of the band since its inception in 1992. He states in his straight-forward and jovial manner, “Although I’ve broken 100 men over 25 years with the McKenzies, there’s no doubt in my mind that the group of men we have in this line-up are the most honorable, talented, and attentive group of men I could have the honor of sharing the stage with. I look forward to many more years of excellent rock and roll and turning on 10,000 more people.”

In his time off, McKenzie is usually in his hometown of Vancouver with his family, sailing the waters of the B.C. coast and making no plans whatsoever for retirement. There’s no book on the horizon, but six more months of touring with the band coming up this year, promoting the new record across North America and Europe.

You can catch the Real McKenzies at The Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) March 4, Dickens (Calgary) March 17, the Starlite Room (Edmonton) March 18, the Exchange (Regina) March 22 and Windsor Hotel (Winnipeg) March 23.

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