The Real McKenzies

© Pete Alander



An interview with The Real McKenzies

Interview By Pete Alander / March 2011

“Dance Around the Whisky!” That song describes this Canadian punk band, The Real McKenzies, pretty well. Since 1994 they have delivered their Scottish bagpipe rock anthems to fanatic crowds around the world. They have been touring with Rancid, NOFX, Flogging Molly, Shane McGowan and The Misfits. It has been said that their singer and founder Paul McKenzie was at a party listening Sex Pistols in one room and Robert Burns in the other. With that mixture he created the concept of this thundering rock act which is still bag piping strong after eight studio albums, one DVD and 18 years of travelling millions of miles around the world. Not much of this time was sober though, since The Real McKenzies is very well known for their drinking habits.

On January 2011 The Real McKenzies circus came to Tavastia, a famous rock club in Helsinki, Finland. Steel Mill got the opportunity to check out just HOW drunk these guys can get during their performance, and HOW drunk a Millworker can get while listening to the amazing sound that is The Real McKenzies. I would give you the answer, but I was too drunk to remember…

After almost two hours of punk rock and many, many pints of beer, I met the band after the show (which was wild, read the review…), hoping to get an audio interview in a nice and quiet place. Instead, their manager Randall escorted me to a table and I found myself holding my pen and paper, surrounded by drunken band members and their surprisingly young and good-looking groupies. I believe those kilts have some kind of magic when luring ladies.

But being in cold Finland I was really wondering if they won´t freeze their balls with kilts? The singer Paul McKenzie explains how it is:

Paul: Actually these kilts are ten times warmer than normal pants. You don´t need to wear anything under them. The fabric is very natural and it feels just good.

And a good thing is they are easy to take off…

Yep, Mark (“Bone” Boland, guitar -ed.) likes to flash occasionally, like tonight. We´ve performed many times without clothing, it´s not a big deal for us.

I could really see it, but luckily there was not much nudity in tonight’s performance. Some occasional mooning by the bagpiper and the guitarist.
There is an unquestionable love for punk rock and Scottish anthems, but are there any other influences or ideologies in The Real McKenzie band?

We are very open to every music, especially rock, punk, metal, folk… You name it. What we don’t tolerate is racism in its every form. If there is any deeper ideology in our band then it has to be to stop racism.

Besides throwing one hell of a live show, you guys create amazing music, but how can a band from Canada create Scottish music? Do you get any bitching from Scotland for “not being real” or something?

No not at all, we have heritage from Scotland and we honour those roots. You can hear it through our music and the way we perform onstage.

© Pete Alander

You´ve been around over 18 years and still going strong, how is it even possible? What is your secret keeping the music and performing so fresh, year after year?

It is easy! (Paul explains and gropes the blonde groupie with a grin). To be honest, I just love everything about this band and what it gives. I´ve been working so hard for everything, and it is all just because of the love and passion for what I do. In that way you see this is not just having a dayjob. It´s much, much more and there´s always something to do.

You have been touring with  many artists. What was it like with Shane McGowan who kinda is a grand daddy for this kind of music?

Shane was brilliant! We adore him and he liked us. Especially he was cool when not too drunk…

At this point the guitarist Mark joins us and Paul goes somewhere. Mark has a history of loving heavy metal.

Mark: Judas Priest is one of my favourite bands. I think metal combines people and the stuff we play has some cool metal vibes in it.

Have you ever thought of doing heavy metal covers?

Absolutely, but yet we haven´t. We did a Turbonegro cover for their tribute album ´Alpha Motherfuckers´. The song was´Sailorman´. We were in Germany recording an album and this guy came and asked us to do it. By the time we didn´t even know what the heck Turbonegro was, to be honest. Of course now we do and it was an honour to be part of that album. It´s a shame Turbonegro has split up.

© Pete Alander

Next some Judas Priest perhaps?

I have a dream to start The Real McKenzies show with Priest´s ´The Hellion` intro playd with bagpipes. How cool would that be! I also love ´Island of Domination` and `Diamonds & Rust`.

Mark gets excited about the idea of being an opener for Priest.

We would make a great opener for a Priest!

At this point the bagpiper, Gord Taylor comes along and Mark moves away. I gotta ask Gord how he learned the noble talent of playing bagpipes.

Gord: I started as a young kid and practised a lot. It sounds a bit of a cliche but you gotta learn at a young age and practise. Otherwise you can´t play while you get drunk!

To me, that summons up the great philosophy of The Real McKenzies, but how do you all get along during massive touring?

We are a family and our fans around the world are huge part of it. That´s how this keeps rolling and rolling, year after year.

Paul comes back and, at this point, I notice I can´t even read my own handwriting anymore so it is time to put my bagpipes to the backroom and end the interview. Personally, I can say these guys were extremely fun to watch and listen to. They are great and humble personalities and really talented musicians. The drinking part was also nice! Any last comments to the readers of Steel Mill and to K.K. Downing?

© Pete Alander

Paul: Huge thank you! K.K. is the man and it has been an honour to be part of it!
Mark: K.K. You rule! Whenever you got the time, send me an email. Pete has my address. Cheers!

The Real McKenzies on the web: