On February 26th, 2012 we had a chance to conduct an interview with Canadian Celtic punk rock band THE REAL MCKENZIES.
Hey! How are you guys?
HA! A little messed up as usual, but we’re doing ok.
You’ve been touring heavily since December. Were Europeans kind for you?
As always! We had a great run through the old country and had some epic experiences along the way. We did a heavy Spanish tour all through Basque, Galicia, Catalonia and Madrid, that was pretty awesome, and Mutti, our European booker organized a great Folk Punk Rock Festival at SO36 in Berlin!
Any crazy stories from the trek?
Oh god. Yeah, when you put together a group of individuals of our ilk all together in one van and blast across 10 countries something is bound to happen. I have to say though, this tour was a little dull in terms of broken bones and concussions. We played New Years’ in Badalona and that was pretty amazing…but before that, Paul, Frieder (Our tour manager) and I went looking for trouble in Barcelona. We had a pretty successful night! If I remember right, we had a few nights off in a row and on night two, we, again went to Barcelona to party… And would you believe we found the EXACT same thing! Except she went by a different name on night two.
How is touring the old continent different from your North American shows?
Well, there are little differences. On top, they seem like big differences like the size of the crowds or the type of locale, but honestly, they’re just little tweaks. I mean, no matter where we go, we always experience the same wonderful thing that makes us all count our blessings and realize how lucky we are: Everyone is always so, so wonderful. From people or people’s mothers cooking amazing meals, to promoters letting us sleep at their houses because we can’t afford hotels. I’ve never met friends like the ones The Real McKenzies have and no matter where we are, or what their accents sound like, they have the same amazing hearts.
Are there any places left that you still want to visit with the band?
Well, I’d like to go back to Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed all the sin in that city. But I think you’re referring to new places. South America would be pretty amazing. I know they’ve been asking for us, but it’s pretty difficult to make the numbers work when you’re talking about flying and driving 7 people around.
So what can we expect on your new album (“Westwinds”, due out March 27th, 2012)? Tell us more about it.
Whew. That thing is a monster. Sean and I did most of the writing on that album in terms of producing the 15-track demo (8 tracks were chosen for Westwinds) and when we were writing, we looked back at our favorite albums and picked a few things from them to include in Westwinds. On Westwinds you’ll find 3 or 4 really great rockers. We were recording in Nanton and as we listened to the demo we saw an opportunity to really burn the barn. We wrote a new aca-pella song (We had been singing Stan Rogers’ Barrett’s Privateers for so long we really wanted to try out our own aca-pella writing capabilities). We included the works of other good artists including Robbie Burns, Rick Tucker, Stan Rogers, and Jim McLean…these aren’t necessarily ALL covers (I think there are 3 covers on the album) but some of the words and inspiration from these guys is just unstoppable. And it’s in our tradition to tell the world about as many great songs as we can no matter who wrote them. Also per tradition we ended the album with a bagpipe solo (A tune written by the 89-year-old man who taught me how to play the bagpipes. He wrote the piece for his wife, Frances) and then added one more quick track about Fat Mike. [laughs]
Writing it, did you plan to obtain a certain goal, or is it just a natural extension of THE REAL MCKENZIES’ legacy?
Uhm, no I don’t think there was a ‘specific’ goal. I mean, there was the goal of creating a great album, but most of that work had been done in the writing stages (When it came to studio time it was the usual chaos lol). I will say that we put a lot of thought into the content of the album and the sequence of that content. I was never a full-time member of The McKenzies old studio jobs but I get the feeling that it was The McKenzies job just to puke out whatever they had for Fat and Fat’s job to plan the ‘feel’ of the album. This time, we tried doing both. I guess the short answer to the question is our goal was to make all the new material sound like a better band, naturally extending it’s legacy.
What Fat Wreck Chords’ bands are you tight with? How did their roster change throughout all these years? The music industry has also changed a lot over the past 20 years. What’s your outlook on the record industry today and spreading the music online? Does Fat Wreck manage to stay strong these days?
Fat seems to be very good with keeping things rolling amidst all the digital insanity. I think it’s amazing how they’re turning over great numbers in these tumultous times. But I think some of that has to do with Punk Rockers. These fans are always willing to buy an album and not steal it. They are always at the shows, showing support. Punk rock fans are tight with their bands…incidentally it’s one of my favorite things about The Real McKenzies and the genre.
But my own opinion is that the business has to focus on the live show. The Real McKenzies (As well as a lot of other punk rock bands like NOFX, BEATSTEAKS, UK SUBS) naturally just pump out unforgettable live shows. As a weird twist, I think it’s the fans that bring this out…but I’d like to see artists around the world forget about making piles of money from the sale of their recorded music and focus on investing money into massive shows. After all, a person only has one option for SEEING and EXPERIENCING their favorite band, but many options to just listen to the stuff.
What modern punk rock bands are you into right now? What bands excite you today?
This is a shitty answer: I don’t think any of us are really into listening to punk rock for entertainment. On tour, in the bus, we tend to play lots of STOMPIN’ TOM CONNORS, DAVID WILCOX, ELLA FITZGERALD, CHOPIN, JERRY REID, and some of the 70s and 80s rockers like DEEP PURPLE and IRON MAIDEN.
Canadian Scottish folk punk vs. American Irish folk punk. Are you in battle with Boston folk punk bands? [laughs] What’s the difference between Irish and Scottish folk punk style?
God I don’t even know anymore. The DKM are irish, but play with Scottish Bagpipes. THE DREADNOUGHTS seem Irish but sing more handwritten Canadian songs. It’s getting a little cluttered up around here. Everyone’s got these amazing songs and amazing talents but I don’t think the focus is on Nationality. I think that Nationality is just a vehicle for pumping out our emotions. A person tends to be good at what they know…so they use what they know to do what they want.
How do you wear a kilt in weather below freezing? [laughs]
Well, start with a cold day.
Then take your kilt…there are 3 buckles. First you put the right one in the left hole and do up the clasp. Then you take the left two, and fold the kilt over your front and do up the other 2 clasps. Finally you add the kilt pin.
Next you grab your socks and slide them on, doing your boots up over top. Put your sgian dubh (Black Dagger) down your left sock.
Then do up your belt and sporran, throw on one of your shirts from merch (because the airline lost your bag) and your leather jacket.
Finally, go outside. That’s how.
Do you care about Europe’s debt crisis? Are you interested in economy? What do you think about Wall Street Occupiers?
Yeah it’s an interesting crisis alright. I’m wondering when Germany is going to go bust. I don’t know what to say, I come from a fairly socialist country and we tour all over Europe. It’s hard to comment on capitalism when you’re so used to something else.
Is there a beer you would like to recommend?
Yeah…lots of it for alcoholic pipers. Preferably in ‘bong’ form.
What other activities do you do besides being in a band?
I write a lot in general. I have 3 books published of my compositions over the years. I surf, and snowboard, and go to the gym to lift.
I happen to be a computer programmer too so I’ve been spending some time with Apple and IOS development. That’s just me though. I have no idea what the other assholes are doing right now.
Thank you. Feel free to add anything you want.
Thanks for the interview!
THE REAL MCKENZIES – “Drink Some More” video:
THE REAL MCKENZIES live: