Interview: Americans & Lovers Quarrels with The Real McKenzies


Since 1992, Celtic punk band The Real McKenzies have been raising mayhem, and their tartan kilts, throughout the world. Over two decades later and there still isn’t a dull moment to be had within the band’s universe…at least that’s the impression gets from founding the-real-mckenzies-smallmember Paul McKenzie.

Roughly two years removed from their last studio effort, Westwinds, a new album is in the works, but perhaps that’s just a small part of this tale.

During our conversation with McKenzie, he confirms that the band’s line-up has once again changed (“I had to get rid of the Americans,”) and that he is keeping a close eye on author Chris Walter, a man who has bravely set forth on a mission to tell the story of The Real McKenzies (“He’d been bugging me for years, so finally I said okay. But, I mean, he doesn’t drink, so it’s very difficult to communicate with him.”)

First off, let’s focus on the Americans. When we pressed McKenzie about why such a move needed to be made, he didn’t hold anything back:

“Have you ever had to work with Americans? ‘We’re the best and I want, I want…’ I got a little tired of it,” he explains. “Now I have some energetic, enthusiastic Canadian lads, and they are as energetic and enthusiastic as I am. It really helps to get the level of the band back up.”

McKenzie adds that the changeover is “like a breath of fresh air,” and that the new fellas are adding new angles to the song writing formula that’s been working for years. Input is encouraged, and appreciated.

As for the forthcoming book, Walter has supposedly been a little hesitant to include some of McKenzie’s more, let’s say, colourful stories, at least in part because he believes that there’s no way that McKenzie can remember everything he’s sharing.

“In terms of my memory, as soon as the pebble goes free, the avalanche comes down,” says McKenzie, who has in fact known Walter for a number of years, and really appears to enjoy busting his balls publicly. “He’ll say, ‘we can’t write that,’ and I ask him what he means by that.

“I don’t care if anybody wants to sue me, it’s all true!” He continues. “So let them lineup with their lawyers and their litigation. I don’t give a fucking rat’s ass…the people need to know. There’s a contingent of individuals who are going to get it!”

At the time of our conversation, McKenzie says that a lot of effort has already been put into the book, but the real wicked material is still to be added. One incredible story revolves around booze; breaking and entering; a hot iron; a burnt penis; and the smell of bacon. We’ll let the book tell you that one.

“Once we get into the Real McKenzies stuff in this book, the shit is going to fly, because we’ve broken over 100 men,” claims McKenzie. “We’ve left them in mental institutions all around the world. We had a piper who snapped in the van about two years ago.

“We’re doing 40km/h coming into Milan in Italy, and he jumped out of the van,” he continues. “We had no idea what was going on – it took a long time to figure out. Turns out, our soundman and him were having a gay love affair and they were having a lover’s quarrel. I don’t know if the piper was the upper or the lower, but he ended up jumping and that was the last time I saw him. Yeah, really!”

The Real McKenzies embark on a tour of Western Canada beginning on March 6. Click here to see the dates.

-Adam Grant

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