Q&A: The Real McKenzies Become Refined Road Warriors
For over 20 years, The Real McKenzies have served as a driving force in the Celtic punk music community, travelling the globe relentlessly with their foot-stomping, fist-pumping, drunkenness-encouraging sound.
This week the band – Paul McKenzie (vocals), Mark ‘Bone’ Boland (guitar, vocals), Mario Nieva (guitar, vocals), Troy Zak (bass, vocals), Jesse Pinner (drums), Matt McNasty (bagpipes, vocals), and Gord Taylor (bagpipes, vocals) – released their mighty new album, Rats in the Burlap, through Stomp Records.
Recently, Riffyou.com spent some time with ‘Bone’ to discuss the album; how new members have impacted The Real McKenzies; the band’s evolving stage presence; and how to stay healthy and “refined” on the road.
RY: You and Paul have remained the constant figures in The Real McKenzies for some time now. How much do you push yourselves to continually find ways to make new music exciting?
Bone: “Bringing in new song writers is what keeps it refreshing. You get new ideas and new angles, so the music doesn’t sound like the same ole, same ole. We don’t want to be AC/DC and play that same song over and over again and have our records sound just like each other. New guys in the fold keep us fresh.
“We just put pen to paper, play the same chords and see what comes out,” laughs. “We don’t have an approach so to speak. We see what comes out; fine tune it; then record it.”
RY: As cool as it is to get new blood into the band, is it often a challenge having guys come in and out?
Bone: “It does get monotonous having to show new guys the old songs over and over again. But with some of the past band members, there was definitely a ‘rock star attitude’ in some areas. These new guys really wanted to be in this band. After Sean [Sellers] quit, I immediately found Jesse [Pinner]. He’s a great, young drummer and he really wants to do this. Same with our new bass player Troy [Zak] – he’d been trying to get into this band for 10 years. He kept contacting me under the name of Slan Zak. I always thought he was a guy we met in Russia who wanted to play bass for us. Finally I met him in a bar [and he explained who he was] and was super-excited about The Real McKenzies and how we started this Celtic punk movement. I was like, ‘you’re hired!’ He has been a blessing in disguise. He’s a straight shooter with upper management written all over him. We have a strong team that really wants to work together. There is no attitude or sense of self-entitlement from anyone.”
RY: I find it very interesting that new guys would enter a band – that has the longevity and track record of The Real McKenzies – and try to act all high and mighty. That must be frustrating.
Bone: “Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that anymore because none of the guys are like that. They’re happy to be here and are great players. We finally have a guitar player [Mario Nieva] that’s on the same level as me. We’ve been able to do things live that we never were able to before. That’s given the McKenzies another boost, as far as the live show’s concerned.
“In fact, I think this is my favourite lineup ever. We’ve gone through our phases of debauchery and brought that on stage. Fans over the years would come and see The Real McKenzies and they just got a bunch of drunks playing the wrong chords. But, that’s not there anymore. We have a very tight lineup of great musicians that enjoys playing on stage together. I’ve been told it really comes across during live shows.”
RY: That’s great, considering that you have a reputation as road warriors. With the way the music industry has become, do you have to now put more stock into touring than making an album?
Bone: “We tour a lot, because that’s how you sell records. We’re getting on in life and we’ve given up our jobs for this. We tour because you have to nowadays. It’s not like the old days before the Internet where people would go [to a store] and buy music. But now, you have to tour in order to sell records. People come out, they see the show, they like it, they buy music from the band. We have a three month tour happening and I’m exhausted just thinking about it,” laughs.
RY: As you guys grow older, what methods have you taken to ensure that you remain healthy and happy while on the road?
Bone: “You have to exercise. You have to eat right. And, you just can’t go like you’re 18-years-old anymore. You really have to be more careful about what you put into your body and how you treat yourself. You need proper rest – you can’t stay up all night after a show. Being more health conscious definitely helps out a lot. That’s not to say that we won’t party, because you wouldn’t be in The Real McKenzies if you didn’t. But now, [partying] is done in a much more refined tone.”
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