The F-bomb- hurling McKenzie is as filthy as you’d want

MUSIC by Craig Silliphant


The Real McKenzies
Thursday 19 / McNally’s

I had a helluva time getting hold of Paul McKenzie, frontman of the legendary underground Canadian Celtic punk band The Real McKenzies. They were about to board a cruise ship bound for the Bahamas for an extended gig, and their tour manager wasn’t answering the cell number I’d been given. I finally had to interview McKenzie by e-mail, so I’m not sure if he was blitzkrieg drunk or just screwing around and having fun when he was answering my questions, but he sure seemed to enjoy telling me to fuck off.

“No,” says McKenzie when I asked him if age was starting to slow their partying down at all. “Fuck Off. But seriously, fuck off. No really. What does that mean? I think I’ve answered the question.”

Fair enough, on to the next. Celtic punk has a dedicated following of diehard fans but it’s also as derided as dubstep in some circles. So asking McKenzie if he thinks it’s unfairly disparaged felt appropriate. He didn’t seem to like this notion at all.

“If you were to do your homework you would know that the best of Celtic, if not all Celtic music, is rebel music. On your bike!”

A quick Google search tells me “on your bike” is a euphemism for “fuck off.”

I got a sneak preview of their new album Rats in the Burlap, and fans won’t be disappointed; loud guitars, ear-splitting bagpipes and an attitude as big as a pirate ship. Any change in the band’s sound over the years has been hard to detect, but McKenzie assures me that they roll with the times.

“We try to employ a signature sound for our dedicated fans,” he says. “However, life goes on, things change and for we Real McKenzies, change is good. We try to remain resilient with our changing world.

“Now would you please just fuck off?”

Okay, now you’re just saying it for the sake of saying it …though a man that uses an F-bomb for punctuation is a man after my own heart.

Their sound has stayed true but the band has gone through a multitude of lineup changes over the years. McKenzie says that the constantly changing line-ups have allowed him to “lubricate the axel pinions of the revolving door.”

“We have broken over 100 men and counting,” he says. “What’s it to ya?”

He’s obviously got a vivid imagination — which helps with the more traditional aspects of their music, as storytelling is one of the cornerstones of Scottish music — and McKenzie sounds drunker than ever when I ask him about telling stories.

“Lies! Lies! And all lies! Artistic embellishment. The master paints an ugly woman as a beauty, and a beautiful man as an oaf. It’s your time to choose. Choose what? It’s up to you. We Real McKenzies cannot take responsibility, although sometimes we are forced to.”

He does seem to settle down at the end, and I imagine him giving me a wink and a crooked grin when I ask him if there’s anything important that I missed.

“Obviously,” he replies. “But we love you anyway. Can’t wait to rub elbows at the bar over a Guinness.”

Long may you run, Paul.