Volume 92, Issue 18

Friday, October 2, 1998

homing in


If it's Scottish it's Real McKenzies

Photo by Dave Jacklin
THERE'S A PIPER DOWN – NO WAIT, THERE HE IS. The Real McKenzies bear their bagpipes at Call the Office tonight.

By Michael Murphy
Gazette Writer

If it's haggis, Robbie Burns and bag-pipin' punk rock that yer wantin', then the Real McKenzies are yer lads.

Formed on a whim one night in 1992, this Vancouver-based Celtic punk ensemble has now played over 2,500 live shows and has recently released a new record, entitled The Clash of the Tartans. This five-man clan's most salient characteristic is their distinctive Scottish flavour, which North American punk audiences are warming up to.

The group's affable front man, Paul McKenzie, offered a useful explanation of the Real McKenzie sound. "What we do is sort of mix-up traditional Scots punk and Robbie Burns with Ramonian sort of punk. It works very well," McKenzie says.

For those without literary backgrounds, Robbie Burns was a prolific 18th century Scottish poet. These kilt-clad punksters are so fond of Burns' verses they've incorporated many of them directly into their songs.

McKenzie and the band also draw on other, more common musical influences to achieve their hybrid Scot-punk sound. "I love American soul and rhythm and blues. That's what I was raised on along with Scottish music," McKenzie divulges.

He goes on to say he and his bandmates can appreciate almost any form of music.

McKenzie is quite pleased with the direction the Real McKenzies are taking. In the wake of a well-received stint on last summer's Warped Tour and the release of their new CD, the laddies are looking forward to continued and greater success.

"We're getting stronger than ever and we have a very strong line-up," he enthuses. A major player in that line-up is the recent addition of Raven "Black Cloud" Macleod, a two-time world champion bagpiper who also has a Juno award to his credit.

When listening to this punk vocalist reel off road stories, one gets the sense the Real McKenzies may just be the world's most well-travelled tour band. As any performing musician knows, not all crowds are receptive – or even non-violent.

"We get people throwing stuff at us. Some people lose control," McKenzie relates. According to the musician, popular projectiles include ashtrays, bottles, baseball bats, cigarette butts, tons of spit, bras, panties and banana peels.

As if that weren't enough, the band once had a 10-pin bowling ball thrown on stage at a concert in Texas and braved incoming raw squid at a college bar in Eugene, Oregon. In the latter instance, Paul reacted like the feisty Scotsman he is, by sampling the squid and sending it right back at the rowdy crowd. "When I started biting them open and spittin' squid ink on the bastards, they sure changed their tune."

One might think a rigorous and demanding touring schedule such as theirs would cause internal tensions, even among the best of friends. "Being in a tour band is much like being in a submarine. Fear and anger is extremely catchy, especially with all the testosterone in the band," McKenzie admits. When trivial spats do arise, the lads never have any trouble settling their differences. "We love each other like brothers," he emphasizes.

After six years in the business, the ever-feisty McKenzie clan continues to march through the punk music countryside, unleashing their original Scot-rock on unsuspecting audiences everywhere. Beware punk fans, if you hear the sound of bagpipes coming over the hills, broken beer bottles are sure to follow.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998