The Real McKenzies


By Kaitlyn Emslie-Farrell

The Real McKenzies aren’t a new topic of conversation for Canadian punk lovers. They’ve been written about, talked about, and danced to. But if you’re really experiencing The Real McKenzies, you’re drinking to them. Vancouver based Celtic punk rockers aren’t strangers to Winnipeg either. I spoke with front man Paul McKenzie and he told me many stories including one about our own wind spot on Portage and Main.

“We’d get drunk and stand there at a 45 degree angle. Until one of us got run over by a bus and then we stopped. It’s all fun and games till someone gets run down by a bus. It was the first time I ever saw anybody get busted,” says McKenzie.

McKenzie is celebrating 25 years of the band’s life. He puts it into perspective for us. “If I murdered someone instead of being in a band I’d be out by now.” Being in a band can be a true life sentence. “And probably rehabilitated,” he adds. Just McKenzie though, as the remaining bandmates seem to circulate often. “The alumni of this band is over a hundred men. We’ve destroyed the lives of a hundred men.” Well, that’s okay. It happens I guess?

The band is still releasing new albums consistently. They’re currently writing one and have another lined up. Some of the music will be live and some studio recorded, but even then, that’s not the end of it. McKenzie has big plans, although some might find that impossible, but not for this Scotsman. “And then we’re going to wait till I’m old and do a dead album. A live dead album,” says McKenzie. “I’m just going to hang a mic in the middle of the room with my dead body and it’s just going to be nothing.”

Jokes aside, the job is a tough one. I asked McKenzie if he has to work as hard now that the band has solidified a reputation over the years. “Way harder. It used to be easier before hip hop and spoken word and electro,” says McKenzie. “I suppose the people that aren’t into it for the passion of it go out and go to school and get a job and live happily ever after, but we’re not like that. We love to suffer.” I think anyone involved with music can understand this mentality. But they would also understand that it’s not really a choice when you’re passionate about something. And of course there’s good that comes along with it. “We’ve really changed people’s lives with our music and you can’t put a price on that.”

Don’t be fooled by the band’s success. This is still the music industry we’re talking about. “The band doesn’t really pay the bills,” says McKenzie. Jobs suck because pants are required at most of them, which is conflicting with Scottish traditional clothing. 

The formation of Celtic punk is a natural occurrence. McKenzie gives me a history lesson to emphasize this. “Celtic music, the good stuff has always been rebel music. The celts have been oppressed by the English so they were always rebelling against the monarchy and stuff. And that’s punk.” 

In the end they love what they do and they’re excited to come back to Winnipeg. “We’re happy to be playing in the same club,” says McKenzie. “We’re looking forward to having a really good time in Winnipeg and we wanna see you all. And don’t be shy, come up and say hello cause we’re all very personable and we love our Winnipeg fans.” The Real McKenzies are playing at The Windsor on March 24th. Buy them some beer.