Like most everyone else currently, Paul McKenzie is having a rough year. The Real McKenzies front man was four days into a world tour that would have seen the band travel through Canada and over to Europe, before heading to Australia, South America and then the US, when quarantine precautions were set in place. The band had played four dates from Vancouver to Montreal, but when they reached the club that evening and were told they’d be playing to an empty room. Since then, McKenzie been home waiting things out and with no end in sight it’s as if the new record, Beer and Loathing, was a not only a great title but an eerie premonition as well.
Currently holed up in Vancouver, Paul McKenzie says he is passing the time reading or re-reading classic novels.
“There isn’t much you can do right now. There’s no work, there’s no shows, there’s just nothing; except to wait.”
A rock and roller by trade, the vocalist was sad to be forcibly sent home in an incomparable moment in our timeline, but figured he could return to work and hope for a quick return to the road. There was a noticeable exhaustion and minor sadness to his tone of voice, but joked about having and apt supply of beans, whiskey and books to get through.
“When I got home not only was I no longer allowed to play music any longer, but my job was lost as well…and now I don’t know what I’ll do. I haven’t even heard from my girlfriend in months. She got quarantined, and I just hope she’s alright.”
When not on the road slaying audiences with their brand of Scottish infused punk rock, McKenzie is a high-rise window washer, or was; but trouble was brewing long before the pandemic. On the band’s most recent European tour, there was a mutiny. Paul says he was confronted by the then Real McKenzies bassist who said the band had collectively decided to call it quits and would be returning home immediately. Caught off guard and with no room for deliberation McKenzie says he did what he’s always done, and persevered. He retreated back to Berlin to regroup and get back to business as quick as possible. Within a week he literally had a new band of merry men and set forth to finish what he’d started that summer.
What Paul didn’t know yet was the then tour manager and newly ex-McKenzies bassist, upon returning home, had contacted all of the tours intended destinations and let them know the band wouldn’t be coming. Considering The Real Mckenzies have built themselves up on the proven fact they’re one of the hardest working bands around, many promoters knew something wasn’t right. Thankfully many had a mind to get in touch with Paul who upon getting a firm foundational footing, now had a new storm to waiver.
“I couldn’t believe it and honestly I still don’t feel like to really happened. Why would someone do this?”
Thankfully the band was still able to play many of their scheduled dates but lost out on some pretty big festival spots.
Paul goes onto explain, “You’d think that would have been the worst of it, but when I got home from the tour there was this weird feeling following me in my hometown and people I’d known a long time seemed to be not so friendly any longer.”
McKenzie says he was once even asked to leave a restaurant he’d long since supported since their opening, but he was no longer wanted or welcome by the chef; who was also his now ex-guitarist. McKenzie is hopeful that things will sort themselves out and that people will listen to the advisers so we can all get back to, creating some sort of new normal to get used to for a while.
On the new album, Beer and Loathing, the band continue to prove they are truly something special. The album has somber beginnings with, “Overton Bridge,” as if the band had just won a battle and were enjoying a moment of drink and song together in celebration. Then there are lyrical excepts worth noting all throughout the revved up, “Big Foot Steps.” The noticeably titled, “Cock up your Beaver,” is a cover of a song and poem by Robert Burns, written in 1972. The song is referring to a gentleman’s hat in an era when all high quality men’s hats were made of felted beaver fur. The Real McKenzies are a band that can either grip your heart or tickle your belly all while enriching you with Scottish culture and giving you a history lesson like they do in, “36 Barrels,” about Robert Catesby’s failed assassination attempt against King James I. There are ballads like, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” and breakneck killers such as, “Narry Do Gooder,” this new album will sustain old fans and entice new ones.
It’s rare to get so much substance from one source but The Real McKenzies are that rare band. Led by a rare and fading breed of rock and roller, Paul Mckenzie has seen the world, been signed to Fat Wreck Records for a small spell, and he’s likely seen every band or artist you could ever fill a road trip playlist with. He puts as much of his heart into his songs as he does his incomparable sense of humor and we’re all lucky he keeps giving us more. If you’ve got a minute, you should write him an email to lift his spirits as I’m sure he’s running out of things to read. Scots Wha Ha’e!
Pick up a copy of the new record at Fat Wreck Records: