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Interview: Why Nothing Comes Between The Real McKenzies and Their Kilts

In Music

Their new record is far from “Mainland,” the song that won them many fans but represented a band in flux, with a revolving-door membership. Westwinds is their biggest and best sounding record, right from the opener “The Tempest,” with its striking bagpipe and drum. Their command of traditional Scottish music has never been more confident, and the album’s power no doubt comes to some extent from the fact that for the first time, they hid themselves away in a small town while making it. With no distractions, the band members worked closely together on the sessions. There’s even a hidden track at the end, “Secret Song for Mike,” that parodies and perfectly imitates the recognizable Fat Wreck Chords sound, giving an alternate-universe perspective on what the band would sound like if they didn’t stick to their roots.

One of the ironies of the band is that McKenzie does do his Celtic roots proud—especially since he kind of started the band to get back at them.

“I was rebelling as a teenager,” he says. “Because as a kid they made me do all this stuff I just hated. ‘Now put this kilt on Paulie, and you’re going to sing this Robert Burns song for your auntie and uncle!’ This went on quite regularly in my family.”

Now there’s a Robert Burns poem adapted on every Real McKenzies album, including “Halloween” on the new one. Though most of their songs are originals, the band still does some punked-up traditional numbers.

They have many fans now who like them for that very reason, although their punk humor doesn’t always go over with the old guard. McKenzie remembers one Scottish cultural festival where they did their infamous “Fuzzy Bum Contest,” much to the outrage of organizers.

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