John ‘Mad Macka’ McKeering has been touring the world with Australia’s favourite punk rock ‘blokes you can trust,’ The Cosmic Psychos, for the past decade, and they’re off again on a huge bog lap of Australia in support of new album, Loudmouth Soup.
You’d be hard pushed to find anyone as chilled as Macka. So laidback he’s practically horizontal, he just gives an audible shrug when I call for our interview, despite not knowing it was even scheduled. “I just didn’t even know I was getting a call, but anyway… whatever, it’s okay,” he says in a slow, Queenslander drawl.
Loudmouth Soup is The Cosmic Psychos’ 11h album – Macka’s fourth with them since being plucked from his long-standing tenure with The Onyas – and the guitarist and sometimes singer bigs it up in his usual laconic style.
“It’s good. We did it in couple… two or three days, Silvia Vermeulen from Holland sorted it out, so yeah, really good,” he explains. Vermeulen has been the band’s sound engineer on multiple European tours, and made the trek to bassist/singer Ross Knight’s farm to produce the album. “She runs a quick ship, and she’s mixed us in Europe a lot, so she knows what to expect. And I didn’t do a lot of lead breaks, so it made it quicker,” he laughs.
Recording on Knight’s Eastern Victorian farm makes for a fun environment for the trio, who are completed by drummer, Dean Muller.
“Yeah, really good – really lucky to go down there, it’s a good place. It’s just really quiet and laidback there, and that’s about it. It’s good,” describes Macka, adding with a chuckle, “plenty of interruptions – by us!”
The Cosmic Psychos predilection for a couple of tinnies extends far beyond their after-gig parties, in fact some might suggest that most of their songs are about the amber fluid in one way or another. It all adds up to playing in (and watching) the band being a bloody fun gig.
“Oh yeah, it’s the best fun,” the 45-year old guitarist asserts. “Top fun, the best fun there is. And hopefully we can continue to do it for a while – because we’re not getting any younger.”
‘What’s Loudmouth Soup, anyway?’ you ask? Over to Macka…
“You know, you have a few cans of beer, and beer is ‘Loudmouth Soup’,” he drawls. “There’s been conjecture that there might have been a band called that, but it was only a jam band, not a real band, so we thought we’d run with it. That’s all I can say about it, yeah, it’s about having a couple of cans of beer.”
The fun and laidback aspect to The Cosmic Psychos includes their songwriting, with each of the trio bringing in songs, and the band bashing a few out in the shed on the farm in the spur of the moment.
“Dean had one on the last one, he’s got one or two on this one,” Macka explains. “I had one on the last one, or two, and I got one on this one. And then Ross has all these riffs. Some of them are songs, some of the are riffs, some of them you don’t know what’s gonna happen until we get to the vocals, it’s all different.”
Fly by the seat of your pants and have a bit of fun while you’re doing it?
“I think so, yeah. I think that’s a fair description,” he agrees. “It’s fun, so it’s good.”
The Loudmouth Soup tour features not just The Cosmic Psychos in all their beer-swilling glory, but they’re talked a bunch of exciting young rockers into joining them around the country, including Nashville acoustic female country perves Birdcloud, The Chats, Meat Bikini, Power and for their WA shows, The Southern River Band and Dennis Cometti.
“I think we can show them to a wider audience; I don’t think we corrupt them,” Macka enthuses. “They’ll probably have a few beers, but that’s about it – then they corrupt us. It’s interesting, the young bands are really good, a lot of them – that’s a good thing.
“I started playing seriously – practising the guitar – in 1989, but I was playing probably in about ‘86, and I learned a bit in 1980 when I was seven or eight. To see all the different, new bands come out, doing their own thing, but they’ve got also other elements of all these different things, it’s really strange, sometimes – in a good way.
“It’d be really good if people get to see these bands that we’re touring with.”
Don’t let Macka’s beery physique fool you – a champion swimmer when he was young (even beating Kieran Perkins at one stage), he went on to become a swim coach, a lawyer and more.
“I’m sort of like jack of all trades, master of none,” he says with a laugh, recalling time spent tending bar, delivering pizzas, and working in a carpet factory. “I’ve done bits of all different things… I suppose I have done a fair few things, and this is great – it gives you more sort of insight into things, I think, rather than just sitting in one thing, you know? I just think it’s good to do different things.”
His latest venture is Mad Macka’s Guitar Lessons – in person or via Skype, teaching beginners how to play the riffs of such classics as Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Detroit Rock City, Pretty Vacant and Blitzkrieg Bop.
“That’s actually not going too bad,” he says proudly. “We don’t push it too much, and people are interested in it. The original people who did it, only a couple of them have come back. I tend to just go, ‘look, here’s a few ideas, now go and do your own thing’. So yeah, it’s alright. It goes okay.”
It’d be remiss if not to ask how John McKeering got his nickname. Macka’s answer is, again, delivered in a lazy drawl with a complete absence of airs and graces.
“Oh, I dunno… part of it was sort of trying to be like Mad Max, which I found out I was dismal at – and then probably part of it was probably just sort of because I’m a bit strange in some ways… different or whatever. I laugh at things that other people don’t, and all this sort of stuff, so I was a bit mad – so I was Mad Macka.
“That name’s been around for probably, ohhhhh, from when we did the first Onyas record (Get Shitfaced With The Onyas – 1996), we all took names. Richard was Stanners, because he was Richard Stanley. Jordan was Jaws, and then I was Mad Macka!”
Cosmic Psychos perform at the Rosemount Hotel on April 13, followed by a two-nighter at Mojos on April 14-15.