“Sorry I missed your call – I thought you were callin’ at seven!” It’s 6pm, not 7pm, on a Wednesday evening when Mixdown finally gets a hold of John McKeering. The guitarist for legendary pub rockers Cosmic Psychos – better known as Mad Macka – has gotten his schedule mixed up, but it doesn’t seem to faze him in the slightest. “Whatever, y’know?” he reasons. “All good. We worked it out!”
Macka is about as laid-back and endearing as one might expect. His goofy smile and famous beer belly have been part and parcel of the Psychos for well over a decade now. After playing as a guest guitarist on and off for years, he was brought in fulltime circa 2006 to replace their previous guitarist, the late Robbie Watts. Loudmouth Soup, the latest LP from the Psychos, is their fourth LP to feature McKeering and their tenth overall. In classic Psychos fashion, the album was churned out with little to no fuss – what you see is exactly what you get. “We probably finished it about June last year, I think,” says McKeering. “From memory, anyway – I can’t remember, if I’m honest.
“I know that I was working up in Canberra at the time, and I flew back down to Ross’ place to do it. We were out at the farm for probably two or three days recording, and that was it. We sent it all over to get mixed by Silvia in Holland, so that was a lot easier for us. If we made a mistake, she knew how to fix it.”
Ross, of course, is Ross Knight – vocalist, bassist and the founding member of the band. Silvia, meanwhile, is Silvia Vermeulen – a Dutch engineer who produced Loudmouth Soup and whose CV includes artists as diverse as Within Temptation, Ron & The Splinters and The Onyas. The personnel for the record is completed by drummer Dean Muller, who makes his fifth appearance on a Psychos album with Loudmouth Soup.
“Dean sang a couple of songs on this latest one,” says McKeering. “I only ended up singin’ the one – just ‘cause I couldn’t come up with many ideas. I used to do a lot of singin’ back with me old band. Well, I say singin’. I mean yellin’.” He laughs. “It’s no big deal, mate. It’s fun to do it a bit now – not all the time. I’m happy to leave it at that, y’know?”
Macka is happy to let his guitar do most of the talking – and when you’re as a good a player as he is, you can’t really blame him. He notes that how you hear the instruments on their recordings is essentially the same as their live setup – not least of all because a lot of the tracking is done live to begin with.
“There’s always plenty of muck-ups,” he says. “We’re goin’ in cold a lot of the time with these new songs – Ross will have just come up with them, and we’re still learning them as we go. We gotta get a few takes under our belts to get ‘em going. There was one song on the latest one where it had a real complicated bit that Ross made up. I dunno, maybe it wasn’t that complicated, but it took us three hours. That’s up against a few songs that we probably did in about ten minutes.” Macka laughs, before concluding, “I reckon it was alright!”
Moments later, Macka is interrupted by the arrival of his guests for the evening. It so happens to be the three gents from Dune Rats, who undertook a huge co-headlining tour with the Psychos back in 2015. The two have stayed good friends over the years, and often spend time together in-between their respective touring commitments. That brings us to the next point – the Psychos are about to hit the road for the foreseeable future. It’s an all-Aussie adventure that will even bring them to some places for the first time ever. “Never played Cairns, never played Mackay, and never played Townsville,” says McKeering. “So we’ll be there soon. It’s all good!”
Cosmic Psychos are currently touring around the country on the Loudmouth Soup tour. The album is out now via Go The Hack Records.