Cypress Hill Tour Manager Dan McKay Applies His DIY Punk Background To Rap Legends
It is important to draw a line in the sand when aiming to be ahead of your time. For Dan McKay, the hardworking tour manager behind Cypress Hill, he saw how becoming a well-oiled machine was key to becoming the “King James” of touring Hip-Hop talent. Getting his start as a young mixer and audio engineer from Montreal, Quebec, McKay was fascinated with all things music. By the time he was 23, he was a touring front-of-house audio engineering wizard. It is easy to succumb to the stress and strain of being on the road, but he was fueled by an epiphany that would change his life forever.
Intuition plus imagination equals success for all.
The experience of learning the inner workings of the recording session, McKay has racked up more than 20 years of professional experience, toured in more than 55 countries, and worked with such artists as Seun Kuti, Eagles Of Death Metal, Five Finger Death Punch, and Egypt 80, AWOLNATION and, of course, Cypress. “I had worked on the Prophets Of Rage tour,” which is where Dan first linked with B-Real. “Their former manager had to get off the road, and he threw me in [to the ring], so to say,” Dan shared in a recent chat with Ambrosia For Heads. “I was glad I got that call, and looking back, it exceeded my expectations being that I became good friends with the guys. They are all great.” And legendary. The Grammy-nominated, hood-celebrated Hip-Hop group has been ringing bells since their 1991 eponymous album, and mid-’90s mainstream takeover. The Los Angeles, California based multi-cultural outfit broke through terrestrial radio dials and TV screens. The four members (Senen “Sen Dog” Reyes, Lawrence “DJ Muggs” Muggerud, Louis “B-Real” Freese, and Eric “Bobo” Correa) put in decades of work.
The group came through like a wrecking ball, touring with Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam, and dabbling with Rock, EDM, and Psyche music. Their resume is one that should ensure them a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction: Woodstock ’94. “The set is nothing less than a continuous bombardment of hits. B-Real, Sen Dog, and Bobo have just been very consistent in their stage presence,” McKay notes of the live show approaching 2020. “Every time the house lights go down and the music fades, the crowd cheers, Cypress Hill hits the stage, and it is huge and looks-and-sounds effortless. I think there is a huge lack of that these days, [but] it’s refreshing to see them kick ass every night after all these years.”
In an age where selling out shows means bundles and bucks, McKay has helped the “first Latino-American Hip-Hop group to earn a platinum record” to elevate their live experiences for fans, both new and old. “I came into the group after they [added touring DJ Mixmaster Mike]. Those guys are like family [and] I think it was probably an instinctive choice to get Mike on board. He definitely brings a heaviness to the already-heavy Cypress Hill sound. He intros the show and gets everyone all riled up for the [event]. It’s great.” McKay’s roots in the Punk world helped him navigate all that comes with being a successful Hip-Hop touring group. “The best crew guys a touring band can ask for are punks,” he said. “We’ve slept on people’s floors. We’ve had to fight with promoters to get paid to get gas to make it to the next gig. It was always a DIY kind-of, ‘whatever-it-takes sort of attitude.” 2020 will already find Cypress Hill bringing their masterful show to venues in San Diego (Boomshaka Festival), Charlotte (Epicenter Festival), and Reykjavík (Laugadalur), so, according to McKay, “it doesn’t matter what kind of style of music you are touring with, usually, the punks will get it done.”
Whether that’s themed annual events like their “Haunted Hill” Halloween show or possibly plotting a festival, Cypress Hill is always looking to be one step ahead of the game with an idea that’ll shake up the game. “B-Real is always thinking of a new business idea. It’s a smart move, and I think it gives the fans a chance to look forward to something new, in between record cycles,” Dan said. “Haunted Hill has become an annual NYC tradition. This year was the 27th year was performed, and B has often said that it’s one of the most important gigs they play.”
Much like the owners of the 2,660th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dan has started from nothing and used whatever he could get his hands on to create a storybook career. “Cypress Hill has always been very respected in the [music] scene and have collaborated with a lot of Rock bands over the years,” he shared. “[They played] alongside Sonic Youth and Pavement, etc.. Hearing B-Real scream ‘a la Zach’ with Prophets of Rage is pretty amazing and if you check out Sen Dog’s ‘Powerful,’ it’s a face-melter of hardcore.”
Press photograph provided by Dan McKay.