The Pipes are Calling

RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS bring Bagrock to The F.M. Kirby Center


As we draw closer to the onslaught of various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, you can almost hear the bagpipers approaching The 570 far off in the distance. When we think of bagpipers, thoughts of “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace” might come to mind, but a Scottish pipe group is gearing up to deliver the sounds of Coldplay, ZZ Top, the Eurythmics, Gary Neuman, Queen and more this weekend. Possibly the most famous bagpipe group in the world, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers perform at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Feb. 22. Doors to the show open at 7 p.m. with show time at 8 p.m.
Two-time winners of the Scottish Live Act of the Year, the Chillis have delivered their own style of rocking bagpipe covers — they call it Bagrock — to audiences around the world since 2003. The Pipers have released several records of covers and originals throughout the past decade (Music for the Kilted Generation, BLAST Live! and Bagrock to the Masses to name a few).
Band director Kevin MacDonald offered some details about the band to help American audiences further understand just what the Red Hot Chilli Pipers have to offer.

On their formation:
The Red Hot Chilli Pipers were formed in 2003 by five friends from varied walks of life — three students studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Drama, a fireman and a trainee accountant. There was a common thread amongst us all that we wanted to make a bit of extra money to see us through life. We came up with the idea to form a band playing rock covers on the bagpipes with accompanying percussion. The struggle was to come up with a name. The name came about by accident. One of our original band members was tidying his flat with his girlfriend and they were sorting out his CD collection and she put a Red Hot Chilli Peppers album amongst his piping collection. When he asked why she had done this, she replied I thought it said Red Hot Chilli Pipers — and hence the name was born.

On the name Red Hot Chili Pipers:
The name has never really gotten us into trouble — yet! At the start, when we had no identity people just laughed when they first hear the name. Now that we have our own identity in the UK and Europe and certain parts of the USA there is little or no confusion. In new areas it still throws up the odd enquiry. (The band doesn’t play any Peppers covers.)

On selecting a song to cover:
There are 10 of us involved in writing the material and we just try rock and pop songs and see what works. The one restriction is that the bagpipes only have nine available notes so not all songs work.

EC20PIPERS_2_WEBOn original songs:
Not only do we cover rock songs but we also take traditional Scottish and Irish songs and add a rock element to them. Our style of music has its own description now — “Bagrock.”

On responses from artists whose songs they’ve covered:
We understand that Brian May really likes our cover of “We Will Rock You” — so that will do for me. He posted (that he liked it) on Facebook after we won a talent show in the UK in 2007 playing the song.

On the difficulty performing Bagrock:
The trick is to make it clever music and not bagpipe karaoke.

On the topic of performing with kilts:
We have become used to performing in kilts. The only difficulty we have in performing with them is that when we spin they tend to come up higher than we hope – although maybe some members of the audience enjoy this part.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers perform at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Feb. 22. Doors to the show open at 7 p.m. with show time at 8 p.m. Ticket prices are $27 and $37 plus applicable fees. Tickets can be purchased at the Kirby Center Box Office (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA) in person or by calling, (570) 826-1100 or at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.