SPORTING a catching uniform of jet-black kilts and red sporrans, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers offer music for a kilted generation.
The Highland ensemble fuse stirring traditional pipe tunes, like the Scots’ anthem, Flower of Scotland, and ear-splitting rock classics, to conjure up something piper Kevin McDonald and his music-making clan call bag-rock.
Infectious leap-about fun, the Chilli Pipers produce a dancehall rave of Scottish song – leaving their own indelible stamp on monster hits by AC-DC, ZZ Top, The Who, Queen and a rather wonderful rendition of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.
This is bagpipes with street attitude and McDonald, who mastered the pipes at school in Aberdeenshire, said: “Playing the pipes was not cool at all when I was a kid, and it felt like it was something that old fogies did.
“When I moved to Glasgow in my teens, you were a bit of an outsider if you played the pipes. I had my school mates and my bagpipe mates, and sometimes there was a bit of ridicule.
“But it is different now, there has been a great resurgence in interest in the traditional sound of the pipes and a new generation has embraced them.
“There’s been a massive cultural change, and some of that is down to the change in the political landscape in Scotland over the last few years.”
Now kids north of the border are just as likely to be playing AC-DC’s Thunderstruck on the pipes as Scotland the Brave.
“It is a really interesting one,” added McDonald, who brings the Red Hot Chilli Pipers to the Grand, Clitheroe, tomorrow. “A lot of kids, I think, in Scotland have been inspired to take up the bagpipes because of our cross-over rock sound with guitars and pipes.
“That’s what they tell us when they come to our shows and that’s brilliant. So if anything we’ve made it cooler to play them.”
But it was winning the BBC TV talent show, WHen WIll I Be Famous? that fired the Pipers into orbit, their raucous cover of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger wowing the judges and a nationwide audience.
“Our first show was a tiny free gig in front of a handful of people at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, and now we do 200 gigs all over the world, every year,” said Kevin.
“We’ve 50 people working for us – it is a huge operation – and we actually have two bands on the road. We play so many gigs we had to create a second one.
“It would be impossible now to have just one group, so we have around 30 band members working on a roster for shows all over the world.”
“The whole thing is mental really.
“We played at the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby World Cup and the BBC proms, and to think it all began playing weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.”
Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Clitheroe Grand, Friday, May 19. Details from 01200 421599 or www.thegrandvenue.co.uk