Published: 17/04/2014 19:16 - Updated: 16/04/2014 13:13

Rock and skirl rebels are Italian festival favourites

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Gregor 'G-man' James is looking for a non-traditional audience to match his non-traditional haircut.
Gregor 'G-man' James is looking for a non-traditional audience to match his non-traditional haircut.

FOR this visit to Inverness, rock and skirl band Bags of Rock really can try and raise the roof.

The last time the band played the Highland Capital, they were doing their best to keep the home crowd cozy at the city’s out of doors Hogmanay celebration The Red Hot Highland Fling at the Northern Meeting Park.

This week though, Bags of Rock are going indoors with their first ever show at The Ironworks.

A first for the band, but not the band’s Mohawk-bearing guitarist and founder Gregor "G-man" James.

James played the venue before as part of his previous band, BBC talent show winners The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Yet although the two bands specialise in mixing bagpipes and rock music, James and his band come to that mix from a different angle to his previous employers.

"We have never tried to subscribe to the traditional music community. Often we do get praise from people from the traditional community, but we are aiming more for a mainstream market with what we do," he explained.

"The Red Hot Chilli Pipers were more of a pipe band with a rock band behind them. This is a rock band with two guitarists and two pipers and more or less writing riffs for the bagpipes, We do original material and we write our songs in the key of A Minor. Very, very few bagpipers play in that key."

With the band currently at work on a second album, the follow up to The Next Level, James reckons the band now have a better feel for what their music is about.

"I’ve never been precious about being the lead writer," he said.

"Everyone has their input and that has over the years created a very strong bond between us, not just as musicians but as people."

Bagpipes maybe in the Scottish blood, ensuring the group a warm welcome wherever they play in Scotland, but their sound goes down very well in England too, James points out, while, like many Celtic bands, they have enjoyed an enthusiastic reception on the Continent.

"Europe in general is very open-minded music market and probably a lot more receptive initially to the sound of a band with bagpipes," he said.

Last summer the band performed at Klupfel and Folk am Neckar festivals in Germany, where they topped the German Charts twice with tracks from The Next Level, as well as the Montelago and Bustofolk festivals in Italy, where performing to 20,000 strong crowds was a bit of an eye-opener for James and his band.

"That was quite a wake up call because people were going crazy for us," he said.

"That is something we will definitely be pursuing. It’s as big and as important as the Celtic scene in Germany."

After the current shows on what could be considered bagpipe home turf in Inverness and Oban, the coming months will find bags of rock at festivals in Poland, France and Belgium as well, though they also have some key home dates coming up including the Armed Forces Day celebration in Stirling, the Pride Festival in Glasgow and an appearance at Murrayfield, but working on the new album will be a priority.

"Things are looking very positive after what has been a few years of very hard work," James said. "The snowball is starting to roll."

Bags of Rock appear at The Ironworks, Academy Street, Inverness, on Saturday 19th April. For more about the band see www.bagsofrock.com

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