Vicar Street


Bags of Talent: the Offbeat Charm of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers

Red Hot Chilli Pipers – an award-winning Scottish bagpipe band not to be confused with the Los Angeles rockers who inspired their name – are famed for their live show. With more than a dozen bagpipers and drummers on stage, they cover Avicii and AC/DC, Coldplay and Journey, whilst explore trad traditions, and absolutely pulsating with bouncing energy.

It didn’t start like this, though. In fact, the group leapt to prominence as the star of ‘When Will I Be Famous?’, a sub-X Factor TV show. They were a fantastic novelty, but one that was clearly going to have to adapt to survive the usual post-show drop-off. And adapt they did.

“When we won the TV show, we didn’t even have a website,” bagpiper Willie Armstrong recalls. “We got lots of offers to play and it was an incredibly exciting time for us all. Bear in mind most of us had other jobs, so it did get a little stressy.”

“The big difference between our band and the many other acts that have been through the same thing is that we are incredibly hard working. We realised very quickly that the fan base was really driven by the TV show; people were fans of the TV show and not necessarily fans of the band. We still had to build a fan base.”

“If we had nothing to offer, the gigs would have dried up quickly. We had to make sure our product was strong enough that people would come back, and they’d come back with their friends.”

The live show, then, has become the band’s thing. Naturally, that leans on a certain amount on the recognisability in their tracks, but also on the unique twist that the bagpipes and drums put on them.

“We have invested a great deal in the production side of our shows,” Armstrong explains. “Our lighting engineer flies in from Poland, and we have the two best sound engineers in the business. The equipment we use is all top of the range. Every part of the live show is recorded and then dissected after each performance. Nothing is left to chance as we have too much respect for the paying audience.”