Talking Music With Willie Armstrong of Red Hot Chilli Pipers

Known for their infectious style of feel-good music – the Red-Hot Chilli Pipers have sold out shows across the globe, including the USA, China, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and France. This weekend, the play Cardiff’s Tramshed

Described as ‘the most famous bagpipe band on the planet’, they have performed for a string of A-listers including Paul McCartney, Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, and even Her Majesty The Queen, as well as main stage at one of the UK’s largest festivals – T in The Park, and other major events including BBC Proms in Hyde Park, The Rugby World Cup and Bahrain Grand Prix.

Andy Howells recently caught up with Willie Armstrong from the band

How did The Red-Hot Chilli pipers come together?
3 friends played in a pipe band together and had a wee idea that they could play at weddings and corporate events. They thought that sometimes the crowds were switching off as not everyone can be a fan of bagpipe music. They decided to segue a little well known rock covers and before they knew it, they had the whole crowd engaged. We then got some drummers and other musicians together for some fun and it all snowballed.

What attracts a musician to play bagpipes as they are famously loud and look quite exhausting to play?
I would say playing the pipes is normally, but not always handed down from parents to children. There must be a real will and passion. They are incredibly hard to master, some say the hardest. You need to be really in love with it to struggle on and find a nice sound.

Can you tell us a little about Bagrock?
Bagrock was created after we played music in front of paying audiences. You must be clever and gauge how the people react. Obviously, the traditional music lovers are going to get the sound of bagpipes, but a wider audience will maybe get a little stale if that’s not their thing. Bagrock transcends these musical boundaries and pleases a much wider audience we feel.

What sort of music will you be playing at your forthcoming Wales show?
Our shows are built to engage the audience from start to finish. We will play some amazingly tight bagpipes, but will then surprise the audience with a clever couple of bars of a well-known rock song. The crowd think, what did I just hear? But you keep them guessing as we’ve moved on to something else. A little like subliminal advertising. People leave feeling revived and happy.

Have you had any funny gig experiences?
We once played in Edinburgh and after doing our sound check, we had decided what way to come on stage and covered all the angles (or so we thought) Trouble was the janitor had decided to lock the door stage left where the pipers were. We could hear the drummers start the gig, gave ourselves hi fives etc. and encouraged each other to enjoy the show. We then tried the door and it was locked, we couldn’t get on stage. There then followed the longest intro in history as the 3 pipers tried to navigate the theatre to get to stage right. None of the other lads had a clue where we were.

Where can people find out more about you?
If you check our FB page and also you can read about all the shenanigans.

  • Catch The Red Hot Chilli Pipers at Cardiff’s Tramshed on May 20. Call 02920 235555 or visit for booking details.
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