CELTICA PIPES ROCK
These two early ‘bag-rock’ bands – and the musicians in them – have such tangled relationships, that I ended up writing this article about both, when originally I intended this article to be just about CELTICA PIPES ROCK.
I think it was sometime in 2012 or so, I was searching YouTube for music videos by Cam McAzie - aka The Badpiper - “The world’s only flame throwing, leather clad, heavily tattooed, heavy metal Australian piper” http://thebadpiper.com/.
Cam was a 2010 finalist on Australia’s Got Talent, covering AC/DC songs on the Scottish Great Highland bagpipe, and I had been told about him by someone who knew about my interest in both Traditional and Modern (i.e. bagrock) bagpipe music.
I found several videos of Cam, beginning with his days in ‘07 as a solo street busker in Fremantle, Australia, playing covers of (mostly AC/DC) rock standards. https://youtu.be/CEQbUK3yGSI (Well, of course, AC/DC ARE also Australian, and original vocalist Bon Scott also played bagpipes in many of their early recordings!) https://youtu.be/-sUXMzkh-jI [NOTE: busker: itinerate street musician, playing for tips and gratuities.]
Subsequently in his career, by early in 2009 Cam was in Austria, and he and Austrian female piper Saskia Konz http://www.dudelsack.cc/, along with several Austrian rock musicians, formed POWER PIPES - a new type of instrumental-only rock band!
POWER PIPES was not the first bag-rock band to feature two lead pipers – the Red Hot Chili Pipers (see my earlier article about them) were formed in 2002 with two lead pipers, and also had vocalists. BUT, POWER PIPERS featured one male and one female (both decidedly punkish) har- monizing their pipes (that is, IF bagpipes CAN be said to harmonize!) – backed by a rock band with electric guitars - lead and bass - and drums. POWER PIPES played instrumental-only covers of rock classics, just as Cam had done in his street busking days. https://youtu.be/_MCANpIm5Lc and https://youtu.be/yAvqiPL-ssU
[NOTE - in the Power Pipes videos, you will observe that ALL the band members wear kilted/punk garb, and lead guitarist Gajus Stappen and bassist Harold Weinkum are both extremely visible.]
However, POWER PIPES was but a transient phenomenon in THAT incarnation!
They only played together at a few European Music Festivals through the summer of 2009 (Saskia sat out one festival in early August, leaving Cam to play solo, then returned for their last appearance at another festival at the end of that month).
So, sadly, by the end of August 2009, the original POWER PIPES disbanded. They had never released an album, and only released four official music videos. [NOTE: Nor have I been able to locate any unauthorized/pirate videos of their concerts.]
Saskia returned to Austria, where by June 2011 she had revived an all-Austrian POWER PIPES (now all wearing Steampunk rather than Celtic garb, only one member still in a kilt) with herself as the solo piper beside a lead vocalist, in a musical style change.
The new POWER PIPES released one album in 2012 (which I could not find on either Amazon or eBay, and the band’s Web Page no longer responds), and they have not toured or updated their Web Page since June 2014. http://powerpipes.at/
Saskia’s own personal web page has not been updated since 2015. But, I did find several solo videos of her, in-
cluding this one from 2015 at a benefit concert in France https://youtu.be/wdiMyEEm0xI.
Cam returned back to his street busking origins in Australia. In May 2010 he appeared on the Australia’s Got Talent TV show https://youtu.be/J4I59w3ISzA and again as a finalist in June 2010 https://youtu.be/oO1bGlyHDNU
Since then, Cam has sometimes toured with The Crusty Demons heavy metal band and as a solo artist, and has released three solo albums (OK, you’re NOT really going to ask if I have them in my library, are you? Really?) http://thebadpiper.bigcartel.com/
Which now leads us to CELTICA PIPES ROCK.
By December 2009 Gajus Stappen and Harold Weinkum (remember them from the original POWER PIPES videos?) had formed a new(?) bag-rock group, CELTICA PIPES ROCK.
Astoundingly, Gajus’ new band featured all the original Austrian members of the former POWER PIPES (except Saskia and Cam!), along with NEW male and female pipers, and played instrumental covers of rock and heavy metal classics! Wasn’t that a coincidence, or what? Gajus was lead guitar, Harold played bass, Lukas Rausch on drums/percussion, Josy Svajda on percussion/organ/ fire spinning, with John McLean Allen (Scotland) and Gwendolen Rowe (California) on Scottish Great Highland bagpipes. All group members wore kilts/punk garb on stage. [NOTE: I asked both Gajus and Cam about what happened when the original
POWER PIPES dissolved and transitioned into CELTICA PIPES ROCK. Gajus never answered – and what Cam said I am NOT going to repeat! Apparently the transition was NOT all sweetness and light – at least on Cam’s part!]
CELTICA PIPES ROCK started by playing instrumental-only covers/ mash-ups of rock classics: “Thunderstruck/Highway to Hell” https://youtu.be/USc22pIEtmI and “We Will Rock You/ I Love Rock´n´Roll” https://youtu.be/jQFAli1-OLA; and Celtic/Irish/Scottish classics: “Gathering/Itchy Fingers” https://youtu.be/U9kGTeOCRbU and “Gravelwalk” https://youtu.be/l_LeYIL0xWc.
They also played mash-ups of rock/ Celtic: “Smoke on the Water/Scotland the Brave”us https://youtu.be/J4aUPC0zMok and even threw a few more oddities into the mix, like a reggae bagrock cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. https://youtu.be/NI2fabjbCkA, a version of “The Little Drummer Boy” they call “The Little Piper Boy” https://youtu.be/I7Fh7DLVIS0 and “Jingle Bells” https://youtu.be/fhLqmoC4ap4.
Like many other musical groups, CELTICA PIPES ROCK has experienced some personnel changes. In 2011 Matthias Katsmair (who conducts his own drum school in his off-time) replaced Lukas Rausch on drums.
Duncan Knight (formerly of the 1st Battalion Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Borderers) replaced John McLean Allen (who went on to found the LA-based Celtic Rock band STAND EASY https://youtu.be/dTTaEPpkNT4) on the bagpipe.
Gwendolen Rowe left in the spring of 2013 to focus on her family. [NOTE: she left right before their show at the San Antonio Highland Games and Music Festival, darn it! So they only had one piper for that show. I volunteer at that fest every year, and worked backstage/sound crew for that show, which is one of the times/places I got to hang with the band - a little bit, anyway.]
In September 2013 Gwendolen was finally replaced by Jane Espie, formerly of SAOR PATROL (who still maintains a solo career as ‘ The Phantom Piper’ and every now and then drops out of the group for short periods/ shows.) Jane’s first public appearance with CELTICA PIPES ROCK was at the 2013 Sherwood Forest Celtic Music Fest http://www.sherwoodforestfaire.com/ - she still didn’t quite have all the groups’ stage movements and choreography down yet. In the spring of 2014 Josy Svajda left the group for a solo career https:// www.josysvajda.com/.
In the spring of 2015 classical violinist Aya Georgieva joined, bringing a change to the groups’ musical style. Her first public appearance was at the 2015 San Antonio Highland Games and Music Festival (where, unfortunately, I was working the hospitality table instead of the stage, that year.)
Since their beginning, CELTICA PIPES ROCK had kept the same basic appearance – kilted/punk – and mostly Celtic/Rock music.
In their first album, “The Rising”, all the music was all instrumental, a mix of Celtic, rock, and mash-ups of both! Their second album, “The Voyage”, contained both instrumental and vocal (mostly pub/festival sing-along type songs), all with a basic nautical theme.
Their third album, “Legends and Visions” again contained both instrumental and vocal, with somewhat of a Celtic theme.
But in 2016, preparatory to the release of their new album “Steamphonia”, however, what the band labeled a “re-launch” - a complete appearance and music style change materialized for the group!
‘Visitors II: Contact’ https://youtu.be/ROxbBkH5jkg from the movie soundtrack was their last video release as a Celtic-appearing band.
Appearance-wise, all the members abandoned the kilted/punk look for complete Victorian-style Steampunk/Goth attire – goggles, top hats, brocade vests and trousers, tulle and lace – an extreme makeover! Their music also dispensed with much of its early Celtic/Rock flavor, as well. Instead, the band has gone for a ‘more full-blown symphonic sound’ (as they term it), they now use off-stage backing instruments/band with an organ, even an operatic singer and a choir on some pieces. ‘Megawatt” is an example of their new style https://youtu.be/RqHYAnW6lKY.
Gajus also got involved in filmmaking, leading to the award-winning short film ‘Full Steam Ahead!’ starring the band https://youtu.be/Ie2tSQV4Nuw
Time will tell if the Steampunk fan base is as strong as the Celtic fan base was – maybe even a melding of the two!
As I said earlier, I have seen CELTI- CA PIPES ROCK on several occasions – two years at the San Antonio Highland Games and Celtic Music Festival (3 or 4 shows each time), and at the 2013 Sherwood Forest Celtic Music Fest (I think 5 shows that weekend!) Here’s the video of an entire Sherwood show https://youtu.be/aojO9ImMMkk - the first on-stage appearance of Jane Espie with the group. (And if you look hard enough, you might spot the back of my head!)
The most memorable (to me) was their (non)-show at the North Texas Irish Festival (I believe it was March 2014 – not totally sure) – which was snowed out by an unseasonable blizzard and cancelled before the middle of the first day. I couldn’t get out of Dallas – no one could in the blizzard! We ended up spending the weekend in the same hotel as the group - got to spend a little bit of time with them there.
Check their website: http://celticarocks.com/news/ for upcoming US tour dates.
So far, this year CELTICA PIPES ROCK are only scheduled to be at the Milwaukee Irish Fest in August, the Tulsa Scotfest in September, the St. Louis Scottish Games also in September and the Revel at Young's Grove in Turlock, CA in October.