Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Mark Cramp­ton

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.

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