A Celtica Pipes Rock concert has become an annual Spring event in Honokaa. Founded in 2009, the band Celtica, whose music has been described as heavy metal with a Celtic twist, has recently had some personnel changes and uses an alternative name when touring the States.
While they were traveling from Chicago to their next gig in Wisconsin, I interviewed lead piper Duncan Knight for some clarification on the new line-up and what it’s like touring America during the pandemic days of the coronavirus. Their Spring 2020 tour t-shirt reads, “It was coronavirus and I still supported live music,” and bassist Harald Weinkum adds, “These are not the most fun times to be touring, but we’re committed to playing all our shows!”
As the interview was taking place, the promoter changed the venue to the Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu. It was originally scheduled to take place in Honokaa. You’ll find all the new details listed below.
Could you talk about touring during the coronavirus craze, especially just having arrived from Europe?
So far, it hasn’t really affected us. I saw on the news that Donald Trump is going to stop incoming flights from Europe. If that happened before we started the US tour, it may have affected us. Potentially bigger gigs might reduce crowd capacity to stop the spread. But we haven’t heard of any cancellations. I don’t think any of the venues that we’re playing has a large capacity that crosses the line, but we do have our fingers crossed. Everything continues to run smoothly, but only time will tell. We are committed to doing the show on the Big Island!
I’m sure it’s a day-to-day evaluation for you and other bands.
I know how bad it has affected the U.S. so far, but since Hawaii is so isolated, I would imagine it’s not going to be bad there. But we don’t know what the airlines are going to do, for example, if they stop people traveling between the states. We’ve bandied about the idea of adding to our merchandise line some kind of whiskey-based hand sanitizer. It’s a little bit of humor, and hopefully, it’s taken in that way. We do what we can to help and try and keep it as lighthearted as possible.
Well, let’s talk about something more positive like your new recording of the Outlander theme music. “Sky Boat Song” is getting a lot of attention. Would you like to talk about that?
It’s a very well-known tune in Scotland. It’s the sort of thing you learn to sing at primary school. The Outlanderversion, in terms of the lyrics, are not the original lyrics based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s reworking of the song. We’ve released a purely instrumental one and were thinking about possibly having a guest artist to add vocals, almost like a B-side, which is something that we haven’t done before. We’re very much an instrumental band. Some of our tracks have kind of chorusing elements to them that people can shout along to. If we do decide to add some lyrics, that’ll be very much a new thing for us and hopefully, it works. The uptake on the tune that we have released has been very positive in terms of the shares and likes on Facebook and other social media platforms. I mean everybody knows that tune everywhere, so have to be ready to jump on that bandwagon.
I understand Jayne Espie is no longer in Celtica Pipes Rock and you’ve replaced her with Ernesto Góngora. Can you clarify that?
In the U.S. we’re known as Celtica Nova, but the original band, Celtic Pipe Rocks, performs in Europe and elsewhere in the world, but the lineup for Europe doesn’t play in the U.S. It’s a slightly different lineup. So, in terms of Jayne Espie, she’s still in the band, but doesn’t have quite so much time since she’s a full-time nurse at a hospital in Scotland. She can only make certain gigs depending on the amount of time she can take off work. She will be performing with us at various points in the future, but not every gig. Ernesto is only in the European line-up of the band. I know it’s confusing because we kept Celtica in the title for both bands, and people haven’t realized it’s two separate bands.
Your upcoming album Celtic Spirits is coming this spring. Do you have more details on that?
I don’t know the exact release date, but everything has been recorded and is currently being mixed. It should be out within the next month or so. It’s all original tracks, very much in the same style of rock-driven bagpipes. We played Mumbai, India, on Boxing Day last year, and featured two of the tracks from the upcoming album. I’m looking forward to getting on the road with that album, which will be this April in Germany. We’ll be playing some of it too when we play the Big Island.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go?
Just that we’re really looking forward to coming back to Hawaii. We always have a good time. We’ve got a huge group of friends over there, and it’s always great to come out and play some music.
Editor’s Note: Celtica’s Big Island March 2020 show was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and a Big Island filmmaker. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.