If you are a Scottish music insider then The Picts is not new to you. They proved to be very influential among Celtic fusion bands in Scotland. My curiosity was fueled after seeing the video of the song The peak. The haunting accordion intro and the dark blue lighting are captivating. Then, the music explodes into a traditional inspired fusion of drums, acoustic guitar and other instruments. The camera revolves and the music becomes hypnotic until it reaches the ending with a crunch..
Douglas McQueen Hunter joins us today. He is our featured artist and he talks to us about interesting points relating to his musical career and other things. I found interesting bits about his bio:
” He is the front man and founder member of ‘The Picts’ and ‘The Court of Equity’. Douglas is also a composer, song-writer and the co-author (Along with his father- artist Colin Hunter McQueen) of the world-wide acclaimed book on Robert Burns “Hunters’ Illustrated History of the Family, Friends and Contemporaries of Robert Burns” which was released in 2009 for the year of homecoming. He has produced albums with ‘Badenoch’, ‘The Picts’ and his first solo album ‘Ghosts’.
Instruments: Vocals, Six and Twelve String Guitars, Mandolin, Mandola, Bodhran and percussion.”
As you can tell this is a very relaxed conversation. We go back and forth in various topics but as any good conversations, everything has to flow naturally. He also helped me choose the pictures to go along with this interview.
I enjoyed this chat with Douglas McQueen Hunter and I am looking forward to the new album!
The Picts have become one of the most popular live acts on the folk rock and concert scene. They have reached out with their unique brand of celtic rock and captivated hundreds of audiences both at home and abroad.
The Picts- ‘The Peak’ taken from the album ‘The Island” This video is reproduced by kind permission of Media nan Eilean and the BBC.
What do you do apart from music that very few know about?
Apart from music, I’m a jujitsu coach and run my own martial arts clubs…. also author of book on Robert Burns www.facebook.com/drumbow
What made you become a big Robert Burns enthusiast? What is it about the man that speaks to you?
I’ve been surrounded by the works of Burns since I was a child and was brought up singing his songs… Burns knew how to express every emotion in beautiful word… which as a song writer is something I strive for. If I could do it even a fraction as well as him then I’d be happy. Interestingly, my own Great great Grandfather James Gibb was a neighbor of Burns when Burns lived in Mauchline, Ayrshire and according to A.B Todd, a 19th century Ayrshire author, James Gibb used to debate religion with Burns and sell him lime for his horses.
The drumbow projects is fascinating because it goes back to the time or Robert Burns. I see that your bloodline is linked with his. How do you see the future of this illustrated book? What do you want to happen?
When I was researching the book (Hunters’ Illustrated History of the Family, Friends and Contemporaries of Robert Burns) I had to research lots of the history and genealogy of Burns, his family and friends. This led to me discovering over three hundred old parish records and documents, which allowed me to correct long standing errors and mistakes that had been compounded for decades by authors and biographers of the poet.
Doing this also threw me in at the deep end and created a real passion for genealogy which led me on to doing two years at Strathclyde University; studying a Post Grad Diploma in Genealogy. Not that I was particularly interested in gaining any academic qualification, but because I really wanted to get as great an understanding in the subject as I possibly could. I have lots of new projects and Ideas at the moment for new books, but I’m not quite ready to reveal them yet ha ha!! But music and song-writing still comes first in my heart.
Let us talk about your music especially The Picts which you founded . You have one single with an accompanying video called The Peak.It’s been gaining lots of viewers in youtube. Tell me the influences that shaped the sound of the Picts and also the Island itself.
I guess each of the guys who started the Picts and those with us who have played with us over the years all brought their own influences with them and help to develop the sound of the band. The Island like Moving sands our second album was a compromise between the band members to shape the sound. There are successes and failures on both albums. I’ve not listened to them for a long time. I think the Live EP we recorded a few years ago is the best representation of the band…
I still can’t get over the fact that you teach martial arts! That’s totally interesting.
Ha ha .. I’ve done Judo from the age of 7-17 then left martial arts for many years and finally took up Jujitsu 12 years ago … I enjoy seeing people happy and learning.. Great fun and keeps everyone fit (including me).
Is this Martial Arts family thing?
No … My folks just took me along to classes when I was a little and I loved it.
Do you think the jujitsu spirit carries itself into your musical performance? Especially when you play with passion ?
I suppose it depends on what I’m playing… It’s tricky because The Picts are a working band therefore have different setlists for different types of gigs… One gig may be a festival playing original material, the next gig may be a function doing more mainstream covers … All to keep the wolves from the door… So as a professional band we always need to look as if we are enjoying it, even though we are singing the same song for the 1000th time (laughs).
You mentioned you just finished the CD and your mind needs a little relaxation. Do you listen to music, meditate etc?
After a gig I generally go for a wander round the 24 hour shops to clear my head …. It can be hard to sleep after a gig. Especially after a far away gig when we maybe get back at 5 or 6 in the morning.
Wandering.. that sounds very zen
Yeah generally the second day after the gig is when the cloudy head and tiredness hits me and I can’t string two coherent thoughts together(laughs).
That explains why musicians need a ‘downer’ after a great gig. The adrenaline after the playing is there ..it doesn’t go away..and you need to do something about it.
Yeah although I suppose it depends on the gig… We’ve done that many that its sometimes hard to get a buzz from a gig… But yeah after really good gigs there can be lows.
After quiet a while being onstage..Do you still get moments of being surprised or overwhelmed when it comes to your audience?
No stage freight…Nervousness..Cold hands?
I was trying to think of an example…No never.. Very rarely get nervous… maybe a wee bit anxious if I’m going to sing a new song but I do get very sleepy before I go on stage…. Maybe that is anxiety coming out in different ways.
How about strange acting audience…Did you experience awkward situations and how did you deal with them?
We’ve kinda had everything at some point… Girls fighting in front of us pulling hair, fights breaking out, you name it… But we just kinda get on with the music…
Like any rock concert!
We used to play in pubs and bars in the early days …They can be rough. We don’t do that now.
Why The Picts?
Well its apart of our bloodline here and heritage …. It’s who we are
I’ve always been fascinated with the mysterious Pictish stone symbols etc and wanted to know more.
Would you be exploring more of this in the future through your band?
I’d love to.. At the moment there has been talk about another Picts album, but I’ve no idea if it will happen… I’m sure it will at some point, the priority at moment is to focus on The Court of Equity with the new albums coming out.
How do you describe your new project band The Court of Equity in terms of the sound. Will you be doing vocals there?
All the Picts are in The Court of Equity.. It’s really the acoustic version of the band which focuses mainly on the works of Robert Burns .. yeah I sing most of the songs.
So this is till your band only with a different moniker !
Yeah it was a long project but long over due… the first album (volume one) will be released this month and the second in the summer 2013.
Who did the album artwork,mixing,lyrics etc?
The album was produced by myself and Greg Friel, Tracy who does all of our artwork and covers done in this album too…. All the lyrics are traditional by Robert Burns. The music is traditional except for the modern arrangements and compositions by ourselves.
If you were to choose between singing and playing instruments which would you favour the most?
Honestly… I don’t mind.. But the passion even greater than performing live for me is song writing… So looking forward to finishing my new solo album next year.
The Court of Equity band members:
Douglas McQueen Hunter
Singer, guitarist, front man and founder member of ‘The Picts’ and ‘The Court of Equity’. Douglas is also a composer, song-writer and the co-author (Along with his father- artist Colin Hunter McQueen) of the world-wide acclaimed book on Robert Burns “Hunters’ Illustrated History of the Family, Friends and Contemporaries of Robert Burns” which was released in 2009 for the year of homecoming. He has produced albums with ‘Badenoch’, ‘The Picts’ and his first solo album ‘Ghosts’.
Instruments: Vocals, Six and Twelve String Guitars, Mandolin, Mandola, Bodhran and percussion.
Founder member of ‘The Picts’ and ‘Court of Equity’, Jeremy is a composer and arranger of Scottish music. He has played on all the band’s recordings and written compositions for each album. He has played with the band at all the major events like T-in-the-Park, The Interceltique Festival of Lorient and the Glasgow George Square Hogmanay Bash in front of 40,000 people. He has previously played and recorded with bands such as King Joseph’s Drum and The Laughing Phrogs.
Instruments: keyboards and Pianos.
An award winning multi-instrumentalist with ‘The Picts’, Grant is a champion accordionist and founder member of ‘The Court of Equity’. He has toured extensively with both bands at home and abroad since 2004 and contributes many of his own fine compositions and arrangements. Grant’s great passion and love for music is an inspiration to all who work with him. He is the primary lead player in both bands.
Instruments: Piano Accordion, Six and Twelve String Guitars, Bass Guitar, Vocals and Backing Vocals.
Dave is well known for his enthusiasm for the life and works of Robert Burns and his family, performing recently in the new Andrew Dallmeyer productions ‘The Mother of All Burns’ and ‘The Cauldron’. He has appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on a number of occasions. Dave is the former Pipe Major with Haddington Pipe Band and as a leading member of the Grant’s Braes Burns Club he was responsible for the renovation and restoration of the grave in Bolton Kirkyard of Robert Burns’s mother, sister and brother who lived nearby at Grant’s Braes.
Instruments: Highland Bagpipes, Techno-pipes, Harmonica, and Whistles.
The Court of Equity
This article originally appeared in www.celticmusicfan.com