The band is called Haggis and Bong – do you even need more motivation to read this interview? Craig Roxburgh sat down to talk with the South African-based Celtic metal outfit about the history of the band, the South African metal scene, and whether they would ever stop using bagpipes.
There are probably quite a few people who are not familiar with Haggis and Bong. Can you give a brief history of the band?
Haggis and Bong started in 2007 with just two members, myself [Angus Nixon] on bagpipes and Tom [Hughes] on drums. Not long after, we were joined by my good friend Dominic [Skelton] on the bagpipes. With this line-up we recorded our first album, Fire in the Bowl. We eventually added Xavier [Knox] on bass and toured with this line-up with great success. Eventually the decision to expand was made and we added Liam [O Flaherty] on bagpipes and David [Callaghan] on guitar and it is with this line-up that we recorded our latest release, Of Myth and Legend.
Also, what exactly is the story behind the name “Haggis and Bong”?
The name was basically a play on Tom and my name; Angus and Tom became Haggis and Bong. It does sum up the idea of melding a Scottish way with a more Metal-minded way quite nicely though.
Although, there are several people who questioned what you guys were doing on the Freedom Festival line-up. What do you have to say to these people that question your relevance in South African music?
Haggis and Bong has always been a great live act! We have never failed to whip any crowd into jolling shape. Having played at all major festivals over the years, including OppiKoppi, Ramfest and Splashy Fen, we have never failed to bring high energy and good times to anyone who found themselves in front of our stage.
What are you looking forward to the most about performing at Freedom Festival?
For me personally, it would be the opportunity to perform at Supersport Park, which is just a stone’s throw from where I grew up. I would always (and still do) go down to the stadium to watch the Proteas in battle and to perform in the same arena will be a massive honour.
You describe yourself as Celtic Groove Metal. How has that worked out for you in a metal scene that, at the best, is reluctant to embrace the traditional genres of metal?
As we have a very original sound and have opted to exclude vocals from our sound, it has allowed us to perform on line-ups that aren’t necessarily frequented by members of the metal scene. This has helped us to broaden our horizons and gain a following that traditional metal bands would not really touch on.
What is the song writing process for Celtic Groove Metal?
It largely starts with individuals from the band coming up with ideas and presenting them to the band, from there it is a collaborative effort in terms of refining the tracks and coming up with the final version.
You guys have been around for a while in the local metal scene. What are your thoughts on the current standing of the metal scene, and the music scene as a whole?
In terms of the metal scene, I feel that with major international acts coming out and seeing the support that they have received, our scene is alive and kicking! I do feel that bands lack some marketing finesse to get these numbers to their shows. In general, the South African music scene is growing all the time and with more festivals such as Freedom Fest, the scene can only grow from strength to strength! Bringing more bands to the fore and creating opportunities for them to exhibit their talents can only raise the bar and raise more support.
Musically, you guys have been pretty quiet. Are there plans to release some new music any time soon?
We had decided to take a little bit of time off last year, for various reasons, one of them being that I have been recovering from a piping related injury to my hand that has left me unable to play. This year will see us releasing our third studio album, which we are currently working on, and I’m sure that many people will be pleasantly surprised with the direction we have taken and what we have come up with!
So, how Irish/Scottish are you guys really and will you guys ever lose the bagpipes?
All of us in the band have some sort of Scottish/Irish heritage. I have from both sides. The pipes have always been the signature of the band, the main voice, so without the pipes, there won’t really be a Haggis and Bong.