The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have been known for starting musical fires with their “bagrock” mix of piping and pop, and now founding member Willie Armstrong has decided to return to his original career of putting out real fires as a fireman and watch commander with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.
Armstrong will officially depart the group after a send-off gig on March 12th at The Ferry, Anderston Quay in Glasgow.
In a statement, the group said that it is seeking to replace Armstrong, 44, with “a young rock and roll piper.”
“After seven years playing all over the world with the band, it is with a heavy heart that I have taken the decision to leave,” Armstrong said. “The hectic touring schedule has taken its toll. The band are about to embark on lengthy sell out tours of Germany and America and I decided to stay at home with my family. I have a very good job to return to and I wish all the lads in the band continued success.”
Armstrong’s background as a piper is varied, leaving the instrument for more than a decade while serving in the Royal Navy. He returned to the instrument at age 30, and went on to play with the Glasgow Skye Association and ScottishPower Pipe Band. When fellow Red Hot Chilli Piper Stuart Cassells came up with the concept for the group, he contacted Armstrong first to gauge his interest in joining.
The group has played worldwide, and was catapulted into the mainstream public eye after winning the BBC 1 television show, “When Will I be Famous,” in 2007. The band was named Live Act of the Year 2007 by the Scots Trad Music Awards, and its “Bagrock to the Masses” and “Blast Live” recordings reached platinum sales status in Scotland and a UK Silver disc, with combined sales of more than 130,000 copies.