Calum MacDonald

Back in the day when yourself and Rory and Blair started “The Run-Rig Dance Band” did you ever envisage it getting beyond playing rural dance halls and weddings?

I never really thought about it really, no – I don’t think we did.  Rory and I certainly had ambitions or wanted to do something with our songs, but that was separate from the fun of playing in the dance band, it was a different thing.

Let’s talk about the new album, “The Story”, which we are told is the last studio album, after so many years in the business, is it still nerve racking when you present a new album to the public?

Yes of course it is, that part never changes.  It is something you write and you keep it to yourself – even in this digital age where anything is free game, you keep it under wraps and eventually you record it and you are so wrapped up in it and so close to it that you sometimes can’t really see the wood for the trees.  So you never know what the greater reaction is going to be.

Grapevine has been lucky enough to get a pre-release copy of the album and I’ve had the pleasure of listening to it a lot, putting aside the press release blurb, it is a very powerful album.  Was it difficult to produce the sound you wanted?

Well the production is all down to Brain Hurren, the keyboard player and the baby of the band!  When we decided to record we didn’t have a clue where to go for producers, do we go for a big name producer or do we it ourselves – all of this kind of thing.  And out of that Brian just said: listen guys I would love to have a crack at this.  You know he has great audio skills and technical ability, so we tried out a couple of songs – they sounded really good so we said: “Right Brian on you go!”  He just took in on board and we pretty much stepped backwards and let him get on with it, so it is very much a Brain Hurren production.

So is this his first production?

Yes, well he has done lots of smaller things – he has done his own solo albums and bits and pieces but this is his first major release.

Is it easy to work with a producer who is also a band member?

Ah its perfect, yeah.  He knows us, we know him and that just makes it so easy.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is “The Place Where the River Flow”, tell us a bit about that if you will.

That’s a vaguely humorous… well, humorous and poignant… and maybe a bit serious.  It’s the story of the band.  The Place Where the Rivers Run is The Isle of Skye and it talks about forty years, there was treasure in forty years.  It’s just our story really, looking back to a scenario, right at the very very start in the dance hall days.  Bringing alive a cold empty hall.

There is a song I find very haunting, the last track on the album “Somewhere”.

It’s a love story, about mortality, you are with a partner for life but the fact is that you know that ain’t quite the case, so it’s kind of unknown.  We set it in a kind of ethereal setting and you can hear the audio tape at the end.

I was going to ask about that, what is the significance of that clip?

220px-STS-107_Flight_Insignia.svgWe got that from NASA.  To tell you the story very briefly: Laurel Clark was an astronaut on the Space Shuttle Columbia, the tragic NASA mission that ended when the space craft exploded on re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.  She was a big Runrig fan, all the astronauts on the mission were allowed to take a piece of music.  Laurel took a Runrig CD and she got in touch with the office and was going to get it photographed in space and write for us in The Wire magazine, our fan club magazine, which she did.  The poignant thing was that each morning each astronaut got to choose a piece of music as a wakeup call.  On the day of the tragedy it was her turn and she choose a Runrig track called “Running to the Light” and that was when the tragedy happened, the spacecraft bits were spread across a massive area in the southern part of America.  One of the few things that was found in the wreckage was a Runrig CD, found intact in a field in Texas.  Her husband and son came across to Scotland and presented it to us.  The tape is her talking to mission control. 

Some of your lyrics are in Gaelic, which being Irish, I have can get the gist of but how important is it to you to keep the Gaelic language alive?

It’s really important, but we don’t do it for that reason.  We include Gaelic songs in our material purely and simply because it is natural for us to do it and it is a strong musical tradition and we are all part of that.  We couldn’t imagine not doing it.

As I understand it one of the gigs in our region will be standing, the other seated.  Does that make a difference to the atmosphere to you guys on stage?

Yes, all gigs are different, they have a different kind of feel about them.  But they are both good as are small clubs and big stadiums but they are all different.  It’s all about what’s available, what promoters can slot into a tour.

It is a comprehensive tour some 13 dates in 17 days, dotted all over the country do you ever get tired of getting on and off the tour bus?

Yeah, you do get tired of that, and hotel rooms, you could do without that. But for these two hours on stage it is all worth it, sharing your music with an audience.

This is the last studio album as I mentioned before, some Runrig fans fear that it may also be the last tour, need they be worried?

Absolutely not.  No, it is definitely not, everyone is saying “is this the end?” “is this the final tour?” No, no, no. And we might do more recording in the future, but as a studio project – the “album” as we know it, which of course is going out of fashion fast!  Its the whole idea of the ‘album project’, of which we’ve done fourteen, so this will be our last album project.

Its been a pleasure talking to you Calum, we’ll catch up with you in Ipswich on 20th Feb and Cambridge a week later on 27th Feb, enjoy the tour.

The full tour looks like this: