Is the bagpipe a musical instrument? By Tony King 2011

Billy Wallace was distantly related to Sir William Braveheart Wallace and was a professional Scotsman. He was also a pathological Bagpipe player from Glasgow.
He had a necklace that German backpackers often mistook for sharks teeth.
It was in fact made from the teeth of people who over the years had asked him if the Bagpipe was a musical instrument.
He was what you’d call “a bit sensitive” about this.
The Oxford history professor who had contributed the most number of teeth to the necklace, had suggested that the Bagpipe was not actually a musical instrument but was designed to scare the Sassenachs back over Hadrian’s wall and away from Scotland for good. He had punctuated his point by poking his unlit pipe in Billy’s direction through a smug smirk. Confusing Billy’s catatonic rage for a rapt audience, the Oxford Don had just commenced the second part of his history lesson when he was punched so hard he somehow flew out of his tweed jacket leaving it momentarily hanging in mid air. The professor had co-incidentally made a noise disarmingly similar to a bagpipe as he landed in the fountain. He was fished out by a Salvation Army timbrel player who harbored her own doubts about the timbrel being a musical instrument.
Billy had fallen for the Bagpipe at an early age and in fact his first word was “Pipe”. Billy’s father had banned him from eating in the house for 2 days because he thought he had said “Pope”.
Billy joined a pipe band but was released from duties after they discovered he suffered from a rare condition improvaesthesia, where he imagined and played musical score that wasn’t in the score. He added the imagined bits and fitted them in whist trying to catch up to where the rest of the band was, in Amazing Grace for example, often at a funeral.
The bits he added in between sounded a little like a Goose trying to mate with another species much less interested in the deal…….
a sort of musical Tourette syndrome.
He had gone it alone from then on and busked his away around Ireland where his first necklace was quickly finished.
Irishmen, before being restricted to months of soft food by Billy, would often say something along these lines.
“Now da ting is…The Uillean pipe is as close a ting as you can get to the sound of a weeping woman and easily da most expressive musical instrument ever created, whereas the Bagpipe……”
Billy found the pipes broke down all language barriers and were quite the conversation starter around Europe, especially with managers of Hostels at 3am, which he insisted was the most inspirational time of day to practice.
Billy was frustrated by the Macedonian’s insistence that their pipe was older and better. When I say frustrated……by this I mean apoplectic with white hot rage. His anger went straight from asleep…happy….to volcanic spewing of Glaswegian expletives. Nothing in between…not a few seconds…even he had no warning…. Like a tartan Champagne cork exploding.
But what made him angry, as opposed to frustrated, was the inability of his foreign audience to fully appreciate the inspired gift of Glaswegian swearing.
The lager fuelled legacy of the pavement poet…The lilt from the kilt….how bloody clever it was!!!
He learned to say in 20 languages, “Pick a window Jimmy you’re leavin!!!!!” and “Are you talkin’ ta me or chewin’ a brick? Either way yer losin’ ya teeth”
Ironically, Glaswegian cussing was much more musical than the actual pipes the cussing was defending.
The sheer invective generated by Glaswegian fury, if you could harness it, was a no brainer to power some kind of steam driven pipe organ or the Clyde ship yards.
The other thing that nagged at Billy increasingly was that due to the limitations of the pipes you simply couldn’t play lots of notes that were on the score of his improvaesthesia.
He had taken to grimacing in the direction of the missing notes with his eyebrows….accompanied by a slightly apologetic rolling of the eyes…..
Then something miraculous happened in Indonesia. A mud wasp built a series of nests in the chanter of his bagpipes while he was laid up in hospital recovering from being attacked by a village as a result of a successful translation of some of his favourite expressions.
When he unpacked the pipes in New Orleans he discovered, as a result of the mud wasp nests, he could now play sharps and flats. He could play ALL the notes of his improvaesthesia!!!!
Billy stumbled upon a traditional New Orleans funeral and falling in to the second line of mourners, he pulled out his pipes and starting playing.
The mourners slowed to a stop, staring at him and he braced himself for the familiar scuffle, gun shots or bows and arrows. To his shock they started slow clapping and at first he thought they were taking the piss. Realizing they were the first humans to like his playing, his improvaesthesia rose to a new level. He belted out his ambitious composition entitled Dizzy Haggis which, thanks to the mud wasps he was now able to perform in the original imagined key of F#. Previously he had made do in the key of C with a hell of a lot of eye brow grimacing.
But not now…. The audience went nuts!
He felt like he’d come home and was finally among his own people.
Finally the crowd calmed down and the older of the black cats took his dented Selmer out of his old cracked lips and said slowly “Man…..now I finally know what the B in B Bop stand for!
It stand for Bagpipe!”
MAN, it stand for BAGPIPE!!


The Role of Record Producer
By Tony King

Much to his amplified annoyance, Tyron had been overlooked as Producer of the year for the 30th year on the trot. It also brought on a fresh bout of eczema and made his temp secretary stay at a sheepish distance from him with her ipod headphones in but no music playing.

He spoke with a Cockney world weary brogue that would have made him limp if it had been a shoe.

He was a germophobe and vacuumed his secretary each morning.

Tryon was owner/producer of Shabby Road Studios.

He had persevered with the plural despite never having more than one studio.

Tyron laboured under the huge delusion that his production philosophy was very similar to that of David Attenborough. It consisted of “Non interference” when working with “Talent”. This would make sense when you’re dealing with a White Rhino that has to be kept in balance with nature. You don’t interfere because it skews the survival balance of the ecosystem.

Therefore real music could only evolve naturally if the producer watched from the safe distance of his “Hide”

In reality Tyron was an OCD interfering dictator.

If he had been Attenborough he would have dressed up as a pantomime Zebra and annoyed the Hyenas into swimming to a neighboring continent.

In reality he believed you have to interfere with bands early and often because they have no idea what they are doing and will be extinct by the end of the record if you don’t interfere.

Some of them would want to kill each other.

All of them would end up wanting to kill Tyron.

He would often ask the band “What kind of record would you like to make?” but would cut them off one word into their answer, shouting “There’s your first mistake!!! You have a preconceived concept, which is the enemy of art!!!”

On the surface this sounded profound but in reality bands really liked to have a role in their album and had an old fashioned desire for it to reflect the essence of who they were.

This made Tyron apoplectic with rage and his ensuing rant was enough to make bands lose their will to live and they gave up the fight to make their own record.

They made Tyron’s record.

All except a band called the Knee Tremblers who miraculously knew exactly what they wanted. The album was done at the speed of a porcupine mating.

Attenborough would have said ”in a perfunctory manner”

The band could all play stupendously well and got their BAS done on time. They quickly found a role for Tyron running errands and rang him at the local café, where he had been relocated, whenever the soap ran out.

The Knee Tremblers ironically had actually embraced Tyron’s own faux policy of non interference and made a brilliant record while Tyron was forced to console himself by putting his good ear against a vegemite glass and pressing it to the mixing room door.

The band had changed the security access pin to the mixing  room so all Tyron heard until the record came back from mastering was a muffled kick drum.

When perplexed passers boy saw Tyron with the glass to door, he would feign an air of conspiratorial superiority and say something like “These fuckers are making exactly the record I want, and they can’t even see me pulling the strings”

He would then mime a marionette puppeteer but would invariably trip over the water cooler, his Keith Moon grin pulled half way on.

Despite his idiosyncratic approach, Tyron had many, many clients over the years and arrived at what he called “The Golden Spake” for production. Here are a few examples.

“You can never have too many takes”- He invariably took the last take of a recording, put it through autotune and doubled it. He said that getting a singer to sing the same word or even syllable for an hour reproduced the truth found in a dying animal. “You can’t fake that!” “There’s no quick way to it…it hurts! It has to! Or you’re not doing it right!!!!!”

Bands hardly ever ended up with the original singer by the end of his productions. Often the singer ended up being the only player left standing, most frequently a bass player, whom he discovered was biologically closer to the truth of a dying animal than other musos.

Tyron’s most annoying habit was saying to a band member whilst employing a slowly wagging finger….

“I think I know where you’re going with this”….and with an expression that implied some kind of rare telepathic quasi religious moment, he would then coax the instrument out of their hands and play/sing all the parts himself, leaving the hapless  band member having to steal his own instrument back when Tyron went to the bathroom.

Another rule which was also written on the toilet wall.

“If the band knew what they wanted, they wouldn’t need a producer”- This was coded permission for Tyron to make whatever album he wanted, often replacing all the musicians eventually. A death metal album would end up a Celtic Ambient album, or visa versa.

Tyron’s Bête Noire was the “group mix”.

Negotiations would frequently resemble those found in Gaza but with less goodwill.

One particular occasion involved a Goth singer who had spent the week buried in her Sylvia Plath poems while the rest of the band fought over the border between good taste and commercial oblivion.

She put her book down and said something very, very quiet which nobody could hear. Eventually the airconditioning was turned off and she still was inaudible. Finally the vintage S1100 sampler was even unlugged which was known to make a slight hiss that annoyed some people with canine hearing. Still couldn’t hear her.

Ultimately she was mic’d up and they heard her say, ironically, that she couldn’t hear the vocals.

It turned out the channel had been muted from day one.

Tyron hated the conventional wisdom of making an artist feel comfortable to get the best out of them.

He believed pain was weakness leaving our body.

When all the weakness was gone, you were ready to press the red light and get the real band on tape.

This process often made Tyron look a lot like Dr Strangelove & his experiments resembled those done by the Nazi’s. This was all done with equipment readily available in the studio.

He would turn headphones up instead of down when the singer complained about the loud volume.

“Vot vaz I sinking?” (hissed through a malevolent grin).

“One step closer to a great album!!” as he goose-stepped around the sticky carpet.

Most of Tyron’s production tricks were in direct contravention of The Geneva Conventions’ four treaties and three additional protocols that set the standard for the humanitarian treatment of victims of war.

Make no mistake, Tyron was at war with his bands.

He was completely perplexed by producers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who had the ability to bring out the essence of any band, adding a stack of their own creativity without a skerrick of their own footprints in the sand.

Tyron was the “Bigfoot” of producers and along with the Great Wall of China, his signature was the other man made object visible from outer space. Countless bands had taken to throwing hors d’oeuvres around record launches upon discovering his writing credit at the front of all the tracks.

Mr T was his own nickname for himself that was never embraced by others, mostly because there was already a quite famous Mr T.

Upon finishing an album Mr T would send the whole band out to get the celebratory ham and salad rolls. This would enable him to reverse all the bands wishes and desires about the mix.

When they returned he would pounce on the juiciest less soggy looking lunch and pronounce with chubby hubris,

“I believe that is the Producers Roll!!”

That would be the closest Mr T would ever get to understanding the producers role.

The inhabitants of the asteroid Alpha Cad 5 had been tapping their little feelers to Jazz for 300 million years. They were, by any time signature, the oldest and hippest Jazz enthusiasts in the Universe. They had seen it all come and go but had finally settled on a form of jazz that had stuck , at least it had for the last hundred million years. It consisted of 3 notes per piece. What really mattered was how you played the notes. It was all about the intent … It was not unusual for a musician to spend a couple of weeks puckering his lips into the right embouchure to tease out the next dotted semiquaver in the sequence. Rapt audiences would sit waiting, webbed dorsal fins all aquiver with anticipation…will he go for the F, like he did last year and leave the audience in a puddle of enthusiasm in which they would swim around in circles with their single flipper to show their gratitude? The other thing remarkable about the AC5 jazz audience was their incredible attention spans. Unlike on Earth, they could hold that expression you get on your face when someone tells you that Jesus is coming dinner, for 3 years before scratching their noses out of discomfort. “War and Peace” would be considered a short tweet on their asteroid. ….So when they were invited to the Montreux Jazz Festival on Earth they nearly drowned. At least they thought they had been invited. The thing is, on their planet, the traditional invitation to anything, was a small nuclear explosion, a couple of megatons, nothing big but it meant you were expected to turn up. Drop what you had been staring at for the last 6 months and get your arse into gear. They had been keeping an eye on Earth for a while. It had been getting harder to see as an opaque smoggy cloud had formed around it, which had only whet their appetite further. It was hard not to keep an eye on it when you were born with 360 eyes facing towards every degree of the compass. They were incredible at reading charts and could follow 120 pieces of Jazz at the same time, which is where they learnt “the expression humans get when they hear that Jesus is coming to dinner”….You try forming the right expression not to offend 120 artists you are listening to simultaneously, especially as some music was at a poignant low ebb, some were peaking, while other artists were playing something sneaky and subversive. They only had one face with which to display all their reactions. So when a mushroom cloud puffed up from somewhere in the Middle East lighting the place up very clearly for a few seconds, the AC5 got very excited and started to tune up their instruments and ready their space ships, called Pea Shooters. So named because they were literally shot out of a tube very quickly like peas. When I say quickly, they sometimes shot out so fast that they actually arrived at a place before they were born and had to wait for a long while to do whatever they went there for. The other thing about the AC5 is that they are very small. When they arrived at Montreux they were discovered accidentally by a scientist studying the Anopheles mosquito. He was convinced he had discovered a new species that could hum 3 notes instead of just the one. After a farcical interview by Border security involving a lot of arse scratching and paperwork being scrunched up a number of times, the AC5s were put on the bill after Keith Jarrett. The AC5 had never heard so many notes. The notes beat them up like a boxers speed bag…Badoonk badoonk badook badoonk Badoonk badoonk badoonk badoonk…… In fact he played more notes in 20 minutes than had been heard on AC5 in the last 200 million years. Despite the fact that Jarrett is a genius and clearly having a good day, one of the aliens tried stuffing a feeler into his ear and only occasionally pulled it out to test the water over the 20 mins but it still didn’t make sense. The AC5 did however love the grunting Jarrett was now warming to while he played, and they had their joyous little “epiphany faces” on now. They had surmised that this was the actual music and the piano was what they considered to be the “Grunting”. This made more sense to them because it didn’t happen that often and it had a chewier enigmatic quality that was more up the AC5 alley. It was very hard to block out the piano though, which was relentlessly intrusive, so the “epiphany face” was mixed with the look Earthlings get when they find out Stalin is coming to dinner. This was the point when Joni Mitchell floated onto stage followed by a green cloud from the joint she had been sucking on, and started some vocalese. The grunting, vocalese and piano fought each other…with a sound not unlike trying to get a bit of rope back off a poodle…… nobody giving an inch…while an audience of goatees and cheesecloth swayed in perplexed approval, followed by the inevitable lonely yelp of someone on acid exclaiming “YEAHHHH!!!!!” who had apparently unearthed a meaning in it all that would normally have taken a team of German Archaeologists. The AC5 were now stoned as well as confused, 360 little bloodshot eyes staring at a giant Hershey bar some 500 kms away and no realistic way of being able to eat it before they had to perform. Then something happened that completely terrified the AC5. Winton Marsalis had joined the others on stage and was pointing at them the largest Pea Shooter any of them had ever seen and if loaded would transport them all back before their Grandmothers were born. This was when the PA blew up. They had 120 eyes on the little puff of smoke coming out of the amps, which they interpreted as a tiny invitation to something?? 120 eyes on the Pea Shooter, should immediate evasive action be required and 120 eyes still on the Hershey bar as the munchies took a deeper hold. Complete silence….then a whistling kite flew down low over the crowd…..with a pure single hauntingly perfect tone.. a sound more beautiful than the AC5 had ever heard. So deep in it’s intent and profoundly moving, the stoned little Aliens were now paddling around doing something in a distinctly Esther Williams/Gary Larson oeuvre. They had spent 300 million years trying to reduce their pieces down from 3 notes whilst maintaining an over arching narrative…to no avail…and now here at Montreux they had heard it. “They were there!” they would tell their Grandspawn!!! “The day Whistling Kite performed” Now they knew what all the Montreux fuss was about. They also knew they couldn’t possibly follow an act like that. The last thing the audience heard was the little fzzzzzzzzzz of the AC5 Pea Shooter heading for home before the PA came back on…


November 4th, 2009 Sydney, NSW Australia.

The Australian Songwriters Association just crowned Tony King Australian Songwriter of the Year.

King also won an unprecedented 3 awards taking out Best Song in the Open and Folk/Acoustic categories as well as the award for Best Lyrics. The somewhat eccentric songwriter has also found a way using music to turn “Wine into Water” and build water wells in Ethiopia. More of that dyslexic miracle later.

He has written songs with Andrew Strong, the singer of “Commitments” fame, and toured as his lead guitarist. He was also a scriptwriter for the radio comedy series “How Green Was My Cactus” now in its 23rd year of political satire. In 1991 he won an ARIA award for the highest selling single with “Read my Lips” He also found time to compose 13 animated Film scores for Burbank animation

Kings resumé  reads like someone with multiple personality disorder.

Despite his list of achievements he is most passionate about his “Wine into Water” project.

He composed a unique album made entirely from sounds of “Wine” ie Tuned Wine Glasses, Bottles, Barrels, Corks etc. He painstakingly recorded the sounds and used them as the orchestra.

When it was released, the album of beautiful ethereal music was voted the most popularly requested music on ABC Classic FM.

Upon hearing about the plight of Ethiopians who were dying from contaminated water, or lack of it, King decided to donate all the proceeds of his Wine Music album to go to building wells.

“There is abundant water but it is metres underground and the villagers have no means of getting to it without the right equipment and resources. Hence the “Wine into Water” project was born.

He teamed up with an organization called the Wellwishers who actually build the wells and he helps them raise money. “One well makes life possible for 650 villagers, who are trained to maintain them so they are not dependent on outside help to keep them going. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing music literally make a difference to peoples lives”

If you wish to hear King’s Wine Music album or make a donation, visit www.winemusic.biz

King and his partner Kris Ralph are based between Sydney and the south Coast of NSW Australia, where they have an Acoustic Folk/Jazz band called Beautifully Mad

His Award winning songs can be heard at www.beautifullymad.com