Enter The Haggis
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Enter The Haggis

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Band Rock Celtic

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"Music that's easy to stomach"

The Hastings Tribune
Hasting Nebraska

Wednesday June 14, 2006


Music that’s easy to stomach

Celtic fusion rockers Enter the Haggis to perform at Cottonwood Festival

John Hutchmacher

Imagine a world where Celtic music is blended with virtually every other kind of music known to man—except perhaps opera—to create a sound that’s aggressive, upbeat, modern and unique.

That’s the world bassist Mark Abraham stepped into when he signed on five and half years ago to be part of the Toronto-based fusion band Enter the Haggis.

The group will make its first appearance in Nebraska at this year’s Cottonwood Festival at 7 p.m. Friday. Once a local Toronto pub band, the five-piece act has grown its fan base to include listeners from around the world, including Italy, England, and Germany. Its latest CD, “Soapbox Heroes,” on the United For Opportunity label, will be its first release earmarked for distribution in Australia.

The band has saturated the Eastern seaboard during the past few years, and will continue to play festivals from coast to coast as it attempts to segue into a hard-ticket draw. Its diverse influences and Dave Matthews- Grateful Dead-style jam band reputation continue to unite fans willing to drive hundreds of miles to see them perform.

“Haggis Heads”—a fan-applied moniker that includes followers from Maine, New York and North Carolina—continue to organize camping trips just to hang out together and hear the band perform.

“We don’t necessarily call ourselves a jam band, but we get that a bit,” Abraham said. “Like a lot of jam band or bands that focus on improvisational on stage, we change things up from night to night and try not to do the same things all the time. That’s what makes our live shows special.”

Established ten years ago, the current lineup of Trevor Lewington, vocals and guitar; Brain Buchanan, vocals and fiddle; Craig Downie, highland bagpipes and Deger pipes; James Campbell, drums; and Abraham has played together for nearly six years and recorded four CDs and a DVD.

“Soapbox Heroes” may be the band’s most mature and polished effort to date. Slated for release in August, the 10-song CD is produced by four-time Grammy winner Neil Dorfsman (Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Sting, Dire Straits). Despite having a live album under its belt, “Soapbox Heroes” is perhaps the one recording that best captures the band’s explosive live energy on tape, Abraham said.

“When we started working with Neil, we wanted to make a live-recording record,” he said. “The more we did, the more we wanted to add more layers to make it fuller. I think for the most part it’s a lively, high-energy result.”
Tunes on the new CD are as different as, well, blending Celtic music with modern rock. Imagine, if you can, piecing together a band featuring members of the Chieftains, Rush, Dream Theater, Muse and Radiohead. Yeah, it’s like that.

“It’s kind of a weird mix,” Abraham said. “You don’t want to cal lit Celtic rock, because we sound very different from other Celtic rock bands like Foggy Molly, Dropkick Murphys and Seven Nations. We play a lot of world music influenced things—a couple African influences, Brazilian, Cuban—and play around with progressive roots. We have the roots base but we try and take it somewhere else.”

Indeed, so successful have they been at carving out a niche sound that it is hard to say just what age group they are targeting. And that, Abraham said, can be both a blessing and a curse.

“We’re trying to stretch the boundaries a little bit,” he said, “and it’s tough because you don’t have the mainstream support. You just have to keep trying to break down doors. We’ve been very fortunate to appeal to a wide demographic because of the kind of music we do. Celtic music is timeless. It appeals to all ages.”

For online information on the band, visit www.enterthehaggis.com
- The Hastings Tribune


"Bagpipes and fiddles blazing; ETH rocked"



Bagpipes and fiddles blazing; ETH show rocked

Colleen Dane
Record Staff

Don’t be fooled by the bagpipe and fiddle on stage or airy wind-across-the-plains opening to an Enter the Haggis show. ETH rocks—and their show at the Florence Filber Centre last week, proved just that.

The surprise starts of the 2004 Vancouver Island Music Festival returned to the Comox Valley to spread their Celtic-inspired, pop-infused music cocktail, made all the more appealing by a dash of blues and solid twist of rock.

The five-member and innumerable-piece band is a star in not only the Canadian music scene, but the international folk fold. One look at their touring dates proves that people from the United States to Germany are watching to see how exactly Celtic music can be performed in a way that draws screaming teenage girls wearing studded bracelets.

With a huge amount of personality, Enter the Haggis kicked off Thursday’s show with the instrumental profile of what Haggis-Heads, ETH’s biggest fans, have come to love. Bagpipes leading what can best be described as a collision of musical genres.

The band’s members, Craig Downie, Trevor Lewington, Brian Buchanan, Mark Abraham and James Campbell are obviously having fun—and it’s contagious. As they turn up the stage presence, the audience turns on the dance—each feeding one another.

There’s no way to describe the dancing brought on by music that’s this hard to categorize. These are not tunes that draw one particular groove—this music creates the kick-off-your-shoes-even-if-it-means-your-white-socks-will-never-be-the-same-again kind of freedom of dancing.

Simply said, it’s fun to listen to, move to and watch. And that shouldn’t by surprising, as this is a band that made its biggest name with a live album—instead of the more traditional route of creating a live album as a result of a band’s popularity.

With five albums and a PBS special complete, and a huge amount of shows to their name, ETH is on the road these days promoting their latest disc, Soapbox Heroes. The album ranges from the party hits of One Last Drink to the slowdown at Long Way Home.

Highland bagpipes are cranked far beyond the common parade-tune exposure of the traditional instrument—whistles, mandolins and fiddles create the moods and settings. All that is set against the guitars, pianos, drums and bass that fill the tracks as much as the instruments fill a stage.

Along with the unique mix of instruments, the difference in the band’s own singing voices—from sugary sweet harmonies to deep bass accents—only adds to the versatility of the group and their music.

It’d be hard not to enjoy the mess of fun that ETH creates, especially when they’re having so much fun themselves. The nearly 200 people at last week’s show proved just that—continuing the Haggis-Head tradition in the mid-Island.
- Comox Valley Record


"Celtic Classic music lineup's maple tinge"

Celtic Classic music lineup’s maple tinge

Friday September 22, 2006
By Adam Richter.

“Lancaster Gate,” the opening song on “Soapbox Heroes,” begins with a hard-rock guitar intro, and after a few seconds, the bagpipes—yes, bagpipes—takeover. Is this a rock album? A Celtic album?

Welcome to the latest manifestation of Celtic music. “Soapbox Heroes,” the fifth album by Canada’s Enter The Haggis, draws on the band’s multiple musical influences, such as traditional Celtic, rock, jazz, salsa, bluegrass. But to classify them as simply “world music” downplays the importance of each of the styles that creates the band’s unique sound.

“That’s why we’re called Enter the Haggis. Haggis is a mixture of so many ingredients, and so is the band,” founder/bagpiper Craig Downie says. Enter the Haggis is one of several Canadian bands performing this weekend at Celtic Classic in Bethlehem. Some of the festival’s artists, like Beolach, take a more traditional approach to Celtic music.

But all of this weekend’s bands, particularly, those from north of the border, show that these days, there’s so much more to Celtic music than “Danny Boy.”

Downie says the current lineup started playing in 2001. Its members come from a variety of musical backgrounds. According to Downie, he and fiddler/pianist Brain Buchanan are the only members of the quintet with a background in traditional music.

Drummer James Campbell, for instance, has a jazz background, as does bassist Mark Abraham, a native of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Guitarist/singer Trevor Livingston played in rock bands before joining Enter the Haggis.

Downie dismisses the notion that the sole requirement for modern Celtic rock is old songs on new instruments. “A lot of what’s termed Celtic rock is just rocked-up nursery rhymes,” Downie says. “To some extent we do that, too, but our emphasis is on original material.”

Downie says the band members bring their own style and experience to the songwriting process and naturally, the Celtic sound permeates the music, whether the song is a drinking song (“One Last Drink”, a protest song (“No More Stones”) or a ballad (“The Barfly”). “There’s a great universality to Celtic music. Our music is something that cuts across a great many moods and a big demographic,” Downie says.


- Express-Times


"Irish in August: Two Celtic bands bring St. Patricks's Day to Racine, a few months early... or is it a few months too late"

Journal Times Paper
Racine, WI
August 13, 2006

Irish in August: Two Celtic bands bring St. Patrick's Day to Racine, a few months early ... or is it a few months late?
By Lee Roberts

Racinians can get a sneak preview of Irish Fest entertainment early next week when two of the Milwaukee festival's headliners bring their unique versions of Celtic rock to town a few days before heading to the Brew City. Enter the Haggis, with its blend of Celtic, bluegrass and rock, will play on Tuesday night and the Young Dubliners, a hard-rocking melting pot of Irish and American musicians, will take the stage Wednesday night. Both bands, known for their high-energy shows, will perform at McAuliffe's Pub, 3700 Meachem Road.

What brings bands like these, which have played at venues ranging from some of New York City's most popular clubs to the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and Irish Festivals around the world - as well as on television and in film - to Racine? "We like playing in smaller clubs," said Keith Roberts, lead singer and guitarist with the Young Dubliners. "It keeps our edge up."

While a weeknight show may mean a smaller crowd, one advantage of such bookings is that a midweek club audience tends to be a captive one, Roberts said in a recent phone interview.

"You know that the people who are there are people who really wanted to come hear you."

And, while a night off is very tempting (and often needed) for a band on the road, playing gigs in smaller cities in between the bigger shows serves as the musicians' way of paying their fans back for all the support they have given them at the larger venues, he said.

Cover charges at smaller clubs are usually less than big venue admissions, and having a show closer to home saves fans travel time and money. Yet audiences often get the same show in both places, according to Roberts.

"We don't know how to do a gig at half power," he said.

New tunes Much of what audiences at the McAuliffe's shows will get to hear will be recent work, as both bands have new (or fairly new) CDs out. Enter the Haggis' "Soapbox Heroes" was recorded just six months ago and released on the United for Opportunity label in mid July.

Certainly, there are Celtic influences throughout, but don't let the C-word fool you into thinking this is your father's Irish music. Based in Toronto, Enter the Haggis strives to break new ground with each of its projects. From its instrumentals to its socially-concious lyrics, the band prides itself on its musical experimentation.

"We like to challenge the listener," said drummer James Campbell in a recent phone interview.

"Soapbox Heroes" follows a natural evolution from the band's last release, "Casualties of Retail," said Campbell. The band's focus on intellectually stimulating themes and vocal harmonies carries through to the new CD, but the musical style is somewhat different.

"There is more of a world music feel to it, with Latin and rock influences," he said.

Joining Campbell on stage for Tuesday's show will be Trevor Lewington on vocals and guitar; Brian Buchanan on vocals and fiddle; Scottish-born Craig Downie on bagpipes; and Mark Abraham on bass.

Downie's Scottish heritage, by the way, was the inspiration for the band's name, which refers to the traditional Scottish dish.

Haggis is a blend of sheep's organ meat, minced onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and stock that is boiled in a sheep's stomach (yum).

The Haggis is somewhat of a metaphor for the way the band creates its music, Campbell said. Like Haggis - a dish often put together using a variety of whatever ingredients are available- Enter the Haggis is comprised of performers from five different musical backgrounds who come together to create something new.

"We put it all together into one sound and hopefully it appeals to people," Campbell said.

Blended sound The music of the Young Dubliners is also a collaborative effort, according to Roberts. Such collaboration is especially evident on the group's newest recording "Real World, (2005)" as all the songs were written by the musicians as a collective this time around, said the group's co-founder, who originally did much of the song writing himself.

"We put a big board up on the wall and everyone recorded their ideas on it," he said. "Before we knew it we had 30 ideas up there."

The hard part was boiling those ideas down to 12 tracks, he said.

"It was a grueling process, and a very emotional experience for us."

The result is a CD that takes the wide diversity of the group's influences and turns it into a cohesive sound. That sound, is what sets the Young Dubliners apart from other Celtic bands, said Roberts, one of two members of the band who are from Dublin - the other is bassist Brendan Holmes. The rest of the group - Bob Boulding on guitar; Chas Waltz on violin, keyboards and mandolin; and drummer Dave Ingraham - were born in America. The group is based in Los Angeles, where Roberts settled when he first came to America.

"The whole genre of Celtic rock is so different from band to band," Roberts said. "In our case, we are really a rock band that has fused American and Irish music."
- Journal Times Paper


"Enter the Haggis are iTunes Heroes"

Enter the Haggis Are iTunes Heroes
The Irish Voice

Despite warnings against doing so, there are some folks out there who still judge the proverbial book by its cover.

Lucky for Enter the Haggis, some of those folks work for the Apple Corporation. “One of the head guys at iTunes liked the last disc, Casualties of Retail, because they represent an alternative to traditional music stores,” explains fiddler Brian Buchanan. “That title really spoke to them, as they viewed themselves at the time as not being part of the mainstream. The title was in synch with their mission statements.”

The iTunes folks apparently paid attention to the powerful Celtic fusion of fiddles and pipes with college rock, classic rock riffs that make you pine for a fog machine, and metallic funk that slams the eardrum. With the release of their excellent new disc, Soapbox Heroes, the band is enjoying blockbuster success with the online music retailer.

“They’ve been incredibly supportive,” exclaims Buchanan. “One of our label guys is in pretty good with them, plus I think they are enjoying the way we blend different genres.

“We have advertising displays on the World Music page, and the reaction has been great online. It is on number 18 on the World Music charts on iTunes right now, and it has been as high as number two. It’s a great way to have our music out there. Before iTunes, we were subject to exclusively touring without label support.”

Their success is not of the overnight variety that occurred from a clever album title. This is a workhorse band that has been winning fans one at a time in clubs and festivals throughout North America.

Enter the Haggis is a Canadian world Celtic rock band based in Toronto. Commonly called ETH, the band has been playing and recording since 1996.

Their music is a tour de force of ballads, balls, and brawn.

They could teach the Red Hot Chili Peppers a think or two about burning on aggressive rock tracks like “No More Stones,” which mixes fiery fiddles, incendiary harmonica licks, and clever rap wordplay. “Marti’s Last Stand” shows that ETH is deeply in touch with their inner Styx, with a bombastic melody that needs to be aired out n a stadium.

“Craig is the oldest, so he grew up listening to Rush and Zep,” adds Buchanan. “I listened to old time fiddle music and then I migrated to darker alternative bands. We feel it is important to keep a route in Celtic music because that’s what we all have in common.”

Their sound defies description, and ETH wouldn’t have it any other way. At the core of their sound is a genuine love of traditional Irish music, a passion shared by each person, regardless of their other influences. Bagpipes and fiddles are deeply embedded into the vibrant mix.

Soapbox Heroes was produced in conjunction with Grammy award winning producer Neil Dorfsman (Paul McCartney, Sting). ETH fans, commonly called Haggis Heads, have been both surprised and overjoyed with the results.

“Fans on the message board were debating whether or not we have strayed from our Celtic roots,” says Buchanan. “Some of our newer fans don’t even think of us as a Celtic band. They are at odds with our fans in Ontario. They look at us as a fusion band. We like that genre because it was less limiting.

“Neil Dorfsman was a great facilitator who was always encouraging us to mix sounds, make a bagpipe into a guitar solo, that kind of think,” explains piper Craig Downie, who spoke with the Irish Voice en route to a tour stop in Kansas City.

“There are a lot of different influences within the members of the group and we are constantly listening to all types of music, especially on long trips in the van like this one. We tried to feature those different influences on everything we record. “

Just when you think that this band is all about throwing you hard rock curveballs, they throw you another one by including one of the best ballads this reviewer has heard in years. “Barfly” is a sweetly played piano riff with insightful lyrics about the finking culture of our heritage.

“It was inspired by the Elder of KC,” explains Buchanan. “They do a song ‘Men of Erin,’ which is a capella and I thought we might be able to do that with all the singers we have here. When I realized it was going to be six verses, it lent itself to a single guy in a bar by the piano approach.

“It was nice to feature just a piano. It’s just something that starts with a character and let that character dictate the story. We do spend our fair share of the old man ordering yet another drink and an Irish bar. So, its an extrapolation of what we say.”


ETH somehow avoids the trap set by the Pogues within the Celtic rock pantheon. The blending of pipes and jagged punk riffs has been done to death by countless Shane imitators, suffocating originality in the process. Unlike those bands, ETH genuinely pushes the Celtic rock genre with a unique sound that is highly addictive.

“Punk is the only thing that is not represented,” says Buchanan. “I think most punk musicians find Irish music later once they find the Pogues, but we came from the opposite route.

“It’s always challenge. You make the mistake of making radio friendly pop into Celtic fiddles, and it seems like a gimmick; let’s include the bagpipe to be different! We tried to do it so it did not sound so gimmickry. Bagpipes are an ‘off button’ for many DJs, unfortunately.” Their chart success online proves that with infectious harmonies, expert musicianship, and unforgettable melodies, no one is going to push the ‘off button’ on Enter the Haggis anytime soon.

They will be playing Manhattan’s Coda on September 14, followed by the Albany Irish Festival on September 16 and Celtic Classic Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania from September 22-24.

For more tour dates or to pick up a copy of Soapbox Heroes, log onto www.enterthehaggis.com.
- Irish Voice


Discography

Gutter Anthems-- 2008
Soapbox Heroes-- 2006
Casualties of Retial-- 2004
Live!-- 2002
Aerials-- 2001
Let the Wind Blow High-- 1998

Photos

Bio

Over the past three albums and five years, Toronto’s Celtic rock band Enter The Haggis has found itself at the center of a grassroots success story ever teetering on the brink of mainstream success. A workhorse group that performs nearly 150 dates out of the year, the band has amassed an ever-growing, devoted tour following from its humble Toronto roots, leaving not only fans, but die hard “Haggis Heads” in its wake nationwide. Constantly honing and evolving their sound – blending elements of rock and pop with traditional Celtic fare, an art school eclecticism and a keen sense of arrangement, in March 2009 ETH released "Gutter Anthems," their most cohesive record to date, yet one that makes the band’s trademark eclecticism shine. From Celtic festivals to headlining rock venues and from Billboard World Music charting to major television appearances on shows like "Live With Regis And Kelly," ETH has made its success one fan, one town, one region at a time.