Welcome Back (and Goodbye): Runrig

After 42 years and 14 albums, Celtic-rock veterans Runrig are saying beannachd leat (that’s Scottish-Gaelic for goodbye, by the way) to the studio.

The band’s new release The Story will be their final album project and, fittingly, there’s more than a wistful, elegiac air to some of the songs. But as founder member and percussionist Calum MacDonald explains, with a UK tour in February and more music to come, the Runrig tale is not quite over yet.

When did you decide The Story would be your last album?

When we did our fortieth-year anniversary concerts two years ago. We had a lovely one in Muir of Ord outside Inverness, and a lot of former members came and played with us. We did a Bruce Springsteen-style set, over three hours. It was all about the back catalogue, it was like celebrating your whole life, and seemed like the perfect place to stop. But we didn’t want it to end there, so we made a brand new album to wipe the slate clean and do something completely fresh.

Won’t you miss the process of making a full album?

Yes and no. But you’ve got to face the reality – we’ve done fourteen studio albums, we’ve done a lot, said a lot, and we feel this is a good statement to make now. The whole idea of the long-player is falling out of fashion anyway, it’s losing ground as we go further on with streaming and downloading.

But is The Story really going to be Runrig’s last recording?

Well, it’s the last studio album project, but we might well do other bits and pieces, some EPs, maybe a live album. It’s eight years since we recorded our last one [Everything You See], and the time has been full in between. We’re touring in February, we’ll be playing a lot, and it would be impossible to give up writing.

You’ve had a long, enduring career. What’s the key to that?

We’ve been incredibly lucky to have lasted in the industry all these years. We’ve kept control of our own destiny. We had a good deal with Chrysalis [from ’87 to ’95], then we went back to our own label, Ridge. So we’re in control, we never hauled ourselves around the world if we didn’t want to go. And our fans really have been amazing.

What are the fans saying about this?

They’re saying: “Oh, you must be ending, then?” No-no-no! We’ll carry on as usual.

Runrig’s been a pioneering band: that blend of rock, folk and Gaelic.

Certainly at the time it was innovative. The new album’s production is contemporary, but there’s always shades of what Runrig has been over the years. The Gaelic thing’s been very important to us. We were never on any crusade, but we speak the language, write songs in the language. It’s part of who we are, and anything like that will raise the profile of the language. We’re proud of that.

Any regrets?

[Laughs] ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few…’ Och, no. There’s no point in having regrets. There’s highs and lows, ups and downs – you can’t have one without the other. It’s all part of our story. You’ve got to take it the way it is.

Classic Rock 220: News & Regulars

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.