Ahead of their appearance at Woodzstock, The Whiskys chats to Frank Finlayson of IGigs.

We caught up with Paul ‘Pel’ Elliott and Fraser McLean of the Whiskys as they prepare themselves for their first gig post Covid when they feature at Woodzstock the local family focussed festival near Munlochy.

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Per from Jocktoberfest 2014

We talked about the maturity within the band, the interaction between Pel and Fraser, the new additions, and what gives the band the longevity and the perseverance to continue, because at times it did seem touch and go as to whether the Whiskys would ever return.

It was 10 years ago that the band released their debut album, “The Taming of Me”, and a lot has happened since then, all their lives have changed with them now having more children between them than Fraser has guitars. 

The band got back together, at the instigation of Fraser, as he felt they had unfinished business to take care of. As Pel explains “we are really wanting the songs to sound good, there’s a proper drive to get these songs to sound the best they ever have”. There was acknowledgement that every incarnation of the Whiskys had strived for improvement and it’s always been near there but Pel says they are trying to make it “really good”.

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Fraser at Jocktoberfest 2019

The line up has changed too as they are bolstered by fiddling maestro Bruce MacGregor (Blazin’ Fiddles) and now have local legend Dickie Bills on drums. Fraser says of Bruce’s addition to the band “he just does it naturally, it just rolls off his bow. He knows what he’s doing. You don’t really need to rehearse with him!” while Bills makes a rehearsal longer with his many stories! However, they also credit a large part of the band’s progress to Dickie Bills ability to steer the band, dropping the tempo, and this has allowed them to fill the space better.

When they do rehearse it’s been good. As Fraser says ‘when we rehearsed the other night I left with goosebumps. That was mega!” Pel adds “if we play like that I’ll be delighted” It was after that rehearsal at Mad Hatters that Fraser said they had people pulling them up in the street. “They said they had gone outside for a cigarette and said they had stood in the street for 20 minutes listening to us rehearsing. We must have made some sort of impact!”. Pel also adds that “we came out of Mad Hatters last week, totally buzzing, and a couple of us stood outside chatting. It wasn’t just like ‘cheers, see you next week’. This felt new again. There was some buzz last week”.

Pel and Fraser also hadn’t actually played together before (Pel had replaced Fraser at one point in the band) but they found that they had a natural affinity when they jammed together. They had both watched each other play on various occasions. Fraser down plays it “It didn’t take us long to work it out. You play this plinky plonk bit and I’ll play this plinky plonk bit!”. However, Pel adds a little bit more detail “We are both experienced enough to know when to sit a part out. From watching the Whiskys back in the day I know when Fraser is going to go in heavy, and when he is loosening up I can jump in.” 

Earlier we talked about maturity in terms of how their lives had changed, but they both believe that there is also a maturity in the band’s development too. Fraser feels this. “It’s way better now, way more mature, more civilised. Everyone’s got better gear, everything has advanced over the years. Everyone has also learnt to sit back a bit, it’s not all full throttle. Less is more”. Pel adds in “There is more space but we can still dial it up to eleven!”.

They both accept that we live in a world where the average punter likes to hear songs that they are familiar with but the Whiskys’ catalogue has stood the test of time. They put this down to the tunes. Fraser goes on “it is the tunes, they have been written by Kris.” Pel goes on “he writes great songs. 10 years later they are still as good as they were 10 years ago.” Fraser adds “I have people coming back to me who tell me they have the album on CD and are listening to it”.

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Kris Douglas

Their first appearance is at Woodzstock which was a festival that attracted them as it, in Fraser’s words “it reminds me of what Belladrum once was like on year one. It’s got the same feel, loads for kids to do.” Pel adds “I’ve spoken with the promoters and they are lovely. They want to put a good festival on. It goes from Sandi Thom to Goldie Lookin’ Chain to the Complete Stone Roses. It’s quite a line up! It covers a lot of genres”.

It may have looked at one point that the Whiskys were on the rocks, but now it appears that they may well have found their blend.

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Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy. A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre. Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy. You can contact Frank direct via frankieboyfin@gmail.com