Mudmen: Bagpipe-Fuelled, Hard-Rock, and High-Energy

By Kris Ketonen

Celtic rockers Mudmen are in a good place these days, something co-founder Sandy Campbell credits to simply “working smart.” Campbell, who launched Mudmen in 1998 alongside his brother Robby, even went so far as to call today’s Mudmen “family friendly,” a contrast to their earlier, “push-and-shove” years. And while it’s unfair to say they’ve completely left their old sensibilities behind—Mudmen are still a bagpipe-fuelled, hard-rock, high-energy band—their outlook has certainly changed.

“We’re leaving that old bar scene behind,” Campbell says. “The bar scene is a rough go.” That new approach is influencing all manner of things. For example, the latest album, On a Train, includes writing from other band members, not just the Campbells—that’s a new approach, one rooted in encouraging everyone to contribute, and stick around. The band is self-managed, and booking festivals and theatres, not bars (when they play Thunder Bay on November 14, they’re at the Port Arthur Polish Hall). “When you play theatres, you have to be good,” Campbell says with a laugh. “You have to adapt to your crowd a little more.”

Still, it’s been quite a ride. There were dark times, to be sure, packed with struggle and strife. But there were also incredible highs, from performing for Queen Elizabeth to hearing their music in TV shows and video games and on Hockey Night in Canada. Today, Campbell is content and doesn’t focus on the negative, crediting the Campbell brothers’ tenacity with getting them through. But that’s not to say it won’t all be revisited—he and his brother have kicked around the idea of a documentary telling the Mudmen story.

“We’ve made lots of mistakes, but we’ve learned,” Campbell says. “What we had to go through to make it as far as we did—it’s a pretty interesting story.”

The Sleeping Giant Folk Music Society is pleased to present the Mudmen at the Port Arthur Polish Hall on November 14.  Tickets are $25 advance / SGFMS members at door, and $30 for non-members.