Bagpipe lament for Chilli’s frontman


By Kirsty Topping


Stuart has had to give up his beloved pipes after developing an incurable disease

THE frontman of Scotland’s bagpipe rock band has been forced to quit after being hit by a rare medical condition.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers founder Stuart Cassells, who provided music for the hit film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, revealed he was no longer able to play his pipes after being struck down by focal dystonia.

The neurological condition affects muscles in a part of the body and causes them to twist involuntarily. It is thought to affect one in every 200 musicians.

The condition prevents musicians from using the fine motor control required to play.

Despite undergoing treatment treatments, including botox injections into his arm and taking a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease, Stuart has been unable to beat the disease.


The 32-year-old said his ability to play his pipes had deteriorated over the last two years.

He said: “It started about two years ago. I’ve gone from not having to think about playing, because I’ve been playing the pipes since I was seven, to having to concentrate on everything. It’s known as writer’s cramp, but it also affects surgeons, bagpipers and violinists.

“I’ve not spoken openly about it before, because you go for competitions and you don’t want to give away any weakness and give the judges anything to look out for. I’ve seen various experts all over the world and there isn’t a cure for it.”

Despite having to leave the band he started just a decade ago, Stuart ensured he went out on a high.

He said: “We’ve just headlined the Milwaukee Irish Fest, where we had 20,000 to 25,000 people per gig. It just seemed like a good time to finish.”


The band have taken on a replacement from the world champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band and will continue to delight fans across the world.

He added: “When we started out we never imagined we’d be going all over the world. It’s been a phenomenal experience, so I’m not sad to move on to new things.”

Refusing to be downbeat about the condition, Stuart hopes to use it as an opportunity to move to New York and, plans bring a bagpipe show to Broadway.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have performed across the globe, including The Gathering in Edinburgh and festivals across Europe, and have sold more than 250,000 albums.