Dougie Vipond isn’t keen to talk about lockdown. Of course he isn’t. Is anyone?
However, anyone watching Dougie behind his Deacon Blue drumkit or in a far-flung Scottish location on Landward, can’t fail to recognise his positive personality.
Among the problems that we have all faced over the past year, he has identified some elements of lockdown life that he hopes will continue.
From his home in Bridge of Allan, he admits that he’s luckier than most in being able to cope with being cooped up.
“I’m so lucky here. Within seconds I can be in beautiful woodland. The Ochils are not too far away, so you can get up there and pretty quickly I can be in wilderness. I used to love living in the city but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be now.
“We know that more people have been getting out in open spaces more and it’s clear that when we first locked down last spring, people who weren’t accustomed to getting and out and about were surprised at how they were using their senses.
“They opened their eyes and their ears and even their olfactory systems! It was a lovely thing to see, but hopefully that sense of connecting with nature has been as helpful in subsequent lockdowns.”
Deacon Blue tour
In 2019, Dougie couldn’t have been further from home, with Deacon Blue touring in Australia and in New Zealand for the first time.
The album City of Love was ready to be released and the band new that it was a great collection of songs that they were looking forward to going out and touring in 2020.
The album was released. It went to number one in the Scottish chats and number four in the UK charts.
“Two weeks later the country locked down,” Dougie says. “We had been so excited about getting out and playing the album but as it turned out we weren’t together as a band until December.”
There might have been the forced live hiatus, but the band managed to put together the new eight-track album, Riding on the Tide of Love a companion to the successful City of Love.
“It’s been great to still be creative with the band, albeit from a distance. For me it has been a great opportunity.
“Like many bands with prolific songwriters we went into the City of Love sessions with too many songs, so three that didn’t make it on to that album are out in the world now. “It’s never that songs aren’t good enough, it’s just choosing the songs that hang together best for an album.”
The remaining five songs were brought together from home recording, but that proved a little more difficult for Dougie who was having extensive work done on his house at the time.
“I couldn’t even set up my kit, so we worked out a way that, following Covid-19 restrictions I could record my drum parts at Gregor Philp’s home studio in Dundee.
“It felt alien in that we’re the type of band who record by getting in a studio together and playing, but it’s been a great way for us to keep up that connection at a time when we should have been out playing together. I miss my pals!”
The pals finally had a chance to reunite in Glasgow, as the headliners on BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay show.
The show was pre-recorded and the band had to be spread throughout dressing rooms for social distancing, but the experience showed Dougie what he was missing.
It also showed him that getting match fit for a tour would take some effort.
“As I said I didn’t have a kit set up at home, so I had to book a sanitised rehearsal room in Glasgow where I could sit alone for an afternoon and play.
“It was brilliant, but it did show me how it’s easy to lose the match fitness.
“Then, when we did the sound-check we were all so excited to be playing together that all played it like a gig. I had to try and calm every down and say we needed to keep that energy for the recording!”
The band have been doing as much promo as they can in the circumstances for the new album, but Dougie knows that it’s more than just music fans who are missing that shared experience that comes from music, theatre, sports and even the cinema.
“One of my sons is really missing the cinema. He loves going to get a hot dogs and sitting in the dark enjoying a film alongside a room full of people, whether he knows them or not.”
Sportscene and Landward
Another part of Dougie’s working life is sports commentary and we discuss the slightly eerie crowd sounds that are superimposed over matches to add some atmosphere.
“It really works with rugby to be honest. Otherwise you would hear the players grunting – and probably swearing – and the live ref’s mic. It’s just as well there’s something to drown that out!”
Dougie is that rare creature who is known by different audiences for wildly different roles, and it’s his Landward audience who have won during lockdown.
The BBC programme showcasing the best of rural Scotland was awarded broadcast critical status and even though they had to stop filming for a short time, Dougie and the team managed to find a way to still bring the stories to an audience keen to see beyond their own doorsteps.
“We had programmes to put out in spring and we could resume filming in May. I had been ill, I had a bout of Covid-19 early doors but we managed to resume in a variety of ways.
“At first we had people sending out their own films and being honest, at that time, it was even more of an honour to be part of Landward.
“Seeing these films, which showed how people were managing through the pandemic, was so inspiring.
“We got these glimpses of how resilient people are and the land is with springtime coming through and people still working on their farms or in their gardens. It was such a positive experience.”
At the beginning, Dougie was restricted in the distance he could travel for filming “again thank goodness for living in a place like Bridge of Allan” and when he could there would only be a camera person accompanying him and in some circumstances he would be filming himself.
“We were fortunate having broadcast critical status, so we could carry on, but we have been extremely careful about what we we’ve been doing around the country. Landward is one of these extraordinary programmes.
“It usually goes out on a Friday evening and even though it’s up against Coronation Street, it performs amazingly well. Then to gets a repeat on Sunday morning on network BBC2.
“I think that, apart from telling really good stories, the fact that we’ve been showing beautiful pictures of Scotland has been lifting the spirits. People can almost transport themselves there. Positive stories in beautiful landscapes – what better way to really cheer people up?”
Another media event bringing cheer has been one of the most unexpected online successes of lockdown.
Created by Charlatans’ frontman Tim Burgess for Twitter, users will no doubt have seen the hashtag #TimsTwitterListeningParty trending.
Several times a week, he chooses an album, people listen simultaneously and comment, along with the band or musician whose album is the subject of that night’s show.
“Tim chose Raintown for a Listening Party and our manager asked us for some memories of the album that could be put out during the programme.
“Of course, I was really last-minute and to make up for it, I wrote extensive notes about every song, how I was feeling, great anecdotes…not realising that no-one else, not even Ricky had done all this! So if you listened that night you would have thought I was the only one there! It’s such a great idea though – a good use of Twitter.”
Support for Doddie Weir
One event that might mean Dougie is fit enough for any upcoming tour is his involvement in Doddie Aid, the fundraising event that happened throughout January, raising more than £1m for Doddie Weir’s foundation raising funds for Motor Neurone Disease research.
He was one of around 20,000 people who signed up to a team and donated to take part, each joining one of the five teams from the old Scottish Inter-District Championship – The South, Edinburgh, Glasgow, North & Midlands and Scottish Exiles.
“I joined North & Mids and had people like Barbara Dickson and Lorraine Kelly on the team. The idea for each team was to raise as much money and clock up as many miles as possible.
“When Doddie was diagnosed with MND a few years ago, the only medication he could be given was the same as 30 years before. There hasn’t really been much progress in treatment or investment in research.
“Doddie was determined to do something about it and he’s always been such a popular guy the people embraced the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation charity to raise awareness and funds for research..”
Between releasing an album, filming for Landward, having work done at home and taking part in Doddie Aid Dougie hasn’t had much time to think ahead.
And the future?
Like everyone else, most contact with his sons has been online and he is looking forward to seeing family and friends giving them that most precious thing – a hug!
“I think when we come out the other end of this, the simplest things are going to have a massive effect on our mood. Even being able to put something in our diary for a few months’ hence and know that we can definitely do it will certainly be elevate our mood. Being able to plan and regain some kind of control of our lives will have a massively positive effect on our mental health.”
When it comes down to one thing he’s looking forward to, however, there’s no hesitation. It’s picking up those sticks and getting behind his kit again.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be involved in so many things that I enjoy, but I’m never happier than when I’m behind a drumkit.
“Apart from being able to share that experience onstage with my pals, to be able to share that joy with a large group of people will be incredible. I think initially people might be quite nervous about leaving the house and taking part in these experiences again.
“It’s going to feel very different, at least for the initial period, but what is in no doubt is it’s going to be an incredibly emotional experience. I genuinely think that there could be a lot of tears – in the audience and on stage.”
*Riding On The Tide Of Love is out now, from www.deaconblue.com