WHEN you’re part of a duo who have been making music together since before you were teenagers there is always the danger that your relationship may suffer terminal damage.

That, happily, was never likely to be the case with Ross and Ali. Pipers first and foremost, although the pair are genuine multi-instrumentalists, they first met at around 12 years of age when they joined the Vale of Atholl pipe band in Pitlochry. Under the guidance of the late Gordon Duncan, who was pipe major at that time, Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton forged a friendship and a musical partnership that has not only endured but has flourished.

The pair have plenty of side projects to keep them busy, Ainslie as part of Salsa Celtica and as half of another duo, Ross and Jarlath, with Jarlath Henderson, Hutton as a member of Old Blind Dogs among others. And, of course, the pair are founding members of the magnificent multi-piece Treacherous Orchestra.

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However, it is as a duo that the pair are able to give free rein to their various, and complementary, musical influences.

Ainslie, currently in India at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival where he is performing alongside Angus Lyon and Blue Rose Code, explained: “We were really lucky to have Gordon as our pipe major. He got us into not just the pipes, but the pipes with backing guitars and things that really opened our eyes.

“Gordon was brilliant at inspiring us and making you want to play the pipes. I never had to be told to go and practice, I wanted to. And that was down to Gordon.

“I don’t think I would have got into music in the same way as I was more into sport at that point. But it was after hearing Gordon’s albums that I realised that that’s what I wanted to do.”

With the same mentor, and years of travelling the world together it must, then, feel like something of a homecoming when the Hutton and Ainslie find time to get back together. “Definitely,” said Ainslie. “We’ve been playing music together since we met.

“I think Ali got a guitar when he was about 14 and shortly after I got a cittern and after that we used to work on stuff. We’d sit and learn Wolfstone sets and play along with the Battlefield Band, things like that. When we used to hang about together after school it was always working on music.

“So when we get back together it’s like when we started.”

It may seem surprising given the pair’s history that their debut album, Symbiosis, did not appear until last year.

“There’s actually a bit of the set on the last track on the album [Gaelic] that has a wee riff that we got together when we were really young, and we thought we must record that at some point. It’s just taken 20 years to get round to it...”

AN unexpectedly gentle and serene piece of work, the autumnal feel of Symbiosis came as a surprise to many who knew Ainslie and Hutton in their leather-clad wild men of Treacherous guise.

“A lot of people have mentioned that,” admitted Ainslie. Was it intentional?

“To be honest we didn’t think about that album at all. We pretty much just went in the studio and started recording. We didn’t rehearse.

“I had a load of tunes, Ali had a load of tunes and, along with our sound guy and producer Andrea Gobbi, we just started recording.

“I think that’s why it came out like that. It’s just where we were.”

Despite their various commitments the pair are hoping to have a new album ready for release next year.

“We have begun the process of writing the new album and after that it will just be a case of recording it and trying to get some guests involved. This one’s going to be a bit more upbeat, though. A bit faster, a bit edgier, maybe.”

As a solo artist, Ainslie has garnered praise and awards for his second solo offering Remembering, and is currently working on the follow-up which is expected before the turn of the year.

“It’s called Sanctuary and it’s kind of a journey in that it will play like it’s one track. This one will be quite worldy as well. There’ll be a lot of influences on it from all over the place.”

Before that, though, Ainslie and Hutton are hitting the road on a tour that will take them from Ullapool to London. They’ll be joined by singer and guitarist Jenn Butterworth, another of Scotland’s hard-working, creative talents.

“Everyone seems to be flat out at the moment,” said Ainslie. “It seems to be quite a creative time in Scotland in general. There’s a lot of music happening.

“The young players who are coming through are quite incredible. You can hear the influence now of bands like Shooglenifty or Martyn Bennett on the younger artists, It’s exciting. I wonder what the folk music scene will be like in 10 or 20 years. I’d love to hear what folk music is sounding like then when more boundaries are pushed.

“I’d also like to think that these young bands can help bring a younger audience to some of the gigs. On the west coast and the highlands in general the audiences are a lot younger but in the central belt they tend to be a bit older and it would be nice to see that change.

“I saw Elephant Sessions at the Interceltique festival in Lorient and they went down a storm so it’s possible. There’s bands out there who can do that. But it’s not something you can force.”

For the moment though, Ainslie and Hutton are content to do their bit, all the while passing on their own unique take on Scotland’s folk music to a new generation,

Ross and Ali are on tour throughout this month, starting in Findhorn on October 18