Dougie Vipond interview: Playing for his country
The Scotsman 2nd April 2009

DOUGIE VIPOND is getting a bit worked up. "The other day a friend of mine was complaining that he'd been woken up by the birds singing," he says, wagging a finger in the air. "Complaining! Can you believe it! I said look, next time it happens, get up, put your dressing gown on, make a cup of tea and go into the garden and listen to them for half an hour. I bet you have a fantastic day." He pauses. "That is, if they don't take you away and lock you up." And he burs

You would have thought Vipond had better things to worry about than other people's lie-ins (have you seen how far down the Premier League his chosen team St Mirren are at the moment?), but for Vipond – Sportscene presenter, Deacon Blue drummer and Adventure Show frontman – an appreciation of all things bright and beautiful is merely the latest part of his professional remit. As the new presenter of Landward, the BBC2 Scotland show that looks at rural issues across the country and returns tonight for a new series, along with co-presenters Nick Nairn, Sarah Mack and Euan McIlwraith, Vipond has been romping the glens, meeting farmers, climbing hills and messing about on the river.

"I've been doing a trip down the River Tay from the source to the mouth, travelling on different forms of transport and meeting people who live, work and play on the river," the 42-year-old tells me excitedly. "I've done canoeing, water skiing – it's been great fun." And freezing cold, too, one imagines. But leaving his comfy seat in the studio, pulling on his wellies and getting his hands dirty is, he insists, something he enjoys. "I've always loved getting out there and doing things. I'm willing to go off and do mad stuff, and they (he waves vaguely in the direction of the BBC Scotland building in which we are currently ensconced] are quite happy to exploit that."

It is not entirely new ground. Vipond, you may remember, used to be involved in a programme called Big Country in the mid 1990s, an out-and-about TV show he co-presented with Jenni Falconer, not long after leaving Deacon Blue. For the former rock'n'roll star, it was a chance to get to know his own country again after years of touring the world and living out of hotel rooms. "I used to bore Jenni senseless because everywhere we went filming, I'd already been, and I'd insist on telling her stories about it. I like to go walking, having a wee look around and taking big, deep breaths. I think it's important these days. We all run around daft, trying to keep ourselves employed and keep busy, but now and again it's important to enjoy the place around us."

Vipond lives with his wife, the opera singer Elizabeth McCormack, and their three sons, Finley, 11, Angus, seven, and five-year-old Hamish, in Culross in Fife (he pronounces it Cooriss, like the locals). Yet despite his philosophy about "taking big deep breaths", it seems he's hardly got time to sit down at the moment, never mind take in a fresh lungful of air. "I work every Saturday at the football, so Sunday becomes my Saturday," he grimaces. I'm working six days a week at the moment, trying to keep all the balls in the air, so when it gets to Sunday I'm attempting to fit a week of fathering in to one day."

He gets out walking and cycling with the boys when he can and insists on a holiday to Arran every year. "When I was growing up I didn't go on foreign holidays at all. We always holidayed in Scotland. So now I make sure we go (to Arran] every year, we've become creatures of habit." The current recession, he reckons, will see an increasing number of Scots start doing the same. "If the economic crisis means that more people are going to spend some time at home, discovering the beauty that lies on our doorstep, then that's no bad thing."

For a man whom most of us associate with sharp suits and lengthy discussions of the Old Firm and the offside rule (his football presenting has been criticised in the past for being 'wooden' and has been sent up numerous times on the satirical football show Only An Excuse, yet he has been at it for more than a decade and become one of the nation's best kent football faces), he has a great deal of passion for rural issues. This is something he partly attributes to having grown up in the countryside himself.

"I was brought up on the outskirts of Inchinninan in Renfrewshire," he tells me, "and honestly, it really was all fields back then, with farms and smallholdings around the place. I spent all my time when I was a child walking my dog and playing in the fields." Does he think that today's urban Scots are more ignorant about what goes on in Scotland's rural environments?

"I think you'd be amazed to find that a lot of people in the city do have a real idea of what the countryside is actually like. A lot of people who work and live in the city do a lot of playing in the countryside; it's important to realise it's not just about using the place and going back and leaving a mess – there's a civil responsibility that comes with using the massive, beautiful, rural space we have in Scotland. It's something I'm absolutely passionate about."

Something else for which he has not lost his passion is music (Vipond is a trained classical percussionist and, after studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, considered an orchestral career), and despite his busy filming schedule, plans on shoehorning a few gigs with his Deacon Blue bandmates into this year's activities. "We're doing a few shows during the summer," he reveals. "It's good, now, when we get together. We don't really officially exist as a regular thing, but when we do get together we can do a show, have a laugh and then go off and do other things."

Love them or loathe them, having racked up five studio albums, six million album sales and 18 top 40 singles since they formed in 1985, Deacon Blue remain one of Scotland's top selling rock acts, and for Vipond, the period spent as their drummer was one of the best times in his life.

"I spent eight years with these five other people – I remember when the Berlin Wall came down and we were there a few days afterwards, chopping bits off the wall at midnight to get our souvenirs – all these big, important things happened and we had some amazing experiences. I grew up in that band and when it all split up I was 27. Suddenly it was like, 'oh'. I felt lonely. I missed the people more than anything. Travelling round the world was fine, doing gigs was fine, making records was fine, but the friendship and the company, that was what I missed the most."

So what's next for this master of reinvention, a pop star who re-entered the national consciousness first as a football pundit and now as a campaigner for rural life in Scotland? He laughs and shrugs his shoulders. "I'm not much of a planner in that respect. There's nothing I'm hankering to do, particularly. I'm lucky because I've been able to do the things in life that I like doing, so I can't say there's anything I'm desperate to do before I die."

Except, perhaps, take time to listen to those birds.