"It's a total obsession." He had to speak loudly so as to be heard over the fruits of such obsessions yesterday – the insistent, thunderous, unbroken sound of pipes and drums, played by the world's finest bands.
"They practise every day of the week, especially in the run-up to championships," Embelton, the chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, added. "Everything is geared around the Pipe Band Worlds. They take their pipes on holiday with them. I'm quite convinced they take them to bed at night. If you see pipers walking around Glasgow, many will not leave their pipes in the hotel or car – they'll carry them with them. Their pipes are that important to them."
As of 3.45pm, Embelton had been on duty at Glasgow Green, the site of the finals, for eight-and-a-half hours, along with some 250 volunteers. He still had another eight hours to go. Talk about obsession. "I'm getting too old for it," he added, with the air of one who did not really mean it.
The 66th World Pipe Championships once again brought the Green to life. Mingling with the band members from around the world, and the stewards and officials, were 35,000 spectators.
They watched the bands perform and applauded, they relaxed on the grass in the sun – one woman in her thirties sat in the shade of a tree and read the second volume in the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy. They queued for burgers, and at the merchandise stall they pondered whether they really needed a WPBC whisky miniature or USB stick.
Such scenes help explain why this one day injects more than £10 million into the local economy.
"The event has grown dramatically in the last five years," Embelton adds. "I've been doing this now for 12 years and this is easily the one I've got the most satisfaction from. It is all working perfectly. When you see it all going together as smoothly as it has been ... We've got around 300 performances, with 230-plus bands, and they've all got to be in a specific place at a specific time."
As high-profile as the pipe band championships are, they did not have the Green to themselves: there were also champioships in Highland dancing, drum majoring and heavy events like cabers. Everywhere you looked, someone was doing something and making it look easy.
Colin Armstrong gazed through his shades at the scenes around him and said: "It's spectacular to be here, it's really amazing. It's a pipe-band contest on a gigantic scale."
Armstrong, who is from San Diego, California, is the pipe major of the Los Angeles Scots, one of a gaggle of pipe bands which had crossed the Atlantic to attend the Worlds. "My first Worlds were in 1996 and we were in Grade 2 at that point and we've come back just about every year since."
The band is now in Grade 1, the top level. Half of its members come from LA, the other half from elsewhere in America, and Canada.
"A lot of us have grandparents who were born in Scotland. Some of us were born there – our bass drummer and his brother were born in Scotland and moved to the States when they were kids. That's how the music ended up in us. My own grandfather was born in Scotland and his familty emigrated to Canada then moved to LA."
As a Grade 1 band, however, they come up against la creme de la creme. Foremost among them are the Field Marshall Montgomery Band, from Lisburn, County Antrim, and Canada's Simon Fraser University. The extent of their dominance recalls Rangers and Celtic, Manchester United, swimmer Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt.
Before yesterday, Montgomery had won the world title on seven occasions, the seventh arriving just 12 months ago. Fraser had won it six times. The last time there was a Grade 1 top three without both of them in it was 1998.
"The winning's definitely important," says Armstrong. "The competition is why we are all here. For some of us, it's not as realistic to win as other bands, but we're all working away every year to get closer to that point. They [Fraser and Montgomery] are the elite elite. We're all sort of scraping to be there one day. It takes more experience, more practice. It's a total process, you know? You've got to get better and experience what it is like not to win."
Behind Armstrong, hundreds of spectators were taking a break from and were spending their money in the thoroughfare of stalls that had materialised for the occasion. They were selling everything from Chinese noodles and bagpipe accessories to pick 'n' mix sweets, breakfast baps, novelty bottle-stoppers and framed Scottish landscape prints. One Irish lady in her fifties turned to her daughter and said: "Six pounds for a pair?" as her gaze landed on a pack of tartan tights.
Next year's "Worlds" will be carried out over two days, which will mean a more relaxed pace than the current single-day approach, and will allow the competing musicians to watch other events rather than focusing their attention on getting through the qualifying rounds.
While acknowledging the strength of Simon Fraser and Montgomery, Ian Embelton said some six or seven bands had the potential to win Grade 1 yesterday. Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia, the reigning European champions, would, he said, "fancy their chances as well."
In the end, the world title was won by Northern Ireland's Field Marshal Montgomery, with home team ScottishPower coming second and Canada's Simon Fraser University third. Win or lose, it will not be long before the bands begin to set their sights on Glasgow 2013.
THE Northern Irish Field Marshal Montgomery won the World Piping Championships for an eighth time yesterday in Glasgow, making it two in a row – but Scottish bands put up a highly creditable showing, taking three of the top six places.
The Montgomery band, from County Antrim, underlined their status as one of their most successful pipe bands in history and, as was the case last year, they celebrated their victory in style.
ScottishPower were runners-up, while third place went to Canada's Simon Fraser University. Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia came fourth, followed by St Laurence O'Toole (Ireland) and, in sixth, Strathclyde Police.
Grade 2 was won by Denny and Dunipace, with St Thomas Alumni in second place, Brieg (France) third, Buchan Petersons SBS fourth, Glasgow Skye fifth and University of Bedfordshire in sixth place.