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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Hamish Kilgour Co-Founder Of New Zealand Indie Pioneers The Clean Found Dead

Source: Hamish McNeilly

Photo Credit: Hamish Kilgour, November 2013 (Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

Kiwi music pioneer Hamish Kilgour, who has been found dead in Christchurch, was a “genius in his own way”, friends say. The well known co-founder of Dunedin band The Clean was last seen at The Palms shopping centre in the city on November 27, leaving Kilgour’s family concerned for his wellbeing. He was found dead on Monday evening, and his death has since been referred to the coroner, police said. He was 65.

Kilgour began his music career more than 40 years ago when he founded The Clean with his brother David in 1978.

Kilgour’s friend, Kat Zolita Mason, said she was devastated at the news. “He was just so funny and lovely. Kilgour was not just a great musician but a great person," she said. “He was a genius in his own way, really.”

Journalist Richard Langston, who was behind the music fanzine Garage, which documented the Dunedin scene in the 1980s, said Kilgour was a ‘’beautiful creative person’’. All those songs in which he celebrated, told stories, and kicked against conservatism. He took his own path in life and that’s a brave way to live. It had its rewards and it had some costs. But the ledger was in his and our favour. He lived an inspiring life.’’

Kilgour co-founded The Clean with his brother David Kilgour in 1978. The band released the single Tally Ho in 1981. It peaked at number 19 in the charts but paved the way for future success of their record label, Flying Nun. The band’s next release, the five-track EP Boodle Boodle Boodle, soon followed and reached number five in the charts. Their recordings and fearsome live performances also garnered international attention, name-checked by the likes of American indie stalwarts Sonic Youth, Pavement, Guided by Voices and Yo La Tengo.

By 1982 the band would go into an extended hiatus, with Kilgour later involved with Bailterspace, but when the sonic noise merchants played in New York he elected to move there permanently in the late 1980s. Kilgour later formed The Mad Scene in the early 1990s and released the EP Falling Over, Spilling Over, and was also part of several later albums with The Clean, most recently Mister Pop in 2009.

Kilgour won an Aotearoa Music Award in 1992 for album cover of the year for Pink Flying Saucers Over the Southern Alps, and this year featured on the cover of Needles and Plastic, Flying Nun records, 1981-1988 by Matthew Goody. In 2017 he and members of The Clean, including the late Peter Gutteridge, were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. A biography of the band for their induction, which fittingly took place in Dunedin, said:

“The group’s mix of driving folk-ish pop, insistent psychedelic instrumentals, and offbeat yet accessible minimalism, has proved timeless. As has The Clean’s philosophy and rationale.

Trusting your musical instincts and doing it for yourself were key ideals of the group, their success showing the importance and validity of taking complete creative control over the timing, capture, presentation and expression of your art.”

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