In 1978 Hamish Kilgour formed the raucous party animal that was The Clean with his brother David Kilgour and Peter Gutteridge (who was later replaced by Robert Scott). Over the next two decades they made haste slowly, releasing several 7"/12" singles and four albums; their discography operates like a slow-release multivitamin. While Peter Stapleton’s The Pin Group was the first band released on Flying Nun, it was The Clean’s five track EP Boodle Boodle Boodle that financed the label’s future when the record went top five.
Even the term ‘Dunedin Sound’ originates with The Clean. It bubbled up during an interview between Hamish’s brother, David, and Wellington magazine In Touch. Arguably this sound dates from 1978 and describes work by The Enemy, The Same and Bored Games. But in 1982, with the release of the Dunedin Double EP (Flying Nun), journalists converged on The Clean, The Stones,
The Chills, The Verlaines and
Sneaky Feelings. The rest is rather partial history.
The Clean weren’t prepared to endure the pressures of semi-stardom so they became part-time operators. After a stint with The Great Unwashed (1983-84), Hamish formed Bailterspace with incandescent guitarist Alister
Parker of The Gordons. Two years later, in 1989, they played at the New Music Seminar (USA) and Hamish eventually settled in New York.
Still a pip in The Big Apple, Hamish performs with Lisa Siegel as The Mad Scene (nee Monsterland). He also paints, acts for film, and contributes to a vital indie network. The importance of community for him is undiminished. Over March-April 2004 he revisited New Zealand, drumming for The Clean at the Michael Hex Benefit (Arc Café, Dunedin), then performing on guitar, a netherworld Tim Buckley in corduroys (Creation, Christchurch). He also talked to Capital of the Minimal:
My earliest musical memories are late fifties early sixties pop and folk music - things like Woverton Mountain and the Statler Brothers’ Flowers on the Wall and Joe Meek and the Tornadoes with Telstar and all the other garbagio that was on the radio during that period.
I remember as a kid thinking that the words to A Hard Days Night were really lame doggerel –"working like a dog, sleeping like a log." I went through an infatuation with Bob Dylan and his surrealistic flow but later discovered Phil Ochs and liked his ironic self-aware social realism - and he was snubbed by old Bobby. I get a bit bored with the pseudo mysticism and pretension that Mr Zimmerman gives himself - he's written some bad stuff in later years, when he went Christian and got baptised in Pat Boone's swimming pool in LA - oh dear!
Lou Reed in his earlier days was good. I like Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee from Love. Peter Stapleton has written some great lyrics for the various people he has worked with. I kind of like when people aren't being really didactic and [are] a little obtuse or suggestive. Sometimes I like lyrics that are trite and don't try to be too important.
I find myself that songs just come along slowly, sometimes quickly - no great mystique - sometimes a vocal idea will work off a riff that you've had sitting around. I used to labour over lyrics trying to make them work - now I tend to have a few ideas and improvise around with them live so they're kind of like stream of consciousness. It puts you on the spot to try and say something sometimes, and it's interesting what's revealed. I always got a real kick out of coming up with the vocal idea and lyrics for Point That Thing Somewhere Else - where I was walking up to the Roslyn flat we lived in and the melody/idea just popped into my head with the riff circling. Melody ideas often come before lyrics - I'm not particularly proud of any group of lyrics -and sometimes like to forget about things I've done.
I’ve always liked the slightly nihilistic desperation of some things like Two Fat Sisters, or Whatever I Do Is Right - because it's so reduced lyrically. I like things that are nihilistically dumb and empty of meaning - Iggy & the Stooges, Nico, Tim Buckley, early Pink Floyd, Suicide and a lot of punk lyricism. I like it when trite sentimentality emerges from that: Louie Louie, oh baby, we gotta go….
While The Clean’s lyrics are not strong enough to withstand close (indeed any) reading, they influenced performers as diverse as Martin Phillipps (who played organ on their hit single Tally Ho!) and sonic terrorist
Bruce Russell. Think of the band as a generator that powered the early work of more literate performers, then
courtesy of the Andrew Ellis Archive, listen to this previously unreleased recording of The Clean live at the Rumba Bar on 19 November 1981
It's Too Late [mp3 : 3.5MB]