Hamish Kilgour, the New Zealand rock musician who was internationally beloved as a founding member of The Clean, has died.
The Clean are one of the most famous bands of the scene that became internationally known as the Dunedin Sound. Formed in 1978, their 1981 debut single “Tally Ho” was a runaway success for the then-emergent record label Flying Nun, which was recorded on a four-track for $50 and reached the Top 20 of the New Zealand Singles chart.
Their follow-up EP, Boodle Boodle Boodle, went to number three in New Zealand and spent six months in the Top 50. In 1990, the New York Times reported that the band “was responsible for reshaping the sound of rock music in that country”.
Dunedin Sound musicians quickly built a reputation for music without the distractions of showmanship or frills, which was formed by the attitude of bands like The Clean. Hamish Kilgour told the New Zealand music magazine Rip It Up in 1982: “Too many bands fall down because they’re built on image and not music.”
Hamish Kilgour moved to New York in 1988 and was based there for extended periods of time before returning to New Zealand permanently in 2019. His New York band The Mad Scene released their EP Falling Over, Spilling Over on Homestead Records in 1992, their 1996 album Sealight on Merge Records, and their 2012 LP Blip on Slitbreeze.
In 2017, Kilgour flew to Dunedin to celebrate The Clean’s induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. Long-time friend and collaborator Stuart Page directed the video that introduced the band, which is embedded below.
The photos in this feature are outtakes from the 2017 portrait series Musicians of Aotearoa by Auckland-based photographer Hayley Theyers, who was a friend of Kilgour’s.
Kilgour’s latest band was The Sundae Painters, a Christchurch-based supergroup featuring Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward of The Bats as well as Alec Bathgate of Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs.
The rock musician was last seen at The Palms Mall in the Christchurch suburb of Shirley last Sunday, November 27th. Worried friends sharing sightings around Christchurch and pleas for his safety before the news of his death was confirmed in New Zealand on the morning of Tuesday December 6th.