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Hamish Kilgour, Whose Recent Zealand Cult Band Had Reach, Dies at 65


Hamish Kilgour, a founding member of the Recent Zealand band the Clean, who was celebrated amongst fans of underground music for his propulsive drumming and his countercultural way of living, has died. He was 65.

He was found dead in Christchurch, Recent Zealand, on Monday, 10 days after being reported missing, the police there said. His death was referred to the coroner’s office.

A central figure within the crop of freewheeling Recent Zealand musicians on the independent label Flying Nun that got here to be called the “Dunedin sound,” Mr. Kilgour spent 4 many years as a musician, singing and playing percussion and later the guitar.

He eventually played with greater than 100 bands, including the Great Unwashed, the Sundae Painters and Monsterland, and lived for nearly 30 years in Recent York, where he formed the band the Mad Scene.

He also had a secondary passion for painting: He produced lots of if not 1000’s of frank, idiosyncratic pictures, lots of which were repurposed as album cover art.

A deceptively powerful drummer, Mr. Kilgour might start a song in ramshackle fashion, then construct to a thunderous conclusion. He had early on been inspired by Moe Tucker’s single snare on live recordings by the Velvet Underground. “I assumed, that’s sort of magical and that’s possible — I could try this,” he said in 2012. Ms. Tucker’s minimalist, driving style and her enthusiasm for the ability of the tambourine later coloured his own playing.

Not every drummer, nonetheless talented, is instantly recognizable, said Mac McCaughan, the owner of the label Merge Records, which last yr reissued the Clean’s first two releases. “But with Hamish — he had a voice on the drums,” he said in an interview. “He had his own style and his own character.”

In 1981, Roger Shepherd, a neighborhood record store manager who was within the strategy of founding Flying Nun Records, saw the Clean perform on the Gladstone Hotel in Christchurch. “They were pretty obviously the very best band on the planet,” Mr. Shepherd recalled.

Almost before the set had finished, he asked them to record with him. The primary recording session produced “Tally Ho!,” a frenetic, surf-rock-adjacent single — made for 50 Recent Zealand dollars — that scraped into the Top 20 in Recent Zealand, buoyed by its popularity on student radio stations.

Flying Nun’s fortunes had been transformed. The next EP “Boodle Boodle Boodle,” recorded that yr on an identical budget, spent 26 weeks on the Recent Zealand charts. American indie bands, including Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Superchunk, would cite it as an inspiration.

For listeners outside Recent Zealand, the musicians on the Flying Nun label had a sort of legendary status, said the American filmmaker Michael Galinsky, who became a friend of Mr. Kilgour’s.

“It just opened up all these worlds,” he said of “Tuatara,” a 1988 Flying Nun compilation on which Mr. Kilgour appeared. “It’s to date away — you don’t see pictures of those people, there’s no writing about them, there’s no web. So that they’re mythic, and incredible.”

Inspired by the Enemy, a punk group began by friends of theirs, members of the Clean had begun rehearsing together in 1978 — Mr. Kilgour taught himself the drums, while his brother, David, played guitar and Peter Gutteridge played bass. (Mr. Gutteridge was later replaced by Robert Scott.)

After its first flash of success, the members of the band made an early decision to separate up just 4 years into their profession. But because the Clean’s influence on do-it-yourself underground rock became more apparent, they reunited in 1988. Over the subsequent 30 years, interrupted by long spells apart, the Clean continued to perform in america and elsewhere around the globe, releasing several albums.

As a member of the Mad Scene, Mr. Kilgour recorded multiple albums and EPs, in addition to two solo albums, “All of It and Nothing” and “Finkelstein,” and made myriad other guest appearances on other artists’ records.

Hamish Robert Kilgour was born in Christchurch on March 17, 1957, the older of two sons of MacGregor and Helen Stewart (Auld) Kilgour. He was reared mostly in Cheviot and Ranfurly, small communities in Recent Zealand’s rural South Island.

In 1972, the family moved to the coastal city of Dunedin, also within the South Island, where Mr. Kilgour’s father took a job as a pub manager while his mother ran the establishment’s kitchen. Hamish received a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Otago in Dunedin in 1977.

After his father was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he died in 1982, his mother worked as a nurse to support the family. She later supported her sons’ band, helping to fund each a van and a P.A. system as they performed across the country with the Clean.

Mr. Kilgour moved to Recent York within the late Nineteen Eighties after the breakup of his first marriage, to Jenny Halliday. There he met Lisa Siegel, who would develop into his second wife and a bandmate once they formed the Mad Scene. The couple had a son, Taran.

But life in Recent York, where he worked as an art handler, house painter and carpenter in between music gigs, was at times precarious, especially after he and Ms. Siegel broke up in 2013.

He moved back to Recent Zealand in the course of the coronavirus pandemic and played music there at any time when he could, while eking out an existence that strained his mental and physical health, people near him said.

He’s survived by his brother and bandmate, David, and his son.

For his contemporaries in Recent Zealand, Mr. Kilgour was a testament to the notion that being from a far-off country of a couple of million individuals with no established rock tradition didn’t preclude people from making great music.

“Simply because it comes from here, and never London or Recent York, it doesn’t mean that it’s not valid,” said Mr. Shepherd of Flying Nun. “That was a startling thing that we sort of knew was true anyway, but that hadn’t been articulated for us.”

Richard Langston, a music journalist and longtime friend, said Mr. Kilgour had “modified the way in which you might record indie rock.”

“He was that necessary,” he added, “and he lived a crazy, brave, solo life.”

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