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Hamish Kilgour, Founding Member of The Clean, Dead at 65

Kilgour had been missing since November

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hamish kilgour dead obituary
Hamish Kilgour, photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images

    Hamish Kilgour, the New Zealand musician who co-founded the pioneering indie rock band The Clean, has died at age 65. Representatives for the band confirmed the drummer was found dead after being reported missing in November. A cause of death was not revealed.

    “With very heavy hearts, we can confirm that Hamish Kilgour has passed away in his home country of New Zealand,” The Clean’s US label Merge Records said in a statement shared with Pitchfork.

    Kilgour and his brother David founded The Clean in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1978. Their most famous lineup included bassist Robert Scott, and after signing to fledgling indie label Flying Nun, the trio helped establish the “Dunedin Sound,” complete with David’s angular guitar and Hamish’s robotic drumming. The Clean’s debut single, “Tally Ho!,” came out in 1981.

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    The Clean worked in fits and starts; the band released the EPs Boodle Boodle Boodle and Great Sounds Great in the early ’80s before taking a hiatus for most of the decade. At the same time, the Kilgour brothers issued more experimental music as The Great Unwashed. 1986’s Compilation collected The Clean’s early songs for a US audience, and the group toured New Zealand, the United States, and the UK before releasing their first proper full-length, 1990’s Vehicle, on Flying Nun/Rough Trade.

    The Clean released two more albums in the 1990s — 1994’s Modern Rock and 1996’s Unknown Country — despite Kilgour’s move to New York City, where he started another band called The Mad Scene. Their debut, A Trip Thru Monsterland, came out in 1993 and was followed by sophomore LP Sealight in 1996 after a switch to Merge Records.

    Kilgour continued to play with The Clean sporadically throughout his life. By the 2000s, the success of indie torchbearers like Pavement and Yo La Tengo — combined with the release of a new album, Getaway, and a new compilation, Anthology — brought a renewed interest to the band. Their last proper LP was 2009’s Mister Pop, while Kilgour released a solo album, All of It and Nothing, in 2014. The band was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

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