Hamish Kilgour, the New Zealand musician who co-founded the beloved rock band the Clean, has died at the age of 65. The drummer had been reported missing last week after last being seen at a shopping mall in Christchurch, and his body was found there yesterday (December 5). A cause of death has not been revealed.
Hamish formed the Clean with his brother David in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1978. Their debut single, 1981’s ‘Tally Ho!’, helped establish what became known as establish the “Dunedin Sound” and put the then-fledging indie label Flying Nun on the map. The band released a pair of EPs, Boodle Boodle Boodle and Great Sounds Great…, before taking a hiatus. The Kilgour brothers recorded experimental music as The Great Unwashed before returning to the Clean in the late ’80s, reuniting with bassist Robert Scott for a tour and the In-A-Live EP. The Clean’s first proper full-length, Vehicle, arrived in 1990 on Flying Nun/Rough Trade, and the group followed it up with two more albums, 1995’s Modern Rock and 1996’s Unknown Country.
After moving to New York City, Hamish formed the Mad Scene with Lisa Siegel. They issued a series of albums, including 1993’s A Trip Thru Monsterland, 1995’s Sealight, 1996’s Chinese Honey, and 2012’s Blip, which was produced by Sonic Boom. As their influence was felt in a new generation of American indie rock bands like Pavement, Superchunk, and Guided by Voices, the Clean reconvened in 2000 and put out another album, Getaway, the following year. It was released on Merge, the independent label founded by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, and featured contributions from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan. In 2003, Flying Nun and Merge issued the career-spanning Anthology. The Clean’s last LP was 2009’s Mister Pop.
In 2014, Hamish released his debut solo album, All of It and Nothing, which he followed with Finklestein four years later. The Clean were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
“With very heavy hearts, we can confirm that Hamish Kilgour has passed away in his home country of New Zealand,” Merge Records said in a statement, continuing:
As a founding member of the Clean, with his brother, David, and Robert Scott, Hamish produced one of the most important and timeless bodies of work in rock music. As a drummer, Hamish had a propulsive, instantly recognizable style and an understated power; he was a joy to watch play. Hamish was one of the most colorful and creative musicians we have been lucky to work with, both as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter with the group he started with Lisa Siegel, the Mad Scene, and, of course, with the Clean. Hamish was also an accomplished visual artist, and his fantastical drawings adorn many record sleeves.
We feel lucky to have known him. Our thoughts are with his family and his fellow members of the New Zealand music community. Save travels, Hamish.