A major part of Flying Nun’s early success, they were hugely influential internationally, particularly in US indie circles, where fans include members of Pavement and Yo La Tengo.
The Clean’s first single ‘Tally Ho’ was a sparkling call to arms – and the second release on the new Flying Nun label. It scraped into the Top 20 in 1981 but this success was eclipsed by their first EP Boodle Boodle Boodle, which spent 26 weeks in the charts. A second EP Great Sounds Great followed in 1982 with Hamish contributing characteristically laconic vocals to the staunch ‘Side On’ from the drummer’s stool. Their next release, the ‘Getting Older’ single, became their swansong as they surprised many by calling it a day.
The Kilgour brothers resurfaced in the archly named Great Unwashed. It was a gentler, more lo-fi project, featuring unrecorded Clean songs and some new ones. An album Clean Out Of Our Minds was recorded at their mother’s house in Christchurch. Early Clean member Peter Gutteridge (later of Snapper) joined in 1984 and five more electric songs were released as a double 7-inch 45 (later a 12-inch EP).
Hamish joined former Gordon Alister Parker in Bailter Space for their first EP and album.
The Great Unwashed disbanded in 1985 and Hamish joined former Gordon Alister Parker in Bailter Space for their first EP and album. He was also working in the Flying Nun office in Christchurch and his artwork features on the cover of the label’s Pink Flying Saucers Over The Southern Alps compilation.
In New York, he met future wife and band mate Lisa Siegel on the Staten Island ferry after a gig at CBGBs. New York was his future but his past also beckoned when The Clean reunited to play in London in 1988. A live EP and a new album Vehicle followed and they toured Europe and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Kilgour formed Monsterland with Siegel and Danny Mañetto. They recorded in Auckland in September 1990 and New York in April 1991 with the three members alternating songwriting, vocals and instrumental duties on music that was looser and more low key but not a million miles removed from The Clean. When another Monsterland emerged, they renamed themselves The Mad Scene and American label Homestead released their debut EP Falling Over, Spilling Over in 1992. Their first album A Trip Thru Monsterland followed on Flying Nun in 1993.
The Clean resurgence continued with the Modern Rock album, recorded in a small hall on the Otago Peninsula in 1994. It was followed by Unknown Country in 1996.
Kilgour became a full time resident in New York, living in New Jersey, Manhattan (where he witnessed the 9/11 attacks) and then Brooklyn. The Mad Scene took on a more fluid line-up with former Go-Between Robert Vickers among the contributors to their second album Sealight in 1995. Blip, a belated third album emerged in 2012. It was produced by Sonic Boom and featured Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley.
He continued to live in New York, and to record and tour sporadically with The Clean; their appearances included the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2011, and gigs in 2014 in New Zealand and the US.
When he moved to New York, he was looking to the US for inspiration, he told the NZ Herald’s Rebecca Barry Hill in 2011. “That love affair with America is ongoing but Kilgour has no desire to become a US citizen,” she wrote (11 March 2011). “He’s lived there long enough but it’s his own staunch statement against a bureaucracy and political system he dislikes, and a pledge to remain patriotic to his home country.”
While in New York, as well as occasional solo gigs and tours with The Clean, Kilgour had a stint working as an art handler at Manhattan’s Morgan Library. He also did building and carpentry work. “Basically I’ve lived a bohemian lifestyle for 20 odd years and still am, and I’m 53,” he told Rebecca Barry Hill.
Kilgour occasionally returned home to work with his Clean colleagues, perform solo, and get involved in collaborations such as Hurtling Through, a 2015 EP with Tiny Ruins (Holly Fullbrook). The pair met in New York, in 2013, while playing a set of shows together for a week. “Tiny Ruins was only able to tour solo due to limited funds and Kilgour was happy enough to offer rhythmic backup,” wrote Laura Robinson for AudioCulture. Hurtling Through was a seven-track mini-album influenced by folk songs and featuring the poems of Yeats. They began recording in late 2013 in producer Gary Olson’s Brooklyn basement before Fullbrook hopped on a flight the next day back to New Zealand.
During the last decade Kilgour recorded two solo albums in collaboration with Gary Olson, All Of It And Nothing (2014) and Finklestein (2018). Both were released by US label Ba Da Bing!.
After The Clean were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame – in Dunedin, in 2017 – Kilgour remained in New Zealand for longer periods. He died in early December 2022.
After The Clean split in mid-1979, Hamish, now as a frontman, formed The Sobs in Auckland with Michael Lawry, Gary Hunt and Peter Hoffman, ex-Terrorways. They were short-lived and he soon headed back to Dunedin.