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About to be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, Dunedin band The Clean prefer to look forward rather than back, Shane Gilchrist writes.
Robert Scott’s Roseneath lounge is, in the scheme of modern architecture, relatively small. Yet there are echoes aplenty. The bassist and keyboardist for The Clean is sharing a few wry laughs with guitarist and lead singer David Kilgour who, with brother Hamish, founded the Dunedin band in 1978.
Kilgour is on a couch opposite Scott, his angle of recline partly due to a relaxed personality, partly due to him suffering the self-inflicted wounds of the previous night’s birthday drinks, a celebration tempered by the news of the death last week of friend Celia Patel, aka Celia Mancini, who played in another storied New Zealand band, King Loser.
Scott has his back to a wall that holds several shelves of records. He’s known as a keeper of things, from song ideas to posters and so forth. And, given The Clean have been around for almost 40 years (Scott joined in 1980), much has been collected.
So here sit these early 50-something men, reflecting on the news The Clean — and that includes fellow founding member Peter Gutteridge, who died in September 2014 — are about to be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.
The Clean have previously declined the offer to be inducted — in fact, twice in the past five years. Which begs the question, why now?‘‘I think the last time we were offered to be inducted, we joked ‘Only if you did it in Dunedin’. This time around ... it is in Dunedin,’’ Kilgour says of the APRA Silver Scroll Awards, to be held at the Dunedin Town Hall on Thursday, September 28.
Asked if Gutteridge’s death in 2014 and the death in July of Roy Colbert, the Dunedin writer and former proprietor of Records, Records, described by some as ‘‘Godfather of the Dunedin Sound’’, had anything to do with the change of heart, Kilgour answers after a brief pause: ‘‘Not really, although Peter wasn’t really talked about by APRA [Australasian Performing Right Association] when the other induction offers were made. Whereas this time around, it is about the Gutteridge family as much as us.’’
Scott: ‘‘We try to shut out any external validation. We definitely don’t worry about any outside forces. I don’t spend too much time looking back. I prefer looking forward.’’
On that subject, The Clean have no firm plans at present. Having performed under The Clean moniker early last year as part of Chick’s Hotel’s closing concert, both Scott and Kilgour are busy with other musical projects, the former with The Bats and his solo projects, the latter with longstanding Dunedin band The Heavy Eights.
‘‘We’re always being offered a gig here or there in some place in the world, but we just take it as it comes, really,’’ says Kilgour, who was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 in recognition of his contributions to the arts.
‘‘The Clean have given us really interesting lives. I haven’t made a lot of money but I’ve certainly had a great life.
‘‘I’ve loved it.’’
Others, too, have enjoyed having The Clean in their lives, their musical radars having been pinged by the frenetic jangle of 1981 single Tally Ho, which was recorded for just $50, yet reached No 19 in the New Zealand charts. The Clean’s subsequent EP, Boodle Boodle Boodle, which included single Anything Could Happen, spent 19 weeks in the New Zealand Top 40, peaking at No 5 in 1981.
(Earlier this year, Boodle Boodle Boodle was awarded the Taite Music Prize’s Independent Music NZ Classic Record award.)
Mixing seemingly nonchalant, guitar-driven pop, psychedelic instrumentals and cathartic storms of sound, The Clean found audiences in New Zealand and elsewhere (including Australia, Europe, the UK and North America).
Although they broke up for a time in the early 1980s, the continued spread of their music brought the brothers Kilgour and Scott back together. Tours continued through the 1990s and into the new millennium.
Certainly, The Clean have been to some interesting places.
Scott: ‘‘I remember one time in Europe, when our label, Rough Trade, put us in a rental car and sent us on our way. This was in 1989, before GPS and all that stuff. Here we were in the middle of the night, lost in Belgium ... ’’
Oh, then there was the time they were in New York — on September 11, 2001, when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Centre’s two towers.
‘‘We’d only flown into New York the night before and were in a hotel,’’ Kilgour recalls.
‘‘Hamish was banging on the door. It was a bizarre time.
‘‘About four days later, we were doing about 80 miles an hour and we snapped an axle on the motorway. Three days later the engine caught fire.
‘‘It was a pretty interesting week. But we survived.’’Scott, ever the calm, cool component in the interesting equation that is The Clean, puts it another way:‘‘We’ve had a decent amount of luck on our side.’’
The Clean will be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the APRA Silver Scroll Awards at the Dunedin Town Hall on Thursday, September 28.
The Clean: a selected discography
Boodle Boodle Boodle (EP) (1981)
Great Sounds Great (EP) (1982)
Modern Rock (1994)
Unknown Country (1996)
Mister Pop (2009)