Local Produce: The Clean

Local Produce: The Clean

For New Zealand Music Month and for the 40th anniversary of Radio 1, Local Produce will cover four iconic Dunedin bands by way of interviewing a member of each selected band and asking them about their legacy. 

In a 1981 interview, David Kilgour, co-founder of The Clean, was asked if there was a New Zealand sound. He replied, “No, but there is a Dunedin Sound.” The Clean was formed in 1978 by David (guitar, vocals) and his brother Hamish (drums, vocals), and would go through an inconsistent line-up featuring Peter Gutteridge (Snapper), Doug Hood (producer for Chris Knox, The Chills, and The Verlaines among others) and Lindsay Hooke before finding bass player Robert Scott. They released the single ‘Tally Ho!’ in 1981 on Flying Nun Records which charted at Number 19 on the New Zealand singles chart. They became the leaders of the term they coined: the Dunedin Sound. Critic Te Ārohi secured an interview with Robert Scott to reflect on the legacy of The Clean and the Dunedin Sound. 

Robert Scott and The Clean played at many venues throughout their time as a band, though a lot of them sadly do not exist anymore. “I enjoyed Arc, Sammys, The Empire, and The Oriental,” says Robert. These were venues frequented by other famous Dunedin Sound bands. When asked if he agreed with his bandmate David Kilgour on there being a Dunedin Sound Robert said, “There was a Dunedin Sound early on. A lot of bands liked the same music and this came through in their songwriting and their approach to how they played their instruments. To the outsider and to journalists, it was easy to lump the bands from here together. As time went on, the bands developed their own sound a bit more and there was a wider variety in styles and approaches.” 

The Clean has had some iconic artwork, from their EP ‘Boodle, Boodle, Boodle’, their album ‘Modern Rock’ and the visual presentation in the video for ‘Tally Ho!’. Robert Scott now co-runs The Pea Sea Art Gallery in Port Chalmers. He illustrates his own art now and also did art work for the band. On the impact of the art in his music, he says, “Art was very important in what we were trying to convey in our feel and themes. Our art was different enough to stand out I think, so it was somehow part of the band. Hamish and David are both artists, so we were always trying to get our ideas across. I only had a few chances, but I got to contribute in comics we did and the back of Boodle, which contained our ideas for the cover. I got to design a few posters and do the cover for ‘Getting Older’.” Speaking to his current artwork, Robert says he feels “lucky to be able to keep making art and to go somewhere with it.”

Dunedin music has a lot to do with Dunedin culture. It’s cold. It’s isolated. Back when Robert started playing, “There was a Labour government that funded the arts and music.” On why Dunedin is so important to New Zealand music, he says, “Dunedin is important as it is a great place to start a band and develop ideas. That is true of other places too, but Dunedin has such a big rich history of original music that this bolsters bands starting out. The past colours people's thinking and opinions, so when you hear an act is from Dunedin your approach to them is informed by the past. Hopefully Dunedin will continue to be a great place to make music – I hope so and I do think it will continue to be so.”

You can find more information about The Clean on audioculture.co.nz and stream their music on all streaming services.

This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2024.
Posted 8:21pm Sunday 5th May 2024 by Jordan Irvine.