This past fall, I reached out to New Zealand-based indie rock icon David Kilgour of the Clean and the Heavy 8’s for an interview. I’ve been a megafan of the man’s work for quite some time and you can hear his influence in a variety of bands, from Guided by Voices to Pavement to Parquet Courts.
It has been a busy year for the singer. In August, Kilgour and the Heavy 8’s released their latest album End Times Undone on Merge Records. Merge also revisited his illustrious backcatalog by reissuing the Clean’s comprehensive boxset, Anthology.
Both bands toured the States throughout the summer but there were rumblings of this last batch of shows being the final ones for the Clean (in the States atleast).
In our brief e-mail chat, I asked David about writing, painting, the recent shows, and the unfortunate passing of his former bandmate Peter Gutteridge.
When you are writing and recording songs, do your musical influences clearly push the direction of the songs at all or is it more of a stream of conciousness kind of approach?
DK: More and more it’s a stream of consciousness approach and what follows is quite often the thought. First idea-best idea / first rule-no rule. I try not to overthink music. It often helps if there’s a vague seed of an idea but that’s not always needed. Songs still come to me semi-completed but I never “complete” them until recording.
Do you approach painting differently than making music?
DK: Not really. It’s all about expression then arrangements of that expression.
Who are some of your favorite painters?
DK: Lately, Colin McCahon and Irene Ferguson.
Are there not twelve hours of daylight - Colin McCahon
How did you start working with Merge?
DK: I met Mac (McCaughan - co-founder of Merge / Superchunk ) touring with Yo La Tengo. I gave him an early version of the LP Feather In the Engine. They liked it and released it.
How did the Anthology reissue come about?
DK: Merge released Anthology years ago on CD. They thought it a good idea to release it on vinyl to help celebrate 25 years of Merge.
You said in an interview with The Quietus recently that nostalgia can “horrify one at times.” That being said, how does it feel when you are playing these songs on stage, some of which are upwards of 30 years old?
DK: In recent times, I’ve been deconstructing the songs a little live, not to everyones taste, ha! To keep it fresh is the main challenge. These days our best new stuff comes from jamming at soundchecks. Maybe we should start recording those!
How did your recent US tour go? You’ve hinted at it being the last Clean tour for the foreseeable future.
DK: The US tour went well. Hard work and some fun thrown in. The Heavy 8’s tour of California was more holiday like. Well, kind of.
I’m really not sure how much longer the Clean will continue to tour for. We have an Australian tour booked for next year and no plans after that. Without new material, it can become daunting and I can’t see us recording any time soon.
I was deeply saddened to find out that Peter Gutteridge (co-founder of the Clean / the Chills / Snapper) had passed away. Would you care to share any thoughts, memories, or stories about him?
DK: It’s still too close to the bone really to comment too much on but Peter was like a brother to me and all that entails. I met him before we picked up instruments and we became close friends pretty quick. If we hadn’t of met I’m not sure The Clean would’ve happened. So apart from being a brother he was also a great creative partner and his passing has left a large hole.
Do you have any plans to record music with Hamish Kilgour (David’s brother / drummer of the Clean)?
DK: Funny enough, Hamish and I recorded with Matt Swanson and Matt Bach in Nashville with vague plans to release something under the Great Unwashed name.
What are your plans for the next couple months?
DK: To complete a spoken word LP we have recorded with New Zealand-based poet Sam Hunt. We’ll release that in late February and tour New Zealand. The Heavy 8s and I will start making another LP soon, I’m sure.