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- Posted on Jun 11th 2010 12:00PM by Stephen Dowling
The Clean are one of those bands who crop up in the best record collections; formed in 1978 in New Zealand's southern city of Dunedin by singer-guitarist David Kilgour, his drumming brother Hamish and bassist Robert Scott, the Clean helped launch their fledgling label Flying Nun to international acclaim. It was thanks to the likes of their debut single 'Tally Ho!' (think 'Louie Louie' as written by MGMT) and the EP 'Boodle Boodle Boodle,' a record rightly revered for crystallizing what later became known as the 'Dunedin `Sound.' The Clean were a massive influence on Pavement and have also been name-checked by the likes of Yo La Tengo, Lambchop and Calexico. All this while the band have been quietly making records but rarely touring outside of Australasia and the occasional visit to the US.
Bassist Scott spoke to Spinner as the band's first European tour in 19 years wound down.
So what got the Clean back to this part of the world after so long.
We got an email from Pavement's people – 'Do you want to do ATP?' -- and we though, 'Yeah that's good.' And pretty much at the same time we got an email from Primavera who obviously heard we were coming over, and that made sense being the start and the end of the tour, and the other thing we tacked on to the front of the tour was the Chris Knox benefit [a New York concert to raise funds for the New Zealand musician who suffered a stroke last year] on May 6, and it was a good line up of bands so it made sense to do that. Once that was sold out we could do our own show in Brooklyn the next night. That was good fun.
The Clean don't play very often. Is it hard slotting back in?
We'd only had an hour's practice having not played since 07, so it was like an hour running through the songs, and then ''Oh well, we can practice the songs at soundcheck and build up the repertoire.' Which we were able to do. We pretty much learned 20 during practice and another 10 during the tour.
We did New York and then came and did the Pavement support in Brixton which was fine, it was a very big boomy room, but it was fun. The we went down to Brighton and played a small venue, the Freebutt. We lost a fuse out of the amplifier and it fell down the side of the stage, which was very Spinal Tap. So we spent half an hour with a bit of gaffer tape on the end of a pole trying to get it out from down the side of the stage. So it ended up that while the support band was playing Tex and I unscrewed the front of the stage, and Tex crawled in and got it. I don't know what the support band made of that. It was quite bizarre.
What was the ATP show like?
We drove up to Minehead and we had the idea of stopping at a nice romantic bed and breakfast on the way, near Stonehenge, but we ended up at a Holiday Inn, but it was a Holiday Inn near Stonehenge. So we went and saw Stonehenge in the morning and then went up to ATP and that was a real blast, staying in these funny we plastic cabins, but it was great, got to see loads of great bands like the Fall, Endless Boogie. The Walkmen -- the PA cut out after about four songs which was a shame. Boris, who were incredible, one of the loudest bands I've ever heard. Time New Viking; Hamish ended up drumming with them on their gig. It was quite an intense time.
Brixton's show must have been fun. Pavement gave you the full PA to play through.
At Brixton I couldn't see the crowd so I couldn't really see who was in it.. At the ICA [the Clean's London headline show] we saw quite a few familiar faces. But it's been so long that I think some of the fans have drifted away and some people have forgotten about us, cos it's a heck of a long time to be away. It was a bit of, not a gamble coming over, but it was quite interesting to see how things had moved on in the interim.
So after the UK gigs?
Then we were off to Amsterdam. That was interesting. We were in a big venue, but we were in a smaller sideroom. But there were quite a few fans who had come up form Germany, and someone from Czechoslovakia, who wrote a poem about the Clean on his Facebook. Last year he did one about the Bats 9Scott's other band].
There's some real intense fans out there. In Hamburg we played a funny little club where most of the stage was taken up by a DJ booth, so we'd squeeze around that. Then it was Berlin and it was a really nice club in Kreuzberg. We had a day and a bit off there. We had a bit of time to see the former East. And by then things were quite realized on the tour, and we were learning new songs we hadn't tackled before. It wasn't a big crowd, but we weren't expecting big crowds in places we hadn't played before.
The Clean's career -- you took 12 years to record your first studio album -- isn't exactly a blueprint ...
You do the opposite of what we do, to be honest. It's always been like that. There's no way we're ever going to tour overseas every second year. Whenever we do stuff it's a bonus for the fans, and I obviously love it. It's a case of when it happens it happens.
A lot of people were trying to get hold of back catalogue, they've been out of print so long, cos everyone knows what's happened to Flying Nun, but that's all going to become available again. There's still lots of fans out there, and they're very keen and that's great to see. They were amazed we'd come back after such a long time. They couldn't believe it.
The Clean's new album, 'Mister Pop',' is out now on Merge.