It’s no exaggeration to say The Clean‘s impact on independent music in Aotearoa has been immense, inspiring multiple generations of artists at home and abroad to do their own thing, from the legendary success of their 1981 Flying Nun Records debut single ‘Tally Ho!’ onwards. The iconic team of brothers David and Hamish Kilgour and Robert Scott‘s albums Mister Pop (2009) and Unknown Country (1996) are at last getting the lavish reissue treatment, releasing worldwide this Friday in fancy new vinyl LP editions and on compact disc courtesy of Merge Records (both records’ debut release on vinyl in the US). As if that wasn’t enough of an avalanche of great stuff, David Kilgour and Robert Scott have very generously shared their personal reflections on each track from both records, which we are stoked to present here on this very site. Begun in Brooklyn NYC and completed in Dunedin, delve into David Kilgour’s insights on all 10 songs from Mister Pop below and head over HERE for Part Two, where The Bats’ frontman Robert Scott peers through the mists of time and reveals his thoughts on every tune on the 18 track Unknown Country…
A chord progression I’d had for a while via the piano. In studio Bob and I finished off the arrangement and we laid it down live. I think there may be about three synthesizers on it including an old Juno and a tiny Alesis Micron. Tex came up with the background vocal ideas which was the icing on the cake really. Rainy on BVs. Some Clean instrumentals ended up as instrumentals as we couldn’t think of any decent vocal ideas. A favourite of mine.
2. ‘Are You Really on Drugs’
…this kind of annoys cause I never finished the song and it wasn’t supposed to be the 2nd track on LP. Alluding to a good friend’s drug problem. Almost there.
3. ‘In the Dreamlife You Need A Rubber Soul’
Another favourite Clean track. Explains itself really. I like the feel. It contains a bottleneck solo played on an old Rickenbacker guitar through a Fender Twin. It’s all about the chorus really, but I dig the chug of the verse and the sentiment.I have been asked a few times if its about Rubber Soul by the Beatles, I mean really, though they got there first! Maybe it’s time for a Plastic Soul song. Gorgeous backing vocals from Geva and Rainy from the duo Haunted Love.
4. ‘Asleep in the Tunnel’
I think began at Gary Olsen’s studio in NYC. Inspired by Bob falling asleep in the Holland tunnel.I remember NYC winter was creeping in. I remember I’d been touring in the USA for about 6 weeks and was starting to feel very homesick, especially with winter setting in and Xmas lights going up in NYC.
5. ‘Back in the Day’
Another that was begun in NYC. We had a couple of recording sessions in NYC. Mainly for writing and demoing though some backing tracks like this one made it the whole way. Funnily enough songwriter Michael Hurley was staying at Gary’s at the time and while cooking his brown rice he was forced to listen to a session through the floorboards. He passed on word that he liked this one the best which made us all smile.
The three of us have a love for German motorik , but also a deep love of the drone. I think everything I’ve done has some kind of drone through it. Nice work by Alan Starrett on viola.
7. ‘Factory Man’
DK songwriting by numbers. I was lying in the bath in Brooklyn, NYC and thought I heard Bob singing this chorus downstairs. He wasn’t, so I wrote this pretending I was Ray Davies of the Kinks. Sorry Ray. Don’t bore us, get straight to chorus! A very good friend of mine hates this song. That’s what friends are for! ha! Rainy on backing vocals again.
8. ‘Simple Fix’
If you listen closely at the beginning you can hear me saying “I don’t (know) what the fuck I’m doin here”. Which is usually the case esp. on a Clean session — just roll tape and see what happens! Also listen close and you’ll hear barking seals. “Seeing as we don’t have any vocal ideas for this one , let’s put some barking seal on it”!
More motorik. The lyrics come from a feeling I had driving at night towards Philadelphia. A DJ once asked me if I was drawing attention to myself by singing through a vocoder. I said releasing any kind of music is drawing attention to yourself… hopefully. Drone on.
10. ‘All Those Notes’
One of those times I was told to put a lap steel down on a track but I wasn’t allowed to let it sound like a lap steel. To me a lot of Bob’s Clean songs always sound very biographically Clean — ie. singing about the moment, the tour, the session, the relationships. A sweet way to end the LP.
The Clean’s ‘Mister Pop’ and ‘Unknown Country’ are out on vinyl LP and compact disc on Friday 26th March via Merge Records, preorders are available now.