Peter Gutteridge, Member of the Clean, the Chills and Snapper, Dead

The singer-songwriter had played his first-ever U.S. concert earlier this month

A portrait of Peter Gutteridge taken in 2012. Credit: Christopher Andrews

One of New Zealand's indie-rock pioneers, Peter Gutteridge – who was a founding member of the Clean, the Chills and Snapper and contributed to the jangly, trebly lo-fi style that became known as the Dunedin sound in the early Eighties – has died, according to the Flying Nun record label. He was in his early 50s.

"All of us, and so many people around the world, have been touched and affected by his music, whether it be the swirling fuzz of the guitar or haunting piano melodies," the label, which put out records by all of the above bands, said in a statement. "Peter was a true hero of New Zealand music and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family and friends at this very sad time."

In the late Seventies, Gutteridge founded and became the bassist for influential indie-rock band the Clean with brothers David and Hamish Kilgour. Their debut single, "Tally Ho!" was the second Flying Nun release. Gutteridge wrote the song "Point That Thing Somewhere Else," which appears on their 1986 release Compilation.

In 1980, he helped found the Chills, another alt-rock band that at one point also featured David Kilgour; in that group, he played guitar. Three years later, he started another group with the Kilgour brothers, the Great Unwashed, and in the mid-Eighties founded the drone and noise group Snapper. That group put out three full-lengths in the Nineties but remained dormant throughout most of the 2000s until coming together again to play a gig in Dunedin in 2012.

Gutteridge issued his only solo album, Pure, in 1989. For years, the record, which contains jangly lo-fi music, was available only on cassette, its initial release limited to New Zealand, but 540 records gave it a double-LP release in the U.S. last year.

Artists including Yo La Tengo, Ducktails and Wooden Shjips have all covered Gutteridge's music, according to Pitchfork. New Pornographers frontman A.C. Newman tweeted, "I just discovered Peter Gutteridge's Pure album last year. Amazing. Not to mention his work in Snapper, The Clean and The Chills. RIP." 

The New Zealand Herald reported that he did not enjoy being lumped in with the Dunedin sound, named after the New Zealand city it originated from, and described Gutteridge as being "largely reclusive." The singer-songwriter had played some reunion shows with Snapper last year after completing treatment for drug addiction. Earlier this month, Gutteridge had played his first-ever concert in the United States. The gig, in Brooklyn, found him playing Pure in its entirety.

"Snapper has an honesty about it," Gutteridge told Mess and Noise in 2013. "There's something very genuine there. I never tried to copy other bands; I've just done what I've done. Followed my own course."