Michael Hutchence from INXS

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I have long been a fan of INXS and their music, previously described by band members as “big, basic dirty noise” and “white boy dance music” and had the pleasure of meeting Michael Hutchence when working as a publicist on MTV (Music Television) at Channel 9 in the early ’90s. At the time, INXS was lauded as the consummate rock band, enjoying chart-topping singles such as What You Need, Never Tear Us Apart, New Sensation, and Suicide Blonde. Interview by Karen Farrell.

Throughout 34 years of playing together, INXS has performed over 5,000 live shows to a colossal 25 million people across 50 countries.

In September 2011, INXS announced singer/songwriter Ciaran Gribban as the band’s new front man. Following the success of recent overseas concerts, INXS will be touring to regional Australia for the first time in many years, playing the bands massive hits plus some brand new songs.

I caught up with guitarist Tim Farriss to talk about the bands upcoming Coast to Coast tour to regional Australia …

Fans will be thrilled with the announcement of your long awaited tour. 

It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a very long time – it’s a chance to get out of the major cities. Ciaran Gribbin, our new singer and songwriter with Andrew (Farriss), is fresh from Ireland and loves Australia. We’ve been hanging out a lot in the band room playing and want to get out there to road test the new songs.

We’ve wanted to do the ‘Original Tour’ for a very long time. There hasn’t been an opportunity to do it. Now that we’re writing all this material and we’re about to go into the studio, we thought before we record it, why don’t we take this opportunity to finally do the ‘Original Tour’?

You recently performed a slew of overseas concerts with Gribbin. Was it a conscious decision to debut your new singer overseas prior to touring to Australia’s Rock heartlands?

It’s how it played out, really. Ciaran started out with 15,000 people in Peru, then his next night was Argentina. We’ve been playing South America for a long time, and we threw him in off the deep end. Now we’ve had a chance to bond and for him to become more of a band mate, rather than a hired gun.

Which makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

It does make a huge difference. We’re just enjoying his company and the songs that he and Andrew write. There are some real jewels and some surprises. The more we hang out as a band, the better as Ciaran gets to know how we do things. We haven’t done this in a long time, since before Kick. It’s Kick’s 25th anniversary this year, and to celebrate we’re re-releasing the record, which hasn’t been available for a long time, with a whole lot of stuff which will come out with it at the same time.

What else will be released with it?

All kinds of stuff that I don’t want to give away!

Just a little bit …?

There will be some versions of songs that people haven’t heard, plus lots of video and archival footage. We’ve had all our stuff digitised, because film and tape only has a shelf life for so long and had to be digitised.

In doing that, we discovered some real gems – especially amongst some of our personal stuff. When we were touring during that era, everyone was trying to outdo each other with the latest handycam, and we were just shooting the hell out of everything and not even looking back at it until now …

Ciaran comes with strong songwriting skills – are you maximising those skills?

Absolutely. It’s the first time Andrew felt comfortable writing with a partner in the band since Michael died. It’s obviously really important and was a major priority for Andrew moving forward that he was able to find another writing partner. He met Ciaran at a party somewhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and they just started writing together. Ciaran came out to Australia from Ireland with his wife, only planning to stay for a few months, and he and Andrew started getting pretty serious about writing. Then Ciaran moved here, and they’re writing and we’re playing together – and we love it. Everyone’s having a great time.

Following Michael’s passing, is part of the reason why some of the other singers didn’t quite work out for INXS because they didn’t have a strong songwriting ability? 

That’s the main reason. They all had wonderful talent and are wonderful entertainers in their own right, but they were always somebody else. It was never, “Oh he’s the new guy in INXS”; instead, it was always “Oh, he’s Terence Trent D’Arby, Jon Stevens or JD Fortune”. They’re individuals in their own right and were kind of like ‘hired guns’. I know that’s what Brian Johnson is in ACDC, but he came along at a completely different time for them. In fact, they broke huge when they got Brian Johnson to sing. So for us, it’s been a completely different road. We’ve had to go in several directions to find the right path and feel really comfortable again, and that’s what we’ve done – it’s a great feeling.

When someone who has played such an influential role in a band either leaves the band or departs us, it doesn’t mean that the band has to be thrown out with it …

Well put. You took the words right out of my mouth. I would have said more like, if someone in the family dies, you don’t change the name of the family.

No you don’t … 

You carry on. We didn’t spend all those years and all that time away from our families for it not to be something. And by being INXS, Michael is still around. Every time we play, Michael is there. We’re keeping him alive.

It’s a rare day when a band stays together for 34 years and has the level success that you guys have. Respect would play an enormous part in it, I’d imagine?

I guess just the joy of playing music together. We really do enjoy playing music together. Other than respect, you talk to people who say, “We grew up listening to you”, and so in many ways the music that you’re hearing now is influenced by us twenty or thirty years ago.

Thanks Tim.

This story was published in issue 21 Coffs Coast Focus
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