ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 27, 1983
By Steve Newton
INXS (pronounced ‘in excess’) are a six-piece modern rock band from Sydney, Australia. The group’s third album, Shabooh Shoobah, was released last year and hit Top Five in Australia, becoming the group’s third gold album Down Under.
The members of INXS are vocalist Michael Hutchence, brothers Tim, Andrew, and Jon Farriss on guitar, keyboards, and drums, saxman Kirk Pengilly, and bassist Garry Beers. The group opens for the Stray Cats at the Pacific Coliseum Thursday, June 2.
I spoke to INXS’s 23-year-old singer over the phone from New York City last Saturday.
How is the INXS tour going so far?
Well, we’ve just finished the Adam Ant tour–we did about eight, ten weeks with Adam Ant. Then we’re doing three nights with the Stray Cats in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.
What was it like touring with Adam Ant? What’s he like?
He’s very shy, you know. He takes himself very seriously, I guess you would say, but he’s not been very well. He has to have his knee drained every couple of days. Obviously he is under a lot of pressure. But we got to know the band a little bit more than Adam.
How would you describe the sound of INXS?
I guess, as Eddy Grant would say, [sings] funky rock and roll. The rhythm section’s very much a funky thing. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. We’ve got two guitarists, Andrew on a few keyboards, and Kirk plays saxophone as well, so it’s a combined sound.
Was the band influenced a lot by the new synthesizer movement in England or was there a movement of its own in Australia?
That’s sort of a loaded question for me because from what I can remember when I was about 12, after Kraftwerk put out Autobahn, I tend to think synthesizers are sort of–not old-fashioned–but nothing new. Computers are more of a modern instrument really, programmed computer memory.
But Andrew is a piano player essentially, and he and I used to make up synthesizers. When we were about 15 or 16 we used to get organs and pull them to bits and drop things in them. We’d pull little wires out and attach them to things and make up sounds. So we did a lot of experimental recording earlier on with synthesizing things. But it seems like a fairly irrelevant instrument to play.
It’s really becoming big over in Britain with all those synthesizer bands.
Yeah, it is. Of course a lot of it’s to do purely with the mechanics of it. You take one person with ideas–he only has to buy a few keyboards and a drum box and he can turn those ideas into reality with a minimum of fuss. You don’t have to go around and find a band and all these things. But we like working with it both ways.
In this climate of minimalism, to have six people in a band is different in itself, so we’re happy with that.
What’s happening in the Australian music scene these days. A lot of bands have really come to prominence of late.
Well there’s a lot more to go too, I’ll tell you. This is only the beginning. I think the climate in Australia around ’76 and ’77, after punk happened and all that, was great. All the bands broke off into little factions and everybody was trying to get originality going in Australia. America had its turn, England had its turn in the late seventies, and now it’s time for Australia.
Is it tough getting a band going in Australia? Are there places to play?
Oh yeah. I think there’s more places to play there in the city than there is to play in the States. But the audiences are fairly earthy. You can’t jump on stage with paint all over your face and go into all the moves without something substantial backing you up.
In fact, bands really gain their popularity in Australia through playing live, and then they get their record contracts. It’s a very good climate, very healthy. Honestly, if I did have enough money to get to Australia to start a band I would do it if I was overseas.
Do you think Men at Work was a breakthrough band for Australia?
Yes, in many different ways. They obviously impressed the industry side of things. On the other side of the coin there’s a band like the Birthday Party. They’ve got an album called Junkyard. They’re from Melbourne, and as far as NME or England’s concerned, they’re it.
So it’s like Australia has put out both sides of the coin–from Men at Work to the Birthday Party. It’s great. We’re sort of hoping to fill up something in between [laughs].
To hear the full audio of the interview I did with the singer who took over Michael Hutchence’s spot with INXS, J.D. Fortune, subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
…with hundreds more to come