Today’s Guest: Michael Hutchence, lead singer, INXS
By Bob Andelman
(Originally published on December 6, 1985; Michael Hutchence died November 22, 1997.)
There are some pretty strange stories circulating about INXS.
One suggests that the band, or at least some members, listen to “dirty. sleazy. pornographic music” before going on stage.
(“I do, in my room, before I leave the hotel, to get worked up,” confirms INXS (pronounced “in excess) lead singer Michael Hutchence in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We used to have a song that we would play on the way to shows, when we used to play in Melbourne (Australia). I had a friend that had this really fast car and we’d all pile in and put on Gang of Four’s (he sings) ‘Man in a Uniform.’ Great song,”)
Then there’s the impression that as an opening act, INXS is bad luck.
The last time INXS was in St. Petersburg, they shared a bill with the Go-Gos. It became their farewell tour. (“It was, wasn’t it? We have this horrible ability to do that:”)
OR THAT on their first trip to Florida; INXS was unimpressed with what they found and wrote three songs including “Melting in the Sun.”
(“It was about, um, uh … I guess it is a sarcastic song about Florida, sitting around in the sun,” he admits. “I mean, we walked down the beach and got tar on our feet, oil slicks. Walked back and we got ripped off on drink prices. It’s like Manhattan on the beach … We wrote ‘Original Sin’ there, too.”)
But that was some time ago. Hutchence says INXS actually likes Florida -now. Nonetheless, the band will perform “Melting in the Sun” at the Bayfront on Tuesday.
INXS has been slow but steady in gaining popularity. The Australian band’s fifth and latest album, Listen Like Thieves, is doing respect ably on the charts. The first single, “This Time,” is getting tremendous airplay with its catchy hooks and Hutchence’s Jagger-esque vocals.
Keyboard and guitar player Andrew Farris wrote “This Time” very quickly, according to Hutchence.
“He started it at home and finished it in the studio. It only took a few hours to write. It’s a good sign if they all come out like that.”
As for the comparisons to a ’60s Mick Jagger in his vocal style on “This Time,” Hutchence expresses surprise. “I hadn’t really heard that in it. ‘Well, people need to get some sort of criteria and comparing people is the easiest-way to do it … It is pretty folky. I guess early Stones would be right.”
Some-of INXS’s material is reminiscent of ’60s British invasion music, he says, suggesting that’s where the comparisons may have their root. The singer says he listens to “everything,” including Top 40, a lot of black artists, the Stones and Bob Dylan. “I just started getting into Led Zeppelin over the last year or so,” he adds. “Good band. And I like The Cure a lot.”
WHO ARE the “thieves” in Listen Like Thieves?
“Everybody,” he explains. “Everybody’s a thief one way or another. The song is about everybody kind of stealing from everybody to try and” make their life go on. Everybody that’s listening to people like Bhagwan Rashneesh and getting ripped off. Everybody’s watching the television, reading the paper and Iistening to the radio, trying to pick up something in the sort of madness that we live in, trying to find something to attach themselves to and not spinning off. Really what it’s saying is just listen to-yourself. In the end, that’s all you have.”
MICHAEL HUTCHENCE interview excerpt: “(‘Melting in the Sun’) was about, um, uh … I guess it is a sarcastic song about Florida, sitting around in the sun. I mean, we walked down the beach and got tar on our feet, oil slicks. Walked back and we got ripped off on drink prices. It’s like Manhattan on the beach … We wrote ‘Original Sin’ there, too.”
Off handedly, Hutchence is asked if he had ever taken anything that didn’t belong to him.
“Yeah, I used to be a cat burglar. Once or twice.
“I have a very good friend who’s an infamous cat burglar in Australia, known throughout the land. He’s Pink Panther material. Used to drop off the top of expensive apartment buildings and mix drinks while people watched television, take what he liked and jump out again.”
Moments later: Hutchence reversed himself on his own brushes with lawlessness. “No, I’ve never really been into theft, myself, “he says. “I have a lot of things stolen off af meso I know how it is when it happens.”
Hutchence bristles at the mention of what many Americans perceived as an “Australian Invasion” of rock bands a few years ago, led by Men At Work, Rick Springfield, Air Supply, Mental as Anything and The Alarm.
“I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I just want to be a band and I don’t want to have to put up with a backlash. We’re Australian. So what. Whenever did any flag waving when we came in. We didn’t say, ‘Hi, ‘yeah, we’re Australian, you’re all going to love us!’ We’re not here to ram things down Americans’ throats.”
RELATIVE to promoting the music of his homeland down under, Hutchence says what he’s really interested in is making Americans realize there’s more to Australian music than Air Supply and LRB.
“Bands, like Divinyls, Midnight Oil, INXS, the Triffids, Hoodoo Gurus – these are the bands that everybody is talking about, the bands nobody knows about. This is the real invasion, if you want to call it that. America’s never really gotten the root level of Australian pub rock scene,” according to Hutchence.
Opening for INXS is Jon Butcher Axis. This will be Axis’ third stint in the area, having been on bills at the Lakeland Civic Center with Rush and Def Leppard.
Jon Butcher is one of the most amazing guitar technicians around. His debut album three years ago was a little-known gem and his stage shows are thrilling. Butcher was discovered up in Boston by former J. Geils singer Peter Wolf; posters for his concerts can occasionally be seen on the walls of nightclubs on the TV show Spenser: For Hire.
Most Striking about Butcher is his uncanny resemblance in both appearance, talent and style, to the late Jimi Hendrix. It’s an unfair comparison, but inevitable upon first impression of the man. He plays the electric guitar better than most anyone rocking today, in a class with Edward Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan.