After 30 years, INXS is still a family

For the past 30 years, Australian rock band INXS have delighted audiences worldwide, selling more than 30 million albums while racking up four Number One hits on four different continents. In 1997 however, tragedy befell the band with the death of lead vocalist, the charismatic Michael Hutchence.

Though Hutchence’s death closed one chapter of the group’s career, INXS was given a second lease on life in 2005 when they hit the television airwaves in search for a new lead singer. The show Rock Star: INXS, the brainchild of the band in conjunction with reality television show king Mark Burnett. Nova Scotia native J.D. Fortune ended up being crowned the band’s new singer and went on to front the band while touring behind Fortune’s INXS debut effort Switch in 2005.

From California last month, INXS founding member Kirk Pengilly recalls the decision to continue INXS after Hutchence’s death was not an easy one, but one they now feel confident about.

“Initially after Michael’s death, we really weren’t sure as to whether or not the band should continue or what exactly we should do,” a friendly Kirk says. “We ultimately decided though that INXS is a family. We all grew up together and if you lose a family member, you don’t stop being a family.”

A few different singers, including Terence Trent d’Arby and Jon Stevens came and went from the INXS ranks prior to the group finding J.D. Fortune via the reality show, which took to the air to respectable ratings in 2005.

“We approached Mark Burnett with the idea for the show,” Kirk says. “When he came on board, we thought it would be great simply because he is the reality show king and was behind it. We knew the production side of the show would be top notch.”

INXS is currently on the road promoting Original Sin, an album comprised of both hits and album tracks that revisits and reworks songs from the band’s storied catalogue. Among the varied guest vocalists included on the collection are trip-hop artist Tricky, Ben Harper, as well as Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20.

“Once we had finished touring the Switch record, the five original members of the band decided to work on an instrumental project together,” Kirk says.

“We started working on that and in the midst of it, took our song This Time, ripped it to pieces and then put it back together in a completely different way as an instrumental track. That ended up spawning the idea of doing a record that featured a different singer on each track.”

The group’s Moncton show at Casino New Brunswick tomorrow night is one of a handful that the band is playing across the country. Asked whether having a Canadian in the band is influencing them to play more remote areas of the country that might not typically welcome a band of INXS’s calibre, Kirk says that is not the case.

“Canada has always been an amazing territory for us,” he says. “It was the first country outside of Australia that really got into the band.

“But in another way, we love the country because we find that Canadians are a lot like Australians. We’ve got a good sense of humour and our countries are rather large land masses with relatively small populations. There are a lot of similarities between the two countries. We have always felt an affinity with Canadians.”

Article published in July 6, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript