Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Remembering Michael Hutchence 1960-1997

I did a little research on Hutch and thought it would be useful for the fans to pool some of the information I found. I never saw INXS live, but I'd have to say it was the bands downtempo moments in a song where Michael shined brightest. His singular breathy calm and amazing beauty that I imagine built a steamy attraction with the wouldbe adoring fan. A "feline" attraction as one writer put it. There isn't much else I can say that already has been said. R.I.P.

The Hutchence family eventually returned to Sydney in Michael's late teens, and it was there that Hutchence befriended Andrew Farriss at Davidson High School on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Shortly, Michael and Andrew joined with Andrew's brothers Tim and Jon, as well as friends Garry Gary Beers and Kirk Pengilly to form their first band, The Farris Brothers which would ultimately become INXS. When in 1979 the Farriss family moved to Perth, Western Australia, the rest of the band followed, returning to Sydney soon after. In 1980, the group released their first album, INXS, and put out their first single, Simple Simon, which was soon followed by their first moderate Australian hit, Wishy Washy.

By virtue of his role as the band's lead singer, Hutchence became the main spokesperson for the band, and gained a reputation as a confident, sexy frontman, although his close friends and family always maintained he was much more introverted than his on-stage persona. A talented lyricist, he co-wrote almost all of INXS's songs with Andrew Farriss, who has attributed his own success as a songwriter to Hutchence's 'genius'.

In 1987, following several increasingly successful INXS albums, Hutchence appeared in the Australian movie Dogs In Space. This was followed by the album Max Q, a collaboration with Australian post-punk pioneer Ollie Olsen. In 1990, he played Percy Shelley in Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound.

Hutchence's private life was often reported in the Australian and international press, with a string of love affairs with prominent models and singers. In 1990, he began a highly publicised relationship with Kylie Minogue, helping to transform her image from girl-next-door (a hang-over of her soap opera "Neighbours" fame), into a sexy, edgy pop diva.

INXS spent the mid-1990s trying to develop a successful new album after a series of less-than-spectacular releases.

During this time, Hutchence's relationship with Kylie Minogue ended, and for a time he dated supermodel Helena Christensen before meeting Paula Yates. Paula and Michael's affair was soon discovered by the English press, who hounded them for photos and quotes. The pressure from the media was so intense that Hutchence once assaulted a photographer hounding him. Around this time, Yates' separation from husband Bob Geldof became official, sparking an at-times bitter custody battle over their three daughters, Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Pixie Frou-Frou. Yates eventually became pregnant by Hutchence, and in 1996 gave birth to Hutchence's only child, a daughter named Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence.

A new INXS release, 1997's Elegantly Wasted, had just been released when Hutchence, aged 37, was found dead behind the door of a room in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Sydney (now the Sir Stamford). A belt found at the 'scene of crime' suggested that he had hanged. The New South Wales coroner determined his death was suicide but analysis of the witness statements in the report, the lack of a suicide note and other evidence has since been interpreted to suggest that the cause of death may have been accidental, resulting from autoerotic asphyxiation (strangling himself while masturbating). The full Coroner's Report can be read from an external link below.

* note it is not substantiated that this is the actual Official Coroner's Report

Hutchence's long-in-the-works solo album, Michael Hutchence, was finally released in 1999, as was his third movie, Limp.

In summer 2005, a television show featured the members of INXS looking for a new singer to replace the late Hutchence. The show, which aired on CBS, was called Rock Star: INXS. The winner was Canadian singer J.D. Fortune.

Andrew: The man understood emotional human depth in how to convey that and communicate it. He understood that and I worked with him in it and I know how talented he was. I said to Martha, the group's manager, the other thing that astounded me with him ... a lot of people would get a pencil and paper and they would write out how they feel and then go back with an eraser and they'd rub out "No, I don't think so". The amazing thing with him, he used to shock me sometimes, he'd write a set of lyrics and he'd never go back. It just came out exactly like his thoughts but it used to be very scary because the thing was, what you saw was really exactly what he was thinking and that was often his means of communication and I think he was a great communicator with the modern medium of television and audio and all of it and like, and I'll say me, I can't speak for the rest of the fellas, but I know like me, with him he probably had things he was afraid of or things he had to deal with or whatever but I think I would agree with the fellas, I don't think the band was one of them.

George: What are your finest memories going to be?

Tim: Well, one of the memories I was gonna say just before we did this show somewhere on the East Coast of the USA and Michael had started off the show doing "Elegantly Wasted" in his costume de home suit - you know with the little rip just the way he liked it - and ended up wearing, just wearing his wife-beater and pants you know, and he strolls down in front of the audience, and he's standing on this table and he looks up at the bar and he goes, "Martinis for everybody!" including this couple whose table he's standing on. This is the weirdest gig we've ever played in out lives and, ah, then he started and I've never seen him do this before, he started talking to the people who were sitting at the table and it turned out they'd just gotten married and he says to them, "Oh - they've just got married and this is just what you wanted on your wedding night. Michael Hutchence standing on your table."

George: He was a consummate performer wasn't he?

Tim: Yeah, he loved it.

Jon: The element of absolute terror on stage - you really had to have it together sort of - that's cool that's okay - he'd about to blow that thing up ... he's running under the stage now and we'd lost him for three songs and he's underneath some enormous structure while the 20,000 people are going, "Where is he?".

On the stage at Metropolis that night INXS were simply brilliant, a smoking roaring bar band, smashing and crashing out the hits and Hutchence worked the stage like a man who knew every centimetre intimately. As one woman commented, "you just have to watch him for five minutes and you want to sleep with him'. And half the guys in the audience wanted that charisma, those moves, that patter and banter and innuendo. Michael Hutchence was close to God on stage. He knew it.

Michael Hutchence: the last interview
January 28, 2005

A few years back I took part in what I do believe to be the last interview conducted with INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence. Of course, he had already been dead for some time, but being that his record company was releasing a new Michael Hutchence ‘album’, I thought it only proper that he be afforded the usual publicity, and so an audience was arranged via renowned Sydney psychic "Kate B", who ferried our questions and answers to-and-fro with closed eyes and body all atremble. It was a short interview, but revealing nonetheless, and when it was published in Australian Style in December 1999 it scored me a few hot phone calls, notably from Michael’s father, Kelland, who was pretty decent under the circumstances (he was reunited with his son back in December, 2002). With the imminent approach of Rock Star, it would seem an appropriate time to give the exchange another airing. Note the company Michael’s keeping these days – the possibilities for future ‘releases’ are mind-boggling.

Kate: OK…he’s just behind me now. He has his hand on my shoulder. He’s showing me something…a scar just above his hairline. That’s so he can be identified.
Jack: This new album of his…is he happy with it?
Kate: He says that he wants his music to continue. He’s indicating that friends have been responsible for this record coming out. He’s saying that he has a lot of trust there, that they wouldn’t be doing something that wasn’t right. He says, too, that his death was so untimely, and it wasn’t as if the band was splitting up. The other guys in the band…he understands that it made things very difficult for them, the others. My brothers, he says. He says there’s an awful lot of emotion going into this record, a lot of discussion as to what is the best thing to do. He says there are no selfish motivations driving the release of this album.
Jack: Where is he now, like…can he still create?
Kate: Most definitely. He says everything he could do on Earth, he can do here. He says you wouldn’t believe the people he’s working with. He’s laughing.
Jack: Can he name some of these people?
Kate: He says he doesn’t want to sound like a name-dropper, but…it depends on who’s around at the time. Jimmy Morrison from The Doors, Elvis…he’s doing some stuff there with Elvis - I can see the black hair there. There’s other people too. He loves talking to philosophers, loves discussing things, turning things over. He loves that. Absolutely loves it. He is showing me something, showing me the way they are dressed. It looks like Aristotle.
Jack: Aristotle?
Kate: Yes, people like that. He’s giving me an example of the type of person he means. Galileo…he gave me that name. And inventors. He loves listening to their discussions. Poets, even. There are lots of poets there…
Jack: Poets. Would he say it’s a little warmish where he is?
Kate: He says he knows what you’re asking and he says he is at peace.
Jack: How does ‘the industry’ work there?
Kate: He says it’s not the same as it was. He says there is not much…thought goes into the music. It just flows, he’s saying. It’s different. There is no ‘industry’ as such. No…
Jack: Publicists?
Kate: No publicists. He says people just appreciate things. He hates bullshit. Hates it. He’s shaking his head there. The way he does things now is different. He says he loves mucking around with different instruments.
Jack: Are there fans? Media?
Kate: He says that everybody recognises each other, but there are no stars or celebrities. He says there’s a good order of things. It’s arranged in such a way that you don’t run into people you dislike.
Jack: Is he lonely?
Kate: He says he has company that he keeps regularly. He’s showing me a new lady friend that he has there.
Jack: Really? What’s she like?
Kate: Very pretty. But he misses his family. He says when he first went, there was anger. He felt ripped off.
Jack: Well, it was such a stupid way to go.
Kate: He’s smiling.
[she laughs]
Jack: What’s so funny?
Kate: He said: “There are worse ways to go!”

Contact Music
Producers of the MICHAEL HUTCHENCE biopic are trying to convince PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN star JOHNNY DEPP to play the late INXS frontman. The film is being fast-tracked and most of the production will take place in the singer's homeland of Australia. In addition to Depp, film-makers are also looking to cast ERIC BANA, SIENNA MILLER, NAOMI WATTS and RACHEL GRIFFITHS in the movie. The film's tentative title is SLIDE AWAY, which refers to the duet Hutchence sang with U2's BONO, according to website MovieHole.net. Contrary to press reports that the late singer's family was not happy about the film, producers say Hutchence's estate is cooperating with the production. The movie's director NICK EGAN, who directed some of INXS's most popular videos, has been working with the singer's brother, RHETT on the film.
25/04/2006 21:08

On the road a decade ago, a rock writer discovered a different side of Michael Hutchence
By Gina Arnold

ALTHOUGH I HAVE never had much interest in the music of INXS, I was deeply saddened by the apparent suicide of singer Michael Hutchence on Nov. 22--saddened and also surprised. Ten years ago, I spent a week on the road with INXS during its Kick Inside tour, which made the band a big name in the U.S. Although I hadn't seen Hutchence in years, I'd still say he was the last person I'd pick as a prospective suicide.

Hutchence was found naked, had made drink dates with friends for later in the day and left no note. MTV News and the New Musical Express in England, among other media, are already speculating that his death was the result of accidental autoerotic asphyxiation, a kinky, dangerous form of masturbation. But even that embarrassing scenario is more pleasant to think about than suicide for someone I basically liked.

And I did like Hutchence. He cloaked his niceness in layers of rock-star pretentiousness, but he was also remarkably self-deprecating and able to take a joke, even when it was leveled (usually by his bandmates, who'd known him since high school) right at him. To my ears, his music sounded very mainstream, but it was positively arty compared to the dumb synth bands and glammy metal outfits responsible for most of the hits of the '80s.

Formed in 1977 in Perth, Australia, INXS was one of the very few bands to have maintained the same lineup for two decades. Although it began life during the height of punk, INXS was much more influenced by dance bands like Chic and arty rock bands like Roxy Music. INXS' songs were invariably about scary, sexy women ("Devil Inside," "Need You Tonight").

By 1987, when I went on the road with the group, INXS had been touring Australia pretty much nonstop for seven years, financing most of its tours itself in the hopes of eventually "breaking" in America. Thanks to this grueling background, INXS was a truly great live band, even if its music had little social or political content.

The band members were personally very unpretentious--Hutchence excepted. The first time I met them, in a gymnasium at Fairfield College, Conn., they were using the men's locker room as a dressing room, and five of the members were standing around the dingy urinals and benches drinking beer from paper cups.

Enter Hutchence in a floor-length leather coat, looking incredibly out of place. Attached to his arm was an impossibly skinny woman with a face like a snake. I immediately recognized her as one of the genus groupie--a thing that (amazingly) I had not met before, since all the bands I knew personally (R.E.M., the Meat Puppets and Camper Van Beethoven) were constitutionally allergic to "glamorous" females.

This woman seemed to me to be some kind of an insane joke, a parody of a groupie from This Is Spinal Tap or Saturday Night Live. She was wearing lace-frilled bloomers, a fake fur jacket and little else, and she seldom opened her mouth except to bitch about something, at which point the guys in the band would roll their eyes at each other behind her back. She was so possessive that I once saw her nearly slap an 11-year-old girl who was hanging admiringly on Michael's arm.

At the time, her presence on the tour puzzled me quite a bit, but later, after I'd met many such grasping women, I took it to be symptomatic of all the reasons men become rock stars. These women fulfill the men's vast need to be groped and worshipped and possessed. Women like that (and Hutchence's latest paramour, Paula Yates) are able to say all the obnoxious things that rock stars--who need to be loved--feel they can't say out loud.

ONE THING I found out about "Mike" (as his bandmates called him), however, was that he had a shy streak. He could be standoffish, but once he let down his guard, he was very nice indeed.

One night, for example, I had dinner with him alone in a restaurant in Rhode Island, and we both got green bits of lobster stuck between our teeth, which we picked out in a fairly gross way. I told him he had a Doors fixation, and he obligingly sang "Break on Through to the Other Side" in a satirical manner. I'm pretty sure all the other diners in the restaurant were staring at us--Hutchence had lovely long brown curly locks with fabulous gold highlights--and I could tell he liked that.

Another thing I found out that night about Hutchence was that the rest of the band--the three brothers Farriss (Tim, Andrew and Jon), saxophonist Kirk Pengilly and bassist Garry Gary Beers--were regular Australian blokes who felt lucky to be where they were. But Michael lived for the band, and nothing else. He couldn't have survived without it. It was his raison d'etre.

But that's just another reason to find his suicide unbelievable. Although I could picture him doing it if his band were about to play a comeback gig at a greasy local pub, it's hard for me to imagine him doing it just before a giant 20th-anniversary celebration and tour.

In recent years, it's true, INXS hadn't been doing quite as well as it had in, say, 1990, but the band was hardly down at the heels. INXS' latest record, Elegantly Wasted, didn't do well in America, but it was a huge hit in Australia, England and Canada. Hutchence also had a solo record in the can, which will be released in 1998.

Even if his music career hadn't been going well, Hutchence had other options. He had starred in several movies, playing Percy Shelley in Frankenstein Unbound and a character much like himself in a film called Dogs in Space. He was said to be talking to Michael Douglas about a part in an upcoming movie and had been offered a television hosting job in Australia.

Hutchence did have a propensity for dating superbitches, and superbitches can be tiring. The latest was Yates, a woman best known for her acrimonious breakup with Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and Live Aid fame. According to the Sydney Herald, Yates told journalists that she blames Geldof for Hutchence's death. Hutchence, she said, was distraught because Geldof wouldn't allow her to bring her three kids (by Geldof) to Australia for Christmas, reasoning that would go far in explaining Hutchence's domestic unhappiness.

In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter whether Hutchence's death was suicide or accident: it's still death, and it's still premature. Musically, INXS was a good but not great band; its presence certainly won't be missed. As for Michael Hutchence, the phrase "die young, stay pretty" comes to mind, but small comfort that must be to those who loved him best.

Coroner's Report (not official)
Aust Index


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