In a new podcast exploring the life, career and death of Michael Hutchence – best known as the founding frontman of INXS – bandmate Jon Farriss revealed that when INXS decided to continue as a band after his first replacement left, they’d planned to do so with a woman behind the mic.
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The revelation came in a two-part special episode of the LiSTNR program Behind The Hits, which was released last Friday (November 18) and also featured interviews with former INXS members Andrew Farriss, Kirk Pengilly, Jon Stevens (who filled Hutchence’s role as lead vocalist between 2000 and 2003), plus one-time members Jimmy Barnes and Suze DeMarchi.
During her interview, DeMarchi – frontwoman of Australian rock contemporaries Baby Animals – confirmed the decades-long rumours that, after Stevens left the band in 2003, she’d been formally invited to join INXS as their permanent singer; she’d previously performed with them once in 2000, sharing the mic with Stevens at a one-off gig that December.
“There was a formal offer from their manager,” DeMarchi explained, revealing that she came close to accepting the offer, but the band decided instead to find their next frontperson through a reality show. She continued: “They didn’t say, ‘You’re going to make this, we’ll do this, some of that… It hadn’t got[ten] to that point, but [there were] conversations with their manager at the time, David Edwards, and Andrew and I had spoken quite a bit about it….
“Just before they had done that show, I was really seriously thinking about doing it. I was just about to go, ‘Yeah, maybe we could try this,’ and then they they said, ‘Well, we want to do this show.’ So that’s how it went down.”
The show in question – Rock Star: INXS – aired in 2005 and led to the band recruiting JD Fortune, a fan of the band who’d lived in his car before being brought into the fold. Fortune sung with the band from then until 2011, and released two albums with them: 2005’s ‘Switch’ and 2010’s ‘Original Sin’.
On why the band opted to forge ahead with the show instead of bringing DeMarchi into the band, Farriss said: “We were trying to sort of get out of the local pub, and we wanted to go global. We wanted to get out there. And we wanted to go, ‘OK, there’s got to be someone out of eight billion people, who we haven’t met before – some interesting, exotic something from somewhere – that would pop up and [make you] go, ‘Wow!” Well, you would never know unless you try.
“You’re certainly not going to do it looking around in the local pubs of Australia – and we could have, and we did that… We took huge risks, and … you don’t get anywhere unless to do, you know?”
Farriss said he’s ultimately “glad” that INXS went the route they did, and noted that he doesn’t “have any regrets” about the experience. He did, however, reveal that the show was set up to have a female winner. “We all wanted [the winner] to be a girl,” he said. “We loaded it with girls. It was 15 contestants – it was eight girls and seven guys.”
The drummer and keyboardist – who had spent much of the previous few years writing ‘Switch’ – went on to say that he’d even named the album as such to reflect INXS welcoming in a frontwoman. The title, he said, would be interpreted to represent the band’s “switch to a girl” in the leading role. He continued: “The whole [show] was all set up perfect for it, but you know, she wasn’t there. That was the real, honest truth of it.
“Anyone can get upset and have a [tantrum], but the fact is that, sorry, on the day – when we had to tally up who’s was the best performance – the girl didn’t make it. But I still reckon a girl singer for INXS would be awesome – I still believe that. I honestly do. It just isn’t what God wanted at that time.”
On the band’s initial hopes to have a woman win Rock Star: INXS, DeMarchi said: “The idea of getting a girl, I thought, was a good idea because Michael is very difficult to… You can’t replace Michael. Nobody can replace him, so if a girl did it, they could not get the immediate comparisons, maybe.”
Have a listen to the full podcast below, with the topic in question coming up around 28 minutes into the second episode:
Following Fortune’s exit from the band, INXS continued with Ciaran Gribbin as his replacement. Gribbin toured with them for exactly a year, from November 2011 to November 2012, before the band officially broke up.
Last month, Fortune reflected on his experience stepping into Hutchence’s shoes, saying in an interview with Rolling Stone: “It was incredibly, incredibly intimidating. It’s like replacing Elvis or Jim Morrison. I literally played shows where people seemed to be scowling during the first three songs. They were like, ‘You better be fuckin’ good, man.’ By the end of the night, they were rockin’ and rollin’.”