INXS tribute band plays APAP, endorsed by late frontman Michael Hutchence's sister Tina Hutchence
KICK--The INXS Experience
Among the hundreds of artist showcases at the annual Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) trade gathering, rock tribute bands are a staple.
A prominent one at last week’s pandemic-demanded virtual APAP conference, KICK—The INXS Experience stood out—for two reasons: the quality of the Greenville, N.C.-based group’s video showcase submission, and their endorsement by none other than Tina Hutchence.
Tina Hutchence is the older sister of the late Michael Hutchence, the hugely successful Australian band INXS’s charismatic frontman and chief lyricist, whose death at age 37 in 1997 was ruled a suicide. KICK is booked by Panzyler Entertainment, as is Hutchence, who has been promoting her intimate account Michael: My Brother, Lost Boy of INXS in the U.S. since its publication here in 2019. She would often introduce the KICK band on stage at gigs coinciding with her 2019 promotional book tour.
Born in Melbourne and now living in northern California, Hutchence moved to the state in her early twenties to pursue a career in the film industry as a makeup artist. She currently teaches the art of makeup, lecturing and demonstrating at major beauty shows throughout the U.S.
“Kathy Wagner [Panzyler’s president/agent] contacted me and told me about this group she represented, so I started watching videos of their performances,” Hutchence recalls. “This was when my book had just come out, and we did a couple appearances together and it worked out really well: This is a big country to get the word out!”
During an East Coast tour swing in mid-winter, Hutchence spent a long weekend with KICK.
“I watched every show and was blown away!” she says. “They’re all incredible musicians, and lead singer Cory Massi has a magnificent voice—and audiences love him: He’s not trying to do Michael, but sings perfectly. I’d never, ever come forward and said something about [an INXS tribute band] before, but I was so impressed. I know that when INXS went on the road and overseas the first time, they had trouble to get the same sound as they did in the studio—but they did, and KICK sounded the same.”
So Hutchence was “completely sold” on KICK and started going to see them once a month, at one point staying with them for three months.
“I’m not used to being up there on stage, but it was so easy introducing them,” she says. “I just spoke my mind, talking about how great they are. They really represent Michael and [INXS keyboardist and main composer] Andrew Farriss. We were meant to be together!”
Hutchence calls Farriss a “musical genius.” He formed INXS in 1977 with brothers Jon Farriss (drums) and Tim Farriss (guitar), Michael Hutchence, guitarist/saxophonist Kirk Pengilly, and bassist Garry Gary Beers.
“Every time Andrew saw Michael he’d give him a cassette of music, and kept him on his toes coming up with lyrics,” she says. “Michael went to school with the three brothers and watched them play in the garage, and Andrew said, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ and asked him to sing. I’d never heard Michael singing before, but it was a match made in heaven! There was something about them: the music was so catchy, and Michael was always good with the audience.”
Hutchence had actually written an earlier book about her brother, Just a Man: The Real Michael Hutchence (2001), with their mother. It was titled after a song on INXS’s final album with Hutchence, 1997’s Elegantly Wasted.
“People had already started writing books, and didn’t have a clue what he was about,” she says. “I was reading things that weren’t true, and years later, people still didn’t know everything about Michael. I wanted people to know the real man he was.”
She wrote Michael: My Brother, Lost Boy of INXS with Jen Jewel Brown, an Australian journalist who had interviewed Michael and sang with him on his first solo single “Speed Kills” (1981).
“In 20 years, I never stopped searching for the answers to why Michael would take his own life,” Hutchence says. “There was a lot of speculation surrounding his death, which quite frankly overshadowed what should have been his legacy and contribution to music. I needed to get to the core of Michael’s despair.”
In 1992, Michael Hutchence suffered a fractured skull in a drunken altercation in Copenhagen. His sister surmises that he struggled with traumatic brain injury for the last five years of his life, and wrote about it in Michael: My Brother, Lost Boy of INXS.
“I really think people feel they got to know Michael through the book,” she concludes. As for INXS, she notes that the band managed to stay together through 2012 after going through several vocalists.
“They never got somebody that could take Michael’s place,” she adds.