Constantly compared to Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison, but influenced by Iggy Pop and Nick Cave, Michael led INXS from height to height during their journey to the top. Like all timeless performers, Michael made the moment – whether it was on record or on stage.
Born January 22, 1960 in Australia and raised and schooled in Hong Kong as a young boy, Michael returned to Sydney in 1972. It was at Davidson High School in Frenchs Forest that he met aspiring musician Andrew Farriss. That friendship would eventually lead to the forming of The Farriss Brothers with Garry Gary Beers, Kirk Pengilly, Tim Farriss and Jon Farriss in 1977.
Largely co-writing most of INXS’s repertoire of hits and classic songs with Andrew, Michael blossomed into a powerful rock singer and lyricist with a zest to match the bands rich internal musical dynamics. Michael was also a sensitive ‘artist’ with poetic and literary interests – a combination that would serve him well throughout his career.
In 1982, after two albums with INXS, Michael struck out on the first of many guest turns with other recording artists. ‘Speed Kills’ with Don Walker of Cold Chisel and ‘Forest Theme’ were included in Scott Hicks’ Australian cult film and soundtrack ‘Freedom’.
Michael’s early curiosity with acting led to a key part in the Australian movie, Dogs In Space directed by alternative filmmaker and INXS videographer Richard Lowenstein. The film, a sort of punk coming-of-age drama that also featured some of Michael’s first recorded solo work.
The most important leap for Michael ‘the artist’ came in the form of collaborative concept album Max Q. Created with underground Melbourne musician Ollie Olsen the enigmatic record quietly slipped on the scene in late 1989. Not a huge commercial hit, the project fulfilled Michael’s musical wanderlust for new horizons, which would in turn inform future INXS endeavours.
Michael’s personal life through this period also stretched far and wide, with a primary Hong Kong residency and globetrotting obligations that took him from Sydney to New York and London with increasing frequency. Liaisons were hard to maintain, but the professional demands on Michael did not limit his quests, and the trail of relationships and short term romances were not hard to follow due to the building fascination from the media.
In the mid-’90s, Michael went into a series of interesting side projects in the form of songs for films (covers of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ for Batman Forever and Eric Bourdon & War’s ‘Spill The Wine’ for Barbwire). Also at this time, a tentative solo album with producers Tim Simenon (Bomb the Bass) and Andy Gill (Gang Of Four) was being formulated that would be put aside in favour of returning to work with INXS.
1996 brought a new ‘creation’ of Michael’s into the world – a baby daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. Together with her mother Paula Yates, Michael was starting a new family and things were good. Band activities resumed with writing, recording and touring through 1997 until something terrible happened. On November 22, while about to start a tour of Australia with INXS, Michael tragically died. Dumbstruck by the circumstances, fans grieved for an important icon now lost, and the band mourned for a friend now departed.
After Michael’s sudden death, time was needed to make sense of what remained. Michael’s wish to finish his long-delayed solo album would be fulfilled by those involved and brought to release in late 1999 (2000 in the US). Called Michael Hutchence, the album combined a different sensibility of musical approach than that of his INXS output. Utilizing loops and moods to convey atmosphere (similar to Massive Attack or Portishead), the record is a tantalizing experiment – a piece of art. The pumping rock track ‘A Straight Line’ was released a single to international markets, and Michael’s legacy has continued unabated since then with compilations of his most important work with INXS.