Guitar, Saxophone & Vocals
DOB: 04 July 1958
Kirk Pengilly was born in Kew, Victoria on July 4th 1958, and at the age of 8, he and his family relocated to Cottage Point, a remote “weekender” village nestled in the middle of the Kuringai Chase National Park on the outskirts of Sydney. With no electricity, a 10km dirt road to civilization and a unique house built around a cave overhanging the edge of the deepest Fjord in the Southern Hemisphere, Cowan Creek, Kirk’s early years were spent either outdoors or teaching himself guitar. In 1971, in high school, Kirk met and became best friends with Tim Farriss. Their first band Guinness, was a high school garage band in which Kirk was the principal songwriter and lead singer. In 1976, Guinness disbanded and less than a year later, Tim instigated a “jam session” that spawned The Farriss Brothers. Michael Hutchence and Kirk shared lead vocals for a short time but as Michael didn’t play an instrument, it made sense for Kirk to step down and concentrate on guitar and his newly acquired passion, saxophone. Michael loved telling the story of the Band’s move to Perth where he and Kirk drove across the Australian continent in Kirk’s red panel van, stopping to cook up on an open fire, a wok dinner of perfectly chopped veggies stored in tupperware containers that he’d prepared, with kangaroos looking on in bewilderment surrounded by outback desert. In those early years of life on the road, it was Kirk who slapped Christian bumper stickers on their cars to deter getting pulled over by curious police.
Thirty years on and Kirk has a definitive place in INXS, being the versatile ‘utility man’. As principle backing vocalist, saxophonist and guitarist, he contributes to a great deal of the music that INXS releases. Apart from his co-writes with Michael on a number of INXS albums, he has written, produced and performed numerous “b-side singles” and most recently, co wrote the song “Like It Or Not” with his mate Hughie, which is on the bands most recent release, “Switch.”. His main instrument though is the guitar. “My eldest brother Mark, gave me a beat up acoustic guitar when I was about nine and I taught myself playing along to records,” Kirk recalls. His position also sees him as one of the key publicity spokespersons, a role he doesn’t take lightly. Kirk also holds the distinction of being the band’s archivist, faithfully logging daily entries in diaries that date back to the beginning of INXS. He was heavily involved in the bands recent and only authorised biographical book, “Story To Story,” in which he wrote the books forward and was elected as the bands liaison with the author, Anthony Bozza and the publishers.
Kirk has also worked on many outside projects over the years contributing to such artists as “The Igniters,” “Flaming Hands.,” “ Shona Laing,” “Richard Clapton” “ Martin Plaza” and ” Jenny Morris,” (in which he performed in the “You’re Gonna Get Hurt” video – unrecognizable without his trademark glasses), to name a few. He, like other INXS band members has worked in Music Production as well. In 1989 when the band was on a break, Kirk and Tim Farriss produced an album for local Sydney band, Crash Politics. More recently Kirk has produced tracks for Sydney artists “Jay Smith,” “Lior,” “Andy Clockwise” and Produced an EP for his brother Drew’s Adelaide band, “Coo.” Also, a couple of years ago, he collaborated with his Sydney singer/songwriter mate Hughie, producing, engineering, programming, co-writing and performing on Hughie’s first commercial release – “Still In Bed.” The albums lead single “ Slap That Ass” was picked up by Nova and JJJ, which spawned TV appearances for Hughie and a video, which Kirk also appeared in.
Kirk has been a member of INXS since they started back in 1977 and together they have sold in excess of 35 million records worldwide. INXS have collected countless awards and trophies for their work from all over the globe, including 3 American Grammy nominations and recently INXS were inducted into the Australian ARIA “Hall of Fame.” After the death of their original lead singer, Michael Hutchence in 1997, the band were compelled to continue and after working with singers like Terence Trent Darby, Jimmy Barnes and Jon Stevens, they embarked on a “risky venture” to do a world wide search for a new lead singer through the use of a reality based TV show called “RockStar INXS.”. Kirk initiated the idea many years ago and then it was developed and presented to Mark Burnett in 2004. Mark loved it and lured CBS in the USA to take on the show with a large budget to boot. It aired live all around the world and was the first TV show ever to have worldwide voting. The show was a huge hit for CBS as well as in many countries around the world including Canada, Asia and Australia. The following year spawned a second season and a third is reputedly in the works. Kirk and Tim traveled the world to all the auditions for RockStar INXS, hand picking about 100 singers out of thousands that were then whittled down to the 15 that ended up on the show. Kirk quips, “It was a fantastic way to find a new lead singer and have someone else foot the bill. It could have gone horribly wrong but it went horribly right…” INXS chose JD Fortune, a charismatic Canadian performer with “all the goods.” The day after the shows finale, they went straight in to Westlake Studios in LA and recorded possibly INXS’ most diverse album to date, “Switch”, very fitting in today’s “iPod World.” They completed nearly 2 years of sellout shows across the planet and then took a well-deserved break.
Kirk has quietly been involved in a number of charity’s over the years – Greenpeace, the Starlight Foundation, Mirabel, World Vision and Amnesty International to name a few. For several years, he has been the key ambassador for the Eye Foundation, a role he doesn’t take lightly after nearly losing his sight to Glaucoma in the mid 80’s.
In 2009, Kirk appeared in the hit TV show, “Celebrity Masterchef” and was runner up in the popular shows finale. Kirk has always enjoyed cooking and even did a “backyard Chinese Cooking Course” when he was 18. His parents had also opened a restaurant in their Cottage Point house when he was a teenager, so perhaps it “runs in the family…”
Kirk is the proud Dad of a daughter April, born in 1988 to his first (defacto) wife, Karen Hutchinson. He now resides in his Northern Beaches home in Sydney with his wife, 7 X world surfing champion, Layne Beachley.
Kirk has a large farm about 2 hours south of Sydney, which he bought 17 years ago. “The farm is a good balance from the hectic, gypsy life of a Rockstar. There are pockets of rainforest and some amazing waterfalls – it’s an absolutely gorgeous place. It’s a working farm with cattle, horses, chooks and 2 barn cats. It’s also a very private place, and I Iike that.”
Kirk also loves sailing but prefers to ‘rent” rather than own. His favourite sailing spot is around the Cowan and Coal & Candle Creek area of Sydney, which is in fact where he spent his childhood. “We moved to Sydney in 1966 because Dad fell in love with this unique house right on the water at Cottage Point. It was a great place to grow up – fishing, swimming, boating, bushwalking and rock climbing. But later as a teenager, I wanted to get out of there to go practice with the band.” This was a difficult task as the rest of “the band” lived near the High School they all attended, a mere 23kms away, with little or no Public Transport for Kirk to commute on (in fact to get to High School, half Kirk’s journey involved hitch-hiking). “Now I realise what a wonderful place it was for a kid to grow up in and made me who I am today…”
FAVOURITE INXS SONGS OR ALBUMS:
“That’s a hard one because songs are like your children, so it’s wrong to favour one against another. I love them all for different reasons. “Welcome To Wherever You Are” would have to be my favourite album recorded whilst Michael was alive. Ironically, everyone was quite distracted at the time, but it was an album where we said anyone could try anything they wanted to and if it worked it worked, if it didn’t it didn’t. So it was a very creative album. It was particularly so for me because Tim was really sick at the time and so I ended up playing quite a lot of stuff on the album, I had a lot of input. In saying that though, I think “Switch” is an incredible album too, especially as we had a completely new singer that we hadn’t worked with, and we recorded, mixed, mastered and delivered it to the record company, with artwork, in under 5 weeks….”
On A Bus
Just Keep Walking
Learn To Smile
Big Go Go
Fair Weather Ahead
Night Of Rebellion
What Would You Do
Face The Change
Good + Bad Times
By My Side
We Are The Vegetables
Like It Or Not
The Unloved One