"We're cranking up the big handle again and heading over yonder," says INXS guitarist Tim Farriss about his band's upcoming trek across America, the Aussie group's first since 1997. "We're really, really excited about it. It's going to be a real interesting show."
Beginning May 30th in Anaheim, California, the twenty-four-date jaunt will mark the band's first stateside gigs since the death of singer Michael Hutchence. Filling in on vocal duties for the time being is longtime friend of the band Jon Stevens, who over the last few years has taken the vocal reins at INXS shows Down Under.
"Jon's got an awesome voice," Farriss says of the former Noiseworks frontman. "He's a great friend and that's really good too because part of the INXS makeup was the fact that the six of us were so close -- having toured together all our lives and worked together all our lives since we were children. Replacing Michael will never happen, but to have someone else sing with us who's a really good friend makes this whole transitional period a lot easier."
The shows will be packed full of INXS hits, as well as selections from the twenty-seven new tracks the band has written over the last year, including "Funkster," "Smokin' Guns" and "Coocoo Baby." The tour will also help decide the band's future, including whether Stevens will remain on as vocalist.
"We haven't toured like this since Michael died," Farriss says. "So we don't feel it's fair to say, 'Oh look, here's the new permanent lead singer,' because we may never tour again. We're sort of testing the water ourselves and seeing how we feel about it. We're very honored he's agreed to do this tour with us, but anything is possible at this point."
The shows will coincide with the June 4th Rhino/Atlantic Records release of The Best of INXS, a set compiled by the remaining members in celebration of the band's quarter century together. In addition, re-mastered versions of the albums Kick, X and Welcome to Wherever You Are will be re-released the same day, featuring previously unreleased material.
"We have a fair amount of stuff we never released that Michael sings [on], and we had a lot of requests from fans to hear it," Farriss says. "Some of them, I personally feel are some of the best songs we ever recorded with Michael. One of my favorites [on the Kick reissue] is 'Jesus Was a Man.' It's really hard without having Michael here to say, 'What do you think?' But it's got so much Michael in it. Every time I hear that song I get chills."
Also in the planning stages are a coffee table book and a Columbia-Tri Star film, and possibly a new U.S. record deal, but the band's current focus is returning to American soil. "Having had this break has re-ignited the passion and the desire to go back out on the road," Farriss says. "Now were excited about it, and that's a great impetus and great motivation."