For their first album in five years, INXS are "reimagining" their classic hits with different arrangements and singers, including Ben Harper, Rob Thomas and the Killers' Brandon Flowers. The still-untitled release is slated for the fall.
" 'Original Sin' with Rob Thomas almost has a Cuban connection with some Spanish rap in it. That was really exciting," drummer Jon Farris tells Rolling Stone, adding that Thomas also recorded a version of "Never Tear Us Apart." He says many backing tracks were laid down in London with most of the London Symphony Orchestra, "So that is really rich and juicy and almost has a James Bond-y sort of rhythm bed along with that. So it was the juxtaposition of the classic and Sixties' secret agent."
Brandon Flowers did a "really beautiful, heart-wrenching rendition" of "Beautiful Girl" when the Killers were in Australia for V-Fest. Ben Harper sang "Devil Inside" when INXS were in L.A. before Christmas. Nikka Costa and Tricky have also "been involved," although Farriss won't say on which tracks. He is also trying to "prepare" a song for Argentina's Deborah de Corral so she can sing one in Spanish and English.
"Everyone who sings on the stuff has their own style, their own take on things, and that's why it's so wonderful," Farriss adds, saying that the band took a bit of a breather after their worldwide tour with Rockstar: INXS winner J.D. Fortune supporting 2005's Switch. Fortune went to the media last year saying he was homeless and bandless after being dismissed from INXS "with a handshake" at an airport; he later said he simply hadn't heard from the band in 10 months.
Farriss acknowledges the members of INXS were "disappointed" by Fortune's statements but figured he was drumming up interest in his solo album Death of a Motivational Speaker. They also surmised he might not have understood that the band was also just taking a much-needed break. "We felt we needed space; we needed time to just let things happen naturally. We'd run our course," explains Farriss. "We'd done what we'd set out to do with J.D. and, basically, everyone went home, contrary to the story that there was some definitive moment of firing. That never happened. That was just, I guess, a good story."
After the bandmembers took some time for their personal lives and families, they regrouped to discuss the next chapter in INXS. "Getting the creative juices is the most important thing for us, to get that thing, that flame that burns in us, which is what makes INXS — and that is creativity is the focus," says Farriss, remembering how it was when the band first formed in 1977 with the late Michael Hutchence as frontman. "That's really the essence of what we're about and always were about. That's why we used to come from school and play in the garage."
While INXS will record another original studio album in the future, this new one — on their manager Chris Murphy's Petrol Records (it still needs distribution in various territories, including North America) — is "a transitional step," says Farriss. "We wanted to use to some of our existing songs and invite and integrate some well-known singers and very experienced and seasoned singers, friends of ours, and some up-and-coming artists, and just make it a collaboration of getting INXS to be involved in all sorts of things — and using the original material as the focal point."
The world will get a preview of what the band has in mind when they perform a one-hour concert at the Olympics tonight as part of the Vancouver Victory Ceremonies, which start at 6:25 p.m. PT. Fortune will sing a few songs as a "special guest," as will de Corral and Wendisue.
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