INXS’ Hutchence Rejects Rock Star Image

Times Staff Writer

“This is what I think of rock stars,” said Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the Australian band INXS. In a gesture of disgust, he mimed spitting on the floor of the elegant pool-side patio at a swank Beverly Hills hotel.

A passing waitress, apparently thinking he had actually spit, looked strangely at him as she walked past. “She probably thinks I’m some crude rock star,” cracked Hutchence, who probably works harder than any other rock figure at not being like a star.

When Hutchence was not venting his wrath against his dreaded peers, he was explaining why he’s working with another Australian band, Max Q, whose first album, “Max Q,” has just been released on Atlantic Records--also INXS’ label.

Part of the time was spent clearing up misconceptions about Max Q, which plays quirky, sociopolitical, cerebral rock that seems to be going in several directions at once. It’s not the kind of funky, danceable, straight-ahead rock INXS is noted for. If it weren’t for Hutchence’s identifiable vocal style, you’d never associate Max Q with INXS.


“It’s not my new band, I’m still with INXS,” Hutchence said. “We’ll be recording at the end of the year. The Max Q album is something I wrote and produced with my friend Ollie Olsen and some other Australian musicians. Max Q is a one-shot deal. The band isn’t going to tour and doesn’t exist beyond this album.”

The patio, sizzling in the afternoon sun, was empty. If it had been crowded, Hutchence would have undoubtedly been recognized--just like any other high-profile rock star. That would have really made him angry.

“I don’t get recognized much, thank God,” said Hutchence, 29, who’s one of those handsome, moody, mercurial types who seem to be a magnet for women. “That’s because I don’t ask for it. Rock stars walk around with an entourage of bodyguards, supposedly to protect themselves from the fans. Actually, they’re looking to be recognized. Rock stars are the saddest people in the world.

“They’re neurotic idiots--jerks. They’re adolescents who never grew up. If the kids really knew what these people were like, they wouldn’t idolize them, they’d throw up. These are decadent people. I’ve lived a more decadent life than I’ve told anybody, but decadence isn’t a way of life for me. Rock stars are horrible people. Being a street cleaner or a baker are more honorable professions.”

Max Q came about as the result of Hutchence meeting Olsen during the filming of the 1986 Australian movie “Dogs in Space.” Hutchence was the star and Olsen the musical supervisor. A single from the sound track, “Rooms for the Memory,” an Olsen composition that Hutchence sings, was a hit in Australia, and they decided to work together again later on.

Hutchence didn’t have time until earlier this year, following the INXS world tour promoting the band’s last album, “Kick,” a multimillion seller that elevated INXS to superstar status.

In Max Q, Hutchence is matched with Olsen and some of his underground rock friends--just the kind of unpredictable and unexpected combination that Hutchence relishes.

“Ollie isn’t supposed to hang around with pop stars and I’m not supposed to hang around with punk types,” Hutchence said. “The band is made up of rowdy friends from Melbourne. These guys are good musicians who’ve never had a chance. Most of them have never even been in a studio. These are real underground people who don’t have any money. Some of them have never been on a plane before. They were worried that working with me, they’d lose their underground status.

“This album is a meeting of the alter egos. Ollie is this underground musician living out his pop fantasy. That’s his alter ego. I’m getting a chance to do something totally different, working with underground musicians. That’s my alter-ego thing.”

Hutchence started the project with his own money, but Atlantic decided to release it. According to Hutchence, label executives were skeptical after they found out his name wouldn’t be part of the title and his picture wouldn’t be prominently displayed on the album. (The Max Q face on the cover is a composite of the faces of the band members). He is barely in the video for the first single, “Way of the World.” From what Hutchence said, Atlantic’s approval of the project was, to a large degree, the label indulging one of its biggest stars.

Surprisingly, before starting the project, he didn’t inform the INXS members. “I just did it,” he said. “I forgot to tell them about it. They were busy doing other things. It didn’t occur to me. When they found out they might have been a little nervous at first. But they found out I’m not looking to tamper with INXS.

“And fans shouldn’t worry. INXS is safe. Looks like I’ll have to be a rock star a little while longer.”

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