By Keith Sharp
Eighties classic rock audiophiles may remember Andrew Farriss as one of the three Farris brothers (along with Jon and Tim) who made up one-half of Australia’s INXS which enjoyed global success in the mid-’80s with albums like “Listen Like Thieves”, “Kick” and “X”.
But what they may not know is that Farriss wrote or co-wrote virtually all of his band’s hit material, that he was responsible for creating that dance/funk sound which, in retrospect, was well ahead of its time.
And after the controversial “suicide” death of the lead vocalist Michael Hutchence in November 1997, Farriss went on to pen material for the likes of Jenny Morris, Tania Kernaghan and indigenous band Yothu Yindi while receiving Australian Music Hall Of Fame honours in 2016 and the Order of Australia in 2020.
Yet even though Farriss went into semi-retirement after the band took what has been a permanent hiatus in 2012, operating a cattle farm in the New South Wales, Tamworth region, he continued to write and record demos for other people but never got around to issuing his own solo album – until now.
Just released is the self-titled `Andrew Farriss’ recording, a Country-flavoured A/C release, strongly influenced by a trip to Nashville and a six-day horseback ride with his American wife through the Western triangle of New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico which resulted in a number of tracks featured on the album. This followed an EP, “Love Makes The World Go Round” which was released in October 2020.
Surprisingly, Farriss’s debut album came as a result of his dissatisfaction with the demos he was recording for other artists. “I wasn’t happy with the recordings, I wasn’t happy with the songs so I travelled to Nashville to re-record them in a professional environment, thinking I would get someone else to record them who knew what they were doing.” Farriss said over the phone from his New South Wales ranch.” But the engineers down there asked me why was I re-recording my voice, they said “we like your voice, sing them yourselves man!”
While in Nashville, Farriss and his wife Marlina took the opportunity to discover the United States’ wild west environment by undertaking a six-day horse-riding excursion. “I thought it was going to be like a little pony ride but it was a little more than that,” he laughed. “And I was amazed at the history of the area, we went to places like Apache Pass and Tombstone, we visited Geronimo’s reservations. We saw the real Wild West, not just how Hollywood had depicted it.”
Farriss returned to Nashville, inspired by the trip which resulted in songs like “Apache Pass”, “Starlight”, “Son Of A Gun” and even penned an ode to infamous Australian Ned Kelly Gang which all feature strong steel guitar/fiddle arrangements. For Farriss, this was a dream ambition to write Country-flavoured material yet that rock/funk sound that marked INXS’s 80’s hits is also evident on the album’s stand-out track “You Are My Rock” plus other more funky/pop/AC tracks like “Come Midnight” “Good Momma Bad” “Run Baby Run” and “Where Do You Sleep Tonight”
“When I started this journey, I was standing on a landscape, like a huge canvas, I couldn’t see any boundaries in place,” Farriss commented on his solo album experience. “There’s no road map to determine where I was going so I wanted all the lyrics on the album to relate to each other. I actually achieved something cohesive as a body of work.”
Even though Farriss is pushing ahead with his solo release, he is constantly aware of the legacy, INXS forged during the mid-eighties when he, brothers Tim and Jon, bassist Gary Beers and guitarist Kirk Pengilly supported charismatic frontman Michael Hutchence, releasing a series of platinum-selling albums and radio-friendly hits like “Need You Tonight”, “New Sensation, “Suicide Blonde” Dance Inside” and “Never Tear Us Apart” “I’ve had guys like Rob Thomas, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers and Train’s Pat Monaghan tell me they feel INXS still sounds as contemporary as ever. They say that things we were doing then we’re way ahead of its time,” reflected Farriss. “I’ve had a younger generation of people come to me and say to me “have you heard this music? And I say “well yes, I wrote it!”
Andrew Farriss – Photo by Michael McMartin
Strangely enough, Farriss claims their record company (Atlantic) initially disliked the band’s funk/rock sound. “They would ask us, `why don’t you make music like U2 or those big hair bands,’” he laughed. “Just play metal, you’ll make a fortune, but we didn’t do that, that’s not who we were.”
Unfortunately, the original band was struck by the tragedy of Hutchence’s suicide in 1997, which occurred right after the band had executed a 20th-anniversary world tour in support of their `Elegantly Wasted’ release. And although the band tried to carry on with new frontmen including Canada’s J.D Fortune, Australian Jon Stevens and England’s Terrence Trent D’Arby, they decided to call a hiatus after a November 2012 concert appearance.
“It was a shame what happened to Michael (Hutchence) I don’t know what he was thinking at the time,” commented Farriss. “We tried to carry on but it doesn’t take much imagination to think for a minute what would the Rolling Stones do without Mick Jagger or U2 without Bono. That was our dilemma.”
When you look at the band’s legacy, Farriss is asked whether his contribution to the band’s recording success and writing prowess has been fully recognized. “In response, he retold quotes from his departed father. He would say to me “No one gets through life without help from other people” and “You can achieve anything in life so long as you don’t care who gets the credit for it.”
“If all you care about are the accolades and the awards. don’t bother,” Farriss concluded. “Ultimately, success is a lot more than just personal achievements.”