IN THE STUDIO WITH INXS (recording of Listen Like Thieves)

by: Neill McCutcheon

INXS is more than six extraordinary individuals who make music, they are joined by a similarly enthusiastic group of people who contribute some unique ideas. Australia's most popular band was in Rhinoceros Studios, Sydney, recording their sixth album. They were busy, to say the least, moving out of studio A into studio C tuning instruments, discussing their work and joking around ... the new album took three months to record. But despite the pressures of time and money, INXS decided to talk to Dolly.

Sitting in a smaller studio within the Rhinoceros complex, with only a tape recorder between me and the members of this very successful band, I talked to a couple of the guys at a time. That's what interviewers do, I guess. You have to know what to talk about, though...

Tape: 000 - 486

NEILL: So ... how's the new album? Happy so far?

MICHAEL: Uh ... we are, yeah. Real happy.
TIM: Yeah. Chris Thomas is turning out really great for me for guitar playing. I don't know ... he likes everything I like. His way of getting sounds is meticulous but it always ends up really good. Same with Michael's vocals. When he actually records ... it seems to go down really quickly. Same with my guitar.
MICHAEL: I'm doing some of the best ... for me.

NEILL: Is there a particular INXS feel / style / theme on this album? Has the producer caught that?

MICHAEL: Yeah ... that's a fair question. I think really ... this band doesn't believe in the fact that a band has to have THIS producer. You know we really like to take on a producer ... it's like a seventh member for an album. We make it so that every producer does have an effect and different people and different situations and if you do take that into account and change producers with every album, you're getting a different ... a different angle each time.

NEILL: How would you say this album you're doing now compares with previous albums? If at all?

TIM: I'd hate to think that any of our previous albums are alike so ...
MICHAEL: I think it's the happiest I've been ...
TIM: This one will be different again ...
MICHAEL: That's why we don't have to contend with that responsibility. When the people that like the band agree with that sort of attitude, they know that there's nothing to expect. This is going to be different ... and hopefully it will be good. I mean, we're very happy with this ... very happy.

NEILL: How long has the album taken to make?

MICHAEL: Ha ... it's taken two and a half months up to now.

NEILL: And you've got, like another couple of weeks?

MICHAEL: Uh huh ... couple of weeks and then mix it in London.

NEILL: Is that an average sort of time to make an album for INXS?

TIM: So far it's been quicker, I think ... for where it's at.

NEILL: Yeah?

TIM: Oh, but we're trying to do a lot more recording, though, that for just the album. We're trying to do as many tracks as we can with Chris. We'll do about 12 or 13. What we've done is picked the songs that we think are right for the album and we'll record them, probably plus a couple more ... quite a few B sides.

NEILL: Richard Lowenstein. Will he be making the video clips for this album?

MICHAEL: We're not sure actually.
TIM: We've worked a lot with Richard and I'm sure we're going to be working again with him, but ...
MICHAEL: Well, he just did this video for us ...

NEILL: The video looks great. A compilation of clips and interviews.

MICHAEL: Yeah, sort of.
TIM: But we've done a lot of extra stuff for it, a lot of other footage ...
MICHAEL: Lynne-Marie's done some great animation.

NEILL: She's fantastic. I really like the images associated with INXS. Real good. The Shabooh Shoobah cover is great, too.

MICHAEL: Ah yes ... well you know, thank you, thank you. That's Grant Mathew's and my little baby there.

NEILL: So, you get different people designing, eh? You (Michael) did Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing?

MICHAEL: Yeah. The Swing was actually our first record company cover ... from the point of view that ... we had lots of ideas and we really couldn't decide ...

NEILL: Yeah ...

MICHAEL: But we had the descriptive terminology of what we wanted ... we couldn't come up with it so ... we gave it to somebody who does that sort of stuff, - Phil Mortlock (WEA) and he, basically came up with it. OK ... next question.

NEILL: Dekadance. Did you have to do any extra work on that or just use what you had?

TIM: We did some work on it previously to it's release, uh ... you know. Twelve inches and stuff like that and it was just, uh ... getting together and discussing what we wanted and I liked the concept of it ... not being a very long record. Just a cassette.
MICHAEL: YEAH! ... it's a first ... in the world ... I think.

NEILL: Brilliant ...

MICHAEL: Well, "brilliant" might be going a bit far.
TIM: We wanted it to be something that was ... you know ... a real buzz for people to get something under twelve dollars.

NEILL: One thing that does make it ... different. You've got a cover on it - "Jackson" ...

MICHAEL: Jenny Morris and I and Michelle and .... somebody else ... Nick Conroy ... of Castles In Spain ...
TIM: We were all in the studio doing some demos and there was this pink Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood album ... and the rest is history.
MICHAEL: ... Because Jenny and I ... we used to listen to it all the time and went down to the studio and recorded it - really sloppily I might add. Just sort of "one take" stuff ... just had a lot of fun and then suddenly we dragged it out onto Dekadance and it went on to the country charts. I'm so happy.

NEILL: That's the first time you did a duet Michael?

MICHAEL: That's the first time I did a duet. I must say that's true. It's great ... well it's embarrassing because Jenny is such a brilliant singer technically and she gets it perfect, every time you know ... la la la la la ...

NEILL: You should do one with Kate Ceberano.

MICHAEL: I'd love to do one with Katie Ceberano, 'cause I love Katie. Big talent.

NEILL: How do you feel about awards? By the time this interview is published, the Countdown Music and Video awards will have come and gone ...

TIM: We'll be happy if we don't win any. We'll be happy is we win all of them.
MICHAEL: The pressure upon you is immense because by indexing ... it's qualifying popularity ... giving it a level, giving it a numerical value. You know?

NEILL: Yeah. (sure)

MICHAEL: We don't know what's going to happen. It'll be, hopefully just a fun night. I don't think it should be viewed with too great an importance ... it's not going to educate anybody, as far as what music's on about.
TIM: But it's a great idea ... and it helps focalise Australian music into a direction which it desperately needs.
MICHAEL: It's good to see banks like, you know ... Hoodoo Gurus nominated or at least included in the nominations etc etc you know ... it's acknowledgement. It's an industry trip, though. It's great to be acknowledged for your music but also, it goes to all these people that work to make an album do so well. Everyone has different ideas ... Hey, this is your first interview, isn't it?

NEILL: I had no idea what I was getting into. I was just going to visit Michael one time and it turned into an interview with INXS.

MICHAEL: But they don't want me pulled out, you see. Well, ... we don't want me pulled out. I don't want me pulled out ... but it's a great idea ... it's like doing a Dolly interview but, instead of coming in and going blaa blaa ... sort of checking out studio life. It's a good idea.
TIM: Yeah.

NEILL: OK ... That's enough about that.

MICHAEL: Let's interview. COME ON NEILL this is your first interview, but we're gonna give you a hard time mate. I mean ... we already have.
TIM: Yeah, a real hard time.
MICHAEL: OK ... come on Neill. Don't let us get away with anything. Give us a hard time.

NEILL: Umm ... How do you think the band has progressed?

TIM: I think we've progressed to the point of knowing our capabilities and applying them in whatever way the song calls for. We're coming more and more down to the songs every time now. That's where our heart and soul is at the moment, I think. In the song. We're not trying to make any "wow, aren't we good musician's" type tracks.


NEILL: How have your production techniques changed/developed through the five albums you've done so far?

TIM: Yeah, well, we're doing a lot more in the "live" way.
MICHAEL: We sound very much like a band at the moment. In the last two years, there hasn't been more than a handful, literally, of bands in the top 20 around the world ... By saying "how has a band progressed", you're implying that it has and you don't necessarily progress to get better. We're sympathetic to how things change. We like to change people or at least, we change them. I think we have in some ways. Especially as far as "funk rock" goes.

NEILL: Do you like INXS, Jenny?

JENNY: Oh God no ... I do think they're pretty OK. Ever since I sang with them at ... uh ... where was it I sang with you?
TIM: The ... uh ... Tivoli?
JENNY: No ... Manlyvale ... and Michael said, "This is Jenny Morris, she's from Darlinghurst and she's gonna be a star". I love them, I think they're great.


NEILL: Tim, what do you do when your not working?

JENNY: I know ... can I answer that one ... GO FISHING!!


NEILL: What do you like to do when you're not working?

MICHAEL: Most of the time I think about what I'm going to do tomorrow. And it doesn't even matter if I figure it out. I just love friends and going out for dinner and visiting people ... reading ... movies ... bizarre sexual acts.

NEILL: Look ... That's probably enough eh?

MICHAEL: Oh, it is not. Can I just say a few more blunt things ... ?

Tape 501 - 812

NEILL: Are you happy with the new album ... so far?

JON: Yes.
GARRY: Yes. Can't wait till it's finished.
JON: Do you want us to ad lib on "yes"? I think, obviously, as most things progress in the studio each day, it changes colour. I don't think there's really been a time when we've been in the studio and not been happy. We've got to the point where we're able to have the time we need ...

NEILL: What's good about the new album?

JON: It's NEW. Like all the albums we've done, they're all different and they all tie into each other.

NEILL: How much input do you have in the running of INXS as a band? As a business?

GARRY: Writing music or performing, you've got to be aware of the formalities that go along with that outside of the recording studio. People are out there making phone calls and talking on behalf of you - it's really important to keep track of everything, which is really hard - obviously, trying to keep track of a worldwide thing is very difficult. We basically, are informed of everything, we have to be.

NEILL: So, apart from the music, the performing and the writing ... how much do you think about the promotion of INXS?

JON: We have a lot to do with it. There are outside contributors - we can't be that dogmatic and defiant. We have the management and we sit down and, perhaps, cross ideas over. We obviously have to be aware of making ourselves available and how you do it, which is (and awful word) called marketing.

NEILL: Dekadance is a great album, as such, it's a "cassette only" type of thing. A very novel idea, which is so good to see. Something different. Did the band think of this? Or the management? Who does that sort of thing?

GARRY: We do have a lot of people who are very interested in presenting us to the public.
JON: What we do is, say, we have an idea. We say we want to make a cassette which people are drawn to buy. 'Cause cassettes are really good fun .... plastic ... put it in your pocket. So then we come up with some ideas ... we feed them to people who submite submissions, and sort of have a look at a table full of ideas, and we say ... this one is best. You've got to give somebody an input to come back with something. You've got to suggest an idea. So, Chris (Murphy) came up with this idea of a cigarette packet. A cardboard box is ... different to a cassette ... it's more special. It's been a success ... it's the largest selling cassette next to an album, sold in Australia.

NEILL: You could get a platinum cassette?

GARRY: It's a very good feeling that it worked so well cause you can tend to feel when you're working so long in the studio that you're neglecting your audience.
JON: Really, what brought that about was, we had all these re-mixes lying around and we thought it was a shame not to let people hear them.

NEILL: The INXS video, The Swing And Other Stories was fantastic. The graphics that Lynne-Marie did ...

JON: Yeah, she's great ... the animation.

NEILL: She also did the animation on "Burn For You"eh?

GARRY: And you actually see her face in part of the video ... the excerpt from Strikebound.

NEILL: When this album is finished, what are you going to be doing?

JON: Well, it's going to be mixed overseas and I don't think all of us will stay here. We'll talk to the press and then, you know, do some film clips when the band is together and start rehearsing for the tour.

NEILL: Do you like touring?

GARRY: I like it, it's hard ... to like it so much when you have been doing it a lot ... pretty extensive tours. Like, the last tour we did, we were eight months away from home ... that got pretty hard.
JON: We've had comments like, "Aw, you guys ... it should be unreal, cause, like ... you go around the world ...." Well, it is, but like you sit and look out of a window at something that's on a postcard and you look at it as long as you would a postcard and then you're off again.
GARRY: You haven't even got time to buy a postcard. The last tour of America was so full on and hard ... we actually did tour back in America, one with the Go-Go's and one by ourselves ... and it was just like ... you do a show, you get in the bus, you drive to the next town. There are some fun things that happen. Nile Rogers getting up on stage with us in New York ... The obvious fun thing is playing. That is the fun thing! We hardly ever have bad shows. That's what keeps us together, besides loving each other ... let go of my foot Jon ... um, is the love of our music, the fact that we enjoy playing music together.

NEILL: What are your personal future plans?

JON: It's very hard to make personal plans with the band being in a situation where ... in the long term or even in the next two or three years ...
GARRY: Or even tonight!
JON: ... It restricts what you can do.
GARRY: I've been asked to do some producing for a couple of young Sydney bands ... I haven't had time to do any others. There's lots of things like that to do ... I'd like to learn some more instruments myself, want to buy a baby grand piano or if someone would give me one ... if any of those Dolly readers want to give away their mother's baby grand piano ... And a proper upright double bass. It'd be good to get serious about music. I always think ... I never do. I never practice. I'd just like to learn a lot about music theory ... just for fun.

NEILL: What about you, Jon?

JON: I have a lot of ideas that I'd prefer not to talk about until they happen. I did a single with Kam Sha ... I produced it. Andrew Scott, who runs Rhinoceros here, started out with me and I, kind of like, finished it off. We started off co-producing and then he pulled out and I ended up mixing it and finished it off. Did all the remixes and everything.

NEILL: Their latest single, "Work Till You Drop" - how did you find producing it?

JON: I don't know if it would be very easy to make a living out of producing. It takes a lot a time and energy and more than anything, experience.

NEILL: How do you feel about getting awards?

JON: Awards ... I don't know. I can get really philosophical that way.
GARRY: I know how I'm going to feel when I'm sitting there and if we do win ... for example. best band ... I'm going to be wrapped. I'm very proud of the Australian music scene. I think there's a lot of great bands and I'll be very proud if people think we're up there. It is good to get recognition. We have always tried to present a good thing to people. Something that we enjoy and that we hope everyone else enjoy's too. I have a lot of faith in this band.

Tape 820 - 076

NEILL: How much does this studio cost to use?

KIRK: $1000 a day. You pay for the whole 24 hours a day, rather than, say, paying from midday to midnight or something. It works out at a cheaper rate.

NEILL: OK ... so ... how's the new album? Are you happy with it so far?

ANDREW: Yeah, I think it's going to be ... uh ... another INXS album. It's not finished yet you know. I mean, it seems to me every time we make an album it goes on from the next (last?) one ... and it's the same with this one.
KIRK: The last three albums, like ... from Shabooh Shoobah, when you look at what we've done ... this album is getting a little bit more back to basics. Whereas The Swing ... we used a very technical producer, Nick Launay, who was really into sound for sound's sake sort of thing. I think this album, with Chris Thomas, it's definately more songs for songs sake. Don't you think?
ANDREW: Most definately.
KIRK: There's only one song with sax on it so far, normally we have at least three songs per album.

NEILL: Do you have a particular "theme"for this album? A particular "sound" or ...

KIRK: The theme we have, really, is the producer, if you know what I mean. It's not like a musical theme ... it just becomes - in the end result, the producer or the production.
ANDREW: If you're looking for a theme in the album, then definately there's more interest put into strength of the songs - that's a theme in itself on this album.

NEILL: So each album has a lot to do with the producer working on it? How long is it going to be till it's finished ... until you hear it in it's entirety?

ANDREW: Well, Chris Thomas (the producer) unfortunately takes a long time to remix. It's unfortunate for two reasons - A because I'm dying to hear it finished and - B because it's going to cost a lot of money but, you know, if you get to the stage where this band is at you can only keep going. So this album, basically will be finished whenever it can be finished.
KIRK: I'd estimate that, or I would hope ... that it would be finished by the end of June as far as being mixed and ready to be pressed. Andrew's right, though. As far as we are concerned the album at the moment is the most important thing. Actually - you're probably the only person we've done an interview with, in probably six months, so things like interviews, photo sessions and that - or anything to do with the other side of what we do - we've said no.

NEILL: Do you feel that when you become big, you have a bigger responsibility as well?

ANDREW: Yeah, you definately have that, although I'm starting to think more and more that the bigger you get - one of the nice things about being a big band (if I can keep tossing that cliche around) is that you can actually , do whatever the hell you want. That's what I've been thinking recently. And you get to a point ... "What am I doing all this for anyway". Your goals have got to be re-ezamined sooner or later in whatever you're doing - in anything. And to me, I'm beginning to think that this album might surprise a few people. Because there's certain things that I know all of us are doing which are a little bit out of the ordinary for every one of us. That's a way of re-examining goals and doing something different.
KIRK: I think with every album, we've taken risks. This, in a way, has been the safest. I think what we're doing as far as songs go is risky but as far as producer and studio and things like that, it's very non risky.

NEILL: Can't go wrong ... ?

KIRK: Yeah. Because we've worked in this studio before and enjoyed it. With other albums, we've taken risks with producers. For example, Richard Clapton - Underneath The Colours - wasn't actually a producer - he was a musician and we wanted to try that combination. With all the people we've used it's been a risk or an experiment. With this one the risk element is, perhaps, more in the music.

NEILL: You're at a stage now where you can virtually do anything you want to do ...

KIRK: In Australia.
ANDREW: It doesn't really apply anywhere else. In fact, most of the attitudes on this album are more geared up to what we've learnt in the last two years travelling around the world.
KIRK: We don't consciously think about the markets ... we've always been fairly selfish musically and we just do what we feel is right, basically. In Australia we are in a position where we can experiment musically more so than we have in the past because of where we are, but that, perhaps mightn't work for us in America or something, so we still have to be a bit careful what we do.

NEILL: So ... what do you think of INXS' cover designs?

ANDREW: I think the covers are good and they're important and I think you can get carried away on a cover. That's all I think about covers anyway.

NEILL: ... which is something you haven't done with INXS designs.

ANDREW: Hopefully not.

NEILL: With Dekadance, did you simply re-mix existing tracks ir did the band actually come in and do more work?

KIRK: Andrew had a lot to do with most of the mixing.
ANDREW: In a way, we were sort of lucky that cassette ended up sounding the way it did 'cause each song sounds very different from the original. Each of the songs was really done in a totally different way. Like one of the songs was done in a little 24 track studio in Brookvale on the beach. Then another one was done in New York City at the Powerstation. Another one was recorded at The Manor in England and one was finished off here at Rhinoceros in Sydney. So we've got all these different sounds from all around the world, basically on this cassette. And then you've got people ... like you've got Mark Opitz and Australian producer who re-mixed "What I Say", which was done here in Australia. Then I re-mixed one of the tracks that were recorded in England. Nile Rogers, from America, re-mixed the track that was done in America. And I think that's great. The cassette ended up with a lot of different sounds on it whereas most bands use the same producer to re-mix the same songs done in the same studio. All the songs off Dekadance sound very different to each other.

NEILL: And different from the original on The Swing?

ANDREW: Mmmm ... in length and sound.

NEILL: How do you like touring?

ANDREW: There's a lot of pluses and negatives.

NEILL: What do you like to do in your spare time?

KIRK: Me? Generally, I don't go out much because I spend most of my life out so when I'm home, I prefer to stay at home ... not go out to clubs. If you asked me to take you out and show you the night spots of Sydney there's no way I could do it 'cause I've got no idea, 'cause I never go out in Sydney ... I always stay at home. I like television. I love movies - especially that period around the 30's and 40's 'cause I live swing music.
ANDREW: I like reading books.

NEILL: As opposed to shop front windows or signs - or doing interviews?

ANDREW: Oh yeah. Doing interviews. I don't know, I'm a bit unsettled in life at the moment. In this line, you have to leave the country all the time and you can't really get into anything here because there's no time to and you can't really get into anything overseas 'cause there's no time to. All you can get involved in is what you're doing. The secret is ... is to be happy in whatever you're doing, then that's OK. So I'm thinking about the next four hours of my life instead of the next 10 years... what we're trying to do is actually achieve something on a very big scale. That's what you have to keep remembering - that it's a big scale you're going for, it's not a little scale. Those other things can come later, it's OK.

Copyright Dolly Magazine Australia 1985