INXS songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player Andrew Farriss and creative director/global business strategist Chris Murphy have spoken exclusively to Billboard.biz about the apparent departure of lead singer J.D. Fortune.

The frontman sang lead vocals with the long-running, multi-platinum Australian rock band for four years after winning the CBS reality TV series "Rock Star: INXS" in 2005. But Fortune claimed in a television interview Feb. 16 that the band had fired him on a handshake at a Hong Kong airport.

INXS has denied that such a meeting ever took place. "It's bizarre," says Farriss. "Frankly, if you can make any sense out of it, I'd love to have it explained to me."

Murphy, who was INXS' longtime manager during their rise to international acclaim and is now working with the band again, recalls of the circumstances: "Everybody's doing their own thing, I'm focusing on what I'm doing, next minute somebody calls you and gives you a link to YouTube and you go 'What's going on here?'"

Murphy observes that the rest of the band are on a creative high that he has not witnessed since the "Kick" era of 1987, and adds: "I just find it annoying that something so unfulfilling is causing the band any distractions. From my perspective, I wouldn't want to work with [a] guy that works in this manner.

"If the band said to me tomorrow, 'We'd still like you to make that call and talk to him about working on a project,' I'd have to say 'Sorry, I have to go.' I'm not being rude or arrogant, I just find that extraordinary behaviour, and this is a professional, mature outfit. I don't want to play in that playground."

INXS' last studio album, and the only one on which Fortune sang lead vocals, was 2005's "Switch," which debuted and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 in December 2005. Murphy says that the band is currently on a recording project, on completion of which, "when the time is right, I'll get talking to the labels."

Farriss points out that after original frontman Michael Hutchence's death in 1997, INXS worked with a number of other singers including Terence Trent D'Arby and Jon Stevens, "singers we'd known for years and get on great with, and still do. The future is whatever we make it."

Concludes Murphy: "We're just concentrating on the project at hand. There are some amazing singers in this world, let's leave it at that."

For more on INXS and its new publishing deal with Warner/Chappell see the current issue of Billboard magazine.