A New Reality For INXS

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

The greatest question facing INXS since lead singer Michael Hutchence died of an apparent suicide in 1997 was how to replace him. Now, the question many have for the band is, Why do it with a reality show?

INXS guitarist and co-founder Tim Farriss believes the televised contest "promotes the band, promotes the singer, [and] it puts the singer through the rigors of what they're going to have to go through."

"In all seriousness," he adds, "what were we supposed to do? Put an ad in the paper?"

So far, ratings for "Rock Star" have been poor. Its July 11 debut episode finished last in its time slot among the big four networks on a night when CBS won every other prime-time slot. But INXS manager Dave Edwards says he is not concerned. "It's a weird time of the year, a brand-new show and a whole new format," he says. "People still aren't sure what the show is."

The idea for "Rock Star" came from INXS guitarist Kirk Pengilly during a band meeting seven years ago. But it was not until 2003 that the group approached producer Mark Burnett, the creator of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."

"Rock Star" stands apart from other reality TV music shows -- "American Idol," notably -- because it is built around an internationally successful rock band. R&B group TLC will mount a similar effort with "R U the Girl," which debuts July 27 on UPN. That show will follow remaining members T-Boz and Chilli as they audition possible replacements for Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who died in a car accident in 2002.

INXS will choose a winner during the show's Oct. 5 finale. Then the band -- new singer in tow -- will record an album of new material.

Farriss says INXS is excited to hit the studio. "We've got a shitload of great songs. We've been writing for a really long time now."

The new Epic record will be followed by a tour at the end of the year.

It remains to be seen who will buy the album. Plenty of longtime INXS fans have registered their disapproval -- at inxs.com and elsewhere on the Web -- of the show's impact on Hutchence's legacy.

Farriss says the band would never do anything to diminish Hutchence's memory. "Michael was like a brother to me and part of our family. We'd never do anything to disrespect his legacy."

Farriss thinks Hutchence would find the situation amusing. "He always had a great sense of humor. But I also think he'd be kind of bummed, because he's dead -- he'd be really disappointed that we had to make the show in the first place."

Excerpted and expanded from the July 30, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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