Although he can chuckle philosophically about it now, INXS' Andrew Farriss remembers the time when the band turned in their sixth studio album, Kick, to their record label. The reaction, he admits, was less than enthusiastic. "They thought we were from Mars," he says. "‘What are you doing?’ they said. ‘We can’t get this on the radio. You have to be like what’s happening now.’ And we were like, ‘Well, we think this is what’s happening now.’"
The six-piece Australian band (which then featured the original lineup of Farriss and his brothers Jon and Tim, along with the late Michael Hutchence, as well as Kirk Pengilly and Garry Gary Beers) had just come off a sizable hit with 1985's Listen Like Thieves, and the label wanted to take no chances at building on its success, even offering the group $1 million to go back to the drawing board to record another album.
“Ironically, I think they were trying to help us," Farriss says. "I don’t blame them – we’ve never been an easy band to figure out. I think the passage of time has really proved that Michael and I as songwriters did what we needed to do."
After a nearly 10-year slow-but-steady climb, INXS had finally scored a breakout hit with the rock-funk track What You Need (from Listen Like Thieves). "It had this this balls-to-the-wall chorus and a funk-rock beat that worked so well together," Farriss says. "When it got on the charts, Michael and I looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we might be on to something.’"
With the rest of the band's blessings, Farriss and Hutchence holed up to write the album that would become Kick. They used What You Need as their template. "The melding of funk and rock was always in our heads," says Farriss. "We were very excited about the idea of overlaying two types of songs and genres together. There’d been disco in the ‘70s, and people had flirted with certain combinations, but it was always tentative. We decided to not be nervous about veering from straight eights."
As they had done on Listen Like Thieves, the group recorded with famed producer Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, the Pretenders). Farriss raves about Thomas' approach in the studio. "What Chris brought to us was sort of an extension of what we were already feeling," he says. "His attitude was very daring and free. He trusted our vision, and I have to say that his belief in our confidence was so important.”
Despite the label's initial objections, INXS prevailed and released Kick as originally intended, and the result was a worldwide smash, with the songs Devil Inside, New Sensation and Never Tear Us Apart reaching the Top 10. The album's lead-off single, Need You Tonight, went all the way to No. 1. All told, Kick has sold a staggering 10 million copies.
“I think what makes the Kick album so dynamic is that we weren’t so much interested in what everybody else was doing as we on what we wanted to do," says Farriss. "It’s really that simple. Michael and I were extremely focused as songwriters, and the band was very intent on making a series of recordings that we could be passionate about."
To commemorate Kick's 25th anniversary, the album has been rereleased in three newly remastered editions, including a super deluxe 3CD/DVD/80-page hardcover book edition. Reflecting on the record's place in history, Farriss strikes a personal note: “It’s a very special record in so many ways," he says. "More than anything, I feel very fortunate to have worked with Michael, my brothers and the other guys in INXS on Kick. It was really an incredible experience.”
On the following pages, Andrew Farriss discusses the writing and recording of Kick track-by-track.