(Drummer, songwriter, producer, programmer)
“Jon’s the best drummer that ever sat behind a drum kit,” declared INXS’s bassist Garry Gary Beers, who created a tight rhythm section with him.
Kirk Pengilly equated him as, “Like Scotty on the Starship Enterprise, you know, holding the ship together, running the engine.”
US super-producer Nile Rodgers who produced their smash hit “Original Sin” admitted, “My inspiration to work with INXS was after seeing their drummer Jon Farriss perform live.”
The youngest of the Farriss brothers, Jonathan James Farriss was born August 10, 1961 in Perth, Western Australia.
On his first day of kindergarten, he saw a French marching drum set up on a stage and was hooked – he knew instantly that was his future.
A year later he was playing the instrument in the school marching band.
“There was only one drum,” Jon recalls. “It taught me how to focus on that one drum, and how many sounds you could get from just that one drum.”
At 7, Jon’s father, Dennis had bought him a drum kit. He taught himself playing along to Beatles records.
When he was eleven, he thought of lessons. After six sessions, he threw his hands up and went back to using his natural skills and instinct.
Jon’s music tastes have always been diverse: from soul and R&B and the British beat boom with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s, 60’s Latin like Sergio Mendez, Astrid Gilberto and then disco, funk, heavy metal, punk and ambience in the 1970s. then delved into 80’s tech music like Kraftwerk,
As luck had it, in his teen days he was playing in a covers band called Top Cat.
It played everything from the rock of the Doors to jazz-rock of Chicago to soft rock and power-metal.
He recalls: “It was a great exercise to adapt and learn the chops, and add what flavour was needed.
“I took drumming very seriously. In INXS I was the captain of my own ship and was trusted to come up with the best expression that suited a track.”
One of the best examples of his diverse musical background is on “Need You Tonight”.
When writing the song, Andrew had digitally put down a basic 4-on-the-floor with Roland 707 kick and snare patterns.
Jon liked what he heard, and added extra percussion around it, weaving around the rhythm box with cowbells, congas, and shakers.
By integrating the computerised drums with his freestyle playing, he created a tension in the song’s beat, which gave it an extra dynamics and a unique trademark.
Jon co-wrote hits as “Disappear” from X and “The Gift” from Full Moon Dirty Hearts as well as album tracks as “Old World New World”, “Faith In Each Other” and “Back On Line” and experimental b-sides that showed how fast he was developing as a creative musician.
Jon was one of the first to use computer-sequencing software in the ‘80s to add punch and sounds to his muscular drumming.
In LA during 1992 Jon built the portable ‘Racks of Love’ co-designed with one of the inventors of MIDI. He then set up a high-tech studio in Sydney called Area 51, where he worked and explored numerous ideas.
One of his favourite memories of INXS’s climb to the clouds was a show in the mid-80s at Madison Square Gardens to a sell-out crowd of 20,000, and their heroes as jazz-fusionist Herbie Hancock and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones hung out with them backstage.
“It was a great time in our career,” Jon remembers. “We were starting to feel comfortable with being an extraordinarily good live band.
“We were really moving forward. If there was a moment where I could stop for a moment and soak it all in, it was then.
“Because that was a moment I knew INXS belonged on that (huge) stage.”
As for the song that best captures INXS’s spirit, he opts for “Don’t Change.”
His explanation: “We wrote it together as a band, it came from the heart, and it speaks to as a group – don’t change, just be who you are.
“It was usually the last song of the set. When you reflect on the people who are no longer with us, it’s the perfect song.”
When INXS went off the road as a live band, Jon quickly continued on with his music.
During 2015 and 2016 he wrote songs with friends in Los Angeles and Nashville, and then returned to Los Angeles where he hired players and musicians and arranged the new songs.
He was all set to launch these when he was side-tracked by a significant chapter in his life.
“It dawned on me that I wanted to get out of the city to live. Especially after years of touring and living in and out of hotel rooms.
“It was a huge milestone for me, not only family-wise but spiritually, to materialise these dreams.”
So he put everything on ice while he spent two years looking for the right patch of paradise in Byron Bay, one of the most picturesque and laid back areas in Australia.
He then project managed the building of the family house on the 100-acre property dubbed Birdsong, surrounded by undulating green hills, tweeting birds, trees and cows.
They moved into the property in 2020. It’s the perfect place for life with wife Kerry Norris, whom he married in 2006.
He’d always wanted his young children – Avani,12, a dancer and actor, and Dannan,10, a self taught pianist; “both amazing people and beautiful” – to grow up surrounded by nature.
The children’s names are derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, and reflects Jon & Kerry’s connection with ancient cultures and civilisations.
While music remains his greatest passion he’s also focussed on deepening his spiritual connections, consciousness, truth seeking, exploring hidden wisdoms, enjoying nature and bird watching!
In his younger days he was a novice surfer and novice skateboard maker.
Jon is currently preparing to release his solo music as well as a project called ‘JAC-Music’ with Ciaran Gribbin.