(Guitar, sax, vocals, songwriter, producer)
Kirk Pengilly is the historian of INXS, keeping a daily diary and amassing a huge collection of rare band items.
He explains, “At the beginning of our career, I tried to collect everything – magazine articles, posters, our record releases, etc.
“But then as we branched overseas and toured extensively, it became harder to maintain the ‘collection’ of everything.
“I have a bunch of boxes in a lock up full of tour merchandise including t-shirts, show/backstage passes, tour programmes, vinyl, cassettes – it will make an incredible exhibition one day.”
Kirk was born in Kew, Melbourne, on July 4,1958.
When he was eight, his family moved to Sydney. They lived in the small, remote and unspoilt suburb of Cottage Point, in the quiet waterfront bush of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
It was set in serene parkland, with initially, no electricity in the family home, and linked to the outside world via a 10km dirt road.
Kirk’s early years were spent either outdoors or teaching himself on the beat-up acoustic guitar elder brother Mark gave him when he was nine.
He learned the recorder in Grade 4 but never kept it up.
“I can tinkle a little on the keyboard to get by as well. Actually, I always wanted to play trombone and when I took up the sax at age 20 (too many guitar players in the band), I had been tossing up between trombone and the saxophone.
“Sax won out as it was more versatile and, let’s face it, a much ‘sexier’ instrument than the ‘Bone’.”
In 1971 at Forest High School, he met Tim Farriss, and they became besties.
They formed a garage band, Guinness, named after the bass-player’s dog. Kirk was the main songwriter and lead singer.
Guinness played around Sydney with a mix of ‘70s prog-rock and country rock and split in 1976.
A year later, The Farriss Brothers were formed, with Tim’s brothers and school friends.
Kirk and Michael (Hutchence) initially shared vocals, but as Michael did not play any instruments and Kirk did, it seemed logical for Michael to assume the role of lead vocalist.
Years later Michael would chuckle, “I started out in the band as a bit player…then just took over!”
Kirk and Michael wrote some songs together for the earlier INXS albums. He also wrote and produced many b-sides, co wrote “Like It Or Not” on the Switch album, and played on friends records such as Richard Clapton, Jenny Morris, and produced records for Sydney band Crash Politics (with Tim), The Ignitors, Lior, Andy Clockwise, Hughie Murray and the band Coo, which featured Kirk’s brother Drew on vocals.
As for his highs with INXS, he recalls the first time he heard INXS on radio … their first North American tour … their first #1 record …nailing a part during a record session … sweeping the MTV awards in 1988 … and headlining major festivals around the world like Rock In Rio in Brazil (on January 19, 1991) before 150,000 fans.
“It goes without saying, I am super grateful that we filmed and recorded the Wembley Stadium show, definitely one of our highlights…”
These days Kirk lives on the North Beaches of Sydney with his wife, former seven times world women’s champion pro surfer, Layne Beachley AO.
They went 10-pin bowling on their first date and married at 10.10 am on the 10th day of the 10th month (October) in 2010.
He enjoys the simple things in life, living in a beautiful home made from recycled wood and a zen-like garden.
He listens to a lot of music, was in the first series of Celebrity MasterChef Australia, and enjoys playing the stock market.
He was operated on for glaucoma (an eye problem) in 1987 at the age of 29 and later he survived aggressive prostate cancer in 2015. Both these challenges prompted Kirk to take on key Ambassador Roles in Australia with “The Eye Foundation,” “Movember” and currently, “Glaucoma Australia.”
Kirk and Layne also became brand ambassadors for online health and wellness market-place “Inner Origin.”
He has a daughter April Rose from an earlier relationship with designer Karen Hutchinson. April was born in 1988, became a famous model after starting in high school, and is now an actor.
INXS music is everywhere. “(When I hear it in) the supermarket, it’s a mixture of pride and hide. I get approached by people everywhere I go, which is lovely, but I find it a bit awkward in a supermarket when one of our songs is playing.
“In stark contrast, hearing a massive audience sing along is breathtaking – such a powerful energy.
“There were times when we were headlining stadiums in South America that we struggled to hear our stage sound above the audience – incredible times.”
“I think it’s amazing that some of our songs are still played regularly on radio around the world – it’s a testament to the great songs and the pure & honest recordings we made.”
As for the track he thinks most sums up INXS:
“I would have to say ‘What You Need’ as it significantly highlights all our instruments and Hutch’s vocal, as well as the fusion of Rock & Funk styles that became our sound.”