(guitarist, songwriter, singer, producer)
As the eldest of Dennis and Jill Farriss’ four children, it was inevitable that Tim would take on the leader role in INXS.
He was the first to learn a musical instrument, and the first to realise the importance of playing in a band.
He was the driving force behind pre-INXS bands Guinness and The Farriss Brothers.
He took on the extra duties of managing them, hustling for gigs, doing the accounts with Kirk, and slipping handbills on car windows outside music venues to promote their shows.
“Initially it was only Tim who believed we could go somewhere,” recalls Garry Beers. “He was always the manager, the one pushing us, getting us gigs and talking about us.
We all just sat back and thought how good it was that we were living in a house together, playing gigs and getting free beer.”
Tim says, “I could see where INXS could go in the early days. Taking it as far as it could go has always been an important element of INXS.”
“When we got ‘proper’ management, I was so relieved. I could go back to just being a musician, and not have to worry about the band making money so the guys could eat and pay rent and not go on the dole (social welfare).
“It was a great deal of satisfaction for me that all the hard work paid off.”
Tim was also the first in the band to get married and raise a family. On February 6,1981, he married his high school sweetheart, Bethany Anne (Buffy) Reefman and subsequently had two sons.
Within the INXS ranks, Tim is known as Lucky, because of the good fortune that invariably seems to follow him.
His growing guitar prowess got him nicknames as Fuzzy and Fuzzwah, and then The Riff Meister and The Riff Sheriff after Michael Hutchence’s famous shout on the Live Baby Live 1991 concert (at Wembley Stadium before 74,000 fans), “Play the fucking riff Timmy!”
“I heard someone got T-shirts printed with that phrase. I’m not sure what people would have thought seeing someone walking around the street with that on their chests.”
Timothy William Farriss was born on August 16, 1957, in Perth, Australia. His siblings were two brothers, Andrew and Jon, and a sister, Alison.
Tim loved listening to music, going to sleep with his tiny transistor radio under his pillow.
Dennis wanted his children to learn a music instrument by the time they were seven or eight. Tim began classical and Spanish flamenco guitar lessons with Tony Frederici who was the principal trombonist with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Frederici proved a mentor to the young boy, who held him in awe. The older musician taught him how to read music. But most importantly, he instilled in Tim the importance of interacting with other musicians to get a unique and full sound.
“While I played, he would accompany me on guitar or mandolin or even trombone. Together we made such a beautiful sound, and that got me wanting to play with a band.
“I realised it wasn’t just about one instrument making the music but several instruments.”
By the time the Farriss family moved to Sydney during Tim’s early teens, playing music replaced surfing as his life’s passion.
He sold his surfboard and bought an amp. He met Kirk Pengilly at Forest High School in Frenchs Forest and over lunch breaks, and together they to play electric guitar on songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and the La De Da’s “Gonna See My Baby Tonight.”
Tim would later make his mark as a guitarist on INXS hits as “The One Thing”, “Devil Inside”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Don’t Change” and “Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)” as well as interesting B-sides as “Phantom Of The Opera”, “I’m Coming (Home)” and “11th Revolution”.
The song he picks as the one which sums up INXS as a band is “To Look At You” from 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah album for the way it builds with interesting licks and passages that encompass many of INXS’ key sounds and rhythms.
“Shabooh Shoobah was a breakthrough record for us, you can hear a lot of things in that record that indicated where we were heading.”
Among Tim’s highs with INXS were playing Madison Square Gardens in New York where Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones hung out backstage, doing the US television Late Show With David Letterman with soul maestro Ray Charles, getting their first #1 album in the UK and achieving the first of their US chart topping singles.
“When you’re in Scotland or Argentina or London’s Wembley Stadium or Mexico, or anywhere where the audience is just crazy and very very vocal, it’s goose bumps.
“Sometimes it even makes you tear up a bit because it’s very emotional. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
As for the legendary London Wembley show which yielded Live Baby Live … Tim says they were doing many similar huge shows around that time, and it was “just another gig” until it became a movie and took on greater significance. Especially in retrospect.
His personal highpoint came very early in their career, when they were still The Farriss Brothers.
Midnight Oil’s manager got them a show at the Royal Antler in Sydney’s northern beaches, opening for The Angels.
“It was so packed, with Angels fans obviously. But we hadn’t played to such a large crowd, and we got an encore, which was unheard of for a band no-one had heard of opening for such a popular band.
“It was a life changing moment, because within a year, that crowd became ours. It was the start of it all.”
After INXS went off the road, Tim wrote an album’s worth of songs with a friend, which he has revisited recently with plans to release them.
In January 2015, an accident tragically ended his guitar playing and performing career. His hand was severely injured and a finger was severed while operating a winch on a hired boat. Despite a series of operations to reattach the finger and much physiotherapy, sadly, he can barely even play a basic chord. In 2019, he initiated legal action against the owners of the boat and the boat hire company alleging negligence.
Tim is a dedicated family man and still follows his passion for cars, deep-sea fishing (tag and release) and in 1989 produced a fishing video Fish In Space, cricket (he was President of the Manly Warringah District Cricket Club) golf and spending time in Italy, the UK & Europe.
He also enjoys producing artists in his recording studio.
Having always lived on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, like Kirk and Garry he is a massive fan of the Manly Sea Eagles rugby league team.
In 2020, after almost 30 years, he and Beth sold their sprawling 38-hectare Kangaroo Valley cattle property. Set along the cascading waters of the Upper Kangaroo River.
They’ve since bought a new waterfront home a few beaches north of Manly.