"I gather you had a bit of trouble getting through to Mr. Beers," laughs INXS bassist Garry Gary Beers as he comes on the line.
Trouble? Well, there was a bit of confusion when the interviewer, calling the designated number at the designated time, was told, "There's no one by that name registered at the hotel." But that was mainly the fault of the band's New York hotel, which didn't quite grasp the fact that big-time rock acts never register under their real names.
"You'd think they'd be used to that by now," Beers says. "Especially when they've got all these people staying here for the Grammys. I'm sure Rod Stewart and M.C. Hammer all stay under their own names." He laughs, imagining the rap star walking up to the desk and announcing, "My name's Hammer. Gimme my key!"
At the moment, though, uncomprehending hotel clerks are about the only annoyance INXS has to face. Thanks to "Kick," the band's 1987 breakthrough album, the Australian sextet is well established as a power on the pop charts. And "X," the band's seventh and latest album, is well on its way to double-platinum, thanks to the top-10 hits "Suicide Blonde" and "Disappear."
But the sweetest thing about INXS's success is that the band did it all on its own terms.
Not just musically, although that's obviously part of it. But INXS also takes an unusual approach to the business of musicmaking. Unlike other pop acts, whose recordings are financed and owned by this label or that, this band does everything itself. "We pay for all our recordings, our videos, basically everything we do," explains Beers. As a result, INXS owns and controls all its albums; the record companies are merely licensed distributors.
"If it hadn't been successful, we'd all be very, very poor people," he admits. "But it's paid off in the fact that no one can dictate to us what we do."
Being masters of their own destiny makes a world of difference, too. "It's like, the pressure is that there's no pressure," he says. "That's a funny thing. Whether 'X' is as successful or not as successful as 'Kick' doesn't matter. It's not like we're trying to rewrite the Bible. We're just doing what we do."
That's one reason why the band felt capable of taking a two-year hiatus between the Kick tour and the recording of "X." Says Beers, "It did take a bit for us to pick up the momentum getting back. Just having a two-year break from playing together was pretty phenomenal.
"But the momentum is picking up pretty well. We just finished touring Europe, and that was so successful it was incredible. We won Best International Group in the BPI awards, which is the British equivalent to the Grammys. Which was a total surprise for How so? "England has always been cold to us," he says. "We've always had successful tours there, but the press ignored us. The English press tend to hate anything but their own music. And they especially hated Australian music, because they looked at it sort of as antipodean convict music, you know?
"But all of a sudden, we became their darlings. Which was very strange, because we had got to the stage where we didn't care anymore. We just went over and played.
"I think they finally had to admit that they couldn't keep ignoring us," he adds. "We did four nights at Wembley when we were there last, and then two nights at this other new place in London. So we ended up playing to, like, 85,000 people. And they had to admit that the show was good, because we really tried to put on a good show, more than usual. After a two-year break, we really want to show people we're back."
Of course, it helps that INXS is the sort of band that believes in keeping live music live. Sit in the audience at an INXS concert, and you won't hear drum machines or samplers -- what you'll hear is a real band, playing real instruments.
"I mean, we've got a great drummer," says Beers. "We've got six people who all play at least one instrument, who have all been playing for a long time. So it's kind of silly to use machines."
Not that Beers doesn't understand the allure of technology. "There are people who are paid lots of money to advise musicians to go with technology," he points out. 'We had one for a while. He came to Australia, and we got some new equipment. He was saying, 'You get one of these machines and link up, and it does this and it plays everything for you.' And we're going, 'Yeah, but what if you want to jam?'
" 'No, you can't do that.' "
But jamming -- playing around with the music onstage -- is what the members of INXS like best. Take the relationship between bassist Beers and drummer Jon Farriss. "It's like a telepathic thing," says Beers. "We know exactly what each other are going to do. Which makes it exciting, because even though you're basically playing the same songs every night, you can put little things in there and have a quiet chuckle to each other.
"Maybe we're spoiled in that department," he adds. "Maybe a lot of bands don't have access to great musicians. But I don't think that's the case. America has so many good musicians. I think it's just time and money."
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: The Capital Centre, Landover
Call: 481-6000 for tickets, 792-7490 for information