This story was published 18 days ago February 08, 2014 9:36PM by news.com.au
MICHAEL Hutchence battled many demons but, for the first time, he felt close to winning the war.
“I have dealt with many demons in my life, but nothing compares to what I’ve had to face over the past few years,” Hutchence told me over the phone, in what would be his last interview.
“It would be so easy for me to say that I hate what I’ve become, but then, what I’ve become, certainly in the public eye, I’ve had no control over.
“I don’t like that.
“It concerns me a great deal that every move that I make is looked at, photographed, and made into gossip, some f—ing sound bite that doesn’t resemble the truth.”
Hutchence had called to promote a homecoming tour with INXS. It was November 18, 1997, and he was about to board a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
Four days later, he took his own life in a Sydney hotel room. Upbeat about coming home, the open and obliging frontman broadened our interview to include his lover British broadcaster Paula Yates, pride at their daughter Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily, and his seething contempt of Yates’ former husband, Sir Bob Geldof.
Geldof and Yates, who had three children together, split in 1995, a year after her affair with the Australian rocker was uncovered.
That rift sparked a vicious slanging match and bitter custody battle. In our interview, he was increasingly angry and hurt at the picture the British press painted of him, especially after his fling and subsequent relationship with Yates.
“I’d say it was much worse for Paula – but I’m a realist, I just do my best to confront these things and hope I come out of it stronger and wiser and a better person,” he told me.
“The truth has hardly ever survived in our case. I get to see some of what is written, hear what is said. I try not to because some of it, no, most of it, is hurtful and it does me no good to think that it is out there. I hate the fact that people’s perception of you is just fodder. Every move you make is just used to sell newspapers.
“I don’t want to be exposed like that all the time. I don’t want to be known as someone that’s just a shallow sound bite. I have worked too long and too hard for that.
“I have always just carried on my life the way I see fit. If that ruffles feathers, and it becomes tabloid fodder, then so be it. I’m not going to lock myself away or change my lifestyle to suit somebody else’s set of rules. I think that’s immoral.
“People should just remember: I am a musician. I am a singer. That’s it.”
He continued: “I’m not complaining about the life I’ve got. I’m a dad, I sing, I travel, I get into most of the clubs for free. I have freedom and freedom gives you a certain amount of power.”
Then eerily: “I can lose all of this whenever I want to.”
Earlier that month, Hutchence had met with major studio and indie filmmakers in New York and Los Angeles to resurrect his acting career.
In that time, Hutchence did a cameo role in Limp, a low-budget movie shot in Seattle. He auditioned for the part, got it, and played a jaded record company executive. “It was directed by this hot-shot kid, this 26-year-old guy, and his energy, just seeing how this guy works with ideas, it has inspired me to work in films again,” he told me.
Hutchence was excited by the rise of quality, independent Australian film, and had set up meetings with local filmmakers during the INXS tour.
“I am the biggest fan of anything Australian, especially when I’m away from home,” he told me.
“I just rant and rave because I know what it takes to get it out there on the world stage.
Hutchence was in love, but said he had not discussed marriage with Yates.
“Every year, some columnist tells us we are going to get married somewhere. Last year it was in Queensland, the year before, it was in Italy,” he told me.
“Marriage is a very personal thing and to deny it, well, you don’t want to deny it because it sounds like you don’t want to do it.”
Did Hutchence want to do it?
“To be honest, yes,” he replied.
“I think there is a part of me that truly wants that. But in reality, we haven’t even discussed it. Some gossip columnist just thinks it’s pretty funny to tell us when we should.”
After Hutchence’s death, an understandably distraught Yates struggled to cope.
In September 2000, she was found dead in her London home from a heroin overdose. Geldof took foster custody of Tiger Lily, so she could be raised with her older half-sisters. He formally adopted Tiger Lily in 2007.
Hutchence, caught in the vitriol between Geldof and Yates, once described Sir Bob as “an evil man” and said the public had been fooled into siding with “Saint Bob”.
He told me: “It is an easy contrast. A convenient one. Saint Bob and (a) wild boy rock star. You pick the one who people are going to believe?
“One day, the truth will be told,” Hutchence sighed. Did he want to give his side of “the truth” for our interview?
“No,” he answered flatly.
“The ones who lie should be made to tell the truth.”
According to the coroner’s report, Hutchence called Geldof twice in the early hours of November 22, 1997, begging Sir Bob to let Yates bring her children to Australia. Geldof told authorities Hutchence’s tone was “abusive, hectoring and threatening”.
A desperate and distraught Hutchence placed further calls, and left voicemail messages with his former girlfriend, Michelle Bennett, and manager, Martha Troup.
Bennett rushed to the hotel, but was unable to rouse Hutchence by knocking loudly on his door, and calling repeatedly.
At 11.50am, a hotel maid found him, dead, and naked behind the door to his room. He had apparently hanged himself with his own belt.
Earlier that week, Hutchence was optimistic about being able to telling the truth his way.
“Are you comfortable in your skin?” he asked in Building Bridges.
“Some days I am everything that I hate. There’s nothing if the truth won’t survive.”
In essence, Hutchence’s songs let him have the last word.
“That I can create, that I can write, that I can express,” Hutchence told me, “that is the light at the end of the tunnel. That is how you win the battle.”