Speaking with Kelland Hutchence -- father of late INXS member Michael Hutchence -- about his son's life, death and posthumously released solo album, it's hard to gauge what's sadder, hearing the man grocery-list all the reasons the 37-year-old singer songwriter had to live, or fielding a request for a copy of this article for a scrapbook he's creating for his granddaughter.
As salacious speculation about the Australian rock icon's unexpected demise recedes into memory, the Hutchence family obviously hope to shift public awareness to Michael Hutchence the self-titled album, completed three years ago with producers Andy Gill and Danny Saber (Gang of Four and Black Grape, respectively) but shelved until February of this year.
That the disc was almost finished by Michael Hutchence's standards before his death makes it a more credible tribute than, say, the baseless demo roundup Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk that commemorated the late Jeff Buckley.
It still offers no clear perspective on exactly what happened in that suite at the Double Bay Ritz Carlton on 22 November 1997.
Necessary album "V2 asked me to help promote the record, and I felt it was the least I could do," Hutchence offers from his Sydney home. "I feel the record should be heard. I suppose I'm biased, but I think the record is a wonderful tribute to Michael.
"He slogged for three years on it to get everything right, and it's a tragedy that it's the only one we're going to have. This really is the greatest memorial to him."
It's also eerie as hell. While the music is straightforward enough -- moody, midnight pop/rock with an ambient studio wash -- the lyrics, though presumably written in a different context, appear to speak to the album's post-Hutchence arrival.
Refrains like "I just want to slide away and come alive again," and "Don't save me from myself" leap forward with a spooky prescience that would seem to support a suicide theory over death by misadventure.
"People have mentioned that to me," Kelland Hutchence allows. "I can only say that I don't think Michael had any plan to leave us while writing this music. That said, he was going through some pretty tough times. He had his lovely little daughter, Tiger Lily, and there was a lot of drama going on with Paula (Yates, the mother of Michael's daughter) and the courts, and Michael tried to be the saviour. He tried to right a lot of wrongs.
"He was also very occupied in trying to get this solo music out, but he was still touring with INXS. I mean, the pressures were pretty strong. I don't think we realized how much pressure he was under. But it just pushed him to the edge, and our poor, darling boy fell off."
As for the future of INXS, Hutchence says he's fine if the group chooses to carry on with a new singer, providing it's not a Michael Hutchence clone. But it's a prospect that seems unlikely given the band's waning fortunes in the past few years.
Touching tributes Hutchence also makes a point of noting the kind wishes that have poured in from both music-world types and fans via the comprehensive and touching family-run memorial Web site (www.michaelhutchence.org).
But the troubling questions linger.
"Mike was lined up for a small part in a Quentin Tarantino movie, which is yet another thing that makes you scratch your head and wonder," Hutchence sighs. "He was so anxious to get back to L.A. to work as an actor, and I really think it would have been the start of a new career.
"I don't know. I have to pinch myself every now and again to remind myself that he's really gone."