Kirk Pengilly. Source: supplied.
Kirk Pengilly. Source: supplied.

INXS star Kirk Pengilly talks life with Layne Beachley

Kirk Pengilly might have been able to perform in front of hundreds of thousands of people in massive stadiums during his heady days with INXS but it was a croquembouche that reduced him to a quivering bundle of nerves.

One of the founding members of INXS (in 1977) and perhaps the most recognisable member, Kirk Pengilly will be on the Sunshine Coast next week as a guest of The Sunny Coast Club.

Despite being principal backing vocalist, saxophonist and guitarist with INXS throughout a mega career, it was making that croquembouche on Celebrity MasterChef that Kirk counts as the most stressful event in his life.

"It was the one and only celebrity MasterChef they did," he said.  "Layne (Beachley, his surf-champion wife) had done Dancing with the Stars and I'd seen how much she had got out of it, how she was challenged, had to think outside of the box.  So I had to step up.  Although I can cook I didn't see myself as a chef but I bit the bullet and went on Celebrity MasterChef.

"(For the croquembouche) I had to make the profiteroles, two different fillings, inject the fillings into them, and dip them into boiling hot toffee trying not to burn myself.  It was overwhelming, so stressful.  And some of the other tasks!  We had to cook for 80 customers in a proper hatted restaurant.  My first three attempts to plate up had to be chucked in the bin. All I could think of was 'this will be over in two hours, let it be over.' "

Despite the stress, Kirk says he looks back on his appearance on Celebrity MasterChef with incredible fondness and with no regrets.

Having led such an eventful life, Kirk, now 58, says he has no plans 'musically' for the foreseeable future but is very busy with his roles with a number of charities as well as his engagements as keynote speaker, his dabbling in the stock market, and his duties managing his properties.  All that and trying to keep his diary in-sync with his equally busy wife Layne Beachley.

"We have big spurts of time together and then none at all," he said.  "We have regular diary meetings. We've worked out how to share our diaries through the internet so we can see what each of us is doing and say, okay, who's home for dinner this week, who's not?"

Being a member of a band that sold in excess of 35 million records worldwide and collected countless awards and trophies, including three American Grammy nominations, as well as being inducted into the Australian ARIA Hall of Fame, was more than enough for any musician.   But then there was Kirk's work on many successful side projects of producing, writing and performing with other artists.  His life has been one of hard work, commitment and non-stop action, a life Kirk reflects on every day, always with gratitude. He is now happy to use his celebrity to help a number of causes.

"I am the key ambassador for the Eye Foundation of Australia, been that for 10 years," he said.  "And with my recent bout of prostate cancer I was approached by Movember to be one of their key ambassadors.  Movember is about mental health, basically bloke stuff.  It's a great organisation. One of the great things they do is to get men to talk about issues with each other, their partners or their mums.  Most men find it a weakness.  My prostate cancer was one of the reasons they picked me up.  My story ended up being front page (news) because I talked about it openly.  A lot of people were thankful for that.  It's a great feeling to know someone will have a (prostate) check-up because of me."

Health scares are no stranger to Kirk. In the 1980s he had a glaucoma operation, when he was just 37 he was diagnosed with borderline osteoporosis, and he is now about to undergo shoulder surgery, as a result (he thinks) of those many years throwing his saxophone up in the air.

But he pulls through all his health concerns with good humour and shares them with his wife Layne, who has her own set of injuries due to her hard years of surf competitions.  "She has many of her own injuries," he said.

Injuries and body wear and tear have not slowed the couple down. 

Regular visits to the Sunshine Coast for the Noosa Festival of Surfing makes them both happy.

"We love it, we love Noosa, always have a fun frantic time at the surf festival," he said.

Music is never far from Kirk's mind no matter what he does, especially since the tele-movie depicting INXS' career (until the tragic death of Michael Hutchence) aired in 2014.   It broke all free-to-air records and created a massive resurgence of interest in INXS and their music.

"After 40 years of it being non-stop I'm enjoying taking it easy," Kirk said.  "I am constantly reminded of the band's success.  I am incredibly grateful and proud of what we achieved.  It is our 40 year anniversary next year.  Our songs are still played on radio.  It was one of those things you hoped would happened but never realised it would last.  We had such a great work ethic, we were completely focused right from the beginning.  We said 'yes' to everything, left our partners for nine months to tour North America, Europe. There was a lot of sacrifice.  For most of my daughter's childhood I wasn't around.  I am proud of what we did and that we really did care."

As for seeing Kirk Pengilly back on stage in the future even though he says he has nothing 'musically' on mind, fans can only hope.

"The band might do something, maybe next year, we'll see, I'd be happy to do it, I'd be there with bells on if we decided. We'll see what happens."

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