Friday, March 6, 2009

J.D. sets record straight ... By JANE STEVENSON Last Updated: 6th March 2009, 3:30am


The airport dumpoff? Coke addiction? Didn't happen

J.D. Fortune says he never wanted to get into a "he said, she said thing" with his onetime bandmates in INXS.

In setting the record straight with Sun Media, he is clarifying -- and even retracting -- some statements he made two weeks ago.

The 35-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native says the veteran Australian funk-rock act will remain his favourite group "forever" -- despite the awkward manner in which they've parted ways.

Fortune became INXS's frontman by winning the Rockstar: INXS reality TV show in September 2005. The new incarnation of the band immediately recorded and released an album, Switch -- Fortune-co-wrote the first single Pretty Vegas -- and then toured the world for 23 months, through summer 2007.

"INXS has always been and will always be my favourite band -- always," Fortune told Sun Media in an exclusive newspaper interview leading up to the spring release of his new solo album, The Death Of A Motivational Speaker.

The only times Fortune teared up during our one-hour chat was when he was asked what he'd say to all five members of INXS if they suddenly joined us at the Liberty Village restaurant in Toronto.

" 'Can I buy you a drink? How's it going?' Really. I mean, those guys changed my life," he said.

What Fortune did clarify was that he was not fired by INXS via a handshake at a Hong Kong airport, as he earlier told Global's ET Canada, which broke the story of Fortune saying he was penniless (having poured all his money into making Motivational Speaker) and homeless since leaving the band.

"To set the record straight, I was never given a handshake at an airport and said, 'Thanks, a lot,' " said Fortune, who replaced original INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997.

'MISQUOTE'

"That was sort of a misquote (on my part). It was the proverbial handshake. Nobody really said, 'Thanks a lot, kid.' I thought we were going to see each other again. It was kind of like, 'Hey, hey, I'll catch up with you later.' "

Fortune said he returned to Canada thinking there were still two more legs of the INXS 2007 tour to complete.

But when those tour legs were cancelled and none of the band members would return his phone calls after 10 months, he had no choice but to think he was no longer in the group.

"It was very ambiguous, very cryptic. 'We'll get back to you,' " said Fortune, who claimed his relationship with INXS had been "fantastic" up until that point.

"I thought this was a bit strange, because I had based my entire being on being with these guys for the rest of my life. But I started to feel really alone. I started to feel maybe like I was a sports car that they were going to put a tarp on and take a tarp off any time they wanted to. So as an artist, I couldn't really do that."

In an interview last week with The Daily Telegraph, INXS spokesman Chris Murphy said the band was shocked by Fortune's allegations that he had been let go, and that the group had not ruled out Fortune's return.

Murphy even told The Telegraph he was just about to phone Fortune about a future INXS project when the ET Canada story broke, and that as a result the phone call was no longer necessary.

Just this week, Fortune heard unsubstantiated rumours that INXS, who were dropped by Epic Records in September 2006 and who signed with Petrol Records in December 2008, might be looking at another Rockstar: INXS contestant -- third runner-up MiG Ayesa -- as their new frontman.

Regardless of his replacement, Fortune said Murphy's statements were jarring.

"You go from being an unknown in Toronto, to being the toast of your country, to being the toast of many different countries with these gentlemen who have taken you under their wing -- to just basically being, for lack of a better expression, forgotten about. I thought, 'Really uncool.' "

Murphy then told Confidential magazine: "The whole thing has been bizarre -- (J.D) was basically a contractor and his contract had ended."

Fortune, however, told Sun Media he was "not on a contract. Not at all. I was an equal member of that band according to them."

And despite telling ET Canada that his heavy cocaine use while touring with INXS may have been a contributing factor to his parting ways with the band, Fortune -- who says he has been clean for two years, with the exception of pot smoking -- now says that that was not the case.

"When you play six nights a week to crowds of 10,000 to 15,000, you don't have a lot of time to be stoned," Fortune said. "When I did find time to do drugs, I did as much as possible -- to cut out the fact I went from living out of my car to fronting this freight train that we were on. I went from my life into their life, and I thought that was going to be the rest of my life.

'VERY CONFUSING'

"I was living in my car eight months ago, now I'm flying around in a private jet.

"It was very confusing and tumultuous and I loved every aching inch of it, because it was with INXS."

Fortune, who did help his mother in Nova Scotia pay off her house after joining INXS, claims to not actually know how much he was paid as frontman, other than "tens of thousands of dollars" being deposited into his bank account. He says he didn't know because of the fast transition between winning the reality show, writing, recording and releasing Switch and the world tour.

But he said he wasn't spending money on cocaine. Rather, "the availability became more and more frequent. Everybody you met wanted to party with J.D. Fortune from INXS. The drug thing was never an issue because I would always time it that I would have the next day off."

Fortune, who had been living couch to couch and eventually out of his black Dodge Ram truck in his post-INXS phase, also now has a permanent roof over his head.

His godparents -- Ron Cameron Lewis and Lloyd Cameron Lewis (who became the third gay couple married in Canada four years ago) -- offered him a place at their Mississauga home.

"I've known them for 20 years," he said.

"They saw the ET Canada piece and they said basically, 'Darling, you have to come clean with us, and tell us that you're having this hard time.' Them offering me a chance to live there to get my life back on track, I'm really indebted to both Ron and Lloyd for that."

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