Jim McGorman of Rock Star: INXS

by Trent Slater, Oct/Nov 2005


The finale of the latest music reality show Rock Star INXS reached it's conclusion September 20th. JD Fortune was crowned the new lead singer of the 80's super group. Behind the scenes of this summer long series was an absolutely incredible house band that truly was the foundation of the show. Five talented and experienced musicians composed the series house band. One of whom Jim McGorman, shared a behind the scenes look at how the band was assembled, and the challenges the band encountered to not only conquer very diverse styles of music, but to also conquer the extremely diverse tones that were so important to capture the spirit of the greatest songs in history. Here is what Jim was kind enough to share with Musicians Hotline, and what is the next step for this aspiring solo artist....

Muscians Hotline: Jim, Tell us a bit about your musical background, as well as your early influences?
Jim McGorman
: Everyone in my family is musical or some sort of performer. My mother was a dancer, and my dad plays piano and sings. My mom, though, really got me going with music. Showed me the beauty of chord changes. She was more of a "word writer." I got my love of lyrics from her. I guess you could say I'm very fortunate to have talented and supportive parents. - Started playing piano at six, drums at eight, guitar at 12, and I've been singing since I was born.

MH: Can you recall your very first guitar and amp?
The first guitar I learned on was an old Gibson that belonged to my grandfather. It only had four strings on it, and I'd read the tab charts on piano sheet music and put my fingers on the dots (even if there were no strings). My first amp was an Ampeg with built-in distortion. It was terrible, but I loved it. It really had that "late-80's rock" sound.

MH: Tell us how the Rock Star: INXS gig came about for you?
Basically, I was recommended to the show's music producer by a few friends. Sasha (the bass player) and I went in along with a few other guys from a band (New Radicals) we'd been in before. There were about 11, bands and they picked us from three of them. Paul and I had known each other from touring with Cher. He'd been playing with her for 15 years and had asked me to replace him at the end of her tour. Nate and I went to school at Berklee together, and have worked in the same circles for years. It's an amazing band! There's almost nothing we can't do as a five-piece. Paul, Rafa and Sasha had played together for the auditions. We pretty much gelled, right off the bat. We've always had so many songs to do, there was never any time for bullshit. Just get it right the first time.

MH: In your opinion, what's the main contribution you make to the house band?
I feel that my role in the band is a multifaceted one: guitar, keys and singing. Plus, being a writer/artist myself, I feel that I understand how to work with the singers. From a guitar perspective, I try to capture the original tones of the records we play, from guitars to tunings and effects. Rafa has a unique tone that he really likes, so the more I get the original tones right, the more I think the audience will relate to the performance.

MH: There's obviously an intense amount of rehearsal time needed to prepare for each show. How are rehearsals structured, and what's a typical workday like at Rock Star: INXS?
We usually rehearse from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. First we do it without the singers, then once we feel good we'll bring them in. But before you get too jealous, some of the tapings are very early in the morning, so we're getting up at 5 a.m. for 6:30 a.m. soundchecks a few times a week. Ouch!

MH: Your tone is spot-on to the spirit of each song, which certainly requires the right tools. Tell us about the gear you're using and why. Don't hold anything back, though. Give us the details, all the way down to your custom pedalboard.
Gear - Matchless HC-30s and Matchless Phoenix. Matchless makes great amps. They have bite, but they can be subtle when I need them to be. Also, for TV you have to control your volume a lot. The Matchless amps sound really good at low levels. I use quite a few guitars. Gibson's: Les Paul Standard, Les Paul Deluxe, Les Paul Special, ES-335-which I use a lot, since it just feels right for me on most songs, and the tone is very different than Rafa's--ES-345, Epiphone Casino, SG. I use a Tele for most of the INXS stuff, and Strats on occasion. My favorite electric guitar that I own, though, is a blond '72 Tele. For acoustics, it's Gibson all the way. I have a '66 Country Jumbo that is unbelievable. For the show I use a J-200 mostly, but also a J-45 and Hummingbird. Effects - Lots of FullTone pedals. For my main distortion I use the FullDrive 2. Plus, there's a FullTone Supatrem, a Deja' Vibe and an OCD. For heavier tones I'll use a Red Snapper--it really crunches. Then there's an Arion Chorus, a couple of Line 6 effects (Delay and Mod) and a Crybaby wah. I had a custom TrailerTrash pedal board made for me for the show. It's really cool! Everything is super-clean and very portable. For keys, I'm using a NordLead Electro. It only has five main sounds: Wurli, Rhodes, Clav, Piano and Organ. They're pretty damn good, for a keyboard.

MH: The show has obviously exploded in popularity. Do you feel it has enhanced your career, and if so, what has it meant for you personally?
Being a part of this show is a special thing. I don't know if there has ever been a gig like it for a musician on TV. To be able to play some of the greatest songs ever written, every week, with a kickass band for millions of people is pretty great! If nothing else, it has given me more confidence as a musician. I've learned 150 songs in three months and played them all on live TV. It feels pretty good to say that and know I had fun doing it.

MH: Do you anticipate any type of Rock Star tour after the show ends? What's the next step in your solo career?
As far as Rock Star is concerned, anything goes. They're talking about all kinds of stuff, but nothing is definite. For my stuff, I'm currently working on songs for a record. As soon as things slow down I'll get back to the studio. I've just finished working with my web designer on a new site (, which should be up by the time the final episode airs (September 20th).

MH: In closing, Jim, what do you attribute the show's success to?
I think there'll always be an audience for great songs that are performed well. And I like how we're different from American Idol in that it's a true rock band. Five guys onstage, rocking with the singer . . . not hidden behind some set dressing.

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