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Dean Fertita: Local man of many bands starts one of his own

of the Oakland Press

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Turning 40 in September was semi-traumatic for Detroit rocker Dean Fertita.

“Y’know, I tried not to think about it as much as possible,” he says, although friends did throw him a party in Nashville and the members of one of his bands, the Dead Weather, gave him a Kiss pinball machine.

And as he looks back from his new chronological loft, Fertita can certainly feel like he’s accomplished much to this point in his life.

In addition to the Dead Weather he’s also in the ranks of Queens of the Stone Age, playing guitar and keyboards for both bands. And this comes after the Royal Oak native’s long tenure leading the Waxwings and a stint as a utility player for the Raconteurs.

Now comes his first solo project — kind of. Hello=Fire is both the title of Fertita’s new album and also the name of the collective that made it, including fellow Detroiter and Raconteurs member Brendan Benson, QOTSA compatriots Troy Van Leeuwen, Joey Castillo and Michael Schuman, and the Afghan Whigs’ Michael Horrigan. It’s unquestionably Fertita’s domain, however, though he acknowledges the Hello=Fire moniker confuses the issue a bit.

“It’s been explained to me that (using my own name) would probably be a wise approach,” acknowledges Fertita, who keeps a home in Ferndale though he’s frequently in Nashville or Los Angeles — or on the road. “But for me, just as a fan of music, I always gravitated towards a band idea. I like the interaction with other people in writing and performing.

“So it just felt natural to give this some kind of name other than my own.”

Hello=Fire, Fertita says, came from a phrase he’d written down as a child. “I thought it was interesting,” he explains. “I liked the idea of an action equals a consequence, that a command equals action. Something stayed with me about it.

“I originally intended it just to be an album title, but the more we lived with it, the more it seemed to fit with the group of songs and the whole way we made this (album).”

Fertita says the beginnings of “Hello=Fire” date back nearly two years, when he was working with Benson at the latter’s East Grand Studio near Detroit’s Belle Isle. “He and I would just help each other with songs we were working on,” Fertita recalls. “He had a studio in his house, so that’s really where the record started.

“Four or five of (the songs) were done in a day, or two days. It was really a spontaneous record. I didn’t really know what I was doing; was I planning on putting them out as an album or was I just finishing songs? It was really kind of a strange way to write and record.”

Fertita took his time figuring out what the purpose was, however, choosing instead to work on the songs whenever he had a chance, jumping into recording studios in Los Angeles, Nashville and even London, primarily while touring with QOTSA.

“I was lucky to be able to do most of the recording with guys that I’ve been playing with for a while,” Fertita notes. “Whoever was around and felt like going in the studio for a day and making some music, that’s who played on the record. There wasn’t anything pre-conceived about it. I didn’t really have a chance to think about, ‘Oh, we want to sound like this’ or anything. It was a really simplified approach.

“I was surprised at the end of the whole thing it sounded as cohesive as it did.”

The album’s dozen tracks — including the opening “Certain Circles,” which has been getting some radio play since the album came out — share a psychedelic, garage rock flavor that’s certainly of a piece with what Fertita has done in his other bands. But he feels like their effect on what he’s done here is minimal.

“A lot of it was done before I even started playing with Queens or Dead Weather,” Fertita explains. “As a matter of fact, most of it was. There were three songs, I think, that I did while still on tour with Queens, and that was before the Dead Weather, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for that stuff to sink in on this.”

Fertita has played one concert, in Los Angeles, as Hello=Fire but is determined to do more this year, most likely during breaks from QOTSA’s recording and touring schedule. He’s also hoping to release more material next year as Hello=Fire and planned to spend some time during the holidays working on songs.

“I’m always working on things,” says Fertita, who also re-recorded a Waxwings song, “Different Plane,” for a cancer care TV commercial and would like to update more of that band’s material. “I’ve just kind of been demoing while I’m home and moving ahead as if I’m finishing another Hello=Fire record. A few of them might wind up somewhere else down the line, but one way or another I will get some new music out there.”


With the Waxwings: “Low to the Ground,” 2000; “Shadows of the Waxwings,” 2002; “Let’s Make Our Descent,” 2004

With Queens Of The Stone Age: “Era Vulgaris,” 2007

With the Raconteurs: “Consolers of the Lonely,” 2008

With the Dead Weather: “Horehound” and “Live at Third Man Records West,” 2009; “Sea of Cowards,” 2010

With Karen O & the Kids: “Where the Wild Things Are,” 2009

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