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Interview:
Royal Oak's Dean Fertita celebrates 10th anniversary with Queens of the Stone Age
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Dean Fertita is celebrating his 10-year anniversary with Queens of the Stone Age this year.

But he’s not expecting a watch or any other award.

“I’ll probably get hazed on the road, somehow,” the Royal Oak native and multi-instrumentalist says with a laugh. “There’s always something to prove in this band.”

The 47-year-old Fertita has certainly proved he belongs in QOTSA’s chart-topping ranks, however.

Touring with the group since 2007, Fertita has been part of the group’s last two albums — 2013’s “... Like Clockwork,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and this year’s “Villains,” which debuted at No. 3 after its August release. He was also tapped by QOTSA leader Josh Homme to be part of last year’s “Post Pop Depression” project with Michigan rock forebear Iggy Pop.

Fertita’s done a lot in a short time, in other words, but he says that time has flown by for him.

“We’ve done so much stuff together,” notes Fertita, who these days resides with family in Nashville, where he’s also part of the Dead Weather with fellow Detroit native Jack White and, occasionally, the Raconteurs with White and Brendan Benson. “I vividly remember getting the call that I was going to play with these guys or have a rehearsal with them to see if it would work out. When I was going out there I had no idea what I was going to play, didn’t know if it was going to be guitar, keyboards, bass. So I had to learn, you know, get this skeleton of how to play 50 different songs on different instruments, and I’d never really met any of these guys before, so it was really sort of an anxiety-fueled plane ride to L.A.

“But when I walked into the rehearsal, it felt like I’d known them forever. It was instant, an easy transition, for me. We’ve all become such good friends. We vacation and stuff together when we’re not working, so it’s probably musically been the best thing that’s happened to me, because I feel like I really truly have a home with people I love working with.”

Working on “Villains,” according to Fertita, was certainly different from “... Like Clockwork,” which rose from Homme’s depression following complications of a 2011 surgical procedure on his knee. Buoyed by the Pop experience — QOTSA’s Troy Van Leeuwen also took part in the tour supporting the album — the group came into “Villains” with a happy attitude and head of steam.

“(‘... Like Clockwork’) was a tough record, so one thing we kinda said out loud for (‘Villains’) is we just wanted to create an environment to give us a chance to go down a different road, because we didn’t really want to be in that dark spot again,” Fertita says. “And the Iggy touring helped so much. I think we were off the road for maybe two weeks when Josh decided we had to start writing and working on the new record, so he was definitely motivated by it.”

QOTSA was also boosted by producer Mark Ronson. Though best known for collaborating with pop acts such as Adele, Duran Duran, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga and for his Grammy Award-winning hit “Uptown Funk,” Ronson proved a good fit and even a foil for “Villains,” even if the selection left some fans scratching their heads.

“I think initially they looked at that like, ‘Why would they want to work with Mark?’ or something,” Fertita explains. “But we’d met him a few times, and Mark’s just a music lover, man. He’s so knowledgeable, and he’s been wanting to do a rock ’n’ roll record for a long time.

“Our thinking was that sort of dance element in rock ’n’ roll has always been there, and it’s always been on Queens records, but it’s never been an obvious angle to approach a production from. We put those things together and it at least made for an interesting conversation initially and gave it a chance to give it a different environment to work in.”

The experiment clearly worked, with glowing reviews and a strong lead single in “The Way You Used To Do.” The group plans to be on the road well into 2018 and possibly further, although Fertita says QOTSA’s way of working has changed even during his decade in the band.

“Nobody really knows how you’re going to weather the touring cycle,” explains Fertita, who’s also been recording solo material at Tempermill Studios in Ferndale. “Josh has three kids now, I have a kid, so we might need to catch our breath for a second before we start talking about it, or sometimes you just can’t stop it. If it’s there, and stuff’s moving, we’ll get to something right away.

“The one thing that having a few years of decent responses to the records we’re doing awarded us is not pressurizing the situations for making records. It’s never going to be because we have to whatever — X, Y, Z. We’re doing it because we feel like we have a good idea, and that comes before everything else. That’s the luxury of our scenario right now.”



• If You Go: Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-471-3465 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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