Dean Fertita has done a lot in his musical lifetime. He founded The Waxwings, a Detroit rock group whose song "Fragile Girl" was covered by fellow Motor city maniacs The White Stripes. He's also toured as a member of Jack White's "other band," The Raconteurs. But, he says, nothing compares to his current assignment as touring keyboardist with Queens of the Stone Age. "It's the most fun I've ever had playing," he says. "There's kind of an undeniable feeling. I'm a very lucky guy to go from playing with The Raconteurs ."
That says a lot, given that Queens of the Stone Age aren't exactly known for keeping people around for very long. In fact, the band has developed a bit of a reputation for being a musician meat-grinder, since forming from the ashes of stoner-rock pioneers Kyuss in the mid-'90s. Over the band's decade-long existence, Josh Homme, the group's frontman and sole constant member, has cycled through at least four guitarists, three drummers and a handful of bass players, including former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, who was sacked in 2004 due to varying personal problems. Homme seems to have settled on keeping the core group a trio since former A Perfect Circle guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and one-time Danzig drummer Joey Castillo joined in 2002. So, was Fertita worried when he joined the tour? "Any time you go into a new job or area of your life, you're a little uncertain," he explains. The Raconteurs are made up of White, Brendan Benson and members of The Greenhornes---all musicians Fertita has known for over a decade. "But it was so easy," he says of his new gig. "I felt like I belonged there fromthe beginning."
The Queens of the Stone Age gig has also given Fertita the opportunity to play to new audiences in some strange surroundings. In November, the band played a mile underground in a former salt mine in Sondershausen, Germany. And last summer the band embarked on the slightly more conventional(but still off-the-beaten-path) "Duluth Tour." It took them to some of the less populous cities in the US, like Fargo, North Dakota, and Chico, California, much like the cross-Canada jaunt that brought The White Stripes to Halifax (and every other province) last summer.
"You get used to people telling you how important big cities are all the time," Fertita says. But after a while, playing them just becomes incidental. "Josh (Homme) has this story about when he was a kid and Billy Idol played the town that he was from and how much it meant to him to have Billy Idol come through his town.
"There's a purity about it, playing for people that really want to see music," Fertita explains. "Plus the shows are a lot morefun. I'd take that any day. The people that come out to the shows are really involvedin it. They're really receptive so you feelappreciated for your time. I think it's areciprocal thing."
The Duluth Tour's Canadian leg (nicknamed "Calling All Hosers") plowed through parts of the country last summer. The band's current jaunt brings them to Halifax with Icelandic troubadour Mugison on Tuesday at the Cunard Centre. "We're absolutely thrilled to come back to Canada. The shows there last summer were amazing."
With Queens of the Stone Age's touring commitments for last year's Era Vulgaris winding down, Fertita says the band is hoping to get back into the studio before the end of the year. In a new twist they're bringing Fertita with them, which will add a new layer of sound to the band's usual barrage of guitar dissonance. But Fertita is quick to assuage any fears that the band is looking to throw down on the dance floor. "It's kind of a tough position and I get it, too," he says. "I grew up a guitar player so I know the perception that keys can bring to things. But I think we're working it in a very cool way. I believe that there'll be a way to incorporate this stuff and make it a new, definable Queens sound."
Queens of the Stone Age, Tuesday, May 13 at the Cunard Centre. Tickets are sold out.
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