Sally Fink chats to multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita (The Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age).
Ain’t nothing to see here…
Multi-instrumentalist and founding member of The Dead Weather, Dean Fertita, is something of a music legend, although you’d be forgiven if the name doesn’t produce an instant mental picture. The rock ‘n’ roller is notoriously camera shy, preferring to let fellow band members Alison Mosshart and Jack White take centre stage. But with a third Dead Weather album, a second solo album and an eighth Queen of the Stone Age record on the cards, the bashful muso is becoming hard to ignore.
Fertita cut his music teeth as a guitarist and vocalist for the indie band The Waxwings which broke up in 2005. Since then, he’s been an active member of Queens of the Stone Age, who are currently on tour, and an occasional instrumentalist for The Raconteurs.
In The Dead Weather, his electric riffs are a perfect accompaniment to Mosshart’s smoky lyrics. Like a puppet master, his solo spells pull the listener back and forth, before eventually letting them drop into a puddle of their own gob. The Dead Weather was formed in 2009 by Mosshart (The Kills) on vocals, White (The White Stripes) on drums, Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) on bass and Fertita on guitar. It’s a supergroup in the vein of Audioslave, A Perfect Circle, and Them Crooked Vultures, which takes the creative genius of its superstar members to create the stuff of every fan girl’s wet dream. And now that the White Stripes have officially split up, all eyes have all turned to The Dead Weather for more of the good stuff.
Since its formation the band has released two albums, Horehound in 2009 and Sea of Cowards in 2010. The music is a blend of bluesy rock and haunting instrumentals. You’d be hard-pressed to find a house party in Cape Town that doesn’t have The Dead Weather on the playlist.
Whether it’s genuine shyness or just a healthy dose of rock star don’t-give-a-damnness, Fertita seems to be in it for the music rather than the fame. He released his first solo album, Hello=Fire, in 2009. The album went decidedly under the radar. He’s currently finishing off a second, but instead of blowing his own horn, Fertita insists his focus is firmly on Queens of the Stone Age at the moment. Somebody add this guy to the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame already.
10 QUESTIONS FOR DEAN FERTITA:
SF: How would you describe your music?
DF: The Dead Weather gets into the darker side of our personalities and it’s a volatile mix. I’ve heard it described as gothic blues.
SF: What do you want listeners to take away from your music?
DF: When we make a record, it’s really interesting to see what people take away from it. I don’t think you can tell people what it is or how to feel about it, they end up telling you. We know what the music means to us and the hope is when you share it with others, it becomes something bigger.
SF: Jack White and Alison Mosshart are very different musically. What do the different members bring to the band?
DF: One exciting thing about the Dead Weather is that we explored new things musically for all of us. I think part of what makes it interesting for Jack and Alison is they aren’t repeating themselves in any way. Jack playing drums and producing from that perspective and Alison playing with a full band makes the dynamic different for both of them.
SF: What are your musical influences?
DF: The blues is the common influence for all of us in the band.
SF: Would you say that the way forward in music is to look back?
DF: There is no rule for being creative, but we all find inspiration in older music. I think that’s one reason this band came together so easily. We know how to push each other’s buttons. It’s important to look back, but if you do it too long you’ll end up walking into a wall.
SF: What is the strangest musical experience that you have encountered?
DF: One of the best and unusual experiences I’ve had was playing a QOTSA show a couple miles below the ground in a German salt mine. We were truly the most underground band.
SF: Who writes the music?
DF: The Dead Weather is a total collaborative effort. Everyone has taken the lead at some point during the songwriting process, but we all contribute.
SF: What can fans expect from the third album?
DF: We’ve never had a plan when we’ve started a record and I think that will continue for anything we do in the future. The pace will probably be furious and we’ll try to knock each other senseless.
SF: What instruments can you play and what are you most comfortable with?
DF: I’m most comfortable with the guitar, but getting to know other instruments and how they work together is really inspiring. Learning piano as a kid was probably the best thing I could have done.
SF: You also play keyboard with Queens of the Stone Age. How’s that going?
DF: QOTSA is currently on tour. We are playing our first record from start to finish and it’s been incredible. We will be going back in the studio later this summer and on the road again so we’ll be creeping up behind you soon.
- Sally Fink