STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
@GraffonMusic on Twitter
AUSTIN, Texas — Dean Fertita admits he was “a little late to the party” in loving Iggy Pop — especially as a fledgling rocker growing up in Pop’s home base of southeastern Michigan.
But he got the Stooges’ “Fun House” album when he was 18 years old and the Royal Oak native — who played on Pop’s new album, “Post Pop Depression,” and is in the touring band supporting it — was hooked.
“It became something that took over my life, and I started buying all the records,” guitarist-keyboardist Fertita, 45, says. He’s relaxing in a house outside downtown Austin after Pop and company played two shows, including an “Austin City Limits” taping, as part of the South By Southwest conference and festival.
“It was just one of those days — we’ve all had them. You go to a record store, my friend told me to get a couple of records and that was one of them, and I put it on and the light goes off and you’re hooked for life.”
The Pop connection is just the latest new adventure in a charmed musical life for Fertita. After playing in Reigndance and the Waxwings in Detroit, he worked with fellow Detroiter Brendan Benson, which led to a spot as a utility player in the Raconteurs, which Benson formed with Jack White and members of the Greenhornes. Fertita went on to join Queens of the Stone Age in 2007 and subsequently became part of the Dead Weather, both continuing endeavors.
He’s also played on albums for White, Beck, Karen O, and others, and released a solo album, “Hello=Fire,” in 2009.
QOTSA leader Josh Homme was Fertita’s entree to the Pop project. Homme received a text from Ypsilanti-raised Pop last year saying, “We should get together and write something sometime.”
“(Homme) said, ‘I need to talk to you for a minute, and he showed me the text,” Fertita recalls. “He said, ‘It looks like we’re gonna do this. I want you to be involved.’
“That was the heaviest moment for me in a long time. I mean, you can imagine there’s probably a line from the Ambassador Bridge to the Mackinac Bridge of people who want to only be with him. I can’t imagine how I managed to get to the front of it, y’know?”
The only caveat was that the album be kept completely secret — which the group, also including Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders — managed through the writing and recording the first three months of 2015 in Joshua Tree and Burbank, Calif.
“We didn’t really want to talk about it. If, for whatever reason, we didn’t feel it was what we wanted it to be, no one would know it happened,” Fertita explains. “There were no expectations. We did this without a label. We did this completely how you would do records before anyone was watching what you were doing.
“So we managed to keep it secret for a year — which was hard, especially when I was at home and I was dying to tell people about it. But it made for a very open atmosphere, and a very easy one to create in. So I’m glad it went the way it did.”
The Listening Room: Iggy Pop, “Post Pop Depression”
Fertita says the approach to the nine-track “Post Pop Depression” — which came out March 18 and debuted at a best-ever No. 17 on the Billboard 200 — was to “not overthink it too much.”
“We knew we weren’t going to try to make a Stooges-sounding record, or anything that was maybe predictable for what the lineup we had might suggest it would be.” Pop’s two ‘70s albums produced by David Bowie, “Lust For Life” and “The Idiot,” provided sonic “jumping off points, mostly because of the impact they’ve had on Josh in particular, but all of us as far as songwriting, so it seemed like a logical place to start.”
Fertita acknowledges he was “nervous and excited” at the prospect of working with Pop, but the musical and Michigan bonds — combined with “a very civilized recording schedule” — let the two grow into fast friends.
“It felt like we had been friends for a long time,” Fertita recalls. “The first thing he said to me, which I would never have expected him to remember, is he remembered meeting me after the Raconteurs played in Ann Arbor in, like, 2006. For me just the acknowledgement of that was a huge relief, like, ‘Ah, OK, this is gonna be great.’”
Pop, meanwhile, put everybody at ease with detailed production notes from the Bowie-produced albums as well as essays he had written about his life that enhanced the band’s understanding of and appreciation for the songs they were working on.
“We were able to have these conversations that made such an impact on the album,” Fertita notes. “It was like all the information you’d always wanted to know that you hadn’t read before. It had such a bonding element to go through that and all share these things together.
“And we’re all individually freaking out because it’s the best thing to have access to this information and the trust to get that information.”
The “Post Pop Depression” crew — bolstered by QOTSA’s Troy Van Leeuwen and Chavez/Zwan alumnus Matt Sweeney — will be on the road in North America and Europe into August, though sporadically in summer. Homme, Fertita and Van Leeuwen also will start work on a new QOTSA album during that time. Pop, meanwhile, has said this is his final album — and his spoken rant at the end of closing track “Paraguay” supports that — but Fertita says the group will be more than happy if he changes his mind.
“I hope it inspires him to make another 10 records, but it does feel like a very one-and-done scenario,” Fertita says. “We weren’t doing this so any of us could say we did a record with Iggy. We wanted to do this so he could have a record at the end of his career that was as relevant as the things he did at the beginning.
“So there’s an urgency to it in that it already feels like it’s over, and I think there’s something special for that, like this is the only time it’s going to happen. We hope it inspires people to show their appreciation for Iggy and what he’s done over his entire career. I don’t know what I did to deserve to be in the room to make his last record. I’m just very honored to be part of it.”