Partying with the Killers: Cooler and tamer!
Fri, Nov 6, 2009 (1:16 p.m.)
Meet Rob Whited – Killers’ drum tech and touring musician. He’s been with the band since 2006 and completed two worldwide tours with them. Oh yea, and he’s from Vegas. Not only is his own image more clean-cut than what you might expect from a touring rocker, but he also swears by the Killers’ wholesomeness. If these guys aren’t ego-inflated rock stars with an entourage of likeminded yes men, then what is it like to work for them? Catching up with Whited en route from L.A. to Vegas as he passed through “the booming metropolis that is Barstow, California,” the Weekly found out.
How does one get to work for the Killers?
I met Ronnie [Vannucci] in 1996. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Vegas. I worked at Mahoney’s music up on Maryland Parkway and he’d come in to buy stuff. He offered me a job during the Hot Fuss tour, and I declined it at the time because I was working on my own band - Big Bad Zero. Then Sam’s Town album cycle number two came around and he hit me up again, and the timing was good. My band had kind of run its course, and I was looking for a change of pace. I’ve been with them ever since. Two full world tours, and we’re almost done with this one now. It’ll be 21 months when we’re done.
What are the guys like?
No pun intended, but they’re very human. We’re all very close. We play ping-pong and shit like that together. We bring a ping-pong table on tour; it’s really rad. Brandon’s really good.
No crazy booze-infested parties?
This is not a wild and crazy tour. We’ve had our night, but it’s really not the band that so much is nuts. The crew tends to get into a little bit more monkey business, but even then it’s not crazy, Sunset Strip 1988, kinda thing. It’s modern hipster partying. It’s not Motley Crue. It’s cooler! It’s cooler and tamer. We certainly will drink a nice Scotch or whatever, but our favorite thing to do is to find pubs in London and experience some local cuisine. That’s the most fun.
Have you developed any odd food habits from being on tour?
We all try to eat a lot of green leafy vegetables and good protein like fish and chicken when we’re out there, but sometimes [fried food] is your only real option. If you’re in a crazy third world country where the food is very questionable, it’s like, OK you go with fried and you’re safe. It sucks, but sometimes you just have to do it. They’re some guys that’ll take their chances and eat street tacos in Mexico City off of those little carts and stuff, and I think they’re out of their minds.
What are the small comforts that are important when you’re on the road constantly?
Starbucks. The first thing I do when I wake-up in my bunk in the morning on the bus is GPS the nearest Starbucks.
Do you travel first class?
No. There are so many people on this tour; we’re talking between 40-50. If we’re on buses, we have five buses. When you think about all that and what the expense would be for the guys to fly us first class, it would be astronomical. We fly a lot. This trip we’re about to do I think we have 23 flights, maybe even more. When you have 45 people times 23 flights in first class… holy mackerel that would be an incredible expense.
Have there been any technical catastrophes so far on this tour?
Knock on wood, no. I have to say that comes down to preparedness. Really, you just have to be smart and always ahead of the game – think of all the what ifs. Ronnie almost fell over a couple of times at the end of the show, but he always catches himself. He’s so winded at the end of the night because he’s going 120 miles per hour up there and he’s a very physical drummer. When you’re up there, under those lights and it’s 95 degrees on that stage in an arena in the dead of summer time, it’s pretty exhausting. Luckily, we really haven’t [had any problems]; we get the best gear that money can buy - so that helps. We make sure everything’s tight.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve experienced so far with the band?
We did this gig in London at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which is a club/venue/small theater that holds about 1,000 people. The boys were doing a benefit for a charity called War Child. The bill was Coldplay and the Killers. At the end of the night they all got together on stage and played “All these things,” one of the Killers’ big singles off the first record. Bono got up and sang it with Chris Martin and Brandon [Flowers]. That was pretty massive.
Where do the Killers get the best reception?
The Spaniards go out of their minds. It’s kind of tough, but Spain…they come to party. It is nuts. And in Portugal they get crazy too. I think it may have been in Portugal where the guys actually had to play one of their singles back-to-back twice because the people kept cheering so much for that song. It was “Spaceman.”
After touring all over the world, does Las Vegas still have the same appeal?
I love coming home. I think it makes me appreciate it more because Vegas is a very convenient city. All cities have something special to offer, but I miss home and our beautiful mountains. Brandon calls Vegas “the jewel of the Mojave.” He is a very, very proud Vegas resident.