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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 10/4/04 |   |

It could almost be prophetic that during recording of The Killers' Island Records debut, Hot Fuss, last year at a studio in California's Simi Valley, there was an earthquake and wildfires in the area. But to hear frontman Brandon Flowers tell it, it was no big deal.

"It's all true, but it's all a little bit over-exaggerated. There was fire - it was actually arson that started the fires," Flowers told Pollstar. "[The blaze] ended up catching up to the mountains. The ash was everywhere. We'd come out of the studio and the cars would have ash on them. We didn't have to evacuate the town or anything, but it actually got close."

Truth is, the Simi Valley fire burned around 90,000 acres and destroyed 13 homes and 64 buildings. As for the earthquake, drummer Ronnie Vannucci was said to be knocked off his stool during recording of one of the tracks.

But manager Braden Merrick, of From The Future Management, said there was one other incident during that time period that wasn't so harmless.

"They were on this flight from Las Vegas to Houston to make a connecting flight to London. I guess there had been a bunch of tornadoes and five inches of rain had fallen," Merrick told Pollstar. "The guys were on the plane and it free-fell about 1,000 feet. A siren came on and [the plane] turned on its side. People were screaming and crying, and the band thought they were going down.

"They called me immediately when they landed and said, 'We're not flying anymore! That's it!' They've since changed their minds due to commitments, obviously."

The Las Vegas-based band, comprising frontman/keyboardist Flowers, guitarist David Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and Vannucci, formed in 2002 and played gigs in the area and recorded a demo. It was the band's listing on a local Web site that brought The Killers to the attention of Merrick.

"Braden was a rep for Warner Bros. and he was just looking for bands. Las Vegas was in his territory, so he was checking out LVlocalmusicscene.com," Flowers said. "He wanted to sign us to Warner Bros. initially. He got us some showcases, and they didn't want us. He stayed with us and ended up being our manager until we got a record deal, and he's still here."

Merrick said The Killers was just the band he'd been looking for to launch his, management career.

"My arrangement with Warner Bros. was that I was a consultant, which allowed me to have a management company. I've also produced some acts, as well. But when I saw The Killers, that was just like, 'This is what I'm going to do,'" he said.

"I was doing some development stuff, really looking for that act. I had done some training with Grateful Dead's management and worked with Billy Joel's manager, stuff like that. I always wanted to break out on my own, so I really did it in forging a career as a manager with this band. I'm very grateful and happy about that."

Things started to take off for The Killers after Merrick made arrangements for the band to get the campaign rolling in the U.K. That led to signing with indie label Lizard King. When The Killers' EP sold out in a week and a half and the British press started touting the band, Merrick made a major label deal a high priority.

"We immediately knew we'd better go over and do some shows. We did our first show in Camden at Dublin Castle, where many bands like Oasis, Blur, and The Darkness launched their careers," he said. "During this indie campaign, I started contacting all my U.K. A&R friends at the major labels. They all came out and freaked out. Then New Musical Express started talking about the band, and this buzz just started happening."

The Killers hit the road last September and never looked back. Before Hot Fuss dropped in June, the band had performed at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on a bill that included the Pixies, Kraftwerk and The Cure.

As to the strange happenings surrounding the band last year, Merrick had this to say:

"It was really weird. There's been these little trials and tribulations along the way in making the record, getting to tours on time, planes falling out of the sky," he said. "We've just been so busy, there's been no time to think."

Flowers said, "Everything just kept going, so it never really stopped. It's all just been really lucky. It's a one-in-a-million thing."

The Killers' current U.S. tour runs through Thanksgiving, followed by a trek to Australia December 13-20.


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