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Interview: Dengue Fever



I would like to start with Cambodia… To be honest, I had no idea about Cambodian Rock before I met you. Could you inform us about how you met with the genre?

Yeah, this is Ethan (farfisa organ/ keys). This is how I first heard the music in the late 90’s. I was riding in the back of a pick up truck from Siam Reap, where Angkor Watt is located, to Phnom Penh. It was a long dirt road and all of the bridges had been blown up from war. I sat scrunched up in a little ball with thirty something villagers, some of them holding their carsick babies, others grasping on to their rooster in this rusty old truck with bald tires. The driver drove fast and hard. My friend was up front sick with Dengue Fever. Everytime I poked my head in to see how he felt, I caught sound of the driver’s cassette tape that was looped for the eight hour drive to the capital. The sounds were amazing and I asked him to write down the artists so I could purchase some of them from the local market.

And if you want to research the history, check out:

It was so productive in 60’s, what is the current situation? Is it still protecting its own roots?

Cambodian Living Arts is an organization that we work with. It helps keep the traditional Khmer music alive. Teachers are Master Musicians and the kids learn song and dance. We perform with them whenever possible.

Psychedelic means Pink Floyd in some ways! And I know they were a big influence in 60’s Cambodian Rock music. Have you ever covered them?

Not in Dengue Fever. My brother Zac, plays guitar in DF, used to be in a band from San Francisco called Dieslhed and they did a great version of Pink Floyd’s “Time”.

You travelled to Cambodia in 2005 and even had a documentary called “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong”. Besides, you have been working for charity since then. How are you welcomed in Cambodia? I mean, five members from an American band who are deeply involved in Cambodian Rock. How do you feel in Cambodia?

I feel hot and sweaty in Cambodia, but very relaxed. The pace of life is slow and the people are warm. It’s nice to go there and help raise money for good charities that make a difference. We have a lot of friends there and can’t wait to get back there soon.

Your current label is Real World. How does it make you feel to be in elite league of World Music?

Real World put out our last album. We recently signed with Fantasy Records/ Concord Music Group. But yeah, Real World was great to us. They invited us to record at their studios in Box, England. We played a party for Peter Gabriel and were invited to perform at Womad festivals around the world. We feel very lucky to be able to play music all over our world.

Here is a link to our new label:

It might sound a bit irrevelant, but as I mention Real World, I can not help asking about Nusrat Fateh. I remember first time I listen to him, it was beyond amazing! Does he have a special meaning for you?

Honestly I have not listened to this yet. Sorry, I’ll have to check it out.

You must have told the story so many times, but we would love to hear the story of meeting Chhom Nimol, please…

My brother and I had learned that there was a large Cambodian population, just 30 miles away in Long Beach, California. We took several trips down there and poked our heads into many night clubs. We met a few singers that had shady boyfriends; one of the guys offered to sell us a pound of weed. We practiced with these singers a couple of times, knowing deep down we had not found our vocalist. We caught word of a club called the Dragon House, supposedly the best singers were there. So we dropped in one night and in the center of the stage in a glowing white gown stood Chhom Nimol. Fronting a Cambodian band, her voice filled every inch of the room and gave me goose bumps. My brother started elbowing me in the spleen saying, “That’s the one. We gotta ask her.”

After Nimol had finished her set we approached her. It was a pleasant exchange, only she didn’t speak any English. We gave her a CD with about 6  Khmer songs on it that we wanted to cover. A flamboyant Cambodian man stepped in and said he was her manager. He spoke English and we told him our idea about the band. There were lots of laughs and we mimicked a few of the songs. Nimol lit up and began to sing them. We invited her to a rehearsal and after four more trips to the Dragon House and a few months of no shows, she finally showed up and it was magical.

Let’s talk about your 4th studio album, Cannibal Courtship. Could you tell us a bit about these upcoming eleven new songs? How would you describe the mood of the album?

It’s exciting. It’s a good mood. There is variety from up tempo rocking numbers like “Cement Slippers” to an instrumental that sounds like Mingus On Mars. We have our first Afro Beatles tune called Only A Friend. It’s a fun record good for summer. We played some festivals with Seun Kuti and The Egypt 80 (Fela’s original band). Watching them was inspiring and influential.

Will you release a totally Khmer album again in the future?

Maybe way into the future. Let’s see how far we can get off of Cannibal Courtship first.

What is your favourite Dengue Fever song to play at the stage, by the way?

Can I answer this after our next tour because we have 11 new songs to rock out. I guess from Escape From Dragon House the song “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula”. That is always a fun one to play because it is open for improve.

As far as I know, you will be touring across America during April and May. Have you got any other plans for some Europe visits?

Yes we will be in Europe this summer for sure. I hope we can come to Istanbul soon!

You have taken parts in such films and TV shows as Broken Flowers, Weeds, True Blood, etc. Any new projects of soundtracking?

It is very early on because our record comes out April 19, 2011. Once it gets out then we will be able to see what kind of soundtracks it falls onto.

You have been to Turkey before. What kind of images and memories you have got about the country?

I love Turkey! It reminds me of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and cobblestone streets. Tons of cats, rubbing up on my leg, all over the city. That’s always nice for me, because when on tour I miss my three kitties at home.

As a great World Music band, do you have any ideas about Turkish music? Especially, the rock music grew up in 70’s?

Yes we love Turkish music. Mogollar, Erkin Koray and our friends from Bant Magazine Hakan and Aylin turned us on to much more.


Interview with: Ethan Holtzman (farfisa organ/ keys)

Dengue Fever: Official site, Wikipedia, Myspace

1 Yorum var : “Interview: Dengue Fever”
  1. Mr. Shuffleupagus diyor ki:

    “Cement Slippers” is ridiculously cool.
    Made it my Swell Tune of the day:

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