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Dengue Fever Interview June 2011

Catherine May


Ahead of their Glastonbury appearance next week, we caught up with the Cambodian-influenced Dengue Fever to chat about their name, new album and how they’re feeling about returning to the iconic festival…

MTTM: Can you tell us about how you formed the band and where the name came from?

Dengue Fever: I first heard the music in the late 90’s. I was riding in the back of a pickup 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 tyres.  The driver drove fast.  My friend was in the front of the truck, sick with Dengue Fever.  Every time 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.  

MTTM: Your love of Cambodian is clear in your music, when did you first fall in love with the country?

Dengue Fever: It was in 1998 when I went backpacking for 6 months. Cambodia was my favourite country on my trip and so my connection with the country began.

MTTM: You’ve just produced your fourth studio album; do you find it easy to keep finding inspiration for new music?

Dengue Fever: Yes, I’m always finding inspiration. We’re constantly jamming in the studio and experimenting with different tones and keyboards and synths 

MTTM: How do go you about writing a song? Is it a collaborative group effort or does Chom [Nimol – the band’s Cambodian lead singer] take the lead with writing the lyrics?

Dengue Fever: Usually the songs start with Zac, then in the studio we all add and expand. We just start to reshape it, adding in our own parts as we go along. The beauty with Nimol is that we can hear a song in both English and Khmer.

MTTM: What can fans expect from Cannibal Courtship?

Dengue Fever: I think sonically it’s our best sounding record yet. The songs are deeper – one song in particular ‘Sister in the radio’ tells the story of Chom Nimol’s difficult childhood living in a Thai refugee camp. The political unrest meant Nimol and her family had to flee Cambodia leaving her sister behind. Several years later not knowing if she was alive or dead they heard her singing on the radio. Nimol was a just little kid and couldn’t figure out why her sister was in the radio, however they were so happy she was alive that they went back and found her.

MTTM: You’re nearing the end of a long US tour; do you still enjoy the thrill of a live show after touring for two months?

Dengue Fever: Yeah, live shows are always very exciting. In fact they’re about the only thing that’s exciting after 2 months on tour.

MTTM: How are you feeling about performing at Glastonbury?

Dengue Fever: We are all very excited to go back to Glasto. There are so many talents and we are just honoured to be a part of it, and it’s good that we are in “tour shape “.

MTTM: What’s next for Dengue Fever?

Dengue Fever: After Glasto, it’s Paris and then we are hoping to tour in South East Asia. After that in the fall we’ll be back to see you.