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Interviews with Dengue Fever's Holtzman Brothers
The tale that is often told on how Ethan Holtzman started the six-piece Silver Lake-based Dengue Fever is as follows: While on a six-month adventure through Asia IN 1997, Ethan Holtzman had a revelatory moment by the ruins of Angkor Wat, near Phnom Penh. Holtzman's Scottish traveling companion Russ had been bitten by a mosquito, and during their ride to the ruins Russ turned pale and began to sweat. Their driver was blaring Cambodian oldies from the '60s, a buzzy psych-rock with eerily provocative female vocals. And Holtzman, a multi-instrumentalist with an ear for musical texture, fell into a trance. At that time, he realized he needed to start a band that used Cambodian music as its template Teaming up with his brother, they went on a long search for the right singer before they found Nimol. Listed below are interviews that provide some "stories" behind "The Story.".

 

 
Ethan - Head Scientist of the Band of Polyglot Musical Inventors  
US Asians: Regarding the band - how was the trust essential to the creative development of the band developed within the band considering the language and cultural issues (Ch’hom learning English and the band learning Khmer, Ch’hom’s love to dance while the other band members loving to talk, Ch'hom’s love for shimmering Cambodian silk garments/ala “old-school royalty” and the other band members’ rock and roll attire, Ch’hom’s ability to bring the entire venue to a hush compared to the band’s ability to “smash the place up=,”) – along with what does the future hold with Ch’hom increased fluency and ability to sing in English?

Ethan Holtzman: Trust was a big issue for the birth of Dengue Fever. At the beginning Nimol and her sister Chorvin were very distrustful of us. They did not speak any English and the idea of playing music with us seemed suspicious. What did we really want? My brother had a three foot beard at the time, and my moustache was thin and greasy. We must have visited the Dragon House, where Nimol used to work, six or seven times before she finally agreed to come practice with us. When she finally came to the studio to sing with us, from the first note she sang, we all felt a powerful connection.

There were cultural differences as well. For example if we scheduled a band practice at 7pm, Nimol would arrive at 9pm. This became the norm. After traveling to Cambodia we realized that Cambodians were more laid back on punctuality. They take a relaxed approach to life and time. In order to be more productive in the band, we would always pad the time we needed Nimol to be in the studio. So if we were recording her vocals at 7pm we would tell her 5pm and it worked out fine for a while. Now, Nimol speaks more English and says, “What time do you really need me to be there?”

US Asians: Acknowledging that Nimol provided legitimacy to the band’s Cambodian pop sensitivities and that a degree of fluency is generally needed to understand the culture and the music that stem from its people, how did the band’s journey of incorporating Nimol’s vocal and learning Khmer transformed the band’s music that includes various forms of instrumentation that provided impeccable representations of quality Cambodian music?

Ethan Holtzman: We started our band focusing on some great music that was created in Cambodia in the late sixties. We found major inspirations from this music and Nimol was the best singer alive to give these great Cambodian songs justice.

It didn't take very long before we realized the importance of these songs for all Cambodians. These original musicians were killed for playing music. By shining more light on this incredible body of work, it allows more people to learn what happened when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. It must never happen again.

Interview with Zac Holtzman
US Asians: What circumstances or situations (considering that your dad played guitar at the summer camps that you attended as a kid) prompted your purchase of Cambodian music during your stay with a friend in San Francisco, along with what attracted you to these songs, considering the other “PC” choices with radio filled with boy bands, etc.?

Zac Holtzman: I never got into the "boy band" thing. I grew up listening to Devo, the Beach Boys (I guess they could be a "boy band"), the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and what ever else came my way. We camped out a lot growing up, and would always bring instruments and sing murder ballads and rail road songs around the fire. I lived in SF (San Francisco) for ten years and my friend Byram worked at Aquarius Records. He was always recommending good stuff. The Cambodian music he suggested was one of many great albums.

US Asians: Could you describe your transition from Dieselhed’s blend of country, punk and pseudo-classic rock in 2000, while working with producers such as Dwight Yoakam’s engineer Dustry Wakeman and working with Link Wray, to entering the exotic world of Dengue Fever in 2001?

Zac Holtzman: The "transition" from Dieselhed to Dengue Fever; In Dieslhed we wrote songs about things that we saw or felt while walking around on this world. Sometimes it's tiny things that point to bigger truths. We do the same thing in Dengue Fever. I guess one difference is that some songs we translate into Khmer for Nimol, and sometimes Nimol tells her story and pulls songs into totally different directions. We don't worry about sounding a certain way. We just pull from all our inspirations and when something works and feels good we keep going with it.

Click HERE to Read the Interviews with Senon Williams, David Ralicke and Paul Smith

Read the Interviews and Purchase Their Music by Clicking on the Graphics Below
Chhom Nimol
Ethan Holtzman
Zac Holtzman
Sean Williams
David Railke
Paul Smith
Bowers & Wilkins MySpace Home Facebook Documentary YouTube Channel

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