Interview with Chhom Nimol of Dengue Fever

P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }A:link { }We’ve
been doing very well on our own…
Dengue Fever, 2015. pic: Marc Walker
This
year Dengue Fever released their fifth
full-length studio album entitled ‘The Deepest Lake’. It has been
released through their own imprint called ‘Tuk-Tuk Records’. Having
played music together for over 14 years now, the band has more
recently been taking care of business on their own terms and without
the backing of any major record label.
The
music of
Dengue Fever has
featured in
highly successful Hollywood productions
such as
The Hangover: Part 2, and the
hit television series True
Blood
. The band were the subject
of a 200
7 documentary by John Pirozzi entitled
Sleepwalking Through The Mekong.
Dengue Fever have appeared at many
major international music festivals such as Glastonbury
and
WOMAD.
Last
year the band headlined the
first-ever Cambodian
Music Festival
at the Ford Theatre in Hollywood.
pic: Chhom Nimol Facebook

Chhom
Nimol has been the lead singer with Dengue Fever
ever since the band formed in 2002. She sings (and also raps) in both
Cambodian and English. This week, the golden-voiced singer travels to
New York City to take part in a series of concerts in association
with John Pirozzi’s Cambodian music documentary, ‘Don’t Think I’ve
Forgotten’
.
Joe Wrigley
managed to say ‘Happy New Year Nimol’ in Khmer, then conducted the
rest of the interview in English. Nimol chatted about checking out
Jimmy Kiss on Facebook, playing to a Mexican audience in El Paso and
starring in a film directed by the late King Father Norodom
Sihanouk…
Hi Nimol, how was your
Khmer New Year?
This
year I had time to stay home
and celebrate
Khmer New Year with friends.
I went to the temple right after our
tour was finished.
Dengue
Fever just finished up a U.S. tour – you guys went to a lot of
places, including Las Vegas, Texas, Salt Lake City…
It
was great, we went to cities we have never been to before – like
El Paso, Albuquerque. Everyone
was excited about our new album which
had been released just a
couple of months before we toured.
We played
both large venues and small
venues, which
was fun because
they were such great
crowds. We
made a lot of new fans. It
was a very
long drive but we had so much fun.
Did you see a lot of
Cambodian faces in the crowds?
In
Texas we had more
Cambodian people coming
to the shows, but in
El Paso definitely not. A lot
of Mexican people showed up in El
Paso because
it’s close
to Mexico. They were so much
fun and don’t
speak much English
but they came to the show and they were very sweet.
Cambodian audience enjoying a Dengue Fever performance – pic: http://denguefevermusic.com/

Now
that you guys have your own record label can you tell me who
organises the tours? Who looks after you now?
We
feel free, comfortable and we do whatever we want to do. We try to do
our own style, we try to do new stuff. We have a booking agent that
books the tours and we have a manager that takes care of
the details – that is the same as it always
has been – even when
we were with a
major label. The
major label didn’t
do very much for the band at all
and so we started our
own label. We knew we
could do it better
ourselves and it’s
been going very well
ever since we started.
I guess in the future
we’ll see more and more bands around the world doing it ‘on their
own’. Perhaps Dengue Fever will inspire Cambodian artists to produce
and release their own music. The music industry in Cambodia is
dominated by karaoke production companies and television stations.
pic: http://denguefevermusic.com/
I
know Town Productions and Hang
Meas Productions.
They
are very successful in Cambodia. I am very sure that Cambodian people
don’t like the production
companies that
copy from other
countries. I heard
a lot of people say not
nice things about each
other: ‘Oh
my God this song I heard
from Korea, Vietnam, Thailand…’.
They
just copy each other but
for me – I don’t
want to see it. For us, we just want to do whatever we want to do and
not copy people. We just want to play music from the heart and
from our own ideas.
Over here we don’t have any company like Town
or Hang
Meas
to produce us because I don’t think they like us. They just like to
make easy money from Cambodia.
I’ve
lived in The States for fifteen years now. I was singing in Cambodia
before I came to The States. I’m out of that now. When I was in
Cambodia there was a company called Chlong Den
Productions
but now they are not
there any more. Ten years ago there were a lot of different
production companies in Cambodia but they are mostly not there any
more – only a couple remain. Ten years ago a lot of production
companies were inviting me to sing and to be on their CDs. All the
songs were covers from Thailand, China, America. 
 
When
I started with Dengue Fever, I felt different. I could have my own
opinion, my own style. We wouldn’t copy anybody. I learnt that when
you are successful with your own thing then it makes everybody proud
– right? I don’t like people copying. I want the production companies
of Cambodia to write new songs and new melodies. Please, I want them
to do that, to grow. I don’t want them to just copy songs from
next-door and translate it into Khmer and then put it on a record and
sell it. Those songs are only around for one month and then next
month it all changes to another song.

We last saw you in
Cambodia in January 2014 singing at a special concert with Drakkar
Band and other artists at the Phnom Penh premiere screening of the
documentary movie Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.
I’m
going to New York City to play at
the Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten
concert again. Drakkar
Band
are on the aeroplane
right now. The concerts are all sold out. John Pirozzi, the director
of Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten,
told me that
every concert is sold out! I’m very excited to play with them again.
Everybody will play a few songs, right after the movie. I’m singing
four songs. I think I have a
song to sing with Drakkar…
I have one Sinn Sisamouth song, one by
Pan Ron, one by Ros
Sereysothea and another by Houy Meas. One of each! John had no idea,
so I said ‘how about I give you one of each?’ – I can pretend to be
each singer!


John
asked me to sing the Pan Ron song ‘Knyom Meun
Sok Jet They’.
Another song by Ros
Sereysothea is called ‘Don’t Be Angry’ [sings along to
track playing on her phone, beautifully]
.
Both of those songs are high!
Both the Ros Sereysothea
and Pan Ron
songs are such high-pitched songs, and
I sing them in the same key as
the original! The Sinn
Sisamouth song is called
‘Porb
Somnang’,
and that’s
how Cambodian people know me – from that song. When I was young I
appeared in
a Royal movie.
I sung
the soundtrack for the
movie and I was the
main actress. King Norodom
Sihanouk directed the movie.
Everybody knows Chhom Nimol from this movie. It’s
a high key too. I can’t sing it right now because I’m sitting down!


Do you have a vocal
warm-up routine?
I
do have some vocal warm-up exercises. I
drink a lot of water, hot water. Especially, right now when I’m on
tour I always bring my throat tea with me when I’m on stage. It
is hot water and honey and
lemon. When you sing too much, you wake up in the morning and your
voice will sound like a man – a scratchy sound. Drink a lot of hot
tea and warm water. Don’t drink red wine, you will lose your voice!
You will sound like a man!
Dengue Fever headlined
the
Cambodian Music Festival in Los Angeles last
August.
Tell us about your experience. Which
other acts did you enjoy?
Everybody
was surprised and
especially many
Cambodian people. They
had never seen Dengue Fever before
because we always play
nightclubs. The
music festival was the first
time people could come
to our show and
they said ‘Oh my God! Dengue
Fever!’. We
had so much fun and we received
a lot of respect from people.
We had a blast! So much fun to play with Cambodian people. It was a
celebration! We
saw many artists and they have such talent and
such different
styles.

For
me, I love Bochan.
Her
voice is so sweet and she
is so talented.
She
has a lot of emotion and she can really
sing! Jay
Chan
sounded very sweet and is
a
good-looking guy. When
you listen to him you can always
smile from your heart. He is
from Stockton, California and he sings in
a Sinn Sisamouth style –
pop songs and love songs. 
 

It would be great to
see more performers making the trip from Cambodia to the U.S. for the upcoming Cambodian
Music Festival 2015…
Jimmy
Kiss,
I’ve seen him on Facebook, he has a good voice too! I would love to
see more talented stars come to the Cambodian Music Festival to show
to the
world. Sometimes
I don’t want to play – I just want to sit down and enjoy my life, I
just to want to watch them.
pic: http://denguefevermusic.com/

When
I’m performing I don’t have a good time because
I’m always stressed out about my the
work – making sure we do the
right thing and
making sure we do great job.
Do you
think I looked relaxed on stage? I’m just stressed out… but
I’m always smiling and and
looking happy and laughing on
stage – that’s my style. The
people who
come to see us, they
want to be happy.

When can we see you
guys in Cambodia again?
We’re
looking to go back to Europe, go back to Asia and South-East Asia.
We’re excited to go back, especially to my country, Cambodia! We’ve
never been to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. Right now, we’ve just
finished the west coast U.S. tour. Our manager is talking about an
east coast tour in the summer: New York and Boston. We want to go
back to Asia this year but it’s difficult. We have six people in the
band and that’s a lot of aeroplane tickets!
Thanks a lot Nimol,
and let us know when you return to Cambodia.
Happy
New
Year
guys and
thank
you for helping Dengue Fever!
See
you in Cambodia!
CHHOM NIMOL 
– pic: Chhom Nimol Facebook
Find out more about the band Dengue Fever and purchase their superb new album ‘The Deepest Lake’ via their website.

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