LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE
dread success. To have succeeded is to have finished one's business on
earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he
has succeeded in his courtship. I like a state of continual becoming,
with a goal in front and not behind."
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950) Irish "dramatist, critic"
worldbeatcanada radio: Listening to Dengue Fever coalesce over the past few discs has been like witnessing the growth of a tropical hybrid plant. You just never know how the mystery will unfold until spring, when it comes into full bloom with something thats never bloomed before. The Khmer pop and LA psycho-surf fusion has since healed over the grafts, erupting in a unified, incredibly distinctive and fun sound on Cannibal Courtship. Guitar master, Zac Holtzman is my guest. How are you doing Zac?
Zac Holtzman: I'm doing fine.
WBC: First, lets deal with the elephant in the room, the mastadong, a Siamese twin neck beauty that combines a Fender Jazzmaster and the Cambodian Chapei Dong Veng. Who took on the challenge of building this thing?
ZH: My friend Mel Bergman, he built it. The Cambodian instrument is pronounced Chi-pie dong veng. That's a long-neck traditional guitar.
He's amazing. I gave him a real Chapei Dong Veng and then, he's got a few old Jazzmasters and he took tracings and inspiration for both of them to combine them into one crazy instrument.
WBC: The instrument has two strings but theres three tuning pegs and I think I see a third string in the centre of the neck underneath the others. Does that just resonate a drone note like on a sitar?
ZH: I think traditionally the frets would be able to move and people used to be able to change the location of the frets and then they would tie knots in the string and tighten down the fret in its new location. So, I think that might be what it used to be for. But, most of the Chapies you see now, all the frets are fixed in the locations they've settled down into.
WBC: Great sound! And finally, where did you find a praying mantis willing to pose on the body of the instrument?
ZH: Oh man, that was a lot of work! I was searching online for eggs and on Craig's List for praying mantis eggs and I found a few but they weren't going to hatch for a long time and we needed to take the photos for the CD. And then, our drummer Paul Smith, he found one in his backyard. We call it Lefty because it's missing one of its arms.
It's actually missing its left arm but Righty doesn't make as good of a nickname as Lefty.
WBC: So, with songs like the title and Cement Slippers and Only A Friend, Im sensing that dysfunctional relationships are favorite themes for your songwriting.
ZH: Ya, at least or this album. Ya, here's a lot of dysfunction going on. There are positive things going on within the trouble too.
WBC: Well, I think it's great the way you approach it. The lyrics of Cement Slippers are just hilarious. worldbeatcanada radio is on the pod with Dengue Fever. Theyre in town touring their new album Cannibal Courtship. Check out the homepage, denguefevermusic.com. For a limited time you can download my favorite track, Cement Slippers for free! I think this is your best duet yet. What can you tell us about the song?
ZH: We wrote it in the night. It was toward the end of the recording of the album and we felt like we still had a couple more rockers in us, so we kind of busted that one out in the night. I think it sort of has that real easy, party, rock and roll vibe to it because it wasn't over-thought or anything. It just happened, kind of like Stairway To Heaven (laughs).
WBC: I dont know if your sound is more consistent (in a good way) on this album or whether after following the band for a while now, Im just developing a better understanding of your wild mash up. Do you find people take a little longer to get where youre coming from?
ZH: It depends on where the listener is starting from you know, how much music they listen to, and which song they're listening to of ours. But, I feel that this album has all of the same elements that we've always had from the very beginning of the band. We've just gone further and pushed those elements further and just gotten deeper into them.
WBC: Zac, I want to share another great track from the disc with our listeners. On this one I think Im hearing more of the Cambodian influence. Can you set up Uku for us?
ZH: Sure, it has more of a traditional Cambodian style to the song.
The Cambodian genre is a circle dance and Uku has a very heavy bass line and drums going through the whole thing. It's a little bit like Cambodian dub. That's a real nice song and it's fun to play. It features the mastadong with the weed-whacker strings I have on it!
Zac Holtzman was interviewed by Cal Koat, April 22nd, 2011 by phone for worldbeatcanada radio