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Sangvar Day Album Review by Mike Priest

SANGVAR DAY “National Anthems” Review
by Lionel Michael Leong (AKA Mike Priest)

Published: 27th October 2016

Sangvar Day Artwork by Gem Habito
Phnom Penh’s SANGVAR DAY are a tenacious international quartet - flirting expeditiously with the Alternative, Progressive and Post-Hardcore elements of their incendiary brand of Rock music.

Formed in the slightly dusty year of 2012, this decibel-smashing unit now consists of Italian, French and American members who have become prevalent mainstays of the Phnom Penh music scene. Initially conceived by Julian Bras (guitars) and Julien Mariani (drums) - who both used to play for Alternative Rockers SONIC DETERGENT - they have since been joined by Robin Narcisco (lead vocals and guitars) and Ned Kelly (bass). Robin also handles the dulcet string work in THE ACOUSTIC CRIMINALS while Ned lashes out heavy rumbling tones for NIGHTMARE A.D. Former Sangvar Day bassist Mathieu Ruillet played on the band's current album, before returning to France once the recording was completed.

“National Anthems”, the debut full-length album in question, is not their first studio offering; the band first released their self-titled EP independently in 2014. The 'Sangvar Day' EP gained ground with local media and established themselves as a serious band intent on making original music. Showcasing their eclectic tonal tastes and varied influences, “National Anthems” is an ambitious and critical step-up from the band's first EP in terms of songwriting and production. These improved elements clinically shine through the whole of the album, in parts reminiscent of prominent Alternative acts and Post-Hardcore bands such as AT THE DRIVE-IN/THE MARS VOLTA, MUSE, FUGAZI, PEARL JAM, THE PIXIES, INCUBUS, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and TOOL.

Singer Robin Narciso rails and wails at Sharky Bar. Pic: Steve Porte

The album runs through a vertebra of odd-time signatures, ghost notes, curious melodies and bursts of fuzz and distortion accompanied by the tame droning of vocals which calculatedly acerbate into haunting wails and controlled screams. There are Progressive injections of old dirty Blues, Funk and Noise into this mix which make this release strangely compelling amidst the current albums of their international peers. There are parts which accentuate minimalism in instrumentation, letting the vocals soar above the roaring chords and through the intricate percussive work.

Listed below is a preferential selection from the album track listing reviewed in scrutinising descriptive detail:


The entire first section of this track reminds me of THE PIXIES (especially when the lead lines become apparent)... before the vocals come in with a PLACEBO-like quality... before going for a major-sounding chorus that brings to mind Jerry Cantrell’s (ALICE IN CHAINS) solo work (especially on “Degradation Trip”). SANGVAR DAY employ the use of verse and chorus once more before a more atonal break occurs, transcending into an interesting polyrhythmic section that highlights the song perfectly. The chorus then swaps in for one last time and a surprise transition into a Metal section works very well as a finale.


“Locomotive” rolls out with the guitar employing pull-off/hammer-on techniques while the drums creep slowly in, an introduction that builds up as the drums crash down and the lead guitar starts wailing above the pulsating rhythm guitar and bass section. Vocals ensue thereafter, stylistically reminiscent of MUSE and THE MARS VOLTA. The vocals continue as the music “breaks down” like a broken marionette struggling to move, before returning to the pulsating rhythm section with well-layered vocals and reinforced guitars - much akin to the material from bands like TOOL and DEFTONES - before ending with the last haunting words: “you won’t survive”.


This track starts out in strong and anthemic style, in keeping with the album title. The energy is maintained with short varying sections of minimalist instrumentation and vocals which subtly interrupt, but draw the listener back into the impactful sections. A transformation into an interesting John Frusciante-esque progression occurs in the third quarter of the song that ascends and then ends on several strong notes.


Clean acoustic tones dominate the first section of “Burn the Floor” before the drums kick in, leading at a medium pace into distorted chord work and frenzied drum-rolls. Interestingly, the song then changes to a 90’s British Rock progression of a RADIOHEAD/BLUR/SUEDE persuasion with appropriate vocal accompaniment. The “heavy chorus” part repeats with vocals this time that bears a more estranged tonal quality. The song continues in a similar British Rock fashion as before, but descends into a minimal breakdown with a guitar solo knitting subtly over the rhythm section. A slow build-up back into the heavy chorus ends the song fittingly.


“National Anthem” does not start off in a particularly strong way (a hint of irony?), with MARCY PLAYGROUND-esque riffs alongside the drums and a second guitar making sporadic bursts of noise. The vocals then come in, following the structure of the riffs a bit too closely for my liking. A short heavy break occurs before the introductory riffs and vocal patterns appear once more: the result is anti-climatic but not entirely unpredictable. Things start to pick up towards the middle of the song with the drums building up to rolls, guitars emphasising certain chords and vocals repeating certain phrases such as “enemies, I feel my enemies” before fading and rising right back up again with a short yet very balls-out Anthem Rock riff section. This section then changes back to something similar to the introductory riff - an “awkward but fun” approach which makes it memorable. A wailing guitar solo and crashing drums then burst in - a climactic return to entropy which ends the song.

Drummer Julien Mariani deploying some technical wizardry


This track starts out extremely well with a Blues-Funk hook and vocals emerging with a purposeful tinge of the omninous. Accompanying odd-time drums fire off like stop-motion animation which echo the catchier tunes of what THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN have to offer. The chorus has a similar feel to the tunes of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS (before John Frusciante exited the group for a second time) - repeating and interchanging with a short section that involves a substantial trilling of the ride cymbal and staccato riffs. The vocals display a desperate urgency before going into fast Punkish passages interspersed with stops that are a very welcome addition to the song, leading to a section of melodious singing before a discordant breakdown occurs and the song ends with static noise and a telephone operator speaking in Khmer.

Sangvar Day's “National Anthems” is not a perfect album by any means, with some noticeable flaws that prevent me from awarding full marks. However, it is a meritorious culmination of roughly two years in the making, a diverse testament to SANGVAR DAY’s hard work as a band. “National Anthems” is a stellar full-length effort and a release that is definitely worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.

– 8.5/10

Mike at his record store in Singapore, Hell's Labyrinth - pic: Penny Torture.

The Sleeves: Q&A with Keith Goodman

The Sleeves Q&A - July 2016

Hong Kong-based indie-rockers The Sleeves are back in Cambodia this week with a brace of gigs in Siem Reap and recording sessions at 60 Road Studios. Leng Pleng caught up with band leader Keith Goodman to find out what has been happening since their last visit to The Kingdom of Wonder in 2015.

At The Wanch in Hong Kong last week, you put on the H2 Music Festival. 76 bands ?! in seven days ?! at a small independent venue in the Wanchai district... you must be absolutely exhausted !!

It's more exhilarating than exhausting to be honest. Believe it or not, it all ran like clockwork... great to see so many bands, so many great performances, really good crowds, good turn-out - all the bands really fed off that. Even on the sixth and seventh days when I hadn't had much sleep as I’d like to have had, I was still really enjoying it and buzzing on the atmosphere.

It's something that we’ve been doing once a year for the past seven years now. It started in 2010 when myself and the other two owners took over the venue and wanted to do something to celebrate that and announce that new energy and new ideas were going to go into the place. To try and get people who maybe knew the venue but hadn't been there for a while to come back. So we put on a festival which was just for one day, twelve bands in one day. It went really well and other bands said to us 'why didn't you ask us?' The following year we did it for two days... then it was four days... and for the last three years it's been seven days.
This year, we had something like 100 artists and bands wanting to play, including six from overseas: one from Macau, one from southern China, a travelling artist from New Zealand, a guy from the UK and two bands from Kuala Lumpur as well. It just seems to grow each year in terms of interest from performers and from the crowds as well. This year we had Live Nation supporting the event for the first time, which certainly helped with the marketing and enabled us to make more people aware of the festival.

John and Keith at their venue -  The Wanch
Every city needs an outlet for people who want to enjoy live music. Unfortunately, due to the rent situation in Hong Kong – there are a very limited number of live music venues for a city of it's size ...compared to, say, London where there are probably 50 to 100 live music venues, if not more. In Hong Kong there are less than 10, possibly less than 5 these days. I got involved [in The Wanch] from being a customer who wanted a place to go and watch live bands. It was a sanctuary to me. I later became a band member who played there... and my involvement has grown from there.

60 Road Studios, Siem Reap
The Sleeves last visited Cambodia to play a few gigs back in March 2015. This time the band is coming for a longer stint, with plans to record an album in Siem Reap? What made you guys want to come and do the album here?

We played four gigs last year over a period of five or six days and got to see a bit of the country as well. The reason we're coming this time is because when we were there last year, I was looking on the first day to see if our gig at Oscar's was listed in the Phnom Penh Post. On the page that had the gig listings, there was an article about this new state-of-the-art studio that had recently opened in Siem Reap called 60 Road Studios. I said to the rest of the band at the time that as and when we've got an album ready to record, maybe we should think about coming back and doing it there. I thought that would be a great experience and great fun to record an album away from Hong Kong and actually immerse ourselves in the process. …and here we are, just over a year later and that’s exactly what we are doing.

We've been talking to Ian [Croft] and Steve [Bloxham] – the guys from 60 Road – via Skype and emails now for four or five months and they've been very thorough and very professional in the way they’re approaching it. We've already got into quite a level of detail with them about the sound that we're looking for and discussed ways of achieving that. We’re really happy with the way things have gone so far and looking forward to actually meeting the guys in person on Saturday when we arrive!

Why are we coming to Siem Reap to do it? For various reasons. If we were staying in Hong Kong to record we would all be going to work during the day and then snatching an evening here, a half day there, perhaps a weekend day another time... and it would probably take us two or three months to record – which is what happened for our first album ['Arcade Rock']. Every time we went into the studio, somebody else has been in the studio since we were last there, and so we had to set it all up again: try and get the same drum sounds, try and get the mics in roughly the same place with all the same settings etc etc. By having one studio to ourselves for a week enables us to set the place up once at the start of the week and then it's ours.

We're book-ending the trip with a couple of gigs. We fly in this Saturday the 9th, we're going to play a show at X-Bar. Then we're in the studio from Sunday through until the following Saturday the 16th when we will be playing on the rooftop of the Galaxy Night Club. Then we fly out on Sunday the 17th. Most of our colleagues, contemporaries and friends in Hong Kong think we're going for a holiday! But the reality is that we arrive, we play a gig, we're in the studio for seven days, we play another gig and then we fly back. So as far as I'm concerned, it's a working trip... but obviously we hope to see a bit of Angkor and enjoy some of the Khmer hospitality as well. 

Your debut album is entitled Arcade Rock. The sound of The Sleeves is, for me, quintessentially British – reminiscent of classic indie, rock and punk bands. What are your sonic plans going into this next record?

The current line-up has been together for about a year-and-a-half now. The first album that we made five years ago was something of an anthology of all the various line-ups that had existed prior to that. Songs had been written by different combinations of band members during the preceding four years. For the new record, we have a couple of [older] songs but the rest of the material has been written almost exclusively by the current line-up within the last eighteen months. The song-writing dynamic which has created this new album is much more stable than for our debut album.

In terms of the overall sound, all four of us are English, so there is a degree of solidarity in terms of our musical influences, ranging from Led Zeppelin through 1970's punk – The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers... and into post-punk – Joy Division – this was a very strong era for British music and we’d certainly like to capture as much of that as possible albeit brought up-to-date through modern production techniques.

I think lyrically the new songs are darker than before - but that doesn't necessarily apply to the melody and the overall sound. We're looking for a very fat Zeppelin percussion sound, British indie guitars and danceable bass grooves wherever possible.
The Sleeves, March 2015: Keith Goodman, Matt Coleman, Pete Gordon, Stu McCutcheon.
pic: Bleys Bolton
Travelling abroad to record your own music, running an independent music venue, refusing to play cover songs... there is a theme emerging here... The Sleeves are an independent rock'n'roll band doing it your own way?

Basically since the last line-up change, we've been much more mobile and have much more... we've always been ambitious, like I'm sure most bands are, about getting our music heard by as wide an audience as possible. The reality is, to achieve that, you've got to get out there and play it in as many different places as you can. It hasn't really been until the current line-up that we've been willing and able to travel more to play. It is over the last eighteen months that we've played in Cambodia and Taiwan, in England, in various places in southern China. That is certainly our intention over the next year or so – to get to as many different places as we can.

Refusing to play cover songs? The Sleeves actually started playing cover songs but... the era of The Sleeves playing cover songs didn't last very long. It's a far more rewarding experience to play your own songs live and hear people appreciate and applaud them. So as soon as we were able to, we made the switch. Individually, each of us has at various times and even currently been in covers bands. But The Sleeves has for some time been the outlet for our collective creative muse.

The Sleeves will be playing a live show at the X-Bar in Siem Reap on Saturday the 9th July. The X-Bar is well known in Cambodia as a great rock'n'roll venue - with a bit of a backpacker party vibe and the unusual addition of a skateboard half-pipe situated near the stage. If the Sleeves could (just for fun) install a dress code for the gig, what would it be?

That's simple - no sleeves allowed!

The Sleeves will play the X-Bar in Siem Reap on Saturday the 9th of July, and the Galaxy Club in Siem Reap on Saturday the 16th July.

End of an Era: Big Mike Has Passed On

by Television Ted

Life has a tendency to meander in Cambodia. A lot like the meandering thoughts that permeate your mind on a Saturday or Sunday morning - after a great night of live music has you relaxed, happy and satisfied. You might be gazing at the shapes on the top of your coffee or at the patterns a boat makes as it glides down the Tonle Sap or even looking onto all the crazy Phnom Penh traffic from a high vantage point – but meander your thoughts will. As your thoughts meander they may move across many things – politics, work, friends, family, home. My thoughts meandered as usual this week....... until, each time, they would suddenly stop. They would come to a point of remembering. My heart would sink and my mind would tell me to adjust to the new reality. Big Mike has passed on.

That has, so unexpectedly, meant many things to me. I didn't even really fully realize just how much I used to rely on Mike. He occupied a place in my working life that no-one else could fulfill. He was somebody I could talk to about things of which I could talk to no-one else. He was someone who made me feel important and made me feel so special that he called me his friend. I could always rely on him when it came to the the buzz of the live music scene. I could learn things from him because he had a sharp mind, an amazing history, a large, diverse and loyal network of friends and a unique vantage point on the rock & roll lifestyle that circled around him. A Chinese-born, American citizen with a history in the Hell's Angels, CBGB's, Max's Kansas City and international financial dealings, he would spend part of his time in New York City but always loved to return to his rock & roll lifestyle in Cambodia. You can read more about the Mike and the history of Sharky's (the bar of which he has been principal owner for most of it's existence) in our article written by one-time manager David Rabie back in March 2013.

A few months back, whilst having lunch at the invitation of Mike together with local rock & roll legend and Schkoots front-man Bob Passion, I initiated a conversation. I knew I had to be careful and deft with the topic because I knew Mike would not like it. I started to tell him that may be he should think about slowing down a little, drink a little less, play a little less of the rock & roll lifestyle. This, as you can imagine, drew his ire – at first. He looked at me with sharp and unwavering eyes that demanded, even threatened me to not to bullshit him. I had to say what I meant and I had to say it quickly. I managed to regain his trust as he realized that I was genuinely concerned for his health. To me, his reply epitomized the man and his attitude. He said – “Ken, I'm 'Big Mike'. I have a lot of people who rely on me at that bar and if I don't share my time with them and have a drink with them then my time might as well be over anyway.”. It grieves me to write those words now.
Artist and musician Conrad Keely drew this portrait of Mike
I have had to keep reminding myself that he is just not there anymore and that has just been causing me a degree of forlornness, an emptiness, a longing, of reflectionnot only for the man himself but also for everything his presence meant. It was not what I expected – but, I can tell you – it is what has happened. The continual list of tributes flooding across my Facebook timeline is testament to the fact that he had a similar effect on many people's lives. The fact that resident artists have been writing poems (Scott Bywater) and creating portraits (Conrad Keely) of him also lays testament to his influence and magnanimity as does the fact that local musicians have arranged 3-days of tribute to him later this month. It will definitely be the end of a very amazing, tumultuous and unique era in the Cambodian nightlife and live music scene.

He was a huge figure in the local music scene and did everything he could to foster a vibrant, happening and creative live music environment. He has a huge swag of friends throughout that scene and will be missed widely and sorely. He face will always be remembered for that big smile, with the loving, happy, moon-sliver eyes, that big heart and that air of total respect he permeated to all those around him. He was on a great rock & roll freight train that eventually and inevitably came to it's final destination.

Television Ted, 12th May 2016

Julien Poulson Q&A

Julien Poulson is the band leader, lead guitarist and keyboardist of The Cambodian Space Project. The band are currently embarked upon their 'Motown to The Mekong' tour of Cambodia. Leng Pleng fired a few questions at Julien to find out the latest news from mission control. All photos via Julien Poulson Facebook Page.

 CSP have recently been touring in Australia, Taiwan... How did you enjoy the home-coming gig at The Exchange last weekend? It's been a while since you guys played in Phnom Penh...

It was great and is always great for us to do a homecoming show. Lots of old friends and of course, new people we haven't met before, that's the nature of transient Phnom Penh and it's local scene. Over the years we've played many 'homecoming' shows and always love the feeling of being back in town especially now we're away more than we're home. This year we'll be in Europe, Australia, USA and back again around the end of the year.

'Motown To The Mekong' is not just a tour but a whole series of panel events, filming, recording... can we expect a 'Motown To The Mekong' live album? … a movie?

Motown to the Mekong is a recording project for CSP and it's also something that is being filmed and documented for a movie. It's not your regular 'band goes to studio to record album' project as we're opening the studio door to the public and sharing the process through blogging and writing. It's an unusual, but really amazing, opportunity for CSP. As a music recording project, it allows us to work in Cambodia with our Detroit based record producer Jim Diamond. The US Embassy in Phnom Penh are a part sponsor of Motown to Mekong and see that there's a cross-cultural 'music friendship' outcome - something that looks into the back catalogue of Cambodian rock'n'roll and at the convergence points of Western (Motown) and Eastern music cultures: This is mostly music that we'd today describe as Vietnam War era soundtrack. 
CSP spent time in Motor City recording our third LP "Whisky Cambodia" with Motown guitarist and producer Dennis Coffey. He was surprised at the Cambodian songs and how much they were reminiscent of both his own work at Motown and of earlier work with Del Shannon. It was kind of like the music from once upon a time had come full circle and arrived back in a studio in Detroit - where music had once been such a big export it even reached the ears and caught the attention of Cambodian bands of the 60's and 70's. 

While we were in Detroit we also met Jim Diamond who produced newer acts like The White Stripes. Jim's since worked with CSP too, recording our 4th LP "Electric Blue Boogaloo" and this project allows us to work with Jim in Cambodia on an album. Another very interesting thing about this project Motown to the Mekong is that we have a non-musical creative team onboard the bus to the studio - 60 Road in Siem Reap. This includes Clinton Walker, biographer of AC/DC's Bon Scott and author of an important book on Australian indigenous music "Buried Country", so while we have musicians and studio engineers we also have a creative team that includes writers and filmmakers who join the conversation and add to our process. It's a sonic exploration of the points where Western rock met and merged with the sounds of the Mekong and a great opportunity to update this with new music produced and recorded locally to reach and connect with an international audience.

You recently acquired a Yamaha YC-20 vintage keyboard. How would you describe the sound of the band right now... which sonic galaxies is the spaceship exploring at the moment? 
Well spotted! Yeah the YC-20 was a lucky find. I broke my shoulder in a moto accident just before Christmas but had a CSP tour booked so in-between surgery I moved to playing pretty basic one-armed keyboards while Jason Shaw took over guitar duties. On the way out to Sydney for a show I started looking around for a vintage sounding keyboard, eventually I found the YC-20 near our rehearsal studio in Redfern, Sydney. It was owned by a guy from a cool Sydney band called The Cops - so yeah... I called the Cops and they delivered the YC-20. This is a classic sounding instrument - think 60's garage with Question Mark & The Mysterians or early 70's ska and reggae and the sounds of The Specials etc.  It's a cool thing (all 30 kilos of it) to play with and add to the CSP sessions.

You put together the The Kampot Writers and Readers Festival last year with great success. The arts and music scene down there seems to be growing, with more and more expats moving down to Kampot? Any plans for a second festival in 2016? 

Yes, it was a real success and the KWRF is an annual event that will run from Nov 3-7 this year. Again it will have some amazing songwriters as well as a eclectic and vibrant program to promote literacy and share stories. We're just getting to work on KWRF program now and I can tell you that there's a special Cambodian songwriting competition that is about to be launched and will also be one of the big events at this year's KWRF. Last year's music highlights were many including a great collaboration between Aussie legend Paul Kelly and Cambodia's all-women garment factory band The Messenger Band. It's a hard act to follow but one that's already attracting some equally great people to the festival.

The CSP have their own psychedelic, spacey sense of style. If you could suggest a special dress code for the audience at your next gig at Here Be Dragons in Battambang, what would it be? 

Well yeah... dress in bright primary colours "Jungle Boogie" style and bring your own space helmet and/or suit if you're inclined. For Friday 13th in Siem Reap it would be good to see some monster and horror get-ups. We don't really care what you wear but I do remember the moment a fancy dress party turned up at a CSP gig in South Australia - there were quite a few Star Wars costumes in the crowd and a Storm Trooper really getting down on the dance floor - funny, surreal, trippy!


Weekly Gig Guide - Week Commencing Thursday the 26th December 2013

Christmas morning arrived with the startling sound of a heavy hammer-drill being put to unsparing use in the apartment below mine. Quite a contrast from last year’s church bells and birdsong. For Christmas lunch, when several thousand miles away my mother would be basting the roast and listening to Christmas carols, I tucked into a platter of salty pork and rice, steamed buns and a can of Black Panther. I was perfectly happy with my solo feast, but my housekeeper Mrs Sovann seemed to take pity on me and felt compelled to cheer me up with a chopped pineapple. She has never bought me anything before.

‘...and now Bong Jack miss family in England?’

‘Yes, Mrs Sovann, but I am very happy here in Cambodia.’

Where else would I rather be? Within this week’s slightly slim gig guide there are plenty of fantastic performances in store. Thursday brings a treat for the discerning listener at Doors, where Ai Iwasaki, Gabi Faja and Bong Somnang will perform selected opera arias and classical pieces. Door charge $3.

I will be trying to organise some local music luminaries to light up the stage at Sharky Bar on Friday night, when Miss Sarawan will begin proceedings for Bondarnh Leng Pleng at 9pm. After that.... let’s just say there will be some really cool special guests in attendance to help us enjoy a night of live music, seasonal celebration and what little Christmas cheer I can muster. Hope to see you there.

On Saturday the amazing and intriguing Kok Thlok will inaugurate FCC Phnom Penh’s brand new live music space – ‘The Mansion’. I hope the stage is large, because the talented members of this Khmer-fusion ensemble cannot usually be counted on ten fingers. Traditional Khmer instruments such as the Roneat and Tro are combined with drums, bass, guitar and saxophone. Like The Cambodian Space Project and The Underdogs, this troupe’s repertoire consists primarily of Golden Era Khmer-rock songs. However, Kok Thlok do things in a more traditional and reverent style – while also including more folkloric Khmer songs in the set list.

Gigs are looking a little bit thin on the ground ahead of the peculiar annual catharsis that is New Year’s Eve. Many of your favourite groups and DJs will be engaged at expensive gala dinners and private parties. For the professional musician, NYE will usually be the most profitable night of the year. With so many venues looking to create events there is a serious supply and demand issue. A lot of performers will be getting paid four or five times their usual nightly rate. This ‘sucks’ for the smaller live music venues trying to put on a night as they simply cannot afford to hire a band. Many establishments will be entertaining guests without the assistance of live performers or DJs. Some venue managers will say ‘bah humbug’ to the whole New Year’s Eve deal and give themselves and their staff a well-deserved night off.

If you still want to party next Tuesday night but you are not willing to spend two week’s rent money on a dinner-dance ticket then what are your options? A couple of great parties stand out from the crowd. On the rooftop of a tall building situated at the corner of Streets 51 and 172, the Dusk till Dawn bar will be hosting Phnom Penh Underground. Six DJs in two rooms, including DJ Sequence, DJ Dan Beck and Phatt Controller – no cover charge. Meanwhile in Kampot, the Naga House will hold a dual celebration for what might be their last New Year’s Eve in the current premises. Their 8th Anniversary Party will feature several bands and DJs and something tells Jack this will be a no-holds-barred crazy escapade.

As an antidote to all this seasonal nonsense, have a look at this random and inspiring video from performance-poet Shane Koyczan – Remember How We Forgot.

Stay safe and don’t do anything too crazy out there,


Latest Gigs

Thursday  26-Dec-2013
  • 8:00 PM ~ Simon's Big Show at The Kong Bar in Sihanouk Ville
  • 8:30 PM ~ Gabi Faja , AI Iawasaki and Bong Samnang at The Doors
  • 9:00 PM ~ Barry Speirs and Ritchy Boisson at The Groove
  • 9:30 PM ~ Diego Latin Trio at Oscars 51
Friday  27-Dec-2013
  • 8:30 PM ~ Rhiannon Johnson at The Doors
  • 9:00 PM ~ Bondarnh Leng Pleng at Sharky Bar
  • 9:00 PM ~ Philippe Javelle and Anna mc keon at The Cabaret Restaurant
  • 9:00 PM ~ Ritchy Boisson at The Groove
  • 9:30 PM ~ Jahzad at The Slur Bar
  • 11:00 PM ~ DJ Gang and DJ Rob at Pontoon
Saturday  28-Dec-2013
  • 4:00 PM ~ DJ Polaak , DJ Kdam and MC Kaztet D at The Naga House in Kampot
  • 8:30 PM ~ Kok Thlok at The FCC Phnom Penh
  • 9:00 PM ~ At Panha Band at The Slur Bar
  • 9:00 PM ~ A Tribute to CBGBs at Sharky Bar
  • 9:00 PM ~ The Underdogs at Equinox
  • 9:00 PM ~ Philippe Javelle and Ritchy Boisson at The Groove
  • 9:30 PM ~ GTS Jazz and Stephane Routier at The Doors
  • 10:00 PM ~ Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks at Oscars 51
  • 11:00 PM ~ DJ Tech 12 and MC Hydro Phonics at Pontoon
Sunday  29-Dec-2013
  • 5:00 PM ~ Sunday Sundowner Sessions with Joe Wrigley at The Alley Cat Cafe
Tuesday  31-Dec-2013
  • 6:30 PM ~ The Cambodian Space Project at The Himawari
  • 7:00 PM ~ Preap Sovath , Meas Soksophear , Sokun Nisa , Aok Sokunkanha , Chhorn Sovanreach , Miss. Photo City , Sok Seylalin , Bayyareth Nop , Zono , Chhet SovanPanha , Vanna Piseth , Koy and Ms. Katok at Naga World
  • 7:30 PM ~ Roddy Fraser , Joshua Chiang and Chino De Nogales at Le Jardin
  • 8:00 PM ~ Dr. Wah Wah , DJ Dan Beck , DJ Phatt Controller , DJ Sequence , Alan Ritchie and Wes_T at Dusk till Dawn
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Star , DJ Lefty Stryker , Dennis Shaw Aka D-Rakkas and DJ Maily at The RiverHouse Lounge
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Flo Tralala , DJ Illest , DJ Rob , DJ Lefty Stryker , DJ Shaman and DJ Eyedee at Pontoon
  • 9:00 PM ~ 8th Anniversary Party at The Bodhi Villa in Kampot
  • 9:00 PM ~ Happy Nova New Year 2014 at Nova Penthouse
Coming Up
  • Marsyas at Equinox
  • Jahzad at Equinox
  • Vibratone at Equinox
  • Billy Page and Adelisa at Equinox
  • Diego Demarques Trio at Equinox
  • Jaworski 7 at Equinox
  • Sonic Detergent at Equinox
  • The Wanderlusters * at Equinox
  • The Cambodian Space Project at The Otres Market in Sihanoukville
  • Gabi Faja, Philippe Javelle and Barry Speirs at The Doors
  • DJ Cut Killer at Pontoon
  • DJ Tim Coates and Mikus at The RiverHouse Lounge
  • DJ DSN, DJ Cab, DJ Polaak and Salmon All Star at Otres Beach in Sihanouk Ville
  • The Cuban Brothers * at Code

A Noisome Birth in Fevered Times: Phnom Penh’s NIGHTMARE A.D.

by Mike Priest
Mike at his record store in Singapore, Hell's Labyrinth - pic: Penny Torture.
To be honest, I was quite jaded with playing in bands or getting involved in music when I first came to Phnom Penh two years ago. I owned a Heavy Metal record store in Singapore, played in established bands for years, released albums and EPs as well as having toured both Europe and Asia. I’ve had members quit on me during and after recordings - citing work reasons or because they needed to concentrate on their families. Singapore is a tough place in a sense that you have to keep making enough money to make ends meet due to an impetuous economic inflation (the most expensive place in the world, according to the BBC). If you’re a Metal musician in Asia, you know you aren’t doing this for the money because there’s no money to be made. The main priority was to release a notable album or EP and cover as much of the cost as possible through sales and shows. My bands were under different labels; the smaller labels usually didn’t pay for the recording costs but at least they funded the pressing and gave us more copies of the release for us to sell at shows. Bigger labels paid tour support money, gave a budgeted sum for recording and handled the pressing of the record.
Mike performing with IMPIETY - live in Stockholm, Sweden.
pic: Extremmetal.se
I moved to Phnom Penh after Kandibhan (one of the first members of NIGHTMARE A.D.) whom I knew for years asked me to come on down for a holiday since he was working in Phnom Penh. The lease on my rented apartment was nearly up and I didn’t have a place of my own, so I decided to go on a holiday and check out Cambodia for the first time. Having travelled South-east Asia extensively in the past, I noticed that Cambodia was different and decided to plant myself down in Phnom Penh. I talked to Kandibhan about forming a band for fun, playing MISFITS covers and we had Gem Habito (guitars) and Todd Bazley (drums) join the band. We played our first few shows at Sharky Bar, which became the launching pad for us in terms of exposure and networking with other bands and people involved in Phnom Penh’s music scene. We started to branch out after to venues like Slur Bar and Showbox but even then we never disregarded the venue where we cut our teeth on in Cambodia.
Nightmare AD at Sharky Bar - pic: Kang Predi
We encountered line-up problems as Kandibhan wasn’t very committed - he kept leaving and coming back into the band as and when he wanted due to personal issues (he eventually returned to Singapore). Gem was leaving Cambodia as well, so there were some changes that needed to be made as Todd and I were the only ones left in the band then. I felt that doing just MISFITS covers or covers in general wasn’t the way to go, so I re-approached the entire concept of NIGHTMARE A.D. and decided to do the kind of music I felt most passionate about. Thrash Metal with strong tinges of Hardcore Punk and Crust was pretty much the formula derived in terms of original material. It was a turbulent rebirth of the band but it was worth the effort; transitioning from a MISFITS cover band to a full-on Thrash Metal Crossover band with original material. We recruited Genesis Sayo Trias from THE ADOBO CONSPIRACY on bass but he has since switched to rhythm guitar since Ned Kelly of SANGVAR DAY joined the band as the new bass player after helping us get a show at Showbox with Brazilian Death Thrashers NERVOCHAOS and Japanese Experimental Grinders SETE STAR SEPT.
Original members of Nightmare AD: Todd Bazley and Mike Priest - pic: Steve Porte. 
As for lyrical inspiration, seeing (and sometimes experiencing) the poverty, the crime and the corruption living in Phnom Penh provides much fuel for vitriolic, angered expressions. Aside from the expat community, life in Cambodia isn’t easy by any means; the harshness of reality really bites deep, thus the lyrics of NIGHTMARE A.D. are a reflection of all these malignant tumours that grow in the seedy underbelly of Cambodian society.
We got in touch with Yab Moung Records, owned by Myles and Timon, to release our EP titled “Corruptors” and they were enthusiastic about the idea. The five-track EP has since been recorded in their studio in Kandal Province and is now being mixed by Danzo of PHNOM SKOR. We are looking at late May as the date of release. Aside from the upcoming EP, we are still writing new material as well as planning to do a music video (arranged by Yab Moung Records as well) for one of the songs off the EP. A small tour is also being planned, but it’s better to take things step by step sometimes instead of fucking everything up by being in a rush to get things done. I guess this is where we have found ourselves after two years, not too shabby for a bunch of Metal dudes.

Nightmare AD at Showbox, Phnom Penh - pic: David DSN

RJ Marshall Interview

pic: RJ Marshall Facebook
Richard 'RJ' Marshall is a 38 year-old singer-songwriter from Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. He has been coming to Cambodia for the last ten years and has been living in Phnom Penh for the past five years. As an active performer around the city and as a managing partner in the seminal Phnom Penh venue Show Box, RJ has a unique vantage point from which to discuss some of the happenings and some of the changes that have taken place on the Phnom Penh music scene during his time here.

On a very quiet pre-Khmer New Year weekday evening, Leng Pleng visited RJ at Show Box to chew the fat. As the venue staff were getting ready to close the venue down for a few days, we adjourned to the upstairs balcony with pizza and beer. Downstairs, a few staunch Show Box regulars who had not already left town were hanging out – munching on woodfire oven-baked snacks from the 'Kati Perri Pizza' mobile van which visits Show Box each week. As RJ began to talk, the chime of the 'free beer bell' (which can be heard every night between 6.30pm and 7pm) rang out across the Show Box yard. 
Can you remember your first trip to Cambodia? Were you like... Phnom Penh is a good place to play music!

2006 was the first time I came to Cambodia, backpacking. It was on that trip that I decided that I wanted to do more music in my life, having done it as a kid but not doing a lot in the intervening period. The idea developed... I liked Phnom Penh, when I came here I had a good time. I thought it was interesting and there were places to go and places to play music. The idea was along the lines of: wouldn't it be good to go out to South-East Asia and open a music venue? Initially thinking, on the beach somewhere but not knowing exactly where that would be. As time went on and I came back here again, and came back another time... gradually I thought Phnom Penh is where it's at as far as I'm concerned. I came out here [for an extended period] in 2011 with [a friend] and that was when we started looking for ideas.

An early incarnation of Grass Snake Union at Equinox - pic: jesseinindia blog

Which Venues and bands were around when you came to Phnom Penh in 2011?

From then I remember Equinox, Setsara, Paddy Rice, Sharky's... Sundance had just opened around then. …The FCC had always been here as far as I remember. ...Equinox was there but wasn't really [a venue]. Then Anthony Mrugacz came along and became the manager, did the sound system and made all these changes and suddenly Equinox became a great venue to go to for bands.

The Cavern was around then - in 2011 – and bands like Ian Anderson and the Lazy Drunks, Stiff Little Punks, Two Shots and a Chaser and Tango & Snatch (with Ziad [Samman]) ...and Jet [Odrerir]. There was another place on Street 278 called Red Orchid. The best thing was Grass Snake Union - I really like bluegrass and country music.

What kind of changes have you seen in Phnom Penh since 2011?

Spending each summer in Europe then coming back to Phnom Penh, you see huge changes every time you come back - in marked contrast to where I grew up at home UK where you could go away for ten years and the place looks pretty much the same. There was a massive change in 2013-2014 when Slur Bar opened, Oscar Rock Cafe opened on Street 51... The Village opened before that... The Doors opened... In terms of music that was the most obvious thing that happened: a lot of places opened and it wasn't entirely clear what was going to happen to them.

One thing that has occurred to me is that your total music-going audience in Phnom Penh, although there might be a lot of expats here, the total number of people that might go out and see a band is probably not that many. I could say maybe a few hundred. It's alright having a music venue but if there aren't enough people to go to it and support the music then how can you operate, how can you have, like, three in one street?

Show Box : Pic via Tripadvisor

When did you first become involved with Show Box ?

It was Myles [Hallin] and Darin [Ou] that opened it in, I think, October 2012. I first came in not long after that. I really liked the place and the idea and what they were doing. It was kind of a mix, they wanted a place where [young] Cambodians could come and hang out... there was nowhere for people to go... places where you get Cambodians and foreigners going to the same bar. They were looking for a third person to come in as a partner in the business... which was me. We got around to signing some paperwork in April or May 2013. Both Myles and Darin have now left, it's just myself and Carla [Mason] - and a lot of staff - working here.

When it opened, it was as a music venue. Live music there two nights a week... get the local bands to play... we had Sam Rocker here of No Forever, Sliten6ix, Splitter and some others. I think that was the first time I came here – it was one of those nights and it was just such a good atmosphere... really loud and really good... and a unique venue.

But you know the story of what happened with that... we're basically on a residential street and while our building is sound-proofed, it's people coming and going late at night, making noise and the neighbours were quite understandably not too happy about that... and so the story goes on. So for a while we didn't have any live music at all and now we've kind of reached a happy compromise. You cannot have a late night place like that in this location, as it turns out. But we close at midnight and as long as we don't have extremely loud music on too late, and we don't do it every night, then it's alright.

Another lively Show Box open mic session
The weekly Wednesday open mic session has got tremendously busy, what's happening there? There is no other open mic night like that in Phnom Penh.

My idea for doing open mic was based on what I'd seen back in Brighton in England or in America. I wanted to have a place where people can come and play music and be able to do their own stuff and get up and play in front of a room. That's my understanding of what an open mic is for. People might not be able to do that elsewhere – people don't have the confidence or they're just starting out... some people want to try out stuff...

Here, we've got a keyboard, a bass, drums... if you provide the facilities, people are going to use them. The fact that it's there encourages people to come along. I was looking around [last week] and there were, say, twenty people I had never seen before. You meet people who have just arrived in Phnom Penh but they come here because they've heard about it somehow or other.

I love the Wednesday night thing. You never know who's going to be here ...we just had a guy who was here like a year ago passing through and he came back ...he enjoyed it so much he came back to play at the open mic. Both of the [musical] projects I'm in now, with Tin and with Christina, in both cases we just started off doing a couple of songs at open mic. It was because there was somewhere to play with an audience that we did it.

Show Box is definitely on the radar!

Mini Banana, Top Banana, White Rabbit, Mad Monkey, Eighty-Eight, Longlin... all of those places... we know people there... if anyone at the guest house is asking 'what's going on in Phnom Penh?' they'll probably hear about Show Box . But it's not really aimed at backpackers and tourists, most of the people here are regulars... we did this art show the week before last, so that brings in a whole crowd of people who would not have otherwise come here.

We are entirely self-sufficient... It is very much a business but we're doing it because we enjoy it. Carla says she felt it was like her family... the bar staff, most of them are from one family! I'm doing it because of the enjoyment, it's very much a collaborative effort. For example, Conrad [Keely] and Greg [Balster] curated this whole exhibition, organised the artwork. It's always been like that at Show Box really. I used to come here and want to do a show. Damani and Steve did their electronic music thing the Friday before last... it was great. 
Vanntin 'Tin' Hoeurn performing with Sliten6ix

Can you tell me how Phnom Skor got started?

The early days of Show Box, there's photos of Tin [Vanntin Hoeurn], but I didn't know him then. He was three years younger - but three years younger when you're 22 is a long time! That was when he was in Sliten6ix. I got him to teach me Khmer here for an hour every week... we got to know each other from that. Tin was here a lot at open mic and it just progressed: 'do you want to do a couple of songs at open mic, what can we do?' and I think we did 'Ace of Spades' and 'Hurt'... we started off with a couple of songs and it progressed from there.

In 2014 when I was back here ...that's really when we started playing. Tin said 'I want to get a band together' because he'd finished with Sliten6ix and he wanted to do something where he could sing instead of scream and also do more melodic stuff. For the last year he's been listening to loads and loads of really early blues. Basically going through everything he can find and coming up with some real gems of stuff that I'd never heard: Skip James, Son House, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Howling Wolf... names I might have heard of but I didn't know the music. It's almost a cliché to go back to the blues but ...that's been the sort of stuff inspiring the music that we want to do and Tin hates it if I play anything too happy! There is a sound now where we can say 'that's our sound' - which is easier to listen to than describe - ...minor chords, open tunings, eerie. We found a bass player, Damani, who had just arrived in town. Myself, Tin, Damani and Mike [Forster – drums].

So, when is the Phnom Skor debut album coming out?

The focus is on writing our own stuff, which is what we've been doing. We've put in covers done in our own way, our own renditions. Tin and I recorded 'In The Pines' [classic blues/folk song also known as 'Where Did You Sleep Last night'] in Khmer with Myles. We did three tracks last week with Myles, just me and Tin (so far). We should definitely record the band over the next couple of months. Damani has been producing Nightmare AD's EP at the CAM Projects studio.

When we're rehearsing [Tin] is often orchestrating the whole thing: 'now we'll do this... I want you to do this... I want something like...' He's got something in mind and I'll play it. That's how we've been writing stuff. He'll come up with an idea, we'll put in a middle bit and a break ...he's kind of directing the band in terms of orchestrating the music and how he wants stuff to sound, which is great. We've got eight or nine original songs at the moment, some of which are in Khmer and some of which are in English, and some are mixed.

RJ rocking with Phnom Skor at the Golden Street Festival in Phnom Penh.
Pic: David Flack/Stevan Ivanovic/Phnom Skor Facebook

Richard 'RJ' Marshall talked to Joe Wrigley for Leng Pleng.

Phnom Skor will play The Banyan Tree in Kampot this Friday the 15th April.

Follow Phnom Skor on Soundcloud and Facebook

Watch videos from Phnom Skor and RJ Marshall on Youtube channel northseamusic

Follow Show Box on Facebook

For more info about the early days of the expat music scene in Phnom Penh, read the Leng Pleng interview with Scott 'Scoddy' Bywater

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