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Taking The Fever Machine's Temperature

The Fever Machine (Dan Shapiro on vocals and guitar, Fabien Barbet on bass and vocals, and Miguel Bustamante on drums) have been gigging hard since they burst onto the scene back in March. They are headlining a killer bill of local acts this Saturday at Yuyintang. We caught up with them this week before practice and here’s what transpired:

I know how Dan and Fabien knew each other, but how did you guys hook up with Miguel?

D: It’s funny because Fabien mentioned last week in his interview; I actually met Miguel on Myspace. Miguel hit me up before he came to Shanghai just looking to locate bands and people that were affiliated with them and he asked me a question and I told him about The Rogue Transmission He came with CDs from his band Amigos de la Anejo and stickers that you see all over Yuyintang. So I knew immediately he was a bro who was down and I knew he played drums, but he actually played with some friends of ours, Dan and Olaf, and they were like, “Yeah this dude’s pretty badass on the drums.” One thing led to another and we ended up jamming over last summer.

M: When I had just arrived I started looking for the music scene. I had no idea where it was in Shanghai. I found out about a concert at Yuyintang. I searched Yuyintang on Myspace, that’s how I found out about Dan because they were playing a show. I didn’t meet Fabien until a couple of weeks later. I first met Dan that night.

What show was that?

M: August 2008.

I think you guys are rockers, although Fabien may be less into rock, but how rock are you? Do you get into like black metal or death metal?

F: I don’t get to be a rocker?

How rocking are you, Fabi? Do you get into black metal, death metal?

F: No, but I’ve been through that.

M: Well, I listen to rock. I’ve played punk for ten years straight, and a lot of hardcore, but I’m pretty open when it comes to music. I can listen to a bunch more shit that I really like. There might be four or five genders (sic) I don’t dig too much, but after that it’s pretty much everything.

What are those genres?

M: I definitely don’t like country, that’s for sure.

D: Did you say genders? (Much laughter)

M: Genners (sic)? How do you say that word?

D: Just fucking with you, man.

M: I don’t like country, R &B, or hip hop, but I do like old ska and reggae and some other variations of rock that aren’t that heavy.

D: I think the music that I listen to is a lot more diverse than the music that I write. I am really passionate about rock n’ roll music but I think that encompasses a lot of things. I don’t listen to “Cookie Monster voice” metal, but classic metal is huge for me. I’ve definitely listened to some grindcore, but I don’t get into that shit. Early Metallica, Motorhead, those are seminal metal bands that still have a little bit of punk attitude and psychedelia wrapped into them so I think that kind of music is indicative of what we do. Miguel doesn’t like country, but I like old country, just not Keith Urban. That shit’s real whack for sure, but the original Sun Studios Four, that’s really country music, honestly. Guys like Carl Perkins are country, but they’re still rock n’ roll. That’s real important. The Rogue Transmission played a lot of boogie rock and I’m into all that stuff.

You even played a country set (at Anar).

We fucked around with some genres. Honest music is what I like, stuff that’s really indicative of who you are gets through me.

Fabi, what do you like to listen to?

F: Uh, everything.

Anything specific?

F:  I tried to catch up with Marnie Stern again, but I listen to Them Crooked Vultures. I got to see them live, but I didn’t even know them then.

This question came to me because we just played a show, a packed show, but no one was moving. And I have been to your shows where there are a lot of people but no one was really moving around so I want to know what you think about audiences in Shanghai. Fabi?

F: I can’t remember some gigs where it wasn’t moving, but I have played some gigs where it was super crazy – the Get in the Van shows, some at LOgO, which is a pretty good place to get everybody jumping and destroying your gear onstage and mics on your face and shit. I’ve seen massive gigs at LOgO. Take Fucked Up, who really had everyone prepared to rock.

What about you, Miguel? You’re newer to the scene.

M: I guess I’ve seen little shows that have gotten crazy. The first ones were The Rogue Transmission, when they played with Fucked Up and some other shows that got really messy, but, other than that, no. I saw crazier shows when I had just gotten here.

F:  Actually hardcore bands and metal bands are getting crazy people. I think Chinese people only get crazy when they are listening to that music. Then you see really violent mosh pits.

M: Hardcore music definitely gets people moving for sure.

D: I think it comes out of the drumbeat. I don’t think it comes from the crowd. It comes from the type of music you play. Punk bands will get you going, bands that have that four-on-the-floor pogo style. What we do now, we have a couple songs that have that fast rhythm and people go nuts for them, but I think that the way our music is now, there are swells and lulls. The audience can’t go nuts. We force them to step back and stand in awe for a moment. Look at a band like Duck Fight Goose; you can’t pogo to their music. You have to stand back and watch it. It’s a different type of artistry. But when PK14 comes to town everyone shits themselves and jumps up. A lot of that is dictated by the rhythm and the tempo, so it’s partially the crowd, but it’s also the music being played. Maybe a couple of years ago the music was faster and jumpier. You can’t really pogo to a galloping metal track. The rhythm changes everything.

You guys have done a lot of gigs since you started. Seems like you and Boys Climbing Ropes are the go-to bands for the big shows coming from out of town. I wonder if you are worried about over-exposing yourselves.

D: I think right now we’re a brand new band. We only started playing live in March and we’re just trying to expose this batch of songs to as many people as possible. It’s a different machine than the band we were playing in before where we were very controlled and calculated playing only headlining gigs once a month. Now we’re trying to get people to know about our band. We’re not worried about over-exposing ourselves because we’re so new. I don’t think we’re always going to be playing 17 shows in a four-month period, but we haven’t been doing this for a long time, so every time we play a live show it gives us an opportunity to get tighter and experiment. We’re changing arrangements here and there. We’re trying to keep it as exciting as possible. We’re still writing a bit on the side. I’ve been critical of bands that over-expose in the past, but we’re so new it’s not at the point where we could over-expose. If we had records coming or tours booked we might be a bit smarter, but we’ve said yes to every gig we’ve been offered and every one has been with different people. We have this gig coming up on Saturday and it’s just a bunch of new bands, basically our group of peers, so it’s nice. All the bands are on the same level in their development. Everyone remembers that Fabien and I were doing stuff for a couple of years before, so they might get confused and think that this is more of the same, but it’s not. It’s something totally new.

M: For the short period that we’ve been playing, we’ve noticed that our gigs have been totally diversified, especially playing with foreign acts. The crowds have been different types of people. We have hit many different types of people, so you may be able to develop a solid following from these different people that went to see these bands.

Outside the box question: With Ronnie James Dio passing, which dead artists do you think are in Hell right now?

M: They’re all in Hell!

D: Jim Morrison is definitely in Hell. That dude was just a spoiled fuck. Really entertaining for sure, but he’s just in Hell. I bet Ronnie James Dio is not in Hell. He’s chilling somewhere comfortable, watching Hell, and writing fantasy metal song about it.

F: Syd Barrett must be in heaven.

What are your favorite Chinese bands right now?

M: I haven’t seen or have any music from China right now, but I can say that I really liked the set that the Re-TROS played at the show I saw a couple weeks ago. They’re pretty solid.

D: I’m into PK14. I like a lot of Chinese bands, but that’s the only one that is really lasting for me. I’m into Hedgehog. They don’t always make it onto the Shuffle, though.

What do you see as the similarities and differences between the Shanghai and Beijing scenes?

D: Beijing has more bands and they actually have record labels, but the people are kind of jaded. In Shanghai, it’s a little less formal. I think the crowds in Shanghai are better. In Beijing, if you are not a big band you’re not going to get tons of support. Those things come and go. Bands like the Subs will come to Shanghai and play for 500 people and they’ll play in Beijing for like 50 people. That’s the main difference, I guess. From the first look you think that everything in Beijing is more artistically superior, but I think it hit a plateau. There are a lot of good bands in Beijing, but it’s not an infinite resource. The ones that are good are being championed and going on world tours, but the ones that aren’t are just like in Shanghai. The parity is growing. There are more foreign bands in Shanghai. There are a lot of foreign bands in Beijing, but they don’t seem to be playing live as much. There’s a label called Tag Team that seems to be made up mostly of foreign bands, like Random K(e) and Arrows Made of Desire. The music is more out of the box. It’s not genre-specific.

This one might be tough: Top 5 rock albums of all time?

Fever Machine: Highway to Hell (AC/DC), Aenima (Tool), Songs for the Deaf (Queens of the Stone Age), Paranoid (Black Sabbath), Nevermind (Nirvana). (Ed.’s Note: I culled this from many joke choices.)

Final question: What’s on tap for the Fever Machine heading into the summer?

F: India.

D: We’re doing a tour there! No, for real, we’re going to play shows for the next six weeks straight. A bunch of shows in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, maybe Nanjing, and then Fabien’s going to India. We’re recording some demos. Me and Miguel are going to be here, so we’ll probably be doing a lot of writing and staying fresh. We’ll figure out what we’re going to do in the fall, but summertime is a time to rest. We won’t play live, but there won’t be a lot going on because it’s too hot. You know Shanghai; it’s fall and it’s spring. So we’ll take it as we can now. We’re getting better all the time, so see us when you can now.

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