Turnstile's Daniel Fang on Leaving Hospital to Play Record Release Show in Medical Gown | Revolver

Turnstile's Daniel Fang on Leaving Hospital to Play Record Release Show in Medical Gown

How Coca-Cola-color urine and a stern diagnosis couldn't keep the hardcore drummer down
turnstile_angelaowens-2526.jpg, Angela Owens
photograph by Angela Owens

It all started on Instagram more than a week ago with a series of well wishes for Turnstile drummer Daniel Fang, who was pictured in a hospital bed. The tone seemed far from serious, and yet the implications were important enough to be acknowledged in the lead-up to Turnstile's record release show (on April 5th at Washington D.C.'s Damaged City festival) and subsequent U.S. tour. The questions hung heavy: "If D Fang is in the hospital now, how is he going to play drums at the show, let alone hit the road for a month soon after?" As the Time & Space release party crept closer, the speculation continued until that night, when the Turnstile drummer arrived at the gig in a hospital gown, ready to play his set.

So what happened this week? How is Daniel Fang feeling? Will he head out for the U.S. tour that kicks off this week? Revolver asked those questions and more in an exclusive interview over the weekend.

SO, HOW DID YOU END UP IN THE HOSPITAL?
DANIEL FANG 
Basically last week, I got injured by lifting weights. Over the past few years I've become a very intermittent lifter — go on tour and when I get back from tour I try and get back in shape. It's very off and on — which is the first prerequisite to getting this thing called rhabdomyolysis. I was lifting last Thursday and on Friday woke up, like, super sore. I thought to myself, "Man, I'm just not in shape at all," meaning go back to the gym and go harder. So I went super hard that day and then that night I was playing video games with my friend, went to go pee and it came out like looking like Coca-Cola. It was brown-black. So I thought to myself, "This is definitely rhabdo." Anyone who has spent a ton of time in the gym has heard of rhabdo, but it's almost a myth because it's extremely rare.

So I went to the hospital immediately that night, around 1 a.m. I told them my symptoms and the nurse was like, "I'll get your blood drawn, get a urine sample." I actually took a picture of my pee when I was taking the samples to show my friends, so when I showed it to the doctor, she was like, "OK, that's 100 percent, right." So they put me on I.V. fluids for, like, two days in the hospital — almost like all the rest of Friday and then most of Saturday.

Basically, rhabdomyolysis is when your muscle tissue gets so damaged that it reaches actual death. So then it starts resulting in this enzyme called CPK that leaks into your bloodstream. Normally, your kidneys try to filter out the decay enzyme that becomes very toxic, but when it's in those high levels, you can definitely get kidney failure and die. I was able to get my system somewhat normal so I wasn't in immediate danger of kidney failure. But they tested my CPK level — which was greater than 20,000­ — the max that their facilities can read. I thought to myself this is very scary.

So I got out of the hospital Saturday night and spent all of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday drinking just a prescribed amount of liquids, which was crazy. Monday, I went to get my blood taken, and there was a band practice that night — we played, it kind of hurt, but I was down. At that point, the doctor was confident that I would be good for the record release show on Thursday and the tour starting next Monday. I drank a lot of fluids and did not take it too hard.

Thursday morning the day of the show I woke up and I got an email from the doctor who said that my CPK level was still greater than 20,000, the maximum amount that the facility can read. I would need to come back to Urgent Care immediately. I get back to the hospital, and now my new doctor — because I'm now in Urgent Care and not with my primary care doctor — my new doctor takes a look at my CPK levels and says I need to chill for a week.

I am pretty annoyed, but I came back and stated my case plainly. "I need to play this show tonight at least — it's not really an option. So give me the best advice possible to manage what I have considering I'm going to go through this kind of intensive physical activity with playing drums."

"Well, as a doctor, I can't allow you to play drums and put yourself at risk. Either stay in the hospital or at least stay at home and rest."

I sent a picture of me in a hospital and everyone was so bummed — less so that I wasn't going to play, but more that they were worried for my well being. So I told the guys that I was going to play the show that night, but made the call about not playing Saturday at United Blood.

turnstile_angelaowens-2350.jpg, Angela Owens
photograph by Angela Owens

LET'S GO BACK TO YOUR DOCTOR SAYING YOU SHOULDN'T PLAY THE SHOW. WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD AND WHAT WERE THE STEPS THAT LED TO YOU ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GIG?
When I got the email that morning, I kind of started panicking a little bit because it immediately brought to mind the decision: "Do I play the show?" Or "do I let my friends down?" Or "do I try to take into consideration my physical health?" Am I going to actually put myself at risk for kidney failure or something that serious?

So I was in the hospital until, like, 6:30, and during that time I had a lot of time talk to the nurses and the doctor and basically bombard them with questions — very specific questions of what I can and can't do. We were talking in circles for hours because she had to keep going to see patients and coming back. So the more she told me not to do these things, the more I was wearing her down. Eventually she said, "As your doctor, I'm telling you not to play the show tonight. I'm telling you to not go on tour, also. I really can't keep you here. I cannot change you." So I thought to myself, this is technically AMA, which is against medical advice, but there's nothing legally keeping me in a hospital room. And then the nurse came in and pulled my I.V.s out. So I just left and went to a show.

HOW DID YOU GET THERE? 
I drove there myself and I fell asleep at the stoplight. It was then that I realized how hungry I was — not eating and just drinking and drinking and everything running through you to where you're going to the bathroom every half an hour.

I was pretty messed up, but eventually got there and realized I had my hospital gown on. I was wearing pants and a hoodie and a jacket and just sort of tucked my gown up. But it was really funny because there were people outside just chillin' and here I am walking up, super stiff, and I hear people, "Yo ... Is that ... Daniel?" [Laughs]

It turns out that Red Death were playing right before us and that I got there in the nick of time. It felt like a movie. It was basically a room that had, like, 600 plus people and as I walked in the door, I felt the back row of people look at me with astonishment in their eyes. My stomach dropped like a first grader on the first day of school. And then after a few seconds, I realized where I was and how many friends were around me. And just the magnitude of the whole show, which was very significant and very magical ... I was like, "Damn, I'm home."

I'M SURE YOUR ADRENALINE KICKED IN AT THAT MOMENT BECAUSE THIS WAS THE CULMINATION OF YEARS OF WORK, TOURING, ETC. ETC. AND THIS WAS THE RECORD RELEASE SHOW FOR YOUR BIGGEST ALBUM YET. SO YOU PLAY THE GIG — WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HIT THE LAST NOTE? HOW ARE YOU FEELING? 
That's crazy because I truly remember hitting the last note. The last two songs or so songs, we put out everything, all of our energy [into it]. That's just how we play. And I feel like that's how most of our band go as hard as possible.

But after I played that last note, I remember looking at the rest of the guys and especially Brandon [Yates, Turnstile lead singer]. He had this look on his face of satisfaction that we played that set and we had all made it. It felt bigger than just me missing a show or something ... It felt like this was what we had worked for all along and now we were here.

SO WHAT ABOUT NOW? WHAT ARE THE NEXT FEW DAYS GOING TO LOOK LIKE? CAN WE EXPECT DANIEL FANG TO HIT THE ROAD OR STAY PUT?
I am currently packing up my stuff for our U.S. tour. I'll see you on the road.

Thanks Dan O!