Though he was already plastered on Apple billboards across the People's Republic of China, relatively few in the United States had heard of Jimmy Wong until last week - when the Internet helped transform him into a viral video sensation.
Wong turned his anger and frustration with Alexandra Wallace - the now-infamous (former) UCLA student whose racist YouTube rant against "Asians in the Library" had recently gone viral - into a bonafide pop sensation. Wong's musical response to Wallace's original posting - aptly entitled Ching Chong (It means I love you) - has received over 2.5 million views since last week, and hits for the songwriter's other humorous videos are speedily climbing into the hundreds of thousands.
Taking a classy and humorous approach to a topic of heated controversy in the recent media, Jimmy Wong simultaneously managed to achieve YouTube stardom and also spin his creative efforts into a campaign for hope, with 100% proceeds of all of his catchy tunes (available for download on iTunes and Bandcamp) going to aid victims of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Notes On The Road had the rare opportunity to catch vocalist-instrumentalist-actor-writer-designer-film-maker-model Jimmy Wong amidst the blitz of attention he is now receiving, to discuss his new role as a global inspiration, a proven hero for the Web 2.0 Generation:
So, Jimmy. When did you first encounter Alexandra Wallace's video posting?
I first encountered it 6 or 7 hours after its initial posting. A friend e-mailed it to me telling me I had to watch it.
What were some of your initial reactions to it?
I was equal parts annoyed, frustrated, and angry. A lot of emotions ran through my head when I first saw the video, but ultimately they all transformed into humor and amusement.
There have been many response videos (i.e., angry rants) to Wallace's original posting. What inspired you to take a lighter, more humorous (highly creative) approach?
It helped that I took a couple days before formulating my response to cool down a bit and not write a response based on my initial emotions. I think the [Alexandra Wallace] video by itself is actually very funny if you look at it in a different light, so I wrote the song based on that - how could humor counter this situation?
What kinds of musical influences did you draw on to write such upbeat, satirical tunes as "Ching-Chong" and "Chinese Food"?
Flight of the Conchords is a huge influence on my comedic material, those guys created an entire style of satire and comedy that I had never seen in music before. It also showed me how powerful a message musical comedy could send, even if it was entirely silly (like most Flight of the Conchords songs).
Clearly you are a talented film-maker in addition to being a talented vocalist, instrumentalist, actor, writer, designer, model for Apple. What kinds of production tools did you use to put together the "Ching-Chong" vid?
The video was pretty simple to assemble actually! I filmed myself performing the song several times with a tripod and then combined all the footage together in Final Cut Pro afterwards. I use Logic Pro to record and mix it all together.
How has the general response been for you, personally, since your song and video - all your videos for that matter! - began receiving so much attention online? Anything particularly memorable someone has said or written to you?
I've been completely inundated with support and love for it all! It's really amazing! There have also been no shortage of declarations of love and marriage proposals, and although some people might consider it creepy, I'm extremely flattered by it all.
Many YouTube, Facebook and Twitter commenters have called you their "hero." Who are some of your personal heroes (musically, artistically, or just because)?
Heroes! There are too many to list but I'll take a stab at it. This list is by no means exclusive! Life heroes: Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King Jr. Musical heroes: David Bowie, Radiohead, and The Beatles. Just Because heroes: my brother Freddie Wong and my wonderful mother and father!
Will you be doing more videos? Is there anything you can share about what you have coming up next?
Absolutely! Definitely planning on releasing two videos a week for as long as my sanity can handle it. Lots more original tunes (serious and comedic), covers, music videos, and the occasional skit here and there. I enjoy creating variations on video game music and seems like the fans do too, so I'll definitely be keeping those up.