Interview: Freddie Wong

Freddie Wong has done a lot of things, most notably, he’s been the Guitar Hero World Champion. You might have seen this video of him playing ‘Rush – YYZ‘ on Expert.

Since then, he’s been running the ‘freddiew‘ and ‘freddiew2‘ channels on YouTube, where him and his friends make short action films that even Hollywood actors like Kevin Pollak took notice of.

But, he’s also a musician, so I thought it would be cool to interview him and run through the list of things he’s been doing.

Dose Of Metal: Hey Freddie, thanks for letting us interview you. You’re a filmmaker, musician, web developer and professional gamer. Is there anything you can’t do?

Freddie Wong: I suck at basketball (like “just missed twelve layups” suck) and I’m unbelievably bad at remembering to respond to emails. I should also note that I’m a web developer to the extent that I learned HTML like ten years ago and can make a website using a text editor. Granted, at this point, it’s a website that is now considered completely obsolete, but if you happen to have a copy of Netscape Navigator lying around, boy are you in for a treat.

DoM: Is there anything you can do, but wish you couldn’t do?

FW: I would argue that being really good at ‘Guitar Hero’ is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. I wouldn’t give up all the ridiculous stories I got from playing that game professionally by any means, but walk around for two years being introduced as “The Guitar Hero guy” and see how that fits you.

DoM: Did that last question make any sense?

FW: I answered the version of the question that made sense in my head, so… maybe?

DoM: I’m gonna try to go through all of your activities, let’s start with music. What are your favorite bands?

FW: I feel like a total sissy, especially speaking to a dude from a website that has “Metal” in the title, so forgive me but most of my musical inclinations are towards a more “laid back” sound. Really it’s anything and everything – Wilco, Mason Jennings, Counting Crows on the sissy side, guys like Wes Montgomery, SRV, John Mayer, Eric Johnson, and Robert Randolph on the guitar player side. Metal-wise, I am a big fan of Zakk Wylde, Buckethead, Iron Maiden, Pantera and of course Dragonforce just because of how hilarious they are. Because I play guitar, odds are if there’s a guitar in it, I’ll like it.

DoM: What was the last band you saw live?

FW: I barely have time to see live shows even though I live in LA which has more live music on any given night than just about anywhere, but it was Stars in Vancouver, during the Winter Olympics.

DoM: Any chances of a Hellanor Brozevelt album?

FW: In all seriousness, my friend Brian and I were writing out songs for a whole “greatest hits” joke album that we never finished. We had this vision of Hellanor Brozevelt being this band whose career spanned the decades – like it would start out with us as The Elanore Roosevelts, like a doowop group in the 50s, and then Hellanor Roosevelt in the 70s and 80s, and then when bro culture came along we would finally be Hellanor Brozevelt. We had all these song ideas sketched out (we would’ve been one of the opening bands for the Stones at Altamount and so we would have a live cut of that, a song from our synth dance pop phase, etc.) Man, I gotta get back on that.

DoM: Would you ever consider forming a serious band?

FW: Yes, but nowadays I don’t have the time. I played in my high school sports “pep” band, which was hilarious because all the other schools had brass sections and flutes that were actual bands with conductors, and our pep band was me and like four other guys, all with electric guitars and drums and playing fifteen minute renditions of ‘Freebird’ during half time and basketball games. Needless to say, you can be loud with a bunch of trumpets, but not as loud as the guy with the Marshall half stack playing the Top Gun theme while the other members of the band run around like idiots reenacting scenes from the movie. It was a lot of fun, and performing music on stage is some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

DoM: How metal are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?

FW: About a 3. I kind of have the hair, and have been to Finland, the most metal place on earth, but I also wear glasses and make YouTube videos.

DoM: You got to perform live with Satriani and funtwo, albeit with a GH controller. Which musicians would you like to jam with for real, if given the chance?

FW: Most people would probably list their personal heroes and stuff and be like “Man I’d love to jam with Slash or Victor Wooten” but I know all that would happen there is I would feel like a total idiot busting out some lame minor pentatonic riff and just stick to comping the entire time while these masters of rock ran circles around me, so I’m going to go with Pre-Rubber Soul Beatles because while they were awesome I bet I could blow George’s mind with some ridiculous riffs that were completely inconceivable back in the day.

Plus I could be like “Hey guys check out this DISTORTION PEDAL.”

Either that, or The Who because they still get more into it than just about anyone. I saw a YouTube video of their performance on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus concert and it still blows my mind how into it Townsend gets at the end of A Quick One, While He’s Away. Andrew WK is like the only guy who has ever come close.

DoM: You recently went on a road trip across the U.S. to shoot films. Did it feel like being on tour?

FW: It kind of did, actually (not that I have any idea of what that is like), but we kind of realized it’s just about the same thing, minus lugging around heavy equipment and, you know, performing. We drove almost 10,000 miles all around the United States stopping at various cities and shooting short films or having meet ups, and it was a total blast.

DoM: Any groupies?

FW: To the extent that male teenage old nerds are “groupies” although we had females showed up, even though I was convinced this was going to be a sausage festival through and through.

DoM: You are the Guitar Hero world champion. Were you always good at the game or did practice make perfect?

FW: I swear to you my brother and I bought the game one Thanksgiving and I started on Expert and have not looked back. I’ve practiced a little bit, but if you’re familiar with my style of play (man that sounds pretentious), I’m more about jumping around and rocking out than sitting there and nailing the notes perfectly. I have no patience for that.

DoM: You can actually play real guitar. What are your thoughts on elitist musicians who claim Guitar Hero is a joke?

FW: On one hand, it kind of is pretentious, to sit there and bask in the virtual limelight of being a rockstar with a plastic guitar strung over your shoulder, but come on man, who are you to say how people should have fun? I think a lot of people have problems with what they perceive as wasted time practicing a crude facsimile of the real thing, but I don’t ever hear those people complain about people who play a lot of Madden and how they should pick up a real pigskin. Guitar Hero and Rock Band at least give people a new insight into song structure and relative pitch, which is engaging with music on a level that’s far deeper than just listening to it, and as far as I’m concerned, anything that increases appreciation of music that doesn’t actively harm anyone is good in my book.

Also Guitar Hero finally rightfully exposes people to the fact that some songs are incredibly boring and repetitive.

DoM: Would you agree that GH is to real guitar what NFS is to real racing?

FW: Yes, but rarely do people threaten to maim you for playing Need for Speed.

DoM: Which is better, Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

FW: I’ve always been a Rock Band fan.

DoM: PS3 or Xbox 360?

FW: Xbox 360. Xbox Live is way better. You get what you pay for.

DoM: Cowgirl or Reverse Cowgirl?

FW: Reverse. That way I don’t have to look at him when… WAIT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT A GIRL AREN’T YOU CRAP CAN WE DO THIS ONE AGAIN

DoM: You used to be associated with GH, now you’re mostly associated with guns and action movies, did that transition increase your awesomeness?

FW: I think it did, although back in the Guitar Hero days, a local Seattle magazine listed me as somebody they would invite to an “Interesting Person Dinner Party.” I assume with all the violence that I might have scared off the dinner party crowd. On the other hand, we get emails from people running tactical shooting clinics inviting us, which is a trade I’ll take any day.

DoM: Your videos used to be you and your friends, but lately you’ve had some celebrity cameos, notably Kevin Pollak. How did that happen?

FW: Most of the time they contact us – they see a video we’ve done and want to give it a shot. We pride ourselves in not doing the usual Hollywood time wasting crap and we finish shooting in a few hours at most. It also gives people a chance to try something different, or play a different role that’s not what they usually get cast in, which is always a lot of fun.

DoM: Are you planning on ever making a serious short film, or will you just stick to fun ‘shoot em ups’?

FW: We’re always looking to be doing bigger and better, so we have some longer form stuff we’re working on that we hope to unveil soon. As for seriousness, I think there’s always going to be an element of humor in our work just because that’s the kind of people we are.

DoM: You recently opened a site, Facerocker.com, which you plan on turning into a proper community. The name sounds kind of metal. Do you plan on including anything related to music on it?

FW: I hope so. I compose all the music for our videos, and a lot of songs have longer versions kicking around in my head, so I want to finish them proper and post them there.

DoM: What do you think of our site?

FW: I dig the full black and white. In addition to being friendly towards your colorblind readers, it looks mega rad.

DoM: A last message for our readers?

FW: If you’re going to do some head banging, do yourself a favor and spend ten minutes doing neck stretches. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’ve been in a car accident the next day. This is one of many lessons I learned the hard way from being a fake rockstar during my Guitar Hero days.

Don’t forget to check out Freddie’s new site, Facerocker. It will undergo major changes and will become a community for filmmakers.
Also don’t forget to subscribe to his YouTube channels, freddiew and freddiew2. Check out all of his videos.

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