The Closing Of AArisings After 25 Years And Some Q + A With Nelson Wong (AKA Five Questions, Two Bonuses, The 80's, And Where Did That Other Decade Go?)

Monday, December 22, 2014

This past Wednesday AArisings posted up that the door would be closing after 25 years of helping to spread the word about APIA's in the entertainment scene, and while the world is Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Mobile Apps in every shape and form - you still have to remember what came before them and the voices that pushed through those mediums and evolutions. When I think about someone dedicating 25 years of their life - 25 years - to helping promote and connect APIA's in entertainment - I just have to stand back in awe - I think we all do. In that way this post serves two purposes: To tip my hat in the largest of ways to founder Nelson Wong for all that he's done and continues to do for the APIA community - and to give him some parting shots on the way out.

Five Questions, Two Bonuses, Social Media, The 80's, Wanting To Be Phil Yu For A Day, And Isn't There One Movie You Hate?

1. Let's go back twenty-five years. AArisings started out as a record label and was originally Shock wAAve Records, later changing it's name to AArising Records and then transforming itself to be a general entertainment APIA hub and forum. Can you talk a little bit about the impetus for starting the record label and the transformation of AArisings throughout the years? Was there any specific moment that made you think to yourself "I need to start this"?

In the mid-80's, I was a DJ when a little known artist named Gerry Woo came on the scene. I remember getting the 45 vinyl single for "How Long?" with his picture on it and could not believe there was an Asian American on the cover. Then I saw him perform on "Showtime at the Apollo" and he brought the house down (and that crowd was known as a tough crowd to get into a frenzy). I felt like maybe a door would open up and I would see more APIA artists hitting the charts after that but alas, that was not the case.

In the late-80's I was involved with a couple of hip-hop independent record labels that were trying to launch but failed to get traction. Eventually, I ended up starting my own indie label which would eventually be called AArising Records in January 1990.

I wanted to do something to try to get more APIAs into music. The first step was to find the talent and since I was in San Francisco, my focus was on local talent. I scouted around the Bay Area and even put on talent showcases benefiting the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco. Ultimately, I found a male vocal group called One Vision and watched them develop over a few years to a point where I thought they could have some commercial success so we signed the group to our indie label and released the single "By Your Side" in 1995. Unfortunately, the group had some internal strife and we ended up coming to a mutual agreement to end our label/artist contract and with that AArising Records also ceased as a label in 1996.

However, the talent shows really made AArisings well known in the Bay Area and I was constantly asked about APIA talent for other events. I turned that knowledge into an online resource providing links to APIAs online and that proved to be very popular. Eventually, I expanded beyond a repository of site links to actually interviewing up-and-coming performers and artists and adding content from volunteer writers.

2. You've been able to see the landscape change in regard to APIA's and entertainment and the voice of the APIA community over the years. I know this is a general question, but I'll ask it anyway: What do you think have been some of the most significant changes you've seen that has helped elevate the community? Is it technology, generations getting older and being more vocal (or have we always been vocal but just have better platforms to get our voices out), a combination of both? More?

The biggest change for APIA's in entertainment has certainly been the blossoming of the Internet. AArisings, as a web site, is a huge example of that change. I went from a person with knowledge of local talent to providing that same type of resource by on a national and international scope just by having a web site. Having that type of reach allowed entertainers and aspiring entertainers to connect with people without regards to geographical restrictions.

After the popularity of individual web sites, the next significant change was the birth of YouTube. YouTube allowed APIA entertainers to show their talents online and that was important as technology such as webcams and digital cameras which could take video were becoming more and more affordable for consumers. We could see how people who might only sing in the shower could get on a webcam and record their own rendition of a song and release it on YouTube and get thousands and thousands of views.

And most recently, social media has really changed the landscape. People can connect to others, which has made networking so much easier, and sharing of content is an easy click away. Now if someone like Ryan Higa or the guys from Wong Fu Productions have new content out, it gets shared widely and quickly.

I think a combination of the technology and the use of that technology by younger generations has been the key to why the landscape has changed from the late-80's to now.

3. Twenty-five years is a pretty damn awesome run. When you look back and reflect on it can you believe how long you've been doing it? Did you think you would be doing it for twenty-five years?

Honestly, it does not feel like 25 years. I know people in my age group who grew up as teens in the 80's often think the 90's were just a decade ago (forgetting how there were years between 2000 and 2009) so I do think that I really had only been running the site for 15 years and then remember that missing decade.

I never thought about how long I might be running the web site. For me, as long as I could pay for the hosting costs out-of-pocket each month, I would keep running the site as long as people found it useful. Over the past few years though, it was becoming evident that people were spending less time on individual web sites like AArisings and more time on social media sites which would connect people to targeted content they would be interested in viewing. I could see the AArisings site having lived its usefulness. Hitting the 25 year milestone just felt like the right time to put AArisings to rest.

4. While AArisings will be closing its doors, you've also been doing some posts down at the Nerds of Color. Any other places we can see you around, or upcoming projects in the mind for 2015/2016 or beyond (not that you need to be doing more but if you are..) or just general projects/happenings you're excited to see come to fruition?

AArisings is going away but I will still be around. My connection to the APIA community, particularly with respect to entertainment, is still there and I don't see that changing. The only thing changing is that the AArisings web site no longer will be my tool. I'm still highly active on social media outlets and that's the tool of choice these days.

I'm not currently working on anything upcoming outside of an occasional post at The Nerds of Color.

5. What are five of your top tracks from the CHOPS 2014 release "Strength In Numbers"?

"Keep On" (Mountain Brothers feat. Ann One), "No Turning Back" (Dumbfoundead feat. Paul Kim), "Turn It Up" (Tiger JK & Tasha), "Come Go With Me" (Ann One), and "Oh Yeah" (J-Key, Rekstizzy, & Hoya).


1. If you could be one Asian American for one day, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Phil Yu, the Angry Asian Man. Why? Because I would love, even for just one day, to have the amount of energy he has to keep up with his site.

2. Name one movie that you absolutely hate and no one can tell you any different no matter how many people love it - because you hate it that much.

There really are not many movies I can say that I absolutely hate. The most recent movie I've seen that I could not even bother finishing was "Transformers: Age of Extinction." As a friend of mine said, "I was waiting for the movie to transform into a good movie," and I have to agree that it was pretty much unwatchable.