1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Kiki Wong, guitarist/musician
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? US Native, Korean/Chinese
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My father use to perform in a band with his brother’s and sisters. They played traditional Chinese instruments and sang.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I grew up in a 92% Caucasian community with very little exposure to other Asians besides my own family. It was difficult understanding my identity and where I fit in at such a young age. I remember my mom walked in on me when I was about 8 years old and I was washing my face. She asked why, and I responded, “I want to look like everyone else.”
I then went to UC Irvine where I went from being around little to no other Asian Americans to many. It was hard to find my place, too, initially, but it wasn’t until I joined the all Asian-American girl rock band Nylon Pink where I truly was able to embrace my heritage through music.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Performing with Nylon Pink was an awesome way to embrace my Korean side. We remixed a lot of KPOP covers and made them heavy, which gained some traction on YouTube and in the KPOP community. We also performed at many anime conventions, so it was nice to tap into the Asian American culture of music.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I started playing piano at the age of 6 and played mostly classical. When I was about 10, we bought my dad an acoustic guitar for Valentine’s Day since that’s how he wooed my mother in their dating days. When I was 13, my dad taught me my first three chords on the guitar and my first song “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. I also learned to play the drums at age 16.
Eventually, I went to UC Irvine and studied Pre-Medicine and graduated with a BS in Biological Science. While I was in school, I was also performing with Nylon Pink. I ended up working at UCLA Medical Center with Stroke, Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients after I graduated. Then, we got offered a tour in China. So, I quit my job on the spot to tour. However, the tour was suddenly canceled, and I was left with no job and had to make end meet taking all kinds of odd jobs.
My parents weren’t always happy with my decisions. It took a while for them to become supportive, but it also took a while for me to become successful. Now, they are very supportive and proud of how far I’ve come over the years.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Throughout the years, I was lucky to share the stage with some incredible acts. I played guitar in a super girl group called the She Demons that was put together by Jerry Only from the Misfits. I also played drums for Taylor Swift at the 2014 VMAs for her debut of her hit song “Shake It Off”. I also played drums for Usher at CBS Fashion Rocks in 2014. I currently play for Vigil of War which is Alicia Vigil (bassist of Dragonforce) project.
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. I played guitar for a Nissan commercial with Bret Michaels. Endorsements: Schecter Guitars, Zemaitis Guitars, Get’m Get’m Straps.
8. Describe to me your dream project. Ultimately, I would love to collaborate with pop artists and making their songs heavy. I also want to start an electronic dubstep metal project at some point.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Being in the rock and roll/heavy metal industry as an Asian American female isn’t easy. I’ve received a ton of hate from people who judge me for being who I am. Though it may seem like a setback, there have been so many more positive feedback and support than negative. Performing in Nylon Pink was an amazing experience to embrace my heritage and also educate others about Kpop music and Korean culture.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Yvette Young is one of my biggest inspirations. She’s absolutely groundbreaking in the world of music and she’s been paving the path for young Asian American musicians all over the globe.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I hope to see more young emerging AAPI musicians who want to keep rock and roll alive. I hope that I can help inspire them to go against the grain of what we’re told we’re supposed to do and feel safe to creatively express themselves through music and not feel judged.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Be unapologetically yourself. Worry less about what you THINK others will think of you and do what you love. If what you’re doing doesn’t harm or hurt anybody or influence others negatively, then do what you love with passion and vigor.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? Vigil of War is about to release a brand new EP so stay tuned! Follow us on IG: @vigilofwar
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I am completely food obsessed. Kaila and I run a food blog called @nomlist so check it out on IG and TikTok where we share some of our favorite recipes including a ton of Asian recipes as well.
Facebook: Kiki Wong
Photo provided by @kikiwongo