I first met Whoopi (Ashten Winger) via Twitter in early 2010–He’ll insist that we met before that, but I know better, cause I stalked him out way before I realized we had mutual friends (also found via the Internet). Charming, funny, and thoughtful, the RudeTOON crew met the LA native face-to-face (IRL OMG!) at Coachella later that year, when we brought all our friends to check out his visuals at the Sahara tent. We were blown away at his talent, and the fact that he was only 19 years old at the time. We knew we had to hang onto him as a friend and professional contact, and lucky us over the last two years he has become one of our very best friends in Los Angeles. We always considered Whoopi a part of the RudeTOON family, since he was always a source of constant support, but we wanted to take it one step further and invite him to join the team permanently. We are wrapping up our first month with him OFFICIALLY a part of RudeTOON, and things are going smoothly. Whoopi has some amazing ideas, and has just the right opportunist ideals that fit right in with us. We wanted to introduce you all to our new member so you all have a better idea exactly WHAT he is bringing to the table.
So what exactly is your title as a professional? Do I call you a VJ? Visual Artist? Digital Media Designer? All of the above!?
I’m struggling with that myself, to be quite honest. I find it hard to label myself as ONE thing. I am an editor, I’m a VJ (Video Jockey), I am a digital media artist…it’s really hard to just say ONE thing, and have people understand what I’m really doing. Sometimes when I say a title, for example if I say “I am a V.J”, a lot of people have NO CLUE what I am talking about. Lately I’ve been introducing myself as a “Digital Artist” or “New Media Artist”, but it really depends on who I am talking to, and the services they need from me.
Whoopi doing visuals for the TRON LEGACY installment at Comic Con 2010
What was your intro into visual media? How did you get into all of this?
I was always interested in digital media as a kid. I used computers a lot, and I was always super interested in how to make cool visual art. I was always kind of geeky like that, and would spend hours just being creative… this didn’t always help with my studies. The LA School system is… difficult. There are too many kids, and not enough teachers that have a lot of steam left in them to deal with their behavior. I DID get a few teachers that I connected with, but when it came down to it, I went to school in the Inner-City, and I was surrounded by trouble. I could never sit still, and often acted out. I wanted to run around and create cool things. I was labeled a “troublemaker” because of this, and as a result I really struggled in school. It was actually a really big deal when I managed to finish the 5th grade and graduate from Elementary School. My Mom wanted to get me a present, and I asked for a Sony Hi-8 Camera. I loved that thing so much. I would make skate videos with my friends, recorded short skits, and I even had a stop motion video of a Gundam Wing toy walking around my room. From that point on, I never stopped creating.
If you were going to make someone a Mix-Tape, what 5 songs MUST be on there, no matter what?
Jack Beats- Drop the Pressure (Rinsed Out Rave Remix)
Fatboy Slim- Rockafeller Skank
TLC- Dont Go Chasin Waterfalls
Jackson 5- Blame it on the Boogie
Do you remember the exact moment you saw VJing as something you could do?
I think it was HARD in March 2010… I was on stage during the Jack Beats performance, and noticed this guy and girl controlling After Effects on their computer. I realized they were editing their videos LIVE in Modul8, and the visuals were being shown to the audience below. I was like “WHOA. WAIT. You can DJ Videos… LIVE!?” I was already into DJing at the time, but my heart was still in visual media. This brought it all together, and it just clicked.
You get to control what people see at the events they attend. Do you ever stick in any subliminal messages or do anything weird?
I’m always sticking in small references to things that I personally enjoy. Sometimes I will put in a picture of my friend, or a cartoon, or something that is an inside-joke with my friends and me. I love to put a piece of myself in my work, but I still maintain the theme of the act, whether it is Hip Hop or EDM. I always research who I am doing visuals for so I can stay in touch with their attitude. I NEVER get political, or serious in my messages. It’s about having fun.
Whoopi doing visuals at the Vibe House for SXSW 2012
How do you prep to do visuals for an event? Do you get a set list prior, or do you just play off the crowd?
At first, NOBODY gave me a set list for the event. They’d just say “make cool stuff!” and I would. After I worked with Deadmau5, people started to request specific themes and images. Just recently, I’ve been given a set list ahead of time, so the visual/audio aspects are one cohesive experience.
You did visuals at Coachella 2010.. What was that like, and how did it all come about?
It’s just the perfect example of why you should always be networking. I used to do some work with my friend Rony Alwin, photographer and owner of Rony’s Photobooth. I tagged along with him to a shoot a behind-the-scenes video, while he held a photo shoot for Zodiac USA. While there, I met Melissa Diner. Melissa was great, and I continued to do freelance work with Zodiac, when she introduced me to Saam Gabbay, the Creative Director. Saam has done some incredible work, including some Apple Commercials. He was great, and we kept in touch after he found out I did work in Digital Media and After Effects. One day, Saam emailed me and was like “Hey, I can’t go to Coachella this year, and I was supposed to do visuals for Jason Bentley… would you want to take my place?”. I just stared at my computer DUMBFOUNDED at this amazing opportunity. Of course I agreed, and Saam put me in touch with Jason, and we worked from there. I ended up getting a backstage pass to Coachella, Jason LOVED my visuals, and it was the best Coachella EVER.
Your Coachella Visuals made it into LIFE magazine. Who broke the news to you?
Jason Bentley emailed me the link two weeks after Coachella. I was working at Apple at the time, and I was in the break room playing on my phone. I saw that an email came to my professional email, so I braced myself cause I knew it’d be awesome (I’m really good at separating my WORK email from my PERSONAL email). I saw THIS:
I just was like “Oh… shit. This is huge.” I sent it to my Mom, my brother and my friends… I was stoked! I swear I never cry, but I think I teared up a little. I couldn’t believe people saw my work! I was only 19 years old, and two years prior I was struggling in school being told by teachers I wouldn’t be doing anything with my life, and here I was… IN. LIFE!!
Do your friends and family “get” what you do as a visual artist?
My Mom didn’t really understand what I was doing until late 2011. I don’t think she really grasped the fact that I was actually showcasing MY work at all these crazy sold out events, but she supported me nonetheless. She was just happy that I was happy, making money, and NOT in trouble. NOW she’ll text me asking “Oh, are you going to VJ for that Datsik show this weekend?” or “I saw Deadmau5 is coming back to town, will you be his VJ again?” It’s pretty awesome to have her support me like that. It feels good that my Mom takes such an interest in what I’m doing. Before, she would always look at me funny when I would ask for distribution amplifiers for Christmas… now she gets that I was just trying to build my system to be a better performer. My friends ALWAYS understood that this was something I loved to do… I guess that’s why they are friends!
If you were on Fear Factor what would be the ONE thing that would get you heading for the exit. Big money is on the line here!
If big money is on the line, I’ll shut off my brain to get it done. I’m okay with crawling things, but I guess I have issues with textures on my food. I cant eat alive things… I don’t think I could kill seomthing with my mouth…
Do you think your age gives you an advantage? Since you are younger, do you feel like there is crazy pressure on you to perform, or that you have a bit more leeway as far as your behavior goes?
Oh, no, I am always under pressure. I’m young, and the entertainment industry is a small world where people TALK. I can’t blow anything, and I know I’ve only got one shot to do a job right. I’m still Whoopi… I’m silly and a total nerd, and I love to have fun, but I know how to shut it down and get serious. I have a constant mantra of “Don’t fuck up” repeating in my head when I’m doing work. Most of the clients/brands/artists I work with don’t know my age. I will be 22 next week (June 12). I have been working for some people since I was 18… the look on their faces when I tell them I’m 21… It’s pretty funny. I’m glad I’ve been able to hold my own and stay true to myself.
Can VJing exist without a DJ? Do you think one needs the other to be fully enjoyed, or that you can separate the media?
VJing does not ALWAYS need music. Sometimes if I have been working on a visual for awhile, I will send out a tweet with a link to it. It doesn’t have any music, just the visual. People ALWAYS respond really well to the visuals, but I think that music just gives it that extra push. Music and visuals are like Peanut Butter and Jelly…. and I love PB&J.
PRO-Keds Presents: The Footprint Series video by Whoopi 2011
What are your favorite types of Candy? Any five will do.
Shock Tarts, Twizzlers, Hi-Chew, Chewy Jolly Ranchers, Reese’s Pieces OR Butterfinger BB’s which are impossible to find since they are discontinued.
You seem to play it so cool, working with such huge artists.. How do you REALLY feel?
Dude, it’s crazy. I know I look like I play it cool in person, but if you follow me on Facbeook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or my blog, you will know I am NOT that cool of a person. I am ALWAYS geeking out about the amazing opportunities presented to me. It’s really amazing to be so tight with Jason Bentley and Snoop Dogg… never thought THAT was happening my life! I am forever a geek on the internet, but I will always be calm and cool in person, because I know that they appreciate it. They might be celebrities, and I might be TOTALLY freaking out on the inside, but I would never want them to feel uncomfortable.
How do YOU stay rude in your day to day life?
We hope you all enjoyed learning about Whoopi, and are just as excited as we are to see what he is up to as the year progresses! In the meantime, check out this BRAND SPANKIN NEW video from Alexander Spit, directed by David Gallardo, glitch art effects by… who else? Whoopi!!