Even as the men’s basketball team swept to an unexpected victory against Kansas last Sunday, the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band’s Alex Chang ’14 also hit the headlines for his vigorous cowbell playing on the sidelines. Along with the many GIFs and Vines that featured the zealous musician, the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show invited Chang to take the stage with its band for a show.
The Daily sat down with Chang to talk about his fifteen minutes of fame and his thoughts on being recognized as “that Stanford cowbell kid.”
The Stanford Daily (TSD): When did you first realize you were trending?
Alex Chang (AC): Probably when I got to the hotel later that night. I had like 50-something Facebook notifications, and I thought, this is unusual. I’m not usually that popular.
TSD: How did Jimmy Kimmel reach out to you and what was that like?
AC: I got a call from someone from Stanford Communications saying that a couple of people had asked about me and so I called them back. It was tough, though, because that was during the women’s basketball games [in St. Louis and Aimes], so I had a lot of help setting that all up.
TSD: What was the experience on the show like, representing Stanford, yourself or cowbell players across the nation?
AC: It was a surreal experience. I didn’t know what to expect but I was glad for the most part that they had me playing cowbell with the band. I can do that better than I can beat [the drums] on the spot with a live comedian. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of pressure because I was nervous being live and representing more than just myself — the band and our school and everything. But I was pretty happy with the way it went. It’s a great story that I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids and so on.
TSD: Aside from all the Internet fame and the Kimmel show, where else has the cowbell taken you?
AC: I think that’s pretty much it. I did an interview with the Washington Post the day that we played Dayton in the Sweet Sixteen. But other than that, life has returned to normal, which I’m not at all disappointed about. I’ve enjoyed [the fame] completely but it’s nice to know that people still see me the same way.
TSD: How did you get to be playing cowbells anyway?
AC: I’m part of the drum section … During basketball season, the band travels with a drum set and we travel with two drummers as well. Logistically only one person can be playing the drum set at a time and the other one plays cowbell or tambourine or some accompanying percussion. I play the drums, that’s how I got there in the first place, so it was really just chance that I was getting a lot of attention for a song when I wasn’t playing drums.
TSD: How would you describe your cowbell playing style?
AC: To me, it’s just natural to me, the band and everything, everyone is rocking out for every song at any given time. That particular moment when I caught the cameramen’s eye was really just when I was a little more exaggerated because we were winning in the couple final minutes in a game that we had no business winning, if you’re going by the seeding. My extra energy was coming from the team — from their effort and their energy on the court. First and foremost, the band was supporting the basketball team, and I’m a huge fan myself and certainly how well they were doing impacted how I was playing.
TSD: What does it mean to you to be “the best cowbell player ever?”
AC: Well I can’t say that that’s necessarily the case because Will Ferrell would still have to hold that distinction.
Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.