Interview with Zarbondb, one of the first ASMR artists on YouTube

Tony (full name withheld) is currently an IT technician at a multinational company in Spain.

In 2009 though, Tony was finishing his studies in Spain, working as a Service Desk employee, and also creating whisper videos as “Zarbondb”.

He was one of the first ASMR artists, perhaps the third one, and was referred to as a “whisper artist” or “whisperer” because the term “ASMR” hadn’t been coined and widely used yet.

In my interview with Tony he shares how he discovered whisper videos, why he started his channel, his memories of the whisper community, and why he chose the name “Zarbondb”.

Below are my questions in bold, his replies in italics, a link to his whisper videos, and a link to his Twitch channel of retro gaming.

How did you discover whisper videos?

Well, this question may be a little bit tricky, because it caused a lot of controversy, but I will try to provide my historical perspective about it.

Many people agree that the first ASMR was discovered in Bob Ross’s videos, but I have another story, I was just watching videos in Youtube and going from one to another through the recommendation section. 

I don’t know how it happened exactly, but ant some point, Youtube recommended me a Big Brother video (US Version). And on that video two girls were speaking to each other whispering. Something happened inside me, because suddenly I started to feel relaxed and sleepy and from that point I started to look for those videos.

Which whisper videos do you remember watching before you started yours?

That’s an easy question, since we were the very first and there wasn’t a Whispering community yet, not even a mention of the ‘ASMR’ concept: WhisperingLife’s channel!.

That girl was so talented and lovely, and by that time she was starting and making rambling videos, but I loved them. God Save the Queen! (sorry, an old school moto we had for her), she started all this and the ones that remember the story still feel that.

What motivated you to start your own whisper channel?

I think that happened in a very natural way. One day I was watching a new whisperer, MysteriousGoo, and she was talking about giving back something to the community because WL’s videos helped her to relax and fall asleep, and I said: “This girl is right!, I have received so much, it’s time to give something in return”.

And that’s how I created my channel.

Why “Zarbondb”?

I think I have been never asked about this, but it’s simple in fact. I’m just a Dragon Ball fan since the late 80’s, so I wanted to show that as part of my name, Zarbon is one of the Freeza’s Army commanders and one of my favorite characters. 

So Zarbon + db for dragon ball = Zarbondb.

I never felt like using the ‘Whispering’ label as part of my channel name.

When exactly did you post your first video?

Dang, I had to look for it because i don’t even remember, so much time ago :D. I uploaded my first video on May 3rd, 2009, one month after Whisperinglife and a few days after Mysteriousgoo.

How many videos did you create?

I created many videos, but I only uploaded 27.

I still have some unreleased material, but I just created a video when I thought I had something to say or I was in the mood to do it. Regularity wasn’t one of my strengths hahaha

What was the exact content in your videos? 

By that time there was no such thing as mouth sounds, triggers, etc, just whispering, and that’s what I did.

I loved reading more than rambling actually and I think I was the first whisperer the featured videos in more than a language. I’m from Spain, and by that time there were whisper videos in English only, so I decided to create videos reading the same fragment from a book both in Spanish and English. I even have a video in which I read ‘The Little Prince’ in English, Spanish and French, such a challenge in a whispering video from 2009.

As a member of the Old School community I always whispered and never revealed my face or anything, in fact, I think I only showed images a couple times, but nothing remarkable.

What kind of short term and long term response did you get to your videos?

I didn’t have a big audience, but they were very loyal, always commenting, and I always replied, and tried to accept and fulfill any request that I received. People were so kind and lovely and their comments made me very happy.

Of course the community wasn’t so big by that time, but I was just a small whispering channel that wanted to give something back to the community and felt incredibly good doing it 🙂

Did you tell others you were making whisper videos?

Never, I wanted this to be something anonymous. I think this is the first time i’ve talked about this to someone. Exclusive for ASMR University 😀

Were you in direct communication with other whisper content creators?

Sure! As I told earlier, we started the community and it was so small at the time, so we got along pretty well. Specially with Whispering Life, I dedicated a video to her and she dedicated some words to me in one of hers. We even considered what may had been one of the first collaborations in the community, but I retired before that happened.

Those are the good old days!

Do you have any other specific stories, moments, or memories you want to share about those early days?

In fact I have one. Many people agree that the ASMR started with Bob Ross’s videos, but I have a different historic perspective.

Many of us started feeling what we now know as Triggers with Big Brother US. I don’t mean to disrespect, I love Bob Ross’s happy little painting and his soft voice, rest in peace, but in my humble opinion, most of us started with Big Brother.. Thank you Jameka! (I think it was one of the girls’ name)

Your channel is still online, do you still get comments from other artists or viewers?

It’s still online, and almost dead for many years, but recently I have started receiving comments from viewers again, Maybe old school nostalgics or people who want to know how the community was back in the days, but those comments feel so great and make me so proud of what we did.

Do you still consume and/or create ASMR content?

For sure! I still consume ASMR content! And I think I will never quit. It’s so relaxing and helps sleep, but creating it is a completely different story.

Maybe if I receive enough requests I may consider making some kind of ‘Reunion’ or ‘Anniversary’ video, or even upload old unreleased content, but I think my time has passed and ASMR has become so professional and there’s so much edition and detail, too complex in my opinion.

What do you think about the current content of ASMR videos?

Pheww.. This is probably the most difficult question you could ask.. It’s so complicated to answer. I Have seen the community born, rise and grow as we probably never thought it could, but here we are, talking about the evolution of the ASMR.

I come from a time when things were simple, we helped each other to relax and fall asleep, period. Now everything is so complex. I still love it of course, but some content is so complex and videos are so well edited that they may create distraction, do you know what I mean?

I’m a nostalgic, but I also love change and evolution, and the community knows how to adapt. Content changes, creator change, even the content changes, but the core is still there and that’s a beautiful thing.

I’ll tell you something. I still use ASMR to help me sleep, but some videos are too glow-y and shiny, so I just convert them to audio so I can sleep more easily, that was the main reason I created videos with no Image.

Now I love ASMR gameplays, and I think that’s one of the key points. Fusion. Pure ASMR is great, but new people look for new content, and that constant improvement makes the ASMR a ‘living genre’.

What do you think about the rise of ASMR videos?

To be honest, I’m still amazed, we never knew this was going to happen. ASMR gets more and more popularity every day, even people study about it!! that’s so crazy and If you had told me this may happen back in 2009 I’d probably had laughed at you.

I feel so proud and so happy of how far the ASMR has got, and it started with just a few people that wanted to help other people, and even worse, in many cases it happened thanks to Big Brother (and maybe Bob Ross, I will accept that as a possibility haha).

Thats what I call a Community, don’t you think?

What other thoughts in general do you have about any aspect of ASMR?

Please let me talk about the community again. I know it may be repetitive, but I need to highlight this. There’s so much toxicity in Social Media this days, and to be honest, I can say that the ASMR community has the cleanest community you can find. People respect each other as I have not seen in any other community, and that’s remakable.

I would also thank you for this opportunity to provide my perspective and try to make people know how everything was back in the days, when ASMR didn’t exist and we created something very special together.

That small group of people of different nationalities (officially and thanks to Whispering Life the community started in the UK) made something that has become a big phenomena, and that’s astonishing.

Watch Tony’s whisper videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/Zarbondb/videos

Check out Tony’s Twitch channel for retro gaming: http://twitch.tv/back2retro

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This post brought to you by ASMR University.  A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

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