Von is the NYC based artist, who’s taking a new approach to making music, and using her creativity to explore the possibilities of technology and the human form. Through hacking sex-tech Von creates waveforms from her orgasm convulsions, we spoke to her about music, vibrators and sex education.
What does Von do?
Well, I’m a producer. I produce music, and that’s basically what I set out to do. However, then it turned into an artist project. Which basically came out of me being a control freak; as I wanted to write, mix, perform, and engineer all of the material. I started out as a sound freak, and a bit of a tech nerd. So I was always looking for ways to craft sound that in process and in texture was different from what other people were doing – and what other people could possibly do.
And what is Vondom Labs?
Vondom Labs is my online platform. Being basically a one-woman team Vondom Labs serves as my label, my production house and my marketing company all in one. It’s a space where viewers can be streamlined to my music but it’s also a space to obtain resources about sex tech/sex ed. I send out email blasts to subscribers about discriminatory legislation that’s being proposed or sex tech events in the city/sex ed PSA’s. I want Vondom Labs to be a tangible touch point for cultivating a community.
Where does the line between Von and Vondom Labs begin and end?
They’re incredibly intertwined but I think it’s easier for the public to be introduced to Von than it is to introduce them to Vondom Labs head on. Von is my project to freely create in – whether it be to make music about sex positivity, a boy I hate, internal conflict etc. etc. Vondom Labs is about the greater purpose of my message, which is way bigger than myself or my music alone.
So what’s your process of making music?
Well, along with this interest in sound and music; I have a fascination with the sex-tech industry, which I honestly believe is so important, although not everyone knows what it really is. As it’s not always talked about as it holds a lot of stigma. So my interest in these two things basically led me to asking vibrator companies to give me the code for how they code the vibration patterns – with the idea that these waveforms would be a cool way to make music out of. But obviously, they all said, “No… we can’t give you that”. But I continued googling and searching until I came across this really interesting company called Lioness which make this Bluetooth vibrator. Essentially it’s like a Fitbit, for your vagina. And the intriguing thing about a lot of people within this community of sex-positive-tech is that they’re women who were big advertising tycoons, that got to a point in their career and finally just said “fuck it I’m so done with this industry” – so they just made something for themselves. So in this new industry they have created for themselves (and people like themselves), their doors are wide open to weirdos like me wanting to make things with their products. So I literally just emailed her telling her this ridiculous idea, asking her for one of her products – and surprisingly it worked. So now I’ve been pinned as the vibrator girl – which I’m cool with. But now with this technology, I make most of my music, which I really enjoy as these waveforms are something that no one else has access too, while it also aligned with the ideals that I have as a person. It was a great way for me to merge these worlds of pop music, technology and sexuality.
So once you got your hands on this technology, how do you produce music with it?
Honestly, it’s not that complex. The product itself is so interesting; its essentially a vibrator that has contraction sensors on it, which connects to an app on my phone and after a session it syncs all of the data to my phone, which gives me a wavelength graph of pressure over time. So if it’s a good session, there are more waveforms, if it’s not there’s fewer. With this data I then load it into Serum, which is a synthesiser software, from there I can manipulate it into whatever kind of sound I want.
I guess its kind of a passive way of making, as you don’t have direct control over the output. Another interesting facet to your music is that when you’re listening to it, you would never know about this unique way in which you’re making it.
That’s something that I really wanted it to do. Because if some conservative douchebag ends up listening to it, without realising what it is really about. He has absolutely no idea what kind of discourse he is passively engaging in – of which he probably doesn’t agree with. Or even if one of my family members hears my music, they won’t get what it’s about just from hearing it. It’s kinda like a trojan horse vibe.
Obviously, your work is very intertwined with technology, but how do you engage with internet culture and discourse?
The clitoris wasn’t in an encyclopedia until 1998. So much information about sex education/sexual health is only being shared by online educators so in that sense I get most of my resources from the internet. Internet culture has made it so that I can learn from/participate in dialogues I would otherwise not be able to geographically. I have Instagram friends I’ve met through online sex tech communities that I connect with more than lots of people I know IRL. I think because societally we’re taught to feel so much shame surrounding our curiosities about sex, most people are more inclined to google something than to attend a public panel. For this community and this message, the internet is the holy grail of outreach. So it influences not only my strategy in how to reach people but it also contributes to my fascination with AI and transhumanism that gets woven into my music and creative process.
What are peoples responses like when they learn about the process of your music?
I come from a suburban town in Pennsylvania, which is pretty traditional and conservative. So I’m used to people (or even my family) not really understanding what I’m doing, or what I’m interested in. But I’m currently just finishing my degree at New York University, and even though I’m at a progressive institution my course is pretty centred and commercially focused. So I still have to present my work to people who just aren’t necessarily meant to get it. Which is of course frustrating, as you’re constantly having to prove why your work is valid to people – but I guess it’s a good lesson. In a weird way, when you lack that kind of unrequited support and understanding for what you do, for some it cultivates a very deep sense of self-assurance. For example, I’m pretty sure my parents think I’m studying classical piano like they have no idea what’s going on (although I’m sure they have an inkling that I’m up to something). But when you’re doing something left of centre, I believe that it gives you a thick skin in the way you have to fully believe in what you’re doing, or no one else will.
It’s also a thing of getting to a point where you don’t feel like you have to explain everything you do as an artist. As like you said not everyone is going to understand it – or even have the willing to. You have to continue creating in the thought that somebody out there will understand and resonate with what you’re doing.
Exactly, and it also translates to the way in which you have a dialogue about what you create. Not having to give a blurb, or walk people through your work is a relinquishment of power and an important thing to remember from the start. It saves you a lot of stress and agony.
Keep your eyes peeled for a new Von video coming soon. In the mean time, check out her current tracks on our playlist below…