Introducing Von, pioneer of Sex Positive Synth Pop with the aim to break taboos and encourage new, open dialogues about sexuality and sex education.
Adopting a unique approach to making music, Von uses her own orgasm wave patterns to create sound by merging sex tech with synthesiser software. We caught up with the artist to discuss her sex-positive mission and the fascinating development of her production methods, as showcased in her intoxicating new release - 'Voulin Rouge'.
When did you first start creating music and did you ever anticipate your creative methods to become as personal as they are?
I really didn’t start producing music until about four years ago. Before that I was a classical pianist secretly writing my own pop mashups. I still remember going in for an audition at some hoity toity conservatory and when they asked me to play a classical piece I played my own rendition of Carly Rae Jepson’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ and Skrillex’s ‘Dirty Monsters and Nice Sprites’ instead. So I think I’ve always had a somewhat left-of-centre approach to music, but my current creative process is definitely the farthest left I’ve taken it.
The Lioness is championed as a smart vibrator and you have managed to take its abilities to a whole new level as it now plays a significant role in your music production. As such a unique production process to fathom, could you talk us through how you came to channel vaginal contractions into sound waves, to then be able to produce music with?
I’m a sound nerd at heart, so originally I was just hypothetically brainstorming ways to manipulate different types of wave patterns. Initially I reached out to a bunch of sex toy companies asking if I could have access to the vibration patterns for their products, but most didn’t have access to that kind of data anyways. I came across the Lioness from Googling honestly. Once I saw that it was a bluetooth vibrator where I could see my own orgasm wave patterns I realised I could develop this idea into something much more wholesome to my mission as an artist. From there I inputted my orgasm wave patterns into Serum, a synth. The parameters of the Lioness wave (contraction pressure over time), was converted to sound waves (amplitude over time) and from there I was free to manipulate parameters to get the desired sound I wanted.
"Once I saw that it was a bluetooth vibrator where I could see my own orgasm wave patterns I realised I could develop this idea into something much more wholesome to my mission as an artist."
You are currently entering your final year at New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. What inspired you to take up music writing and production on an academic level?
I was really set on going to the Clive Davis Institute or not going to school and continuing my job at a recording studio in Philadelphia and going from there. I 100% made the right decision in going to college. Especially as a woman and an artist, a lot of people think you don’t know your shit. Having technical training on different terms, legalities, softwares etc. makes me way more equipped for this industry. It was important for me to study lineage of people who’ve paved the way for me and to understand at a deeper level why I gravitate towards certain artists/sounds/genres.
Has your music co-existed with the program?
I came to school wanting to solely be a producer. I wanted no one to know what I looked like and I very much was set on being a ‘behind the scenes’ guy. That changed once I realised I’m an absolute control freak. I would get impatient and just write the top line myself or just cut the demo until I got the real one back and as time went on it just became a much more cohesive project once I was doing all of the moving parts. That was really solidified once I went to study in Berlin for a semester. I definitely think this project was developed because of my gravitation (as well as push back) to things I was taught in school.
How has the program influenced your creativity?
The program taught me all of the rules about how you market commercial music and navigate this industry. I think I needed all of the rules to have enough confidence to then go and break them. Now I can pick and choose which tools to use and which ways to implement them, but that was always stressed to us. We learned the ‘proper’ way of doing things and were then encouraged to flip it on its head. I might’ve done that to a bit more of an extreme but I always had support in doing so.
Has "head on” been your approach to tackling taboos of openly expressing sexuality and pleasure for as long as you can remember?
I think it’s more beneficial to everyone to be blunt. It’s better to learn the actual names of genitalia and use them. It’s better to be able to say/learn about the clitoris, vulva, labia, penetration etc. matter of factly. It creates so much less stigma and shame when these topics are outlined in an educational, factual and pragmatic manner. I think from having introductions to sex ed, sexual health and pleasure in ways that were so taboo and hush hush, I naturally gravitated towards the opposite, seeing that it was so much more productive to be honest and to the point.
You are already pioneering methods to create music by merging sex tech with art. Where do you hope to see such creative expression developing in the future?
I hope at some point it becomes underwhelming. I want to see people be more intrigued by the music itself than how it’s made. I think that sex tech assimilating into pop culture so seamlessly that it’s no longer a taboo topic but a fact of life is still a way’s away, but it’s my ultimate goal for my music and community in general. To be able to say “vibrator” in a public space and for no one to flinch, that’s the goal for the future.
How do you think this level of experimentation across media platforms can impact sex education for the better?
I think that experimentation with sex tech across media platforms in pop culture has the potential to make sex ed something that’s cool and prioritised by kids, parents and school systems. If the first time you came into contact with “consent” was in a TV show, or an advertisement it wouldn’t be as painfully awkward when your 5th grade health teacher tries to give a half assed explanation. If anything you’d feel more inclined to join the conversation and take it seriously.
How do you hope your music will be received by audiences who potentially aren’t as open about their sexuality?
I hope for the reactions to be mixed honestly. I really think that if everyone’s super comfortable with what I’m doing then it isn’t really as needed as I think. Negative responses are just as important as positive ones in highlighting this message. I hope that people who’ve never been able to say the words “orgasm” or “masturbation” out loud will have to come across them in conversations about my music. Already I see people from my home town who would’ve never discussed any of these things in public now having to engage with these topics simply from casual conversation about what I’m up to. Friends who never talked about sex now ask me for vibrator recommendations. Arguably that’s the proof that what I’m doing is important, and is what makes it feel meaningful to me.
"I hope that people who’ve never been able to say the words “orgasm” or “masturbation” out loud will have to come across them in conversations about my music."
While focusing on your own material and predominately working alone, are you open to potentially collaborating with other sex-positive artists?
100%. I think collaboration is crucial to make a real impact. It’s something I’m getting much better at. Collaboration forces you to leave ego at the door and embrace feeling super vulnerable in front of another person in a creative space. It’s something I really want to implement into my creative process.
Who would be your chosen artist to collaborate with right now with that in mind?
I really love Brooke Candy, from the actual sonic texture of the music to what it stands for in message. She’d definitely be one of the most exciting collaboration projects.
Your new video for ‘Voulin Rouge’ was created in collaboration with the sex tech company Unbound. How did you come to work together? Being a thriving sex-positive brand, was it a case of their ethos and products naturally aligning with your music and creative ambitions?
The really amazing thing about the sex tech industry is that most people’s doors are open. Whereas in other industries cold emails/meetups rarely foster relationships, in sex tech the goal is to support/welcome one another into the community. Dannah Gottlieb who directed the video had shot a campaign for Unbound a little while back and I had a good friend who worked there. We thought their brand message would be a perfect fit for the concept of the video and when we reached out they were not only super helpful but incredibly patient and generous with helping this come to life.
The video weaves its narrative around discovering the power of your own pleasure. Just how important do you think this concept is for anybody to try and embrace?
Body autonomy directly relates to self assurance and self validation. Understanding that your body belongs to you, you have agency over it and you have the right to make any decisions you want regarding your body makes for a more productive, healthy psychosexual development. I think it’s fundamental. It’s one of the most important lessons we’ll ever learn - and most people go through their entire life never having been taught it.
"Understanding that your body belongs to you, you have agency over it and you have the right to make any decisions you want regarding your body makes for a more productive, healthy psychosexual development."
My goal is to create a space where there’s no shame surrounding sexuality. I’m super aware of the fact that just because it’s something I’m incredibly open about it doesn’t mean that’s how everyone feels most comfortable. I’m not trying to force people to talk about their sexualities in open forum 24/7, but rather for those who feel shame expressing sexuality to know that there are people who welcome these kinds of conversations with open arms, and for those who take part in the shaming to take a real introspective dive into why that is and what it stems from.