OnOffOn

By Dominick A. Miserandino,
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Von's already climbing the jazz world charts following his father's footsteps. Between father and son, they've covered a lot of musical history.

DM) What does OnOffOn mean?

VB) ONOFFON is named after the on-off-on switch on the old Fender amplifiers. They use to have a three-position toggle switch that read on the face of the amp itself, up was "on," middle was "off," and down was "on."

DM) Why would there be two "on" positions?

VB) They called it an "impedance switch." When you'd go play some little bar that had some funky fluorescent lighting, you would turn on your amp, and you could hear an electrical 'buzz' in your speaker. By switching to the other "on" position, you could change the impedance of the amp and (usually) get rid of the 'buzz.'

DM) What is your favorite piece of your own work?

VB) My personal favorite is "Opus/The Gift Must Always Move." They were written to be performed together, in that order, which is how we play them live.

DM) Is it like the Beatles' Abbey Road B-side?

VB) No -- it's more like a contemporary classical piece written in movements.

DM) Which classical composers do you listen to?

VB) J.S. Bach is my all time favorite -- counterpoint at it's finest. But I also listen to Wolfgang Mozart and Modest Mussorgsky.

DM) How did you first get into classical music ?

VB) Although my dad was a jazz man, he had a masters degree in music composition, so of course he was classically trained. And my grandmother used to sing in her church choir, which exposed me to a lot of traditional choral music, which is where it all started. Then, as I trained in music, I developed a greater appreciation for different styles, but the Baroque period is still my favorite.

DM) Did you ever play a harpsichord?

VB) For a very brief time in school. It was the only time I ever had access to a harpsichord. Very cool instrument. You feel the key pluck the strings inside; it's so different than the percussive touch of the hammer on a piano string.

DM) Did you father ever record anything?

VB) My father once said in an interview that he had appeared on over 1,500 recordings with almost everyone in jazz from that era. He has quite a discography in the "All Music Guide." I have CDs with him playing with Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Benny Goodman, Boyd Raeburn, and so many, many more. He is credited with being the first bassist to play pizzicato jazz cello in 1947 with the Dodo Marmarosa Trio, I have one of the original 78 RPM records of that session. He's also credited with helping to create the bossa nova style of jazz in 1952, 10 years before it became famous with "Girl from Ipanema" in the '60s. He also appeared in a movie with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo called "A Song is Born" -- it was a showcase for the jazz aristocracy of the day. I still have an archive of over 400 hours of recorded West coast jazz history that I'm seeking funding to turn into a museum of jazz in Hollywood. But that's another story in itself.

DM) And how is that going?

VB) Slowly, but I've just seriously started pursuing financing for the project. If I can finance it with foundation grant money, I can put the entire archive up for free public access, which I would prefer. Otherwise, with venture capital, it will have to turn a profit. Either way, it will happen, in one capacity or another.

DM) Is that confidence or reality speaking? Or a bit of the two?

VB) A bit of the two -- the music and archives exist, on what level they will be presented to the public remains to be seen. With the proper funding it could be state of the art. There have already been four re-releases of some of my father's recordings just this last year, so his music is enjoying quite resurgence.

DM) What has caused this resurgence?

VB) To some degree, I believe there's a bit of a renaissance taking place in popular music. But I think it's more due to shear population of the world. There's literally more people in the world who enjoy more styles of music, and jazz, especially the true forms by their originators; they have a following and a history that can't be taken away from them.

DM) Where do you see your career going from here?

VB) There is no limit to where we can go from here -- we all agree we would do well in scoring and soundtrack work. Our musical dexterity lends perfectly to the visual image. In fact, we've already placed music from "Surrender Now" in three different film productions. Plus, we have ideas for the Internet that are groundbreaking -- the next few years should be very interesting.

DM) Which films is your music in?

VB) First was a cable program called "Outward Bound" that aired this summer on the Discovery Channel. Next was a short subject art film called "She Sees Her in Idea" by producer Janet Grau. And finally, a full-length feature from East El Lay Productions called "Kill Thy Neighbor," sharing soundtrack time with such notables as Michael Brecker and Ray Brown.

DM) And are more of those experiences in the works?

VB) Definitely... we made our base of operations where I live, in the heart of Studio City. I'm a half block away from CBS Studios and the dubbing stages of Todd-AO. It's a great place to be for music and film.

DM) Have you run into any of the Hollywood types?

VB) Always. I can't tell you how many celebrities I see around our neighborhood. But then I've been around celebs all my life, my grandfather was an Academy Award nominated film editor for over 40 years for Universal Studios. Of course there was my dad, and even I worked as a special effects man for 10 years -- as I played and recorded music at night -- working on such movies as "Jaws II" and John Carpenter's "The Thing."

DM) Is your name in the credits of these movies too?

VB) The only credits I've received were as a grip on "La Bamba" and as part of craft service with the make up effects crew on "The Thing". On "The Thing", I'm listed as Yervant Babasin, which is my birth name, my parents started calling me Von since birth so most people know me as Von.

 

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