Sean Von Ohlen, aka Vonzie, on producing electronic music and being successful
When students hear “Columbia” and “trap music” in the same sentence, they usually think of Nick Perloff, CC ’16, otherwise known as Flaxo. Although lesser known on campus, the equally as talented Sean Von Ohlen, CC ’14, creates electronic music under the producer name Vonzie. His SoundCloud has just reached 100,000 total views, and he recently released a remix of Birdie’s “Skinny Love.”
Von Ohlen spoke to Spectrum about how he got started making electronic music, what his goals are as a musician, how the Columbia music scene is in a decline, and his relationship with Flaxo.
On his origins as a producer:
I started when I was 18, because I couldn’t fit my drum set in my dorm. So I made really shitty beats about girls that broke up with me for like a year. And then moombahton came around (I don’t know if you remember moombahton, but it’s a fusion of reggaeton and slowed down Dutch house) and that’s when I was starting to get my head around producing and just getting into actually playing shows and DJing. So I had a few tunes that got a lot of plays and stuff, people started noticing me. And then I went through another period where I made a lot of shit and wasn’t really taking it seriously. And then trap came around, and I started producing more seriously again.
On his goals as a musician:
I don’t want to be seen as a trap artist. I’m an artist who makes electronic music for the dance floor but with usually a forward thinking tinge—whether it be in being atonal sometimes or being heavily melodic. And I think it’s important to explore a bigger spectrum as an artist. No one wants to hear “Harlem Shake” again. And no one wants to hear another Hardwell tune by you, because you’re not Hardwell. And I think a lot of people forget that.
On the Columbia party scene:
Columbia doesn’t engender a musical scene at all. I remember when I was a freshman and I would talk to kids, it used to be that they were more left-field in some sense. And I feel like Columbia was inducting a lot more of those kinds of kids even before my class and they kind of dipped off recently. I just haven’t really spoke to a lot of kids that are interested in music in a lot of sense and all the people that I know that are making music in Columbia are seniors.
On his relationship with Flaxo:
I put out a lot more music than him [Flaxo], but he’s had a few big hits that have propelled him. I respect him a lot musically. He started producing when he was, I think, 14, so by the time he got to school he was already like miles ahead of me. But we threw a series of shows that we called “Big Ass Bash” at The Underground last year. They were fun—they were big. We brought our own speakers and everything. And yeah, it was a packed house—like 150-200 people.
Von Ohlen put together a quick playlist of songs representative of his DJ sets:
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