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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 53

INTERVIEW with On Off On

We were first turned on to OFO a couple years back... we have enjoyed their music(s) immensely, as will any dedicated jazz aficionado... in fact, we feel extremely fortunate to have great bands/players (like this) associated with our 'zine... check out what they had to say to you...


ZZAJ:  As we've discussed, OnOffOn is a "self-production" band.  To what degree is that true?  I mean, do you do all the recording yourselves, or is there some (rented) studio time involved?

OFO:  We definitely use a recording studio. We record at Pacific Coast Recording in Long Beach, CA. We master digitally but record analog. There's nothing like the sound of 2-inch analog tape - you just can't get that digitally. We master at a top-notch mastering facility called Time Capsule Mastering. But while we use recording facilities, everything is from us as individuals. We finance everything, we make all creative decisions. Which songs make it on the CDs,
which don't. What additional instruments are added to our sound - when background vocals are needed - everything a producer at a major would decide for a band, we do ourselves.

ZZAJ:  Your music has great high energy; how do you pull that off in a trio kinda' setting?

OFO:  We feel we are very fortunate to have found one another. There was some divine intervention that brought us together. While we depend on actual performing abilities to play our music (no sequencing involved), we still blend in a
certain amount of technology to enhance our sound. We incorporate the use of real-time looping devices, like the Jam-Man and the Repeater to lay rhythms that we then play over the top of. We can manage a very full intense sound that
people don't really expect from a trio. When we've got three or four guitar parts, a couple of bass lines and four part harmonies coming out of three guys, it stops people in their tracks. It's a lot of fun. You factor in Dave's use of the Zendrum and we are quite a spectacle to see live.

ZZAJ:  There seem to be lots of styles/influences (blues & jazz/fusion to name a couple, as well as some straight-ahead rockin') in your music.  Heck, I even hear snatches of "Morrison-like" vox in there... what do YOU think your influences are?

OFO:  Don Lake, guitars/harmonica/vocals, names classical influences, such as Aaron Copland and Beethoven, to be among his most significant. Dave Goode, drums/percussion/technology, names Trilok Gurtu, Terry Bozzio, Buddy Rich, and Futureman to be some of his strongest influences. As for me, Von Babasin, bass/vocals, I'm most strongly influenced by my father, Harry Babasin, innovative jazz bassist/producer from the 40's and 50's west coast jazz scene, but also groups like Edgar Winter's White Trash, ELP, King Cimson, and Wishbone Ash helped shaped the way I approach music.

ZZAJ:  Do you prefer to perform/record originals, or covers?

OFO:  Originals.

ZZAJ:  Many who read this 'zine produce their own music(s)... what has worked for you for distribution?  Is it purely WWW, or do you go through more conventional channels, too?

OFO:  We can't afford traditional means of promotion. The internet is our only hope of having credible promotion. We are currently on more than 1,500 websites around the world but it hasn't really crossed us over into the real world. The internet still only reaches a small percentage of the world's population and if you're going to realistically compete against the control major labels have on music, you have to cross over onto traditional media.

ZZAJ:  Do you do the "tour" thing, or play (pretty much) locally?

OFO:  Again, budgetary constraints keep us local. We spend every cent we have producing the best music on CD that we can.

ZZAJ:  An ancient topic in the "underground" contends that there is a "glut" in the market today... do you think that's true, or is there such a thing as "too much music"?

OFO:  I don't think there's 'too much music'. I think there's too much crap! The media controls who people think are talented, they create chart topping groups from TV shows now. GRAMMYs are given for record sales - they used to be given
out for musical excellence but those days are long gone. Right now, you read article after article about how there music industry is in a fog, nobody knows where it's going. I think the next 'thing' should involve groups that do multiple genres well. I'm tired of hearing groups that every song sounds the same. With the popularity of soundtracks and compilation CDs, people are showing they like diversity in their music. Why not accept that diversity from the same group of musicians?

ZZAJ:  Is the music an all consuming kind of thing for all the band members, or is it easy to break away from?

OFO:  We've always been hindered by the fact that we all have had to make livings and not be able to devote all of our energies solely to music. If we were in a position to 'live' our music - I can't imagine what we could accomplish. The
potential is astounding. I don't say that egotistically, it is very matter of fact. We could easily be a multi-media production company, not just a band.

ZZAJ:  Can your (or any) music be a "healing force" for today's world, or is  that an illusion perpetuated by musicians?

OFO:  I could really get into this one but it's just too involved. Harmonic vibrations are traced back to the creation of the universe and the big bang theory. Music is life itself.

ZZAJ:  Has the 9/11 thing influenced your playing or composition at all (do you think)?  Or is it pretty much a "world keeps turning" kind of thing?

OFO:  While these events have been extremely impactful, they have become an addition to the list of the world's atrocities. My grandfather escaped with his life in 1915 from Armenia, during the Armenian genocide. If more could have been done in response to those events, Hitler may not have been able to do what he did to the Jews. There has always been great tragedy throughout history and there will continue to be - we must try to do our best to honor those events and be true to our convictions. Above all - art must endure.

Von Babasin 

RETURN to Zzaj Productions MAIN page!


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