Tokimonsta - Can you tell me a little bit about who you are, and how your name reflects your music?
Well I'm a music producer from Los Angeles. The story behind my name started when I was young. You see, Toki means rabbit in Korean, and Monsta is just the way I spelled "Monster" when I was really young. Initially I'd have to say the name is kind of arbitrary, as I picked it because it sounded cool, and used it as my AOL screen name. As I've grown up and began creating more tracks, I actually found that it was very representative of the kind of music I make. It can be very cute and pleasant, as well as very aggressive at the same time.
Was there anything while you were growing up that lead you down the path of producing music?
I played piano when I was really young. I wouldn't say I necessarily enjoyed the lessons, but I feel like that really sparked my inclination towards creating my own music. When I was playing the piano, I didn't always like playing other people's compositions, but I would always dabble with the music and make whatever I could. I mean, I was just a little kid, but I wanted to make songs on my own, even though I had no experience. THAT, and of course the music I listened to was an influence. I was heavy into hip hop, and wanted to contribute to that specific genre…except I couldn't rap. That's when I took the route of being a producer, because a lot of what I liked about hip hop was the beats.
What has been your biggest music influence in what dictates your sound?
I guess my biggest influence would generally be the whole hip hop genre…that's really broad though. I mean, hip hop could mean Lil' Wayne, hip hop could mean Atmosphere, hip hop could mean DJ Shadow - all of these different realms. However, I was really influenced by instrumental hip hop, like J-Dilla. I loved "Slum Village," and all the tracks he rapped on, but what really got me were his beats. I also am really into The Rza…I love Wu Tang in general; they are actually a big driving force for me. DJ Krush, DJ Shadow…I guess I'm just into artists of the era of 90's trip hop. Sort of like that time when music was less rapping, and more musical, but it still had this "hip hop" thing to it.
With social media becoming almost a necessity for an artist, have you noticed any particular impact it has had on your music or career?
One thing I've noticed that's resulted from things like Facebook and Twitter are the separate communities building around their shared interest in my music. Like a year or two ago I did a remix showcase, and had compiled quite a few mixes. I have a Rhodes at home, which is a vintage electric piano. It's a really common sound people like in hip hop beats, and beats in general. With all these mixes, I decided to put one online, and asked people to download the piano sample, and make it into a beat. It was sort of like "I'm giving you this free sample...now make it yours." So these people started creating beats with the package I uploaded for them, then they started commenting on each other's songs, saying stuff like, "Wow! You did a really great job!" And so these complete strangers started bonding over their mixes, and shared interest in my music. It's like they became friends over Soundcloud and Twitter. It's interesting, because they're not just followers, now. Your followers now have their own community within each other over their shared taste in music.
I read over a tweet that you wanted to party with Lindsay Lohan. What's this fascination with Lindsay Lohan?
It's for Science. Just kidding. Well you see, I have this weird obsession with trashy news - gossip magazines in particular. You know. The magazines that have the headlines like "Rihanna's getting back with Chris Brown." It's a vice of mine. What's weird is you always hear people trashing her, and talking about how horrible she is, but I'm just curious to see what the big deal is. The media can spin a story one way, and not really show it in the correct light.
Tell me a little bit about the evolution of your career thus far.
When I was younger I started off doing beat battles in LA. (You see, I considered myself more of a hip hop person as opposed to an electronic producer.) The reward for these battles would be something like $100; but pretty much you would stand on the stage, play your beat, and act like your beat was the shit. (I never won any of these by the way.) Through that I met more people. I started going to Project Blowed which is a historical LA hip hop night in Leimert Park, where I met more producers. Then I started going to Low End Theory when it was brand spankin' new. From there I became a part of Brainfeeder, which is a label that Flying Lotus owns. After a while I started releasing tracks with them, and then did a few independent releases. Now I'm on Ultra Records. On the touring tip, I toured with Skrillex, Diplo, and Grimes, and a few others this past summer on a train that went through Canada. More recently I've been able to do Coachella, and now SS Coachella. I love that I've been able to travel a lot.
What does your creative process look like when constructing a new track?
I don't really have a creative process. I feel like if you always have a go-to creative recipe your cookies are always going to come out the same. You're just going to add raisins to something that's already preplanned out. I try not to make my music too formulaic. I do like to build in the track a lot though, so that it's always the end of the track that's epic. When making music, if I want to do something, I just do it.
When producing a new track is there ever a mood or idea you want to convey to the listener?
Sometimes. I usually get easily inspired by a mood after watching a certain movie. Like say I just watched a sad movie, which also has a very sad soundtrack, I'll go and be inspired by that. Not necessarily make the same songs, but convey the same idea that a song can reflect a mood. Or say I just came back from playing Low End Theory, and then I just want to make bangers…the heaviest shit ever. I want the person listening to be like "this makes me sad" or "this makes me hyped" or "Oh! I want to lose my virginity to this song." I don't always have a goal like that. But usually I want them to feel the way that I feel.
One of the frequent spots you play at in LA is 'Low End Theory'- how would you say that experience is different from the venues you typically tour?
Low End Theory is like a home base. It's not about money, it never is. My fan base grew from that venue, so it's really like I'm coming back home whenever I play. It's like playing for your friends and family. The friends that you don't know but they've been around forever.
What has been the biggest struggle you've encountered working in such a male dominated industry?
People will come up to me and be like, "You're my favorite female producer", and I don't want to be your favorite female producer, I want to be one of your favorites. I don't want to be categorized separately. It's like…let's integrate. It's 2013. We don't have to think in gender lines anymore. There's also the fact that people will assume things about your music by your gender and how you look. It's like looking at a scantily dressed female and assuming her music is horrible. A lot of people will be like "I listened to your music, and didn't realize you were a girl until I met you," or people will tell me, "I listened to your music because you're a girl." Then there are people who will tell me "I think your music really sucks, and I don't think you really know what you're doing, because you're a girl." Vs. I've done this for many years, and know just as much as other producers. People are really critical of producers because it's kind of techy, so when they see girls who know what they're doing, they're like, "she probably doesn't knowexactlywhat she's doing." Then there are people who will accuse me of having a male ghost writer, or they think I learned everything from an ex-boyfriend, which is garbage. There's always pro's and cons, but for the most part everyone's supportive.
With Coachella under your belt, and now SS Coachella, where do you see yourself going next in-terms of touring and your career?
I really want to play Lolapalooza and Bonaroo. The first time I played Coachella I was the very last name on the flyer for the event, and it was so tiny. I know it sounds stupid but I want to one day have my name a tiny bit larger, and not last. I don't necessarily care for importance; I just want to play for a larger crowd.
What is one assumption you always get from people that you absolutely hate?
The biggest thing is people assume that if they become friends with me, they will be able to get to one of my friends that are more famous than me.
How does your music reflect your personal style?
There is something with my music, the way that I draw, and the way that I dress that is very similar. I like to mix organic textures with clean lines. With fashion, I like to mix one distressed piece; a vintage tee in particular, with a pair of leather pants and clean shoes. With my music - I like to mix a dirty sample off of a record, like a vintage horn, with a sharp synthesizer, which has a more clean sound. It's a mixture of old and new. It's a mixture of clean and dirty.