Q&A with TOKiMONSTA: Beyond the Beats, Behind the Methods, Beneath the Adorable Hat
While the rest of the LA beat scene largely consists of scrubby dudes in graphic tees synthesizing the most abrasive sounds they can muster in a live set, TOKiMONSTA takes the stage as a cool, collected, and crazy cute DJ playing chill beats. Maybe it’s her classical piano training, or her production skill, or her knack for accesorizing. One way or another, TOKiMONSTA captivated us in an instant and has kept our attention with a slew of releases, remixes (ahem, remixes), and live performances.
TOKiMONSTA just got done revealing her craft to the world. She’s rounding out the end of her tour with LA beat pioneer Daedelus at a few final US dates. We caught up with TOKi just long enough to find out about her process, her weapons of choice, and what it’s like to be one of the only ladies in the scene… and, admittedly, and inside scoop on Daedelus’ tour wardrobe.
How’d you come up with the name TOKiMONSTA? What is Toki?
“Toki” is the word for “rabbit” in Korean. As a child, it was a nickname my family would call me by. Then as a teen, I decided to attach “monsta” as a silly way to write “monster,” and there you have it!
There aren’t a lot of ladies in LA’s new beat scene. How do you feel about being the only female in your collective?
I have mixed feelings about it. It’s really amazing to be highlighted for being a female in our very niche scene, however, I would really like for there to be more females participating in the music making. In terms of being in a scene dominated by men, I’m fine with it. My peers are very supportive, kind, and respectful to me. That’s all I can ask for.
Any female producers whose music you are digging on?
I have a friend called Cherry Chan in Singapore who creates amazing bass music as well as people like Ikonika, Goldielocks, and Missy Elliot. There must be more out there, but I have yet to discover them.
The beat scene in LA right now is equal parts hip hop, ambient music, IDM, and it’s all experimental as hell. If you had to give the genre a name, what would you call it?
Generally, we’ve been calling our music “beats.” It’s just general enough so I don’t have to feel boxed in by a “genre.”
I’m digging the noir chic fedora look. Any other articles of clothing/accessories you just can’t do without?
Well, the hat thing is interesting to begin with. I only where hats when I feel as though I’m having a bad hair day, which seems to be more often than not. I’ve been rocking layers of bracelets and long/short necklaces as well as funky rings I’ve collected from all over the world.
Hip hop itself. Hip hop was one of my first loves and I knew I could contribute in some way. Then I discovered how simple it was to delve into and have been producing ever since.
Do you find yourself mixing the two methods together in your music?
Yes, all the time. I appreciate my musical background (though I was a student with a very short attention span). It’s important for me to maintain a certain level of musicality in the beats I make, no matter how obscure the song may end up.
You’re on tour with Daedelus, a self-proclaimed “Dandy” who just released a formal clothing-themed album. What’s his tour wardrobe look like? Any ridiculous outfits we should know about?
HA! His tour wardrobe is very normal on a day to day basis. Right before shows, he will put on his amazing suits with tails and crazy paisley ties. I think it’s amazing and it adds so much to his performance. I don’t have many crazy outfits — at least I don’t think they’re crazy… Maybe some of the accessories are a little crazy.
Five albums, new or old, that describe your taste in music…
Wu-Tang – 36 Chambers
Dr Dre – The Chronic
Kings of Convenience – Quiet is the New Loud
The Long Lost – The Long Lost
White Noise – An Electric Storm
I noticed you’ve been rocking an APC40, which seems to be the standard weapon for producers of your style. Any other weapons of choice in the studio? On stage?
APC40 for me in mostly just a performance tool, I don’t use it for production. For the studio, I use mostly recorded instruments (like my Rhodes, synths, guitar, etc.), studio software, SP404, and more.
Any MTV Iggy artists whose music you love?
I’m actually really glad to see that Mike Gao got artist of the week. He’s a great producer and good friend and think he deserves even more exposure to a wider audience.