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Archive for the ‘Q&As’ Category

Q&A with TOKiMONSTA: Beyond the Beats, Behind the Methods, Beneath the Adorable Hat

Photo credit: Theo Jemison

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.

Photo credit: Theo Jemison

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

Photo credit: Theo Jemison

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.


Written by M

April 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Music, Q&As

Tagged with , ,

Q&A with Generation Bass' DJ UMB: Bada$$ International Basement Beat Hunter

DJ UMB needs the world as much as the world needs DJ UMB.

DJ UMB. Photo credit: Mikkel Munch Mortensen

The UK selector developed a taste for sounds from musical traditions all over the planet. His life’s work revolves around bringing them together through the universal crunchiness of really raw electronic music.

Along with Vincent Koreman, UMB runs Generation Bass, a blog dedicated to the discovery of electronic music from obscure corners of the globe. The two scour the globe to find artists who make fresh beats in bedrooms and dank basements worldwide. All of that cultural influence finds its way into the mixes compiled by UMB. The newest one is due out in February.

Transnational Dubstep explores the fusion of the cut-time dubstep beat with styles from Japan, India, the Middle East, the Carribean and more. On one track there’s a melancholy bansuri wailing over buzzing synth bass. On the next, cowbells and Latin percussion swing into effect. On the next, bells and violins battle for the sonic foreground. You’d have to be some kind of music scholar to name every instrument in this collection. We caught up with DJ UMB and asked him to shed some light on what it means to be a truly global-minded DJ.

Do you own the bejewelled skull on the cover of Transnational Dubstep?

Transnational Dubstep

Well, I suppose I do now because it’s becoming pretty synonymous with me. It’s owned/created by a fantastic artist called Amy Sarkisian, but I’m going to talk to her about selling the exclusive rights to me.  ‘Cause although she created it, in reality I own it. [Laughs]

Go and check out her works here. I just want to point out that she did that skull in 2005 and so it was way before Damien Hirst did it, so who knows, maybe he ripped her off! I’ve used most of her skulls as covers for my “Dubstep Monday” posts on Generation Bass. People were just gobsmacked with the sheer beauty of them. As was I, when I first discovered them.

When the idea for the compilation came about, there was only ever one cover that would do the job. So I tracked her down and convinced her (basically I begged like a dog) to allow me to use it as my cover. I also had to seek her permission to change the color. She agreed ever so gracefully and with full majesty. The original is mint-colored and it’s just as beautiful — but for the album cover, the shade of aqua suited best.

Transnational Dubstep is the most eclectic dubstep mix we’ve ever heard. Where did you find the artists/songs that you included?

Wow, thanks so much, I’m so glad to hear that. Well, I’m one of the most eclectic DJs you’re ever gonna come across. Joking of course.

Most of the artists on the compilation I discovered almost two years ago. Some discovered me, knowing what I was into. Some like Celt Islam, Bandish Projekt and Barbarix I’ve known personally for a longer period. Others were introduced to me by various people in the industry after they heard my mixtapes.

I’ve been into global sounds for as far back as I can remember. There’s just something about music from foreign shores that excites me so much and so I have always been interested in that. I suppose in way, it’s my way of finding my own utopia on this earth through music.

For me as a DJ, I have always found African, Arabic, Indian, Balkan, Latin and Far Eastern sounds far more fascinating. When they’re fused with Western beats, it’s my idea of heaven.

Also for me, it’s like to trying to paint the kind of world I’d like to live in through music — where there is no prejudice, racism or intolerance, and where people take each other for what they are without prejudging on the basis of skin color, ethnic/religious background or nationality. It’s a perfect world for me. I know it sounds a bit hippie, but there isn’t anything wrong with that in my opinion. I just want to live in that kind of world.

What qualities does a song have to have to catch your ear and make it onto one of your mixes?

It just needs to move me in some way — emotionally, mentally, or physically, that’s all.

I think I go for quite melodic stuff with a lot of musicality. Brilliant production also helps, because it needs to sound right and there needs to be sharp clarity within the sound. It also needs to sound different or unique and not generic. I really don’t go for generic stuff unless I’m dropping a mix and a segment of it requires it.

DJ UMB Live. Photo credit: Mikkel Munch Mortensen

I also go for stuff that is not so obvious and less well known because, for me, half of the enjoyment is the discovery and sharing of it. So if it’s plastered all over the Beatport Dubstep Charts or everybody knows it already, then that’s a bit of a turnoff for me and I’m less likely to use it in my mixes or blog about it. That said, I would still play it out.

These days you hear every kind of traditional music mixed with 140 BPM dubstep beats. What do you think it is about dubstep that makes it meld so well with other styles?

Dubstep just seems to have the space to allow that cross-pollination to occur. Like house music, it just seems able to adapt itself to most things and that’s why I love it so much. It can meld itself with pop, global roots, reggae, soul, rock, punk, funk, and so on. It just has that magic ability to mutate itself without losing its essence.

There are many divided camps on the scene, all vying for the dubstep title. I feel that is a bit of a shame because dubstep is all of those things, but they don’t seem to be able to understand that. Sadly, like politics and religion, music can also be divisive too, and so you get neo-fascists and elitists in music too.

We try to avoid that on the blog because we just wanna chronicle what we feel is great music and give everybody a platform and not choose any sides.

NEXT: The scene in India imploded…

Written by M

January 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm