Tokimonsta is the subject of our music feature this week; for the story, we hung out with the beat scene DJ/producer at the dinner party event celeb chef Roy Choi whipped up for her at his restaurant A-Frame. A few days later we sat down with her over green tea to talk about her recently released sophomore LP Half Shadows. A few days after that, we ran into her again on the street after a late night party at SXSW in Austin.
She spoke about her rise through the beat scene, her creative process, releasing her new album on a major label and how rad her cat is. Here's some material that didn't make the story.
On deciding to release Half Shadows on Ultra Records:
If I'm going to be really honest, I feel like I was given a lot of creative freedom with the track listing, doing all the songs I wanted on it, who I wanted to remix and who I wanted to do the artwork. The single though was picked as a team by my manager and the label saying, “Oh these songs are really amazing let's pick this single” and me going, “Well I think they're all amazing so you can make whichever one the single.”
On collaborating with MNDR on the single, “Go With It”:
When she gave me the song I was really blown away. I come from Brainfeeder; we don't do singles, we just put out stuff. One might be picked to maybe have a video, but in this case with her the song turned out really awesome. It's more accessible than some of the stuff I've made in the past, but I kind of like the fact that more people can understand it. Her vocals on it have a pop sensibility…If I put anyone else on it, like a rapper, that would have changed the dimension of it as well.
On the kind of music she listens to:
I'm not a one mood kind of person and also with the music I like to listen to, I don't always listen to bass-ey chillwave. I like to listen to Wu-Tang and then Tame Impala or Warpaint or whatever. I'm always around the Flying Lotuses and the Gaslamp Killers, so that's always a backdrop for me. I find myself being really diverse, and I'm trying to represent that. I think I'd be really sad if all of my music sounded the same.
On the diversity of her fans:
The people who listen to my music are extremely diverse. I played a show in Hawaii recently and I thought like, ten people would show up; turns out it was a huge party. I had B-Boys pop locking in circles, I had fire throwers in the parking lots and indie hipsters and these EDM raver kids all there. It was bizarre but amazing. You have B-Boys and then you have Burning Man Honolulu. I don't know if it's through association or the way my music speaks to people or because I have so many moods that certain stuff speaks to certain types of people.
On the early days of beat making:
I never thought I was good at it. I didn't know any other musicians. I didn't know any rappers. I would always make instrumental beats by default because I didn't have anyone to rap on things. When I did know rappers they thought my stuff was too weird and too busy to rap over.
On the plans for her upcoming tour behind Half Shadows:
What I want to do in the fall is do it more like a concert and a show and less like a DJ and a party. My music isn't overly DJ-like. I want to bring more instruments, a visual element and hopefully a vocalist with me on tour.
On the rigors of touring:
If I'm at home too long I need to leave because I get bored, and if I'm out on the road for three weeks I need to go home because I lose stability in my life. I feel like I'm in limbo. You just feel like you pause your life for awhile to go on tour. The repetitive actions of home make you feel stable. I get sick of both and I love both, but it is also grueling.
Usually in the U.S. I fly out and fly home. I still get the stability and I don't party super hard. When I'm in Europe I tour every day and that's when drinking becomes exhausting. I don't drink or do anything. I don't oversocialize. In some places people try to get you wasted and you have to politely decline because you have to wake up at 5am for a train.
On her random cameo on the Travel Channel show Deep-Fried Food Paradise:
It was awesome. No it wasn't it was very embarrassing when I was watching it. They always show that show. It's a filler show they show in the daytime. No one really eats that gracefully anyways.
On the time when FlyLo called her out on her Twitter game:
Twitter is the most exposing [social media platform] of all. In the beginning I didn't have Twitter etiquette yet, and I remember Flying Lotus called me and was like, “Hey you might want to calm down on that,” and semi scolded me a little bit. I was like, “What? What am I doing wrong?” He's like, “Sometimes you need to be a little mysterious.” And I was like, “What I don't understand” I didn't fully realize that everyone could read your conversations and gain a lot of insight into who you are. Obviously I became a bit more guarded. I do want people to know my opinions on certain things though.
On the public fascination with her being a female producer:
When I first came out I didn't want anyone to know I was a girl. This was back when MySpace was still happening a long time ago. People do put a lot of emphasis on me being a female, and even more so being a minority. Like, “Oh she's an Asian chick,” which is worse because people fetishize Asian women and they fetishize women too.
As far as how it gets pointed out, people say, “Oh you're my favorite female producer,” and I'm like, “I'd rather be your fifth favorite overall.” Or like, “You're my favorite Asian producer.” I like people to know I'm a female because then they know that they're women who are capable of doing this. When people say, “I didn't even know you were a girl,” that's accomplishing something.
On music world jerks:
It frightens me to see people who have become massive and they know it, or they think it. Sometimes they're just mean to you. I was at a festival on the East Coast once with Daedelus, who I love to pieces. We got into this transport van back to the hotel and this DJ came with his posse and threw our shit everywhere and didn't acknowledge us, it was just like “these assholes.”
But some of the DJs who were assholes, once you come out they're like, “I love your stuff. I want to be your friend now.” And it's like, “No you don't. You don't give a shit about what I do.”
On her cat, Misha:
I never liked cats. And then I got one and I was like, “Dude, you're awesome.”
See also: Tokimonsta Leaves the Nest