Firsties and Faves: TOKiMONSTA
We grabbed electronic whizz TOKiMONSTA at Moogfest to talk synths, rule breaking, and breaking into her own house.
TOKiMONSTA—Los Angelena Jennifer Lee—throws out sidechained synth pads paired with bass wobbles and the kind of beats you need to charm the big boys of rap (check out 2013’s Kool Keith collaboration "The Force" below.) So it only seemed natural to capture one of the few woman playing this year’s Moogfest and interrogate her about equipment, envelopes, and escaping her home as a teenager to go to semi-legal raves.
Favorite sci-fi movie:
Space Odyssey, 2001 yeah. It’s kinda… I actually saw it recently and on an airplane. I think I was coming back from Australia. That one’s so epic.
First famous crush:
Ohh… I almost don’t wanna admit this one. But I was really young, I was like 10. I really liked Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He was this kid who was on this show called Home Improvement. The cool answer would be, Jimi Hendrix, something more tastemaker, not a Taylor Thomas. Simba in Lion King! But him and Ice Cube. I was really into Ice Cube, I don’t know how that relates to each other!
I do have one. This is gonna sound really girly, the Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet soundtrack.
To use, right now I guess is the Moog Sub Phatty, because that’s what I have so I know how to use it. I’ve always been OK with the idea of learning technical skills, but I’m still not as well-versed as some of the people here. I’m like, “Oscillator!”, I know what this is. And I know what an envelope does, but I don’t know what these five other buttons do.
First live show:
I think it was like, Atmosphere or something like that. Really underground hip-hop show. Or Living Legends, very backpacker early 2000s era hip-hop stuff. Dance show? Oh, when I was raving, but I don’t know who was playing at that time. I was doing ecstasy and hanging out, when I was like 17. He was playing, I was like, “I don’t know who that is.” I think it was techno or Chicago-style hard house, which actually I’m really into now. I like listening back to Chicago-style house like Cashmere, Green Velvet, that stuff. They were also playing a lot of trance then. I didn’t care at that time, I just wanted to sit.
I don’t think I’ve hit one I’ve really, really liked yet…
I like Missy Elliot. Or Björk. But they’re kind of similar in a way, they’re both kind of esoteric, I like them both.
Favorite polyphonic synth:
The ARP Odyssey, which I don’t have, is something I’ve always wanted to have after watching an old video of someone making the original Doctor Who theme. Or, not the original original, 'cos that was Delia Derbyshire. But it’s maybe the second incarnation where they’re just using a broken reverb box and all of this stuff. I haven’t managed to find one on Craigslist that was in good enough shape for me to buy. But that’s one I really want. But then also, the Voyager. Moog is like the easiest because everything they make is really good. But, y’know, with the Arp there’s only so many synths and that’s the one I need to have eventually.
I guess listening to music. It’s so clichéd, but it’s the truth. I can’t do anything about it!
Favorite food that reminds you of home:
Korean barbecue. But it reminds me of LA. Korean barbecue reminds me of Los Angeles, not Korea.
First rule that you broke:
Oh, I snuck out of my house to go to a rave, I got in a lot of trouble. And I had to break back into my house. It was great. No it wasn’t! I got in a lot of trouble. I had to climb in through the second floor because it was the only one that had a window open, because I locked myself out of my house after sneaking out. So I had to get on top of a trashcan, rip open the screen. Because it’s not a screen that moves, it’s supposed to be there. Then walked into my mom’s room—she wasn’t home—but she came home later and I got in a lot of trouble. Was the rave worth it? Probably not. Eh, it was OK. I don’t remember anymore. I mostly remember breaking in my house and getting in trouble.
During TOKiMONSTA’s tour of the Moog studio and Davo played synth at the same time she was. He’s counting it as a collaboration. Find out about the legal repercussions on Twitter @battery_licker.