It’s kind of hard not to have a gigantic girl crush on Jennifer Lee, aka Tokimonsta. A prominent face in the LA chill-out scene for some years now, Lee has amassed a sizable following of captivated listeners with her flair for deliciously mellow beats. With two very well-received sets at 2011’s Coachella and last year’s release of her latest effort, Half Shadows, via electronic powerhouse label Ultra Music, she’s showing the boys she’s just as hungry for bigger and better things.
I recently had a chance to chat with Tokimonsta about her recording process, dream collaborations, and more. Find out what she had to say below!
Describe your music production process.
I don’t really have much of a process. I suppose my lack of process helps me avoid a formulaic sound. That being said, I never force myself to make a song when I’m not inspired — those forced songs never come out very good.
What gear are you using in the studio? Live?
In the studio, there is a lot of gear I’m using. The main staples would be my RME UFx audio interface, Dynaudio monitors, Ableton, AKG C414 mic, and a number of synths and little sound toys. On stage, I use Ableton, APC 40, and PreSonus FireStudio Mobile interface.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you live several times. No two sets have been the same, and you’re constantly mixing on the fly. What are your thoughts on the proliferation of the big-budget, prerecorded sets that have dominated mainstream electronic music?
I’m not a fan of prerecorded sets. Honestly, electronic music isn’t that hard to mix anyway — why prerecord? However, I do understand with big budget stage production, most artists need to keep the sets the same so the production knows when to cue certain visuals or other cool things. I guess it’s a fine line between being impressive on stage with cool production or being cheesy on stage with cool production.
Ultra was a cool label to work with. I think the public forgets that the people working there don’t want to be listening to trance 24/7 and are young adults who still love all kinda of music. They also had more resources for me to make cooler videos and reach a wider audience.
You’ve already worked with some pretty stellar musicians in the past, but is there anyone you dream of collaborating with in the future?
Missy Elliot, Bjork, MIA, Raekwon. If you know them, tell them to give me a call.
Tell me more about Alpha Girls.
Alpha Girls is a show that documents four females in different sectors of the creative industry. Soo Joo is a model, Mina is an artist, Lani is a fashion designer, and I am a music producer. I hope that viewers are inspired by the trials and tribulations we encounter to reach success.
Being an Asian American and a woman, you’re a minority in the music scene. How has that helped/hurt your career?
I think I have always looked at myself like any individual, just a person. There have been a couple moments where I feel fetishized or belittled because I’m Asian American or a woman, but those moments were usually online (probably YouTube).
On a related note, as a fellow Korean American, I have to ask: how does your family feel about your career path?
My mom is cool with it now. I think once the Korean newspaper wrote about me, that validated me in my mom’s eyes.
Favorite haunts in LA?
I always like hanging out in Koreatown. My new spot is Pot Bar in the Line Hotel.
What’s next on the horizon for Tokimonsta?
Alpha Girls airs on Mnet America on Wednesdays at 8pm ET/PT. It’s also available online through Mnet America’s Youtube Channel. Get caught up now because the Alpha Girls finale airs on Wednesday, April 16!