(electronic music) – When I went through
the surgery for Moyamoya, I didn’t tell anyone.
(bright music) It was a very difficult time for me. (electronic music) I had to write down what would happen to all my things if I were to die. (electronic music) I think when you’re faced
with your own mortality, you wanna make sure
that you lived your life how you wanted to live it. I just wanna keep making
the most amazing music and showing people that if I
can do it, anyone can do it. (electronic music) (upbeat music) My name is Jennifer Lee,
but I’m better known as TOKiMONSTA.
♪ Show me ♪ ♪ Where the light stays ♪ ♪ Find it on the path ♪
I am a music producer and live performer DJ, and all
the songs are composed by me. Electronic music is the
music producer’s world. It is what you can do
to push the envelope. ♪ I ♪
My music is electronic. ♪ In your feelings ♪ But is has many organic
sounds, like a piano, or a violin. How you guys doing? Going a step further beyond
that is creating instruments out of non-instruments.
(“Rouge” by Tokimonsta) So something that I like to
do is use field recordings. (bright music) I take a little recorder around with me and record different kinds
of sounds that I like. (helicopter roars)
(bright music) I can use little bits of
that to create new sounds. (bright music)
(sticks click) (foot scoffs)
(bright music) (rock dings)
(bright music) They do have a really interesting tonality that is not common in music.
(bright music) This is my song, “Rose’s Thorn.” It is a track off my most
recent album, Lune Rouge. (“Rose’s Thorn” by Tokimonsta) With this track, I did use
a lot of field recordings. For the drum sounds, I
decided to use a truck door. (truck door slams) Rocks hitting each other.
(rocks click) And a regular snare drum.
(snare drum clacks) I layered them all on top of each other. Together, we have– (percussion clacks) And the great thing is when
you do stuff like that, no one else will have that sound. No one else will have a
snare-truck-door-rock sound in their song.
(upbeat percussion music) They’re unusual sounds, things that are not considered music. I recorded this wonderful beach sound.
(ocean waves gush) That like weird, bird chirping. (birds chirp) There is something to me
about creating an environment in a song, it takes you somewhere else, beyond just the song and the melodies, you’re actually removing
someone from their environment and putting them by the
sea, putting them in nature. (ocean waves gush) (bright music) I was raised in Torrance, California. I was born to an immigrant mother. My father passed away
when I was very young, so for the most part, I was
raised by a single mother who worked very hard to
kind of provide for me. So I took piano for about 10 years, and my upbringing introduced me to music. Though, I don’t think
my mom intended for me to become a musician.
(upbeat music) I remember discovering west coast hip-hop, everything about it was something that appealed to me a lot, and I flourished in that.
(upbeat music) I would start producing
once I entered college. Even though I loved hip-hop,
I had no access to rappers when I was starting out,
so the music started to become hip-hop beats but
with electronic sounds in it. No one had heard this style of music that was so much hip-hop
but was so forward thinking and electronic. I started participating in other events with other producers. And I became apart of a scene. (upbeat percussion music) That itself could almost
just be like a rap beat. The drums themselves are just so simple without anything else,
that’s why I find it. Percussion is very important. I think it creates movement.
(upbeat percussion music) Even the pianos, the main
thing is that there’s movement. (upbeat music) That bass sound is very simple. All it is is one note.
(upbeat music) Rhythm guitar.
(upbeat music) The guitar lead.
(upbeat music) They are not coming from a real guitar. I was going for a
non-realistic guitar sound. I made this song like
right after my surgery. It was one of the first
songs that I worked on. (dramatic, atmospheric music) Around 10 years ago, I
started getting migraines. One doctor suggested that I
potentially could have a disease called Moyamoya, the arteries in the left and right side that
supply blood to your brain start to shrink, and then,
so what ends up happening is stroke, aneurism, you will die. Fast forward about 10 years later, I had a strange incident where
I couldn’t feel my left foot. In the back of my head, I’ve always had that Moyamoya thing there. By January of 2015, I
had two brain surgeries a week apart from each other. (dramatic, atmospheric music) Right after the surgery,
I was tired and in pain, but I was OK. It was the recovery
process that was difficult. I would get stroke symptoms
where I couldn’t feel the entire left side of my
body and, just out of nowhere, I completely lost my ability to talk and to understand speech. And I could no longer
communicate with anyone, and one thing that I noticed
about this entire process was I couldn’t understand music anymore. It’s nothing but noise. Like an airplane flying in the sky. (airplane roars)
I couldn’t understand music, so there was no music anymore. That was very difficult for me. (uplifting music) Eventually, I noticed that
the language was getting a little better, day by day. A soundtrack was coming
back, all the music that you hear, in the
elevator, out of people’s cars, on TV–
– Understanding– – All these things were slowly
creeping back into my life, and I was elated.
(bright music) – Hi.
– Hey. You look good.
– How’s it going? – [Tokimonsta] Good. – [Ioanna] What are you doing today? – So this is what I have up right now. These are all from the same take, but I had to mix them all differently ’cause depending on what note you sing, those frequencies would jump out more. When I went to open my
computer to be like, “OK, this is the time,
it’s my time to shine. “I’m gonna try making a new song.” It was awful, it was garbage,
it didn’t sound good at all. I didn’t know how to make music anymore. I figured if everything else came back, this would come back.
– Let’s try re-recording one of your leads for our song. – Cool.
– And see if we can like breathe in some new life.
– Sounds good. – I’m gonna start from the–
– People think I had to relearn how to make music;
I didn’t have to relearn it. I just had to wait for it to come back. – [Ioanna] But I’ll
play like a couple bars before it goes in.
– Fast forward just like a week or two
weeks, I was able to make the very first song that ended
up on my most recent album. Cool! That was great.
– Cool! – What a great recording. Another element of the song
are these little vocal samples. They are not words, they
don’t mean anything. It’s just effects. (singers scat) It is having the beauty of a person’s voice without them distracting you with words, and these songs essentially
make themselves. And, even I’m surprised at
the end how they come to feel. Like I had no idea I’d end
up making a song like this. For me, as a musician,
I always wanna innovate. I don’t wanna be making
the same type of music as everyone else, ’cause
then, why would people need to listen to my music?
(“Rose’s Thorn” by Tokimonsta) After the brain surgery,
the one thing that changed was my philosophical approach. Once you’re faced with the
fact that you might die, you realize, I don’t wanna live my life for anyone else but myself. I wanna be the kind of artist
that creates her own vision for herself, no matter
what it is that I do. And I wanna know that each
day I live, I feel fulfilled. (“Rose’s Thorn” by Tokimonsta)