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Claire Marie Lim (dolltr!ck) Interview

1. What is your name and your profession(s)?

Hello! I'm Claire Marie Lim, a music technologist and electronic musician. Professionally, I wear many hats, so I've taken on roles including that of a producer, songwriter, engineer, live experience designer, sound designer, audio programmer, playback technician, synthesist, session musician, and educator (and a few more positions) throughout my career. I'm an Ableton Certified Trainer, Bitwig Certified Trainer, and Apple Certified Pro, and have trained artists and bands in music technology topics, as well as consulted for their projects, like albums, performance rigs, shows, and tours. Most of the things that I've done have been related to creative technologies, which I'm very passionate about, so I'm very thankful for that.

As an artist, I go by "dolltr!ck", which is the name of my solo project where I curate dynamic live electronic performances, incorporating dreamy synths, punchy drum machines, and processed vocals, tied together by controllerism. I've been lucky enough to have toured with my artist project and released music independently. I also DJ as dolltr!ck, with a specialty in playing Korean pop music.

As an educator, I go by "the smol prof", which is the moniker I use for my teaching endeavors. I'm on faculty at higher education institutions like Berklee College of Music and the City University of New York, where I specialize in instruction for electronic performance, production and programming, and am an advocate of women and Asian representation in music technology. 

2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?

I am originally from Singapore and am of Chinese descent. I moved to the US for school and have been living here ever since!

3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?

Neither of my parents are professional musicians, but we listened to a lot of music when I was growing up. My mother grew up in Singapore and my father grew up in the Netherlands, so between the two of them, I had quite an eclectic mix of music to listen to as a child. My grandparents on both sides were also big music listeners, so their musical tastes definitely contributed to my aural world.

4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies.

My experience has definitely had its ups and downs. On the one hand, I definitely experienced racism and sexism that was very disheartening. Especially in the field of electronic music, AAPI women are a minority, so there were moments where I felt totally alienated in a room full of people who were subtly, or not so subtly, prejudiced against me. I was very fortunate that I had teachers, mentors, and role models who were incredibly encouraging, and inspired me to not give up. I've always been a pretty strong-willed person too when it comes to things that I'm passionate about, so it was important for me to hold onto my dream of wanting to pursue music.

On the other hand, I feel fortunate to be active at a time where folks have been recognizing the challenges that minorities are experiencing in the US, especially in the music industry, and in the music tech field. Because of this, people are taking action. I myself want to make a change and contribute in a way that will better the industry for future AAPI musicians. I do think that things are getting better - at least from the perspective of a teacher/mentor, for example, I'm seeing many more women and non-binary students in my music tech classes now than I did when I started teaching several years ago.

5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?

This is such a tricky question for me, as I feel like the answer varies from day to day. Since most of my immediate family isn't based in the US, I don't think about my heritage from Singapore super often. That said, I do have a lot of friends and colleagues in the AAPI community, many of whom have similar backgrounds to me, and there does feel like there is a shared culture there when we get together and hang out. Being with them makes me appreciative of my heritage and background, even amidst the busyness of day-to-day activities.

6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)?

I started playing the piano as a child, thanks to my family. My Oma (Dutch for grandma - my father's side of the family are from the Netherlands) bought me my first piano. I don't think my parents expected me to pursue music professionally, but they encouraged music as an extracurricular activity. When I applied to several universities and colleges, I think they were pretty surprised when I applied to music programs. I first went to a "normal" academic university, but afterwards attended Berklee College of Music. I had two majors and a minor, and they were all related to various facets of music technology. I continued to work on music production in grad school, and am still pursuing various music post-grad courses, on and off.

6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now?

I can't remember a specific singular moment that was a catalyst, but I think my general experiences in my life - especially as a youth - really inspired me to attempt to pursue music. I danced from a young age, did some musical theater, and also played piano and flute extensively, so in retrospect, it seems unsurprising that I would love live performance as much as I do now, enough to be involved in various live music fields as a career. 

My parents definitely did not support me from the get-go, haha! But they really loved me, enough to give me a chance to study music in a solid higher education institution, and they eventually ended up coming around. I think a big moment that might have brought them around was when I performed at my Commencement Concert with fellow members of my graduating class. I had a solo section that featured me as an electronic performer, and also played as a part of the general band, and that was the first time my school had featured an electronic musician so prominently. So maybe my parents were finally proud then!


7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.

I've been super lucky to have been a part of many fun projects, but perhaps the one I'm the happiest about is my solo artist project, dolltr!ck. I never thought that I would have an electronic music project growing up! I was super lucky to have stumbled upon the field of electronic performance when I was a student in college, and performing with live electronics is one of the most empowering things I have ever experienced. As dolltr!ck, I take care of all of the aspects of my music creations - writing, producing, recording, engineering, performing, etc. 

I'm also very thankful to have worked with several brands, artists, and entities who I really look up to. Some of these happen fleetingly, and it's really about being in the right place at the right time - for example, I recently jumped in on a super quick stint running playback for Dua Lipa, which was a wonderful experience. Ableton is a company that has been very supportive of my work, as an artist, educator, playback engineer, and general technologist. Their flagship software, Ableton Live, is pretty much my weapon of choice for most music tasks nowadays, and I'm not just saying that because I'm an Ableton Certified Trainer, haha. Bitwig is also another company that I'm a Certified Trainer for, and I've also worked with them to share music-making tools using their software, Bitwig Studio. 

8. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry or in general?


9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?

My biggest AAPI inspiration is undoubtedly TOKiMONSTA. She is an amazing artist and is one of the reasons why I decided to start my artist project! As a college student, I didn't have many teachers or peers who had a similar background to me, and even though they were very encouraging, I always felt some doubt about whether I would be able to have a career in the field as a woman of Asian descent. I remember seeing TOKiMONSTA play in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was totally blown away by her music. Seeing her made me think that I might be able to have a shot in electronic music, too.

9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?

My hope is that we'll continue to be visible and to show up for each other. Maybe because of my personal experience, I do think representation and visibility are so important for inspiring others to pursue a creative path, if that's an idea that they are considering. If I hadn't seen TOKiMONSTA, I honestly wouldn't be where I am today. If I didn't meet such a wonderful group of AAPI friends over the years, I also probably wouldn't be where I am today.


10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.

I am a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars universe! My partner and I really enjoy watching films and shows from these spaces, and have watched pretty much every show from them. One of my dreams is to be able to perform at Star Wars Celebration someday 

I am also generally a fan of coffee. If anyone has coffee recommendations from anywhere in the world, please let me know! I'll add it to my to-drink list.

11. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community?

Thank you for doing this! What a great project! I'm a big advocate of visibility and its importance in inspiring others in the community, so I hope that more AAPI folks will be inspired by this series.


Support Claire / dolltr!ck online :)

Instagram - @dolltrick

YouTube - dolltr!ck

TikTok - @dolltrick

(photo credit Jesse Nebres)

Images courtesy of Claire Marie Lim

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