WHAT SO NOT: “I played 29 shows in one month.”
On Friday November 11th, Brussels will be one of the lucky few places on the tour schedule of What So Not. Also known as Emoh Instead, Chris Emerson from Sydney is currently a real superstar in the producers world. His latest EP, 'Divide & Conquer', features blissful tracks you can listen to when you are alone but also while sweating your soul out on a major festival. Chase got the chance to interview What So Not and he was more than happy to provide us with a little insight on his touring life, how he makes time for friends and his creative process.
Hey Chris, how was your tour so far?
Very intense. I did my first US bus tour where we built our own stage design and brought all the production with us. While in the USA, I did 29 shows in one month - which was pretty crazy.
You were on a bus the whole time?
Yes, my team members would stay on the bus and drive for a day or two across America and I would fly out and do shows in Canada etc. It’s very exciting, those are some of the best shows I’ve ever had and I’m excited to come over to Europe and the UK and hopefully have a similar experience here.
Do you bring a live set or a DJ-set?
At the moment I’m still DJ'ing but I have my video and lighting guy with me, Rodney, and we built this whole set of visual and lighting show that matches up directly with all the music. It gives this whole sort of wavy experience across the set.
Are there any guest singers or anyone who jumps in during set?
There are sometimes actually, when people are around or in town, we usually make that happen. But I don’t know if anything specifically is going to happen in Brussels, it is possible.
Where did you get the inspiration from for the artwork of the 'Divide and Conquer' EP?
There is a music video that goes with the Divide and Conquer songs. That was the first ever video treatment for my music. I had these guys in Australia called Babekühl. They’ve been helping me build my visuals. We discussed how we'd go about it, but the story itself is a story I wrote. Along with the song, I wrote a short story explaining what the song is about. The visual content and the artwork were just an expansion of that story.
We noticed you performed at the Red Rocks recently. Can you describe the feeling at the theatre and how it was?
I played Red Rocks a couple of times. Last time I played Jamie XX, Four Tet and Chromeo were also there. It is such a beautiful venue, very iconic, lots and lots of people. It’s a very cool place to be.
You worked with vocalists like Joy, George Maple, Tkay Maidza and remixed bands like RÜFÜS. How do you choose the collaborations?
Generally I’m not friends with them when we first meet. We do become friends during the collaboration. I definitely like getting in a room with people and really get to know each other before we start on a project. A really good example of that is a song I did with Kimbra called 'Montreal' which was on my EP. We worked on that track on and off like for 2 years. It didn’t really come together until we actually started hanging out. Just had some conversations about life and relationships etc. As soon as we did that everything clicked, the whole concept behind the song and lyrics. When we got in the studio the next day, it all just happened so naturally. It was great.
Are Skrillex and Dillon Francis really your best friends?
All the people I hang out with are my real friends. I’m not really much into ‘fake’ friendships for a show. For example Tkay Maidza is probably one of my closest friends. We like to stay in the same place, just write music and work a lot on new things. I haven’t seen her in a while but we hang out in Australia when I’m there. I saw her at the Mad Decent party in LA as well. I love working with vocalists and most of them are my friends.
What was the biggest breakthrough as an artist?
I think that what I blame the most in this industry is that there is never one particular thing that puts you on the map. It’s a snowball effect of events and putting out content. The foundations of it are a really strong work ethic, drive and energy. And if you can get those foundations right and keep pushing through, everything you believe in will happen.
As far as festivals go, is there one festival you prefer?
Oh, that’s a tough question! The really big one here in America that I enjoyed was Coachella. Splendour in the Grass in Australia also. I even hate to name one because there are so many great ones! You also have the special components that make them so great.
Is there anything you are planning to do in Brussels apart from the gig?
I have a show almost every day, so it is tough to plan activities besides the shows. I have a friend who lives maybe a couple of hours away on a train who I might meet up with. In the Netherlands and Germany too. I have a few producer friends there. Last time I came to Brussels I stayed for a couple of days, went to this friend’s house, we worked on music, it was a lot of fun. I just jumped on a train and crossed the country at once. (laughs)
Do you think you will be producing/touring/DJ'ing for a long time?
I hope so. I’m taking my first block of time off starting next year from January to March. I will travel, do backpacking and write music without needing to be anywhere for a few months.
Thank you for your time Chris, we are looking forward to your show and we hope you will enjoy Belgium!
Awesome, no problem! Cheers!