What So Not


8:00pm, Fri 19 July, 2024
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For Chris Emerson, professionally known as What So Not, this past year has been one

of realization and research, rethinking and renewal. Long before the pandemic hit, the

Australian producer and DJ made the decision to scale down his touring significantly in

2020 to re-center himself as a person and refresh himself as an artist.

“I had to get out of the cycle of the touring artist life where you feel like you’re forever

chasing your tail,” says a clear-eyed and rejuvenated Emerson from Perth, Western

Australia, where he has temporarily set up camp.

He continues, “As an artist, you have to be careful not to get caught up in your own

machine and in your own world. You have to come down to ground level and see what’s

actually up, what’s emerging, check in on some younger people doing interesting stuff

and prop them up like you were propped up when you were in that position.”

It would have been very easy for Emerson to stay sequestered in What So Not’s

significant accomplishments. He has surpassed one billion global streams, his song

“Beautiful” featuring Winona Oak won Best Independent Dance, Electronica or Club

Single at the 2019 Australian Independent Record Awards, and Gold certifications for

his releases continue to accumulate.

Instead, Emerson spent a year living at a friend’s house on the beach in Newcastle

Australia alongside a dozen or so creatives working in a cross-section of mediums from

visuals to design to music. In this artist commune of sorts, without deadlines or

commitments, Emerson explored new genres of music, new ways of creation, new

production techniques, new sound designs, new equipment, all the while absorbing

recommendations from his fellow artists. From books and films to live performances and

interviews, Emerson went from being segregated in his What So Not world, to becoming

completely immersed in artistic stimuli.

The first outcome of Emerson’s reflection and revitalization is “The Change” featuring

Australian indie rockers, the DMA’s. An invigorating stormer of a track, it has one foot in

‘90s Britpop and electronica, and one foot in the present time with skipping breakbeats

and crafty production techniques. “The Change” started as a collaboration between

Emerson and the DMA’s Johnny Took, who corralled the rest of his bandmates with his

enthusiasm for the song.

"“We made it the day we met,” says Emerson. “Johnny comes from band world, but he

loves Underworld & The Chemical Brothers and owns a lot of really cool synths. I come

from highly technical sonic design and sound production. Individually we didn’t have the

right attributes to get it there. Together, it was the perfect combination. We came

together and made the song we always dreamed of making. ”

“The Change” marks the start of the second decade of What So Not whose first EP was

released in 2011. In the last 10 years, Emerson has collaborated with Skrillex, RL

Grime, Toto, Run the Jewels, Flux Pavilion, Noisia, Daniel Johns, San Holo and Jagwar

Ma. He has performed in over 70 countries including all the major festivals across the

globe. Additionally, he has headlined his own venue tours of North America and

Australia in support of his critically- and commercially-acclaimed debut album, Not All

The Beautiful Things. Now, with a new decade comes new innovations from ever-

shifting Emerson.