What So Not on the album imprinting an iconic individualised mark on the electronic dance scene

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What So Not on the album imprinting an iconic individualised mark on the electronic dance scene

One of Australia’s largest exports and highly respected EDM producer What So Not (AKA Emoh / Chris Emerson), formerly known for his collaborations with Flume, has taken a solo direction in his music career, imprinting an iconic individualised mark on the electronic dance scene with the release of his long-awaited and greatly anticipated debut album, Not All The Beautiful Things.
After wowing fans with his EP Divide & Conquer in 2016 and establishing himself as one of the world’s most revered electronic acts, it’s hard to believe that What So Not hasn’t yet released an album, until now.
“I feel like the first album you work on all your life until you release it you know,” he smiles. “Some of the songs on there I started three and a half years ago and at those points in my career, I felt that my abilities weren’t at the level that the songs really deserved.”
Over three years in the making, Not All the Beautiful Things is about transformation and metamorphosis, a culmination of everything the Sydney-born artist has been working towards, creating an album that encompasses many emotions with finesse and poise, a credit to the development of What So Not’s thought fuelled and anomalous vibe.
“A lot of these songs came from personal experiences and they have one cohesive concept across the whole body of work,” Emerson explains. “The title itself, Not All The Beautiful Things, is meant to represent dramatic ends to relationships and what effect that has on us, and I paralleled this to a post-apocalyptic setting where everything you thought was life, everything you thought was your world, has fallen apart and you’re salvaging whatever is left to get by and hopefully rebuild.
“I found that by creating this alternate world, I could accentuate ideas and over dramatise things and I could combine attributes from different people together to create more interesting stories than perhaps the extent to what my own reality was restricted,” he continues. “The album title ties into that because Not All Beautiful Things is as though we strive for these things, we try to achieve these things that we think are important; often we forget what is happening right now, often we forget the people that are around us. We might go five or ten years down the track and suddenly we’re older and we didn’t quite get what we wanted but what we thought was important and we missed everything along the way… this is kind of paying respects to things along the way.”
With such a deep underlying message, it’s Emerson’s craftsmanship that is undeniable in this album, steering away from the generic conventions of electronic music and bringing something incredibly different to the table, enlisting a slew of collaborators such as legendary rock lords Toto (on We Keep On Running), San Holo, Rome Fortune, Skrillex, Slumberjack and BUOY to create an immersive and varicoloured piece of work.
With all 12 collaborative tracks now out in the world, it was the single ‘Be Ok Again’ released last November that truly gained the music world’s attention. This deeply personal song not only features legendary rockstar and Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns, but also sees Emerson writing and performing vocals for the first time as well.
“It was awesome, I had a chance meeting with Daniel and he invited me up to his house to work on some things and see if we had a vibe and sure enough we did and this song in particular ‘Be Okay’,” he explains. “It was something I had produced and written and I actually sung on this track which I’ve never done before. It wasn’t meant to be something I released, it was just meant to be a reference to work on with a vocalist.
“To my surprise, Daniel actually really loved it and not only was he happy to re-sing part of it, but encourage me to keep my voice on there. He added some really amazing parts towards the end of the record as well; it really hyped up that psychotic, sort of fast-paced outro.”
While including your own vocals isn’t uncommon among music producers, Emerson admits it wasn’t something that he ever wanted to try.
“No, to put it simply, I didn’t really want to try it, it just kind of happened,” he laughs. “This idea came to me when I made that song and I sort of developed it from a really personal experience and it just sort of came out. It was never meant to be what it is, but it is and I’m kind of glad that it happened like that. I think diving head first into the deep end on things like this usually produces quite a strong result.”
More than an album, this product is a fully realised artistic statement in which Emerson is in full control of every aspect, from the stage design and visuals to the music videos and merchandise. In creating the album, Emerson bestowed strong commitment to his craft.
“I spent pretty much an entire year without socialising,” he reveals. “I allowed like one or two days every fortnight to go and do something with friends, and the rest of the time was anywhere between 11 and 23 hours in the studio.
“I totally changed all my diet, I got on an exercise regime,” he continues, “The rest was just doing shows on the weekend somewhere in the world and then just locked in a basement in Los Angeles finishing off this album three or four days a week. It drove me insane, but it was worth it.
“It’s something I’ve been very passionate about and worked very hard on for quite a long time now.”
Release: Not All The Beautiful Things is out now.
When & Where: The Forum, Melbourne – June 23. Tickets available from beautifulthingstour.com.
Written by Talia Rinaldo
Image by Luke Eblan