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What So Not on finally making his debut album and working with Daniel Johns

“I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be the year that the guitar comes back, I feel like that grungy, punk-rock attitude is really needed right now.”

Image source: 
Luke Eblen

The phrase “highly anticipated debut album” tends to be thrown around a lot in music publications, but it couldn’t apply to anyone more than What So Not. After years of touring around the festival circuit and casually offloading banger after banger, producer Chris Emerson has finally pencilled in the release date for his debut record Not All The Beautiful Things. But why has it taken so long to come together?
 
“The project’s evolved in many different ways to the point it’s at now, which is a position I’ve never been in before,” Emerson says. "For me, Divide and Conquer was a bridging point to get to the album – I was already working on the album when I did the EP, and I wanted to have a transition from What So Not as a remix or club producer to being a project that has extensive bodies of work come out. Divide and Conquer opened my eyes to the potential that a grander project can allow you to do creatively.”
 
Not All The Beautiful Things is certainly Emerson’s most ambitious project under the What So Not moniker to date, coming chock full of unpredictable drops and lush synthesisers merged with live instrumentation and jagged vocal samples. However, despite the breadth of styles present on the album, Emerson is confident that itll manage to strike a positive chord with all of his fans.
 
“There’s been a lot of music coming out that isn’t just a big anthem or festival banger,” he says. “I think there’s plenty on this album for everyone, and that’s what I really wanted to do, create an album that was all inclusive and doesn’t pigeonhole into any certain genre.”
 
One of the key factors driving Not All The Beautiful Things is the record’s huge slew of features, ranging from previous collaborators such as Skrillex and KLP to up-and-coming Australian sensations Slumberjack and BUOY. However, possibly the most surprising moment on the album comes with ‘We Keep On Running,’ a long-teased collaboration with Toto, the American rock group behind the gloriously irresistible ‘80s anthem ‘Africa’.
 
 “I used to play ‘Africa’ in my live set, and then soon after Skrillex signed me to his label he started doing the same thing and then it caught on – the song actually re-entered the US charts, and Rolling Stone credited us as the ones who made Toto cool again,” Emerson says.
 
Guitars feature prominently on several tracks across Not All The Beautiful Things, however, Emerson admits to using a bit of studio trickery to create the majority of those chunky tones.
 
“Some of the guitar parts you hear might actually not be guitars – I got really excited with the concept of making other instruments sound like guitars by running them through amps and processing them to get that saturation you hear on a lot of tracks,” he says. “I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be the year that the guitar comes back, I feel like that grungy, punk-rock attitude is really needed right now.”
 
Another frequent collaborator on the album is ex-Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns, who offers vocal accompaniment with Emerson on the single ‘Be Okay Again,’ and features on two other tracks on the album. While the two may seem like an unlikely pair on paper, their tracks together prove to be some of the sonic highlights of the record.
 
“Daniel’s totally fascinated with everything that goes on in electronic music at the moment, so it was really cool working with him, pushing each other to get hyper-creative and take things to places we’ve never really tried before,” Emerson says.
 
In addition to finishing the record, Emerson has recently stepped up to the plate as Creative Director for What So Not, overseeing the huge stage set up for Coachella and Listen Out as well as writing music videos and designing visuals for the live show.
 
“I’ve been working very heavily in all creative aspects of the project,” Emerson says. “There’s some artists that make an instrumental and pass it onto their team to find the giant pop writers to turn it into a hit.
 
“This album for me is such a big passion project and it’s something I’ve put so much energy into for many years, as well as setting up a really exciting and emotive live visual show to go along with it.”

What So Not’s debut record Not All The Beautiful Things is set for release on Friday March 9 via Counter Records. He'll perform at The Forum on Saturday June 23.