Apr 20, 2015
What So Not

All eyes are on Chris Emerson after it was announced that he would be continuing the What So Not project without former partner Flume. We sat down with him after his performance at Coachella, and his humble confidence has us excited to follow the What So Not experience as he continues to build the brand as a solo artist.

What So Not feat. George Maple - Gemini (Original Mix) [OWSLA]
LessThan3: Have you had a chance to explore the grounds, maybe catch a couple sets at Coachella yet?
Chris: No. Up until 20 minutes before I went on, I was preparing my set. I heard a bit of St. Lucia though which was awesome.
LessThan3: The crowd was getting down for your set.
Chris: (laughs) It was a weird one for me because I didn’t have any stage mics, or stage atmosphere to hear what I was doing, so I was just in my booth wondering, “are people liking this?” Everyone was telling me that it was insane afterwards, but I couldn’t really tell up there.
LessThan3: How did you feel it went, even without stage mics?
Chris: I was really happy with my set and the show. I put so much into this. I built a lot of visuals with this amazing team called Babekuhl, and as soon as I got off people were asking me about the visuals.
LessThan3: Do you have any pre-show nerves ever?
Chris: I never do, but today, well the whole last week, I’ve been freaking out.
LessThan3: How do you deal with that?
Chris: Exercise is good. I injured my back snowboarding so I do yoga and pilates to help with that.
LessThan3: Do you find it difficult to keep that up on a tour schedule?
Chris: Not really. You find yourself alone in a hotel room at some point, so you take care of yourself and make sure you stay functioning.
LessThan3: What’s your preference, clubs or festivals?
Chris: I’ve been having this debate with myself, a very serious career defining debate. I don’t think people should DJ at festivals. It’s gotta be more than that. Give them a performance with guests and maybe someone on a drum-kit. It’s got to engage people, be live. It’s got to be real.

I did a couple smaller shows at SXSW and it really clicked for me when I was watching these guys–two MCs, a drummer, and someone playing a backing track. I didn’t know their music but I loved it. They were saying something to me. There is only so much you can do as a DJ just playing songs.

If you’re DJing, you’re only going to have a good show if there is a lot of hype around the act, a brand. I wanted to be able to go to a show and do something that would blow people’s minds–not just press play. As complicated as I try to make DJing, using multiple CDJs and layering things, you are limited by that. For a festival, you’ve got to do more than that. But, DJing in a club, even a small club, just sweaty at 3 a.m., that’s perfect. That’s where a DJ belongs.

LessThan3: How do you change your tracklist between a festival and a club?
Chris: For a club you often play for two hours and sometimes they give you free rein to keep playing, and that’s when you have the freedom to take everyone on a huge journey musically and go through songs that you might not have played in five years or so. At festivals it’s about What So Not songs and a couple of others in-between. It’s about the songs that people came to see.
LessThan3: This is one of your first shows since you and Harley announced the split. How have you approached these sets differently?
Chris: I have always performed without Harley. I did SXSW and a couple of sneaky shows in Miami. Those were a warm-up for this. I only had a few shows before Coachella to prepare. I took three months off just writing and traveling around. It was nice to warm back into the performance and DJ aspect.
LessThan3: What do you want fans to expect from the What So Not performance as you develop your sound as a solo artist from this point forward?
Chris: I don’t want them to expect anything! Have no expectations and then I will hopefully impress you a whole lot more.

I’m going to build this into something amazing. I’ve already started with only a month to prepare, and I was so happy to come offstage and have everyone raving about the show. I had George Maple out to perform two songs and on weekend two I will have more surprises.

LessThan3: Is Emoh Instead no more?
Chris: I’m still going to do Emoh Instead–I have some really cool ideas for that. I’m building my team and thinking five to ten years ahead to what I want to be doing then and how to get to those places, where I want to take What So Not and where I want to take other projects. It’s a really exciting time right now.
LessThan3: Do you think you’ll split your time between Emoh Instead and What So Not? Or do you want to focus on What So Not?
Chris: I think they each have their own place for different aspects in this music world and beyond. I’m not going to put more time into one or the other, it’s going to be about what’s working and whether one is a “now” thing or “later” thing. It’s going to be about choosing where I take each one.
LessThan3: What has it been like to work with so many unique and artistic minds for your latest productions? What have you learned?
Chris: I’ve had the most insane year. Last year was my first time in America and I learned so much. It was actually my first time in Europe too.

I did this big trip where I went to South America for a few months. I jumped into sessions with about 30 different artists and I learned so much about how they worked and their creative process, how they played, how they ran a session, how they like to communicate. It has all been crazy learning experience for me. I take all of that into every session that I do.

LessThan3: How did you and George Maple connect?
Chris: It’s the craziest thing–by absolute chance, I DJed at her 21st birthday party. She lives in an area near where I lived and I was playing for some venues in the city. The manager for the venue knew her boss and she needed a DJ for her birthday. She got into contact with the club manager and he was like, “I got the guy for you!”
LessThan3: Do you have down time between this weekend and weekend 2? Any other shows scheduled?
Chris: I have like four shows planned. I’m kinda of bummed that I can’t do the whole Coachella weekend. It’s so incredible. This festival is like nothing else. There are festivals that are similar that I have been to, but this is just one of a kind. It’s a pinnacle for sure.
LessThan3: If you could work with any artist, past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Chris: Some modern day people that I would love to work with would be Gorillaz, At The Drive In, or Prince–but what if I worked with someone like Bach or Beethoven? Those guys created not only genres, but defined huge periods in time. They created a sound that has lasted for hundreds of years. I imagine going back in time to work with them and imagining how they created their sound from probably nothing at all.
Airplay enabled