The Sherp spoke to Chris A.K.A. ‘What So Not’ extensively about his music, production techniques, upcoming projects and his plans for India!
What So Not is an electronic music project by Australian producer Emoh Instead (Chris Emerson). The project was formerly a duo with producer Flume but is now a solo project. What So Not became known for several remixes they released of artists such as Peking Duk, Tom Piper, and Major Lazer on their first EP. What So Not released two EPs after that, the latest being the Gemini EP which was a critical and commercial success. Chris is currently signed to Skrillex’s powerhouse label OWSLA where he is working on music for the new What So Not project.
(Courtesy : repeatbutton.com)
Hope you’re having an amazing time in India. Is this the first time you’re visiting the country?
I’m really excited because I chose to come here and do this because I wanted to see India. It’s one of the opportunities you get in life to to do crazy things and I totally want to do that. I really want to go and see Mumbai and travel around and meet the people here and I’m really excited to be here at the conference as well. I’ve actually been thinking about coming and seeing what people are talking about, what the culture is like and the music is like here or not. I mean we only got in yesterday, very jetlagged but we went down to the beach. It was like a new year celebration we went to so everyone was celebrating and there were balloons and sparklers and stuff.
Ever since What So Not became a solo act, we haven’t seen a lot of new WSN material, though you’ve been touring a lot. Will that change this year?
Well I just put out two songs last week but yeah definitely I’ve been writing music for the last three years that I haven’t been able to put out but this is the year we finally get to hear it all. The Gemini EP came out last September but it’s only in March that I started putting out new music which is kind of the end of that cycle and the start of the new What So Not I guess. I had the Rufus remix which I’m excited about and it’s been doing well. I just put out a song a couple of days ago and I have a body of work that’s almost complete and is going to be released soon. There’s new music coming like every couple of weeks but this year is about finally giving everyone back.
How has your journey with OWSLA been till now? Are there any artists from the label that you like in particular?
Yeah I love OWSLA man! Sonny, Blaise and everyone over ther have all been so supportive! I remember when I first came to America they housed me. They have this place where all the artists can stay and help them get on their feet over there. It’s amazing really they brought me to the studios and into sessions along with A$AP Rocky and all these other big names. I love Sonny’s work and how he operates, how he thinks about everything and how he treats everyone. It’s so amazing for an artist of that level to create such a community and be so respectful to even the smallest of the lot.
A lot of amateur producers and various other Indian DJs will be attending workshops and talks at ADE Mumbai. What is your advice for them when it comes to being successful?
I think creatively always stay true to yourself and what you believe in. I just heard a demo from these two guys while walking in right now and I was like this is really good stuff! I think it had an Indian instrument in the intro making melodies and little riffs. That’s really cool to hear and that’s going to get noticed because it’s something unique and different. Like someone in America has no idea where you came from and they hear this sound. I think that’s really the advice here; Make sure you don’t compromise yourself to try and get popular. Just do what you believe in and always be interesting, artistic and creative. And I think don’t just focus on the music, focus on the art, focus on photography, you’ve got to build an entire world that people can fall into combined of course with the business side of it but really it’s about the art. You create that feeling that people can connect to.
We’re pretty sure a lot of fans are going to be there, and will gain a lot from your insights into music production! What all do you have planned for your master class?
I think what we’re gonna do is, since it’s with Jake (Kill The Noise), is to talk and go back and forth and put forward some concepts and ideas. Then we can have the audience come in and ask questions to Jake then me and just go back and forth like that. I think then I’ll open up one of my projects, probably the Rufus remix, because that was originally a bootleg.
Performing live and producing are both very important for an electronic artist to get the word out. Which one do you like better? DJing or making more music?
I liked DJing more when I was really just DJing for the room. When I was younger I’d be playing in a club when no one knew anything about me or my music and it was just about making that room work. That was really challenging and exciting having to play off little pop culture references and songs that you’d just play a little sample of and get people hyped up but then switch to another track. That was really fun and I feel a lot more creative way of DJing. It’s not like that at the moment, I’m trying to work out ways to get back to that. Now if I do shows people want to hear Jack U or Gemini or the Rufus remix. I think that’s the concept of the after party, you do the show and you have visuals and lights synced to the song but in the after party you just have freedom of expression. You can play songs that you’re into like sometimes a 17 year old kid is writing the craziest stuff and I like doing a set where I can play that because it’s my stuff.
The minimal-yet-heavy future trap influenced stuff in your tracks has gained you quite a fan following. Which DAW do you prefer for music production? And, do you have any plugins you swear by, both synth-based and effect-based?
I keep it really basic. I use Ableton and I use only two synths; Simplan and Sylenth. I keep it really simple and mainly just use the Ableton audio effects and try to build everything from scratch. I make my own presets, most of my effects rack for when I’m on the fly. I was using a whole bunch of different plugins earlier on and I’m starting to do that again now but I realized that it was a shortcut. I wasn’t really aware of what that plugin I was throwing on was doing. It was only by taking a step back and trying to rebuild it, from a saturator, a delay or reverb, from the ground up that I understood what it was. Now I can go back and use these more complex plugins and I can really tweak and harness them cause I understand what they’re made up of. I think I would advise it to everyone; go back to basics. It’s like when you start DJing you go back to Vinyl, you learn how to play Vinyl and you understand it more.
You’ve travelled the world with your music. Which countries do you think have the potential of becoming booming electronic music markets?
I don’t really know until get there and see it. I don’t know what to expect from India, I think it’s going to be crazy but I don’t really know. I don’t know if what I do is interesting over here but maybe it is and we kinda just have to come in and do a show to find out what people are into. I do find as well that if you go to different cultures, it’s a completely different thing. Like if I go to the UK or Europe, they’ll like different music compared to what Americans like. You also got to balance how you work around your own track like what you’re doing between songs, what artists are you playing, what types of styles or genres you’re playing between your own songs. It really just depends on getting there and finding out myself.
Lastly, what is your advice to music festival promoters in India and around the world, if any?
Usually the festivals we go to are all set up properly and they have so many fall backs in place that it’s pretty good. One of the few things you come across when you play an outdoor festival and the council has crazy sound restrictions. The governor is like you can’t go this loud. That’s one of the things I’ve come across but you can’t really blame the festival organizers for that.
You can listen to the Gemini EP right here :