Chris Emerson, AKA ''WHAT SO NOT' may be the most famous musical Sydney-sider you might not realise you've heard of. His latest album, 'Not All The Beautiful Things' has garnered hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify, and right now, the EDM producer is body boarding the crest of his biggest world tour yet. On the eve of his homecoming date at the Hordern Pavilion on June 29th, we managed to squeeze in 20 minutes to have a chat with him about the new album, the evolution of his influences, and what it's like coming back to Sydney after a whirlwind couple of years.
Hi Chris! How are you? How's your day going today?
- Well, I've had a pretty chilled out day today. I'm currently right in the throes of the biggest tour we've ever done, promoting the new album 'Not All The Beautiful Things,' so I'm right at the end of a huge bus trip all over the USA. It's nice to be able to take some time out just for myself... I was feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Actually, I had to go outside of my house here in L.A and just kind of sit under a tree and do nothing for a few hours and let it all just kind of wash over me... it was just a really incredible experience.
You live in L.A and you just walked right out into the woods and sat under a tree? Aren't there... coyotes and stuff?
Hahaha.... yeah there are actually, at night. But in the day, it's beautiful. I actually wouldn't say I 'live' live in L.A, I've been based here four months now, so some would call it a home of sorts, but I've actually been somewhat nomadic for four years. The only things I can really call mine are a couple of giant bags of clothes, and my 3 treasured body boards, one of which is here, one of which is in Nicaragua, and one of which is back in my real home, my family home in Sydney.
Sounds like a pretty awesome existence... everything you'd expect the life of a hugely successful DJ to be actually. In the last couple of years, what have been the moments when you've looked around and thought 'woah, this is really something'
I'm extremely fortunate that the 'travelling circus'-like lifestyle I've kind of luckily stumbled into allows me to live like that constantly. There's been so many times over the years where I've really had to pinch myself to believe that it's all real. Really, there's been times when I've been, oh, I don't know, in the snow, snowboarding in Japan and then the next thing, a friend picks up the phone, says hey, and you're on your way to Amsterdam, or in the hot sun of South America, or something. I've travelled places, played my music to people in places, that I've never even known existed before, that I can't even remember how to pronounce.
Performing Lollapalooza in Chile was honestly one of the most surreal things I've ever experienced. We'd sell out a stadium show, meet people in bars at night... and in the morning, we'd be off in a van, surfboards strapped to the top, off on adventures with them. The whole vibe was just electric.
You were born in Sydney, surely after having all these mad experiences it'll feel strange to be back home soon, where it all started. What interested you about music and what was influencing you sonically, all that time ago before it all happened?
Growing up, I was always big into my music, but actually, I was a huge rock nerd. I played drums... I was into Led Zeppelin... believe it or not, I actually thought dance music was really lame. But then when I hit 17, and started going to clubs, and they were playing dance music - real proper dance music, underground Berlin techno and minimal tech house, and woah, I suddenly just 'got it'. And I never looked back. I've been lucky enough to make music and form some really genuine friendships with some of the people who were around making music and influencing me when I was growing up - it's really humbling.
Gotcha. So that leads us nicely to talk about Not All The Beautiful Things. It's an interesting name for the album, there seems to be so many beautiful things in your world right now...
Sure there is. Prior to creating this album, there was a whole lot of heaviness, a lot of 'unbeauty' surrounding my life, and this album is really about me transforming and about metamorphosis, the falling away of all the negative elements of life and, in that, give birth to something pure. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Throughout the album's creation I had to do a lot of introspection, changing the way I lived, the way I ate, the way I moved, my relationships... and I think the album really speaks to anyone who wants to be given hope in that. Who wants a chance of cutting away the unbeauty from their lives to be given something pure.
Far out. Good on you, Chris. Inspiring to hear. So right: final question. If you've drawn so much inspiration from removing all the 'unbeautiful' from your life, what' the most beautiful thing in your life right now?
I've never been a hugely material-driven person. I'm not really into cars, or clothes, and, travelling around as I do, I just don't have space in my life for big luxury purchases a whole lot, but what I do have is beautiful memories.
You know, those moments, where you might be, oh you might be sitting on the beach, at home, with all your friends, and think 'everything at this moment, everything in my life, it's just perfect. I wouldn't change a thing.' That's what I really think is beautiful in this life, and it's the beauty that I hold on to that I can take with me everywhere I go.