What So Not Reveals Why His New Album ‘Anomaly’ Might Be His Magnum Opus
By the time the internationally loved Australian producer Chris Emerson, better known as What So Not, was touring his 2018 debut album, Not All The Beautiful Things, he was already crafting his second record behind the scenes.
His sophomore album, Anomaly, is set to drop on September 16, and in talking with MP3 MAG, Emerson revealed why this work is his most mature, and possibly greatest, to date.
“I was in a very sad spot at that moment, but feeling quite strong and empowered in my creations and where my life was shifting to,” said Emerson about the early start of the album’s production. “Just being confident and strong, and having conviction in my ideas.”
Emerson had just returned from his first European tour when he heard that one of his longtime favorites, the UK electro-rock group, The Prodigy, wanted to meet up and watch him perform. Due to scheduling, the meetup fell through, and by the time Emerson returned to Europe in March 2019, the group’s frontman, Keith Flynn, had passed away.
“I was so excited because I’ve idolized them for years,” Emerson said, “Then, I heard about the whole situation, I was so gutted. It was only a few weeks that I had missed him. At the same time, I was also listening to M83, The Chemical Brothers, and Underworld. The start of Anomaly is just a hybrid of all those emotions and palettes and trying to make sense of it all.”
A year later came the universal struggle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead of feeling trapped in a bubble, Emerson felt musically liberated.
“I was very lucky,” he said. “I don’t think artists normally get to do this, but COVID gave me this opportunity to step away from the album and let it sit. That gave me time to come back to it as a subjective listener rather than me being attached to things that didn’t belong in the project.”
This eclectic collection of emotions and musical genres even inspired What So Not to put his own vocal cords to the test on the first track of the forthcoming album titled “Alive.” While not a trained singer “at all,” he passed “exceptionally” on his own accord. Another exciting track that has already been released is the single, “Mr. Regular,” a hip-hop banger inspiring listeners to never give up, and to strive for greatness. The track features vocals by Oliver Tree and legendary Run The Jewels MC, Killer Mike.
“Mike and I connected through the JU$T remix that I made for Run the Jewels,” Emerson explained. “Then, we actually met up in Atlanta when I was doing a show. We went into Outkast’s Stankonia Studios and tracked his verse. It was amazing.” Emerson’s admiration for Killer Mike goes a long way, and it’s not just for discography.
“I’ve been such a fan not only of his music but his cultural relevance and political and social standpoints,” he explained. “How he breaks down problems and goes about solving them from the ground up, whether it’s in his lyrics or just actively speaking to people.”
In his native country of Australia, What So Not has been a longtime activist, speaking out on social and ecological justice like Sydney’s 2014 lockout laws that, according to Emerson, shut down over 150 venues in his hometown of Sydney alone.
Localized issues like this even made their way onto “Messin’ Me Up,” the seventh track in Anomaly, which features EVAN GIIA and discusses the horrific effects and feelings of distraught experienced by Emerson’s countrymen. The track brings fans on a bleak cinematic journey through the effects of climate change, a longstanding issue that Emerson is fully committed to trying to spread awareness of.
“I’ve been an ocean person my entire life,” he said. “You start thinking differently about everything. You’ll start asking yourself things like, ‘Oh, well how can I repurpose this plastic? What are the things I shouldn’t buy anymore because I know they’re hard to dispose of?’
All these questions made me think differently about the world. And I know nobody’s perfect, but in a system that is built to be problematic for things like this, we have to try. Just little things in your day-to-day life can make a difference and all together, it can make a sweeping change.”
To be an “anomaly” means to stray away from, or be on the outside of normality, and no other word or title would have done this album — or the producer — justice.
Emerson is an anomaly himself. He stands firmly on his beliefs, but with an open mind and grace. He asks questions that most would never wonder about and observes the magical little things in life that many would overlook. And somehow, he masterfully puts all of this together in this upcoming album.
“[At the beginning of this album], my life was shifting to just being confident and strong, and having conviction in my ideas. I think that has come through more on this album. This album is definitely more like, ‘Hey, this is me. This is what I sound like. You either f**k with it or you don’t, but I’m living my life and it’s beautiful.”