Getting real with What So Not
Australian electronic music juggernaut What So Not seemingly knows no bounds. A one man party machine, What So Not is one of our country’s best musical exports, and has made a name for himself on the international dance stage, working with and playing alongside some of the world’s biggest names and on the world’s biggest stages. However, he always has time for home, and his set at Splendour In The Grass this year will go down as one of his absolute best appearances in, well, ever.
We nabbed the chance to sit down with the man himself, to talk best and worst experiences, pizza, music and more. Check out our chat with him and keep those ears pricked for the release of his forthcoming EP, Divide & Conquer, out September 9th.
How was What So Not created?
There was a period – at the very least with Australian music – I was sort of touring a bit around Australia doing some small club shows and things like that, and I think the scene had become a little bit still. It was right after this huge burst of you know the whole Modular scene, the Edd Banger scene and there was a whole lot of things coming to Australia and being created here that were really innovative and interesting, like The Presets, Cut Copy, Van She, all these kinds of bands. And then we went through a period that I think was a lot stiller and there wasn’t a whole lot of interesting things coming through, and What So Not was an attempt to try and create a new sound that wasn’t there at the time.
You’ve had quite a bit of success, has there been a point where you’ve stopped to think “I’ve made it”?
I definitely have great appreciation for where I’m at. I had a big moment definitely last night after the show [at Splendour in the Grass], I was just screaming and yelling and saying, “How awesome is everything?!” because it was such an incredible show. I think you have to be careful never to be completely satisfied with where you’re at. I think you can fall into the trap of ego where you’re like, “This is awesome, I’m going so well, I’m the best” or whatever…
Always strive for more?
Exactly! Never be too comfortable with where you’re at because there’s always someone right behind you, and it’s important to keep trying to create, and innovate, and change, and shift, and make sure to stay ahead rather than falling behind and getting caught up in the superficial side of everything.
Some wise words! Tell me about the best night of your life.
Best night of my life… Most of the best nights, I don’t have very good memories of, and when you find out everything that did happen it doesn’t sound as good as you thought it was, so I’m sure there’s plenty of those.
I think we’ve all had a few of those. What would you be doing if you weren’t a producer?
I would probably be working at a desk job, and be none the wiser of anything else I could’ve done with myself.
Do you have your phone on you?
Do you have music on your phone?
I have a little bit
Can we put your music on shuffle and see what the first 3 songs are?
Okay let’s do that! ‘Last Living Souls’ by Gorillaz, ‘I Hope My Life,’ James Blake, and ‘Baby Can I Hold You,’ by Tracy Chapman.
Nice, good taste. Who is your favourite up and coming artist?
There’s a few I keep tabs on, there’s actually a few guys I chat to a lot online, they kind of keep me in touch with a lot of things that are happening that are coming through. I spend so much time in my own world in studios, I try to listen to things then I go into my own world and just lock myself in rooms and write, create, try to make new things, and try not to listen to other things and just do something different myself, but some guys that I follow that I think are really amazing… There’s this New Zealand kid called QUIX, a kid from Argentina called Dabow, there’s a kid playing here today Just A Gent. I really like him, he’s such a lovely dude. I’ve known him for a few years now. There’s so many – I feel like they have a bit of success and then go off and relax for a while and then they come back with such amazing music so I’m always excited to hear that too. The Avalanches are a prime example, I think that’s always cool as well. Re-birth is just as great as new fresh talent.
Yeah definitely. So when was your first kiss?
I think when I was 15 or 16. Yeah, I didn’t hit puberty until I was 15 or 16, it was tough.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Yeah usually I freak out for hours. I freak out for days sometimes and just frantically work and work and work, usually building a new edit bootleg live show version, mixing a record something like that, and then an hour before the show send off my playlist to the VJ and the LD so we’re all synced up, and then I kind of just relax, do some yoga stretches, have a glass of wine, and then get up there.
What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted to have superpowers, I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut.
Dream big! Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Australia is pretty good. It’s good to escape the rest of the world, it’s lovely here. That’s the best way to describe it. New Zealand has a pretty similar vibe, but apart from those places I love going to France. I love so many different spots in America and Mexico and places like that, and I’ve had a lot of fun in Amsterdam lately… I like everywhere. Everywhere has its perks, everywhere has its fortes.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
At The Drive-In for sure, and they’re here but I didn’t meet them. I was really sad, but whatever, life goes on.
What got you into music?
My cousin was a drummer, like a family friend or distant relative was a drummer, in a really heavy metal band, and when I was 8 I was at their house in Canberra and I was just playing around on the drums. I wasn’t playing a beat, I was trying to make like a cinematic thing, and he told me to play a beat. But, I kind of like the whole cinematic thing and I feel more so now it’s me trying to pursue that 8 year old dream of not necessarily playing it how you’re supposed to.
What does home mean to you?
I think home is a place where you can go and feel completely comfortable and everything else kind of floats away. It’s a great place to go to reassess yourself and revitalise yourself.
Is that in reference to being on tour?
Probably, I mean a lot of it never feels real, it’s quite frantic and not as glamorous as you think. Even the layovers when you’re in a country, you’re often doing lots of emails and calls, in studios constantly. Sometimes you don’t even go outside for a few days and you’re just working. At home is often a break from that.
What’s your favourite pizza?
You know Crust pizza? Their vegetarian supreme, that’s probably my favourite.
What’s the best set you’ve ever played?
Honestly, it’s a real toss up between yesterday and Coachella two years ago.
Worst live or festival experience?
I played this one festival in the U.S once, it was a regional festival and there was only one road out, and they started bringing the semi trailers in to pack down before they let the artist vehicles out, and it was muddy and wet and they hadn’t prepared properly, and the semi trailers kept getting bogged. It was like 4 in the morning, and we had to fly at 8, so we were waiting there for about 2 hours simply because they didn’t let us quickly run through before they brought in the semi trailers to pack down the festival. There was a whole bunch of us just stuck there pretty frustrated.
Finally, is there any unreleased music we should be looking out for?
Yes, there’s one coming soon.
What So Not‘s latest EP, Divide & Conquer, is out Sept 9.