What So Not's Live Anomalies
Ahead of his first national headline tour in five years, we catch up with beloved Aussie electronic wiz What So Not to find out all about his wild new audio-visual experience
Nearly a year on from the release of his acclaimed second album Anomaly, What So Not will be bringing the record live to audiences in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne across late July and August… in a way audiences have never experienced before.
After crafting the Immersive Mode shows for a USA tour, WSN and team have adapted this tour of “an unforgettable visual journey intricately intertwined with live synthesis, mesmerising vocals, electrifying drums, and innovative production techniques” into Anomaly: Live Mode that will see music from WSN’s catalogue paired with the Anomaly 3D animated story.
Having just released a new single with Slumberjack and with his first headline lap of Australia in five years, we caught up with WSN to find out how it feels to have Anomaly released for nearly a year, using social media for good and not chasing algorithms, the importance of backing up your work, his favourite thing about Anomaly: Live Mode, what people can expect from the shows and more!
To start off with, I was reading that it’s been five years since your last solo Aussie headline tour - pre-Covid, five years feels like forever ago so I definitely want to ask about how that feels, but first; your album Anomaly has been out for nearly a year now, how’s it feeling having that out to the world, having your baby out there?
It’s amazing. COVID obviously just changed everything so much, and I've actually watched that album, really tick up, even probably higher than I think the last album did, kind of organically. Something I noticed is that all the social platforms shift so fast and so quickly now, the algorithms will change every month or so. So I think it's up to people to just find what they are really into all on their own and I've been pretty grateful that it looks like that's been happening with this album.
That must be really satisfying to know that’s happened organically, right? As opposed to trying to like, manipulate the mysterious algorithm or whatever… is that something you consider or like in the past maybe thought you had to put the algorithm ahead of the art or something?
Not really, anything to do with social media and all of that it's all an afterthought. I'll just go and make something completely, authentically, and then deal with that later, you know?
Yeah awesome, and I want to talk more about social media later with you putting a call out for who should support you on tour which is cool… But before we do that, let’s talk about the tour - how’s it feeling about to head off, and what are your memories of the last headline tour in 2018?
Oh man, that last one was pretty special. That was my first album, and that was just such a ramp up to that. I think this one for me - really, I was tucked away for three years, building this album, building this show and this tour, because it’s this whole audio-visual experience that I built with a team of four different teams by the end of it, across such a long period of time. We did the prototype test as the Immersive version over in America, and that was totally sold out, so well received, like people hitting me up saying “hey, I didn't know that was possible yet!” and all kinds of things in that kind of vein.
Then to come back here, as only the second time we're ever doing it - we've only done it like four times now, so to come back here and showcase it back in my home country - it's obviously an adaptation that we have to do, because the problem we found when we started doing the show is, “wow, there's very few of these rooms that you can actually do Immersive”. They're all different shapes.There's no format yet, some people have rectangle rooms, some have square rooms.
It's not just a plug and play kind of situation, you have to reformat the entire show to each individual shape of the room, you have like six different outs for different screens and all this stuff, so we worked out a way to reformat that to more traditional rooms and that's what we're going to be showcasing here in Australia and still coming up with a lot of exciting different ways to really wow the audience with what's possible now. There's a few little bits of tech that we're trialling and bringing in that I think we're gonna have ready for this show as well which is gonna be really exciting.
Sick, and oh man, sounds like a production nightmare, so much going on and then you’re obviously playing as well, so let’s talk music - what can people expect, like the full new record and some old faves thrown in? How do you program that?
I have to say - this is the most well thought out, detailed, and probably fan-exciting sets I’ve ever put together, because I wanted to actually go and re-sample and rebuild pretty much every big What So Not song, a little vocal, a little chord from here or there or wherever. The set includes something from most of the records, all scattered throughout all of the new Anomaly record. There’s about 10 or 15 unreleased records in there, it’s got everything man - it’s really, really well thought out, and it took a long time. I think the audio alone took me about probably four months of tweaking, remixing, finding things in similar keys that would work, performing parts because I'm doing live singing. live drums. live synthesis, on top of all the powerful pre-produced backing tracks… it's gonna be really, really special.
I’m guessing your file session management is pretty good then, going through all the old archives?
I think there’s only one song - apart from a pretty tragic computer crash I had last year, there's only one song that I ever lost across my whole career, everything I still have on a hard drive. That's backed up. That's backed up. But then last year I had a computer crash, and then they changed from the Intel chips, so when I went to boot up what I had, it didn't work. I had to manually rebuild everything really during the transition between the Intel chips and the M one. That was my problem. But I did lose a couple of files unfortunately.
All things considered, that’s a pretty good run hey - I’m sure you’ve heard all the horror stories, I’ve interviewed a lot of people who have like lost their whole first album or all their sessions…
Yeah I think one of the biggest lessons I learned was speaking with a lot of engineers and specialists and Apple personnel is that you have to commit everything you make to a piece of audio, if that’s stems or whatever it may be, because all these plugin companies that might go broke, they might just not care about their product, they might not update it, and then suddenly, you know, five years down the track you’re like, “oh, this song, I can't even open it anymore. It doesn't work on any of the systems.” It's like, I've got a cassette that I'm trying to play, it just doesn't work anymore.
A DAT tape in a CDJ or something… so we could nerd out more but let’s not alienate people not into the tech side of things… I’m gonna put you on the spot here - out of everything in the live show, what’s your favourite element?
Personally, I sang on the opening record of the album, that’s quite a big moment. It’s very fragile but it’s a big moment in the show, it’s one of the hardest things for me to truly execute perfectly. I’ve been having to rehearse and practise a lot to make sure I do. I did a whole club run last year through Europe where I just did it live, no tuning, no effects… sometimes even no soundcheck, just to throw myself heavily in the deep end and make sure no matter what happens, you fucking kill it. So that, for me personally, it’s that putting myself out there is really hard, it's really challenging, so that’s really great for me. From an audience perspective, there's so many wild fun twists and turns, I actually think what will be the most enjoyable part about it is a little sprinkling of something familiar that then just flips into something that you've never heard before.
Dope! I think that’s a perfect tease without giving away spoilers… so back to social media stuff, I love that you’ve been doing call outs for suggestions on who should support the tour, with so many people plugging all these awesome emerging artists… what’s that process like, a lot of DMs and comment to read?
Yeah, it’s a lot of work to do it - to really go through it, cos this isn’t the first time I’ve done it, either. I've sort of found I like doing this ethically, and it's fulfilling, so I make sure I put in the energy… but you have to go through like 1000, 2000 comments and then you go to each person's page and then they don't even link to the music very well. Then eventually you find it and you’re like “wow, this is really tight” or maybe not the song, but I like this one and then you’re like oh, there's something really special here.
I did a remix competition last year for On Air, the song with Captain Cuts and Louis The Child, and there was like over 500 submissions. Some of them had six plays, so they weren’t the popular ones on the feed, but they were like, one of my favourites and I put them in my top, so it's not thought about how popular people are, some of my favourite artists I have ever found have had like under 1000 followers and then they've turned into quite big acts, so I think it's really important for the scene to be doing that.
Even if I don't end up being able to put them on the show - I'm sure there's some people that I've got on my on my shortlist, I'm like, “this person is great, but it's way too heavy”, but then I'll still shout them out, I'll still do my best to put them on, because maybe that makes complete sense for another act. Maybe somebody gets signed to a label or a publisher or or manager, just from if I put up a video, they're doing dope shit, and no one's noticed it yet. Those are the sorts of ways that all of us come up, so I think it's really important to be doing stuff like that.
I love that so much dude! Thanks heaps for chatting, best of luck with the shows!