Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s new series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard’s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s spin comes from What So Not. The Aussie beatsmith and Skrillex collaborator (born Chris “Emoh” Emerson) released his debut LP Not All the Beautiful Things earlier this year, featuring Toto, SLUMBERJACK, Daniel Johns and more. The upstart is currently on a sweeping tour to support the effort, which includes a stop at Bonnaroo this Saturday, as well as Lollapalooza in August.
In celebration of his massive breakthrough year, the producer looks back with this week’s #TBT Mixtape, inspired by his “rock kid” origins.
Give the playlist a spin and also check out some retro snaps plus a timeline of his musical development below.
My earliest musical memory is Phil Collins – “One More Night.” Phil being one of Mum’s favs & spun loudly on repeat while the house was cleaned. I remember this because it was the first song I ‘inquired’ about, asking my parents what the words were & what it meant (perhaps my infant brain’s initial division that music could be more than the ‘noise’ in the background while mum cleans).
For the most part (being the oldest sibling), the only music i ingested through this period was that imposed on me by commercial radio, tapes my parents put on in the car & TV hit’s stations. There wasn’t much investigation or discovery. I am thankful however for my parents taste (particularly Dad’s) in bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin & The Doors. I see now these had a huge influence on me.
A couple of exceptions in this period was an older cousin forcing me to watch this incredible music video program in Australia called ‘Rage’. Totally went over my head & don’t think I enjoyed it at the time, but this is how I discovered The Prodigy. Secondary to this I also found Silverchair with ‘Tomorrow’.
This is where things get exciting. I Join a rock band (playing drums) & start body boarding, leading to a new life attitude & my first personal musical discoveries. At the Drive In, Pixies, Wyclef, Incubus, General Levy, Outkast, Rage Against The Machine, Enya – All of these artists came to my attention through body board & skate films. We’re all 14 years old, encouraging each other into stupidly dangerous waves over shallow reefs, then going home hyped up, studying maneuvers on these films with killer soundtracks & jamming on our instruments.
2006 – 2007
Ecstasy & fake ID’s. I get my first taste of a real nightclub, ‘Kink’ @ ‘The Art House’. I still remember the first song I heard ‘Walking Into That Cathedral,’ Gui Boratto’s remix of Guy J & Sahar Z’s ‘Hazui’. This time saw many nights dancing in dark corners to Paul Woolford, Trentemøller, more followed by the brutal 1.5hr bus ride home & 1 hr mid morning sprint to complete my newspaper route before calling it a night at 10 AM.
Apart from my recent nightclub endeavours, I’m still very much a ‘rock’ kid & think anything that doesn’t use live instruments is lame… until a drastic turning point Jan 25 2007. Kicking on through the Australian summer, broke & ticketless, my friend convinces me to tag along on an adventure to this huge festival ‘The Big Day Out’. We work our way in & immediately hit ‘The Boiler Room’. Not the YouTube channel, this is an iconic space in Australian dance music history. A giant warehouse built for the Olympics, now holding tens of thousands of ravers. I remember it being so hot, the room developed its own weather system. Our sweat evaporating up towards the distant ceiling & descending down as drizzle in the cooler edges of the building.
I hear ‘Justice’ & it changes everything for me. Stadium rock on steroids (particularly their early remixes). I’d never heard these sounds before, I didn’t even know they were possible. Overdriven, over saturated bass riffs & screeches modulating around a thumping kick & snare. This event & the ones that follow had me discover; ‘Soulwax’, ‘The Presets’, ‘Felix The House Cat’, as well as genres like ‘Baile Funk’, ‘Jersey Club’ & ‘Ghetto Glam’.
This period also happened to coincide with the height of Myspace music culture, the blog generation & endless amounts of (often poorly made but very cool) edits, bootlegs & remixes of just about everything you could imagine available for free download at 64-192kbp. For the first time ever in music history some kid or band could record themselves in their bedroom or garage, self release their music on a platform & have it explode around the world. Does it Offend You Yeah, Crookers, MGMT & many, many more are some of my favs from this time.
The blog house era has faded & the scene has parted in two directions, deep house & half time music. Dubstep is a global phenomenon & genre’s like Electronica, Moombahton, Beats music & ‘Trap’ start to take a foreground for me. Roots Manuva, Gold Panda, James Blake, munchi, flylo, chrome sparks come to mind.
The next big shift (IMO) came from Rustie’s essential mix. I believe this was the (or one of the) first times we heard ‘TNGHT’, ‘Cashmere Cat’ & ‘Baauer’. At the very least I know at this point Baauers notorious ‘Harlem Shake’ was still unsigned & unreleased (as he told me so when I DM’d him on Soundcloud to grab a copy after hearing Rustie’s mix). I don’t know if ‘Future Bass’ is a word yet, but safe to say Rustie is a pioneer. This is also about the time I quit my desk job of five years, went back packing in South America & decide to pursue music as a full time thing.
With a lot of exciting things happening for me in music, I end up stuck in Australia & having to cancel (I recall) two or three American tours. This lead me to dive deep into a lot of listening & a lot of writing. I had a process of sitting at home Monday/Tuesday (usually very hung over) listening to as much cool & interesting music I could gather & absorbing its tones, textures & vibe. Come Wednesday/Thursday I’d be pumped full of inspiration & write, produce & jam out ideas before jumping on the road around Aus on the weekend. This is about the time i stopped only listening for records i could ‘DJ at shows’ & started listening music for the pleasure of it. King Krule, Mac DeMarco & Jagwa Ma became favorites of mine. They re-excited me about live instruments & for the first time in a while I wasn’t just intrigued by ‘strange producer kid sounds’ but song writing & its importance in this art form.