10 Questions with ... Porter Robinson
July 22, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/porterrobinson
- Instagram: web.stagram.com/n/porterrobinson
- Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/porter-robinson
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/porterrobinsonmusic
1) Where are you from?
I am from Chapel Hill, NC. I was born in Atlanta, but recall zero seconds of it as I moved when I was like nine months old, so really Chapel Hill.
2) Tar Heels or Blue Devils?
My father was a UNC alumni, my mom is a UNC alumni, I got into UNC. My godfather was the Chancellor of UNC for a time, so Blue Devils naturally! No, no, no, I got in but I didn't go there. My touring started popping off the summer before I was supposed to go to UNC.
3) Your first single came out in 2010 "Say My Name". It went to #1 on the Beatport Electro House chart. How did you first get into producing DJing?
When I was 12 years old, I discovered electronic music basically through Japanese video games. That was the first place I ever heard it so it wasn't like DJ music; I wasn't much involved in the DJ culture. I wasn't watching DJs or particularly interested in DJ'ing, but I produced music from age 12-18 religiously. It was my only hobby basically at that point. Just producing music day in and day out. With a real focus on engineering and the craft not so much the art side of it. I was really, really focused on being good at that task with no aspirations to become a touring artist or a famous person in any way. My only goal being to have a song get in the top 100 of the electro-house chart and my first release went #1. I started being asked to tour; off the back of that and I had never seen a DJ in my life or ever even listened to a DJ. I learned how to DJ in the week leading up to the event and for whatever reason my DJ'ing went very well and things kind of took off from there.
4) In 2011 you put out an EP on Skrillex's label how did you come to meet Skrillex?
Skrillex and I were two of maybe eight or nine guys at the time in 2010 that were making stuff that was getting called "complextro." It was electro with a real focus on high detail; lots of chopping and even though that style now is an enormous cliché, at the time I saw it as a very subversive underground movement. If you would have told me thatsound would have become as big as it did, that dubstep would have become this popular phenomenon in the U.S., I would have said you were crazy. I just had zero aspirations of trying to make that music marketable in any way, so it was a real surprise when that music started popping off.
5) One of your first successful radio records was "Language" in 2012 it went to #1 on both Beatport and iTunes. How did that song come about?
That song was the result of me trying to step away a little bit from really bass-aggressive electro house and trying to do something a bit more sensitive and a bit more beautiful, I really wanted to emphasize emotion and beauty in my music. I thought it was a risky track at the time. I didn't expect it to do well. In fact, I anticipated that a lot of my fans were going to reject it because they were used to this heavy aggressive bass style. When it came out, not only did people not reject it, they embraced it. It was very vindicating for me at the time and it was formative for me because it taught me to trust my instincts as a musician, that I didn't need to adhere to all these things that I thought I had to do. That I could pursue my real interests as a musician and it was definitely a formative moment for me.
6) You co-wrote one of the biggest songs of the past couple years in "Clarity" by Zedd. Did you also sing on it?
Yeah, I did some backing vocals on that. That song was originally going to be a collaboration between Zedd and I, called Poseidon. We even had a tour set up around it. We ended up going through with the tour anyway. The original version of Poseidon, now known as Clarity, was a real soulful jam. Somewhere between a progressive house; kind of like an indie dance, new disco ... a soul chords thing. If you ever hear that instrumental without the vocals, you will hear that quality.
But Zedd was nearing the time to turn in his album, and we had about five days left to finish the record. He put this vocal on it. He got this top line from Mathew Koma and put it on the song. I didn't like it; I felt it was too pop. I wanted us to have this sort of different record and I could tell it was turning into this pop masterpiece and I knew I was going to be writing Worlds in the near future. I knew I was going to be trying to do something that wasn't shooting for the radio. It was more aspiring to be a left-of-center record. Anyway I was doing something weird so I respectfully withdrew my name from the song because I really didn't want to be in the situation where I had this pop ballad hit song on the radio while I was trying to do this very different thing with the music. If course I still get the royalties from it. It was all very amicable and yes, I was also in the background singing some of the "Hey Ya Hey Ya Ooh" stuff in there..
7) You have an album that is going to come out later this year?
It's coming out in August; it is really a departure from my previous material in basically every way it's not music for DJs at all; it's not even EDM . The focus of the record for me really was doing something beautiful, nostalgic, and emotional. I came to grow very tired of what I saw was a real formula in DJ music I found that the music has become really quite functional and that there are certain requirements needed. To make a song work you need to have a beat intro and beat outro, these buildups and this really clear drop -- and the rest of the song doesn't really even matter in a lot of cases. I just found that I was really limiting myself, my creativity, and my ability to write truly expressive music by trying to shoe horn it into this DJ-able context.
Once I started casting off all these things I opened up the world and I was writing my favorite music I have ever written. I knew it was risky and I knew that there was a good chance that people would reject it since it was different from my earlier material, but there is no going back from it. It's my favorite music I have ever written, and off the back of that I will be doing a new live show on tour in August this year where I wont be playing other DJ's tracks. It's going to be very much centered on the way I see it.
I'm kind of launching into more of a listening music artist career and less of an emphasis on parties, for example, and like I was saying earlier, not to be too long-winded, I didn't grow up with that. I wasn't going to see DJs it was something I learned to do basically because I was asked to. Of course I grew to love it while I was doing it; I certainly had fun doing that and I don't plan to say I'll never DJ it again by any means. I don't want to close that door but the place I'm at right now I'm trying to do something that separates itself from what I see as the sort of EDM.
8) Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I would say it's the second song we released called "Sad Machine." It was the last song that I wrote; it's a song where I sing a duet with a computer program, basically a female robot voice. It's this duet, but my favorite song is always the most recent one I wrote. Other favorites off the album for me are a song called "Divinity" the first song on the record; "Flicker," of course "Sad Machine" and the last song "Goodbye To A World." Those to me sum up the idea of the album.
9) The new single is "Lion Hearted"?
"Lion Hearted" is a collaboration with a Swedish Indy Pop band called Urban Cone. I guess the relevant story to tell is when they first heard the instrumental, they were like, "This reminds us of Space Invaders," and that's where the lyric came from ... very much referencing the video games.
10) You're 21 ... you have played Ultra Fest, EDC, Electric Zoo, South x Southwest and the X Games in Brazil. Is their any moment from any of those events that stands out to you?
I would say the first time I played Coachella; it was two weekends when I did it, and that blew my mind. It was my first time working with a new visual guy. My visuals are a real critical component of my show. That was the moment when I really felt like I was bringing together the idea for my DJ sets; I felt like that was a watershed moment.
1) With all the traveling you do, and it sounds like you are getting ready to do an extensive tour, is their one must-have travel item you have to have with you?
This is pathetic; it is so gross but it's true ... it's the first one that popped in my head. I have really dry skin overall so not only do I have a big ole moisturizing bottle in the back of my suitcase but I also put it in the three-ounce container so I can take it on the plane with me in case I'm in urgent need of it. So yes. that's my one must have travel item.
2) Any restaurant tips for your fans. If there was one restaurant you would go to, to have a great meal?
If anyone stops by Chapel Hill. I will plot out a day for you. You start off getting breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen at downtown Chapel Hill. That's our famous biscuit spot; it's incredible, it's real southern buttery biscuits. For lunch you could get this elsewhere, but I eat here all the time -- Chick-Fil-A. If you are not familiar you should be Maybe this is a lunch spot only so Chick-Fil-A. For dinner go to a place called Merrit's; best BLT you will have in your life. Chapel Hill is not the epicenter of fine dining and incredible cuisine, but lots of cute little spots that will charm your taste buds.