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Gold Artist 009: Porter Robinson

Producer from North Carolina has always impressed with a sound that's wholly his own

  • Jeremy Abbott
  • 1 July 2014

Porter Robinson isn't your average 21-year-old. In fact he's the young adult who's leaving a unique stamp on American dance music culture and starting an auditory revolution in the process. The producer from Chapel Hill, North Carolina has always impressed with a sound that's wholly his own, but more importantly it's a sound that's evolved and matured since he's been in the limelight.

His first offerings to the world came in the form of 'Say My Name', the raucous and heavy-armed electro track and, more recognisably, 'Spitfire', which arrived via Skrillex's OWSLA imprint and though that's just as wild, it showed a slightly more crisp and well-rounded sound. Through years of releasing well-received tracks, while discovering his own way and sound, it appears that Porter has now found the niche that will come to define 2014 as a musical year and him as an artist.

His debut album 'Worlds' is like Porter 2.0: a more mature approach to songwriting that combines washed out electro-pop with emotive melodies and, at times, some super psychedelic tendencies. Imagine M83-style synths mixed with Skrillex-esque flicks, a slowed-down 90bpm take on massive drops and euphoric crescendos. In terms of popular, main stage dance music, it's 'out there' to say the least.

Of what we've heard so far 'Sad Machine', 'Lionhearted' and 'Sea Of Voices' all prove that the quality of production will be his best yet and also his most brave and daring export. It's redefining big-room American dance and the best bit? Porter doesn't care if people don't get what they're expecting, quite the opposite, he wants intelligent and diverse music to prevail and it looks like it's going to.

We caught up with Porter to talk about the album, what he wants it to mean in today's music culture and how the homogenised EDM scene isn't something he wants to be part of.

So the debut album is about drop, were there any key influences and inspirations that you specifically drew upon for it?

As far as influences go, there are albums I have literally memorised. It's the ones that you know are thinking about their career as a whole and everything even down to the visuals and the career track. Kanye West and Daft Punk are my two absolute favourite musical acts of all time. I find a lot of older trance freestyle stuff really beautiful and that's a good thing,

it's obviously not that cool of a thing but I grew up really listening to trance a lot. I really like long, beautiful breaks.

You travel a lot doing what you do so whereabouts did you write the new album? Did the location of where you were writing it have an effect on how it sounded?

I wrote the album in the same place I've written all my music ever, in my bedroom in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I do think that it's inspiring and it's kind of noiseless in a way because it's really isolated and I'm not getting any input from A&R. Sometimes the recording might be cut from the studio and engineered but with this it's all just me. I still live with my parents in North Carolina and there's a really beautiful lot that we have. I would often just go and walk around and sit in the woods with the sunlight filtering down through the trees. Yeah it's a pretty scenic sort of place to write an album but it is the same place that I've written all my other stuff.

You were saying how you've tied together a lot of the artists and influences in your life for the album. Is there a goal or something that you want to achieve with Worlds?

I would say it's very much about just doing the most personal kind of honest thing that I could. I was feeling a lot of angst about where things were going with my music and with dance music generally and as silly as it sounds I was feeling a kind of misunderstood. I had all these things that I wanted to convey but I don't think it's real expression to play 30 bangers and then one deep house track. I see a lot of guys doing that and it kinda makes me ask why?

So I thought if I was going to do something truly expressive I really needed to do a complete top to bottom, like I needed to like throw everything off. The biggest watershed moment for me was when I was like 'Oh my god, what if I didn't write music for DJs at all?' So I just made it purely truly for music and then that meant I had to have my own show that wasn't a traditional DJ show either and I think that was really liberating.

So will you be touring it live is there going to be a special live show to go with it then?

There's going to be live shows to go with it and I'm still figuring it out. Things like multi-tracks and sample figuring will be in live performances, maybe I'm gonna sing because I am on the record. I'm gonna do everything within my power to make this show really special and really set it apart from conventional.

We've seen so far that there's definitely a concept behind 'Worlds' with the aesthetics and the way it sounds. Can you describe a bit about it and what it's all about?

Yeah absolutely, I mean the thing with 'Worlds' for me is that it's ultimately about this idea of the worlds that exist online. I spent a huge amount of my time when I was an early teenager playing online multiplayer role-playing games, stuff like World Of Warcraft and Everquest. I was really really into these types of game and I lived in them.

It's just so sentimental looking back on it, it was one of my favourite things that I'd ever done. I think it's very much about escapism you know and so you know that to me is where the name comes from. I use all this surreal, glitchy, fantastical landscape stuff and it was all very much pointing back to this event in my life and I think that that really sums up my taste in a nice way.

You said that you think mainstream dance music might have sacrificed musicality slightly, do you see it as your mission to bring the art back to mainstream dance music now you've got this massive audience?

I think when I start ranting on the internet it's mostly me being captivated and getting worked up about stuff. I've just been discovering so much good music recently you know, I was feeling very pessimistic. It does bum me out a little bit when I think that a lot of the main stage EDM is really homogenised. I just don't think

here's a lot of real expression on there I think there's a lot more money than art there.

I'm obsessed with this idea of having a signature I don't think that every EDM producer would go and make a record of songs at 90 bpm. I can't be faulted for wanting to make it clear on the internet that it's totally not what I want to be doing.

Are you still interested in playing the Las Vegas clubs and the big main stage sort gigs or do you just wanna focus more on like the live aspect in concerts?

I want it to be really obvious what my intentions are and this year I'm not playing a lot of the big dance festivals. I skipped out on Ultra this year and I didn't even go to Miami, I'm doing none of that this year. I might want to sprinkle some DJ sets here and there but I guess once I come back to DJing in full again, of course it's gonna say 'Porter Robinson DJ set' but it's also not going to sound like the DJ set that I was doing before.

It seems there are a lot of EDM artists coming out and complaining against the genre that they're a part of, saying that it's unoriginal. Do you think they're going to take active steps to change the sound or do you think its just like a cycle that's going to keep going?

It's hard to say. I mean something's got to change and I do see a lot of electro artists moving towards stuff that is a bit slower and is more kind of deep house influenced but I don't know. I think a big part of these artist's constituency of fans are people who just went to Ultra for the first time this year so they're not bored of it yet, they really wanna go and fucking turn up and party.

I think that a person's ability to escape their sound is largely dependent on whether they have a real new idea or not. I'm trying to not be too concerned about what those guys do because my biggest priority right now is not to change electronic music, I really just want to get my own music right if people want to follow me, that's amazing, but the first thing I need to do is be proud of what I'm doing.

PRE-ORDER: http://po.st/LionheartediT

PRE-ORDER: http://po.st/iTWorlds

VIDEO: http://po.st/Lionhearted

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