Porter Robinson talks debut album 'Worlds': "I was so in love with writing music again"
At 12, Porter Robinson was like any other preteen. He played video games, ate cheese pizza and was pretty stoked to have a girlfriend. But it was his absent-minded experimentation on production software (which he pirated onto his mum’s computer) that set him apart from the others.
Four years later, 16-year-old Porter was fumbling his way through his first live show after teaching himself the basics the night before and, at 18, was topping the iTunes dance chart with his breakout single ‘Language.’
Fast forward another four years, and Porter, now 22, has dropped his debut LP ‘Worlds’ to critical acclaim. We caught up with the American producer to talk fans, future projects and plans for his highly-anticipated ‘Worlds’ tour.
MTV: Congratulations on the album, Porter. We really can’t wait to see it live! Can you give us any hints about what we can we expect from the ‘Worlds’ tour?
Porter: I’m calling it a ‘live tour.’ I wanted to make it really clear that it’s something different because my music has changed over the course of the last year. Putting it into context, I kind of ‘blew up’ doing DJ music and the BPM type thing over the last few years and as I grew more discontent with that, I got the vision of writing an album that was focussed on more emotional, expressive and personal music. That’s what I have spent the last two years doing.
MTV: Are you conscious that fans will expect an old Porter show?
Porter: Now that I’m going back on tour, it’s going to be really critical that people understand that the show is going to be something different. It’s not going to be a ‘banger’ party. It’ll still be loud, but very pretty.
MTV: What are you planning in terms of performance?
Porter: It’s going to be singing, running multi tracks but also isolating the elements like drums or triggering samples – kind of like a live, electronic, flashlight type of performance.
MTV: What about the visual set?
Porter: It’s going to be really cool and I have been putting a huge amount of effort into it being special for fans. The visual set is going to be really awesome and my style – it’s going to be a very pretty, vast, beautiful, surreal landscape kind of thing.
MTV: One of your biggest goals has been to create an unbelievable live show, can you give us any hints about the new production?
Porter: Most of the production is all about the content. To me, there is not much of a point having this big and expansive production without the ideas behind it – both musically and visually to make that awesome. It’s very much a video show, but its videos which have been meticulously planned, and in my opinion will be super engaging and not something you’d expect out of a musical artist. It’s not going to look like Windows screensaver stuff!
MTV: How have your fans reacted to the new record?
Porter: I had really anticipated a big backlash to a lot of the new material, in large part because it was so different. Incredibly, I’ve found nothing but support from fans. There was a pretty significant amount of people following me three years ago when that whole EDM thing blew up in America, and I think a lot of those people have grown up past it and are no longer interested in crazy, party music. People are listening to more bands or solo electronic artists and so the other interesting reaction is that I am reaching other, alternative fans who are responding well to the new songs. I think that it was a bit unreasonable to expect everyone to be onboard with me totally changing up my stuff.
MTV: You’ve said before that you find EDM quite limiting when it comes to expressing yourself and your material – is that why you wanted to change your material up a bit?
Porter: Yeah absolutely! I wanted to try and do something really beautiful and in a DJ context, it was really limiting what I could do. So I started having these thoughts like ‘What is the worst thing that could happen if I cast off everything and just do exactly what I wanted to do?’
Of course, there is a scenario that I lose everything, all my fans and I can’t tour anymore, but this became an obsession – I just had to do it. I couldn’t stop. I was so in love with writing music again and I hadn’t felt that [love] when I was writing as a DJ where I had this constant pressure trying to come up with something that would be exciting in a festival context. It started to feel like ‘work’ in the way that it shouldn’t.
That’s not to say my new material isn’t inspired by EDM. I like loudness, big drums and stuff like that, but I wanted people to contextualise this differently because if they try and think of it as DJ music then they’ll fail every time.
I think that I have succeeded in making people think about things differently and it has been great.
MTV: Who are some of your favourite artists at the moment?
Porter: My all-time favourite musicians are Kanye West and Daft Punk. Not just because of the songs or what they do harmonically, but how they have handled their career and their philosophy as artists is beautiful.
Kanye is so fiercely honest and so extremely devoted to his own vision. Some people see him as a narcissist, but I see him as someone who is really passionate – it’s a trait that more artists need to have.
The first album I ever really truly loved was Daft Punk’s Discovery.
MTV: Have you ever seen Daft Punk live?
Porter: I still haven’t seen either Kanye or Daft Punk live which is horrible! Once I had the budget to go see Kanye, it was when I was in the throes of touring and preparing for this show – which has been really non-stop.
MTV: Do you have any favourite Australian producers? And what do you think of Australian dance music?
Porter: I think some of the best music right now is definitely inspired by what’s coming out of Australia. Of course Flume is really amazing and Wave Racer is incredibly good. That scene is extremely inspiring. Some people are calling it ‘future bass’ and ‘beatsy’ – but Australian electronic music is just the best at the moment.
MTV: What do you hope your fans will remember of you?
Porter: I want to do multimedia stuff because you think about music differently and you see the characters. I like the idea that artists sound like themselves and have a strong visual effect. The idea of doing things that I’ll be remembered for is really appealing to me, probably because of the change that I’m going through. I’ve always admired artists who have such a strong vision of their own legacy.
I’m being very deliberate with everything now. I wasn’t following this idea of being a ‘superstar DJ,’ but I just kept taking every opportunity and I found myself asking ‘what do I stand for as an artist?’ and that’s why I decided to not tour for the last year and a half and just write music which was very ‘me’ and develop this whole visual identity which people will be seeing more of.
'Worlds' is available on iTunes now.