Porter Robinson: EDM is his first language
It’s 5:00pm on a Friday night and instead of enjoying a post-work beer to celebrate the end of another week I’m logging into Skype to chat to a youngster who has exploded onto the EDM scene over the last 12 months.
Twenty-year-old Porter Robinson has just returned home after a 31-date tour that saw sell-out crowds of over 3,000 people, chanting his name as he played his latest single Language. Yet, as he answers the phone, he’s back where it all began, in his parent’s house in North Carolina, stroking his family dog.
“The Language Tour was incredible,” Porter says as he requests we don’t hold a video call because he hasn’t got a top on. “I had a concept for it that consisted of two very tasteful acts, one that was very focused on trance and one that was more towards the indie side of things. I wanted something that worked well but also something people could identify with me.”
After visiting more than 30 different cities, accompanied by two of his closest friends, Mat Zo and M Machine, I’m surprised to hear that aside from the gigs there was nothing else to report – either that or they’re keeping it tightly under wraps. “We don’t really have any ’stories’,” he promises me. “We really wanted to make this tour the best it could be and to do that we had to put our all into it – there wasn’t time for messing about. One of my best memories was when we played in Toronto, I kept Language until the encore and as people kept shouting my name for me to come back on stage I dropped it – that was amazing!”
The excitement for the young producer had started long before The Language Tour kicked off, he was invited to Hull’s City Hall in January to perform a live Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1, something that very rarely happens.
“There were a lot of emotions involved,” Porter tells me about performing that night. “Most Essential Mixes are usually done at home where the DJ can have as many go’s as they like, but mine was live. I had to go to Hull and do it in front of a crowd who I don’t think even knew who I was. I was therefore playing more for the listeners at home and gave them something to remember me by, by playing Language for the first time.”
Within weeks the ‘Language Hype’ had begun, Porter Robinson was becoming a household name for EDM enthusiasts and radio rips were appearing across the world. Porter’s mix was being downloaded and shared virally and despite the huge amounts of illegal downloads he believes it all contributed to the overall success. But other than that, what is the secret? How did a normal teenager go from unknown to touring with Tiesto within years and where did the track that boosted him to within the Top 10 of the UK singles chart come from?
“I started when I was roughly 12 and began using Garageband,” he says in a fake British accent. “I got into using Fruity Loops, a software big hitters like Madeon, Avicii and Afrojack use, and just started playing around making tracks.
“I was a big fan of Wolfgang Gartner, who I believe was the first person to really nail the detailed style of production. When I was 14 I had a mentor over the internet who taught me about producing dance music and one thing that was consistently emphasised by that guy was that detail productions are key, and the best productions are the ones that when you hear them it’s a testament to the effort of the guy who wrote it.”
Porter had the bug and that was his aim, to have fans appreciate the music he had created and the amount of blood, sweat and tears that had been put into every bar and every beat. “The music that excites me the most is the stuff that has emotion and sentimental value,” the Say My Name producer reveals. “With all my other songs I’ve always made them chronologically, starting with the kick drum and working forwards. But with Language the first thing I created was that big riff, the lead melody.”
And no he wasn’t in a fancy studio or working on it in his expensive tour bus, but instead was sat at his parents’ as they moved the Christmas Tree back to the attic after another family-orientated festive period. “I was surprised because I thought Language had got all the recognition it was going to get but when it was released in the UK singles chart and it got to number nine, it was incredible and probably the biggest accolade I’ve ever gotten – to be up there on pop radio was something I’m not accustomed to.”
As the internet glitches slightly and our Skype call is momentarily paused, I shift the conversation to how Porter is enjoying a lifestyle that many people his age would crave. A-list parties, travelling the world, playing in front of thousands of people doing what he loves to do. But, unlike what you would expect from a young man who, if he was in the real world would be in his final year of University, it’s not the be all and end all.
“You would expect there to be a sophisticated answer but there isn’t,” the down-to-earth American says. “It is an unreal and unbelievable lifestyle I lead and I have to make active efforts to get back home to my roots and relax. One day I’ll be playing three festivals in a row and the next I’ll be back at my parent’s house playing with my dog. At the end of the day, I just want to be at home writing music and although I like DJing and being on the road, the thing I love most is producing. I’m a producer above being a DJ.”
It is obvious Porter has a passion for the genre that he’s involved, yet despite his age he’s already seen how the music industry can change and people’s habits can evolve. “Two years ago I had a folder on my desktop called ‘Detailed Electro’, including all the songs that had a super glitchy style,” Porter says, as he enlightens me about the continuous research he does for the genre he’s a part of.
“I was able to find a total of 35 songs that did that now on Beatport. At the time it was so novel but now you have to produce something that’s different. Moombahton and Trap Music, for example, are two types that have been introduced over the last few years yet even those haven’t been able to stick around because they become inorganic.”
Porter takes a sip of water as I prepare myself for an insight into the reason some genres hang on and others tail off before they’ve even begun.
“The problem with any new genre is that people jump on board,” he explains. “I call them the ‘Hype Vultures’ and they create something to fit in with what’s new and happening because they want their slice of the pie. You can see it happening with Trap music right now and it could be argued I did it too with ‘100% in the Bitch’. Bauer and Flosstradamus are making amazing Trap Music but it’s because they’ve been doing it for years and it breaks my heart to see these kids who hear something and say ‘I’m going to get a career out of that and they’ve never heard a real Moombahton or Trap music song in their life – it hurts these upcoming genres.”
After such an incredible release, everyone is waiting to hear what is next to come from this talented producer and see if he can continue the success.
“When I was on tour with Mat Zo we created a track,” Porter tells me, letting me into a secret. “I think it’s going to be called ‘Easy’ and it’ll have what I would like to call an ‘Epic Disco’ feel to it, so very soulful but at the same time it’ll also make you throw your hands in the air. I’m also just about to leave to go on tour with Zedd for our Poseidon Tour where we’ll be playing back-to-back and just going with the flow.”
Porter will be playing at Digital in Newcastle on 23rd October before heading to Ministry of Sound in London on the 27thTagged in: dance music, DJ, Essential Mix, indie, Porter Robinson, radio 1, Tiesto, trance
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