Salacious Sound Exclusive Interview: Porter Robinson

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Feb 4, 2011
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Category: Audio, Interview
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At only 18-years-old, Porter has landed a #1 song on Beatport’s Electro-House chart, remixed Avicii and Spencer & Hill, and had releases through Ultra Records and Ministry of Sound. He has booked shows across the world, from Los Angeles to Montreal, to Germany and even Brazil; performing alongside such notable acts as Moby, Tommy Lee & DJ Aero, Afrojack, Skrillex, Bart B More, and Felguk. In addition to all that, DJ support for Porter’s music is coming in from such giants as Tiesto, David Guetta, The Crystal Method, Paul van Dyk, Rob Swire (Pendulum), and Armand Van Helden.

Cal:

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today Porter, I know things must be busy right now?

Porter Robinson:

For sure. I’m working on a pretty ambitious project that I’ve alluded to on Twitter and Facebook that I’m keeping under wraps for now. I’m booked for 9 out of the next 10 weekends or something preposterous like that. And when I’m not touring I’m still in high school – I just got home and quickly finished a paper before our interview Busy is definitely the word. But it’s fun.

Cal:

I read that you have been producing for about 5 years now – can you tell us a bit about how you got started?

Porter Robinson:

Yeah. My story is kind of all over the place. I first started with Sony’s program ACID, and I used that to try to emulate the music I heard in video games. Since I’m coming from the somewhat-remote Chapel Hil, North Carolina, I didn’t have any substantial exposure to the electronic music scene besides that. I used ACID’s uploading service “Acidplanet”, which was kind of like Soundcloud back in the day, and I met a bunch of cool folks there and learned more or less what was acceptable amongst the mainstream of electronic music.
I switched to Image-Line’s FL Studio and very quickly fell in love. So then for a while I produced some cheesy, fun dance music under a different alias. Hard dance stuff that few people care about anymore. Once I retired that project, I decided to pursue electro stuff full time.

Cal:

FL Studio has definitely matured over the years. You’re an all software guy right?

Porter Robinson:

I think *every* sequencer has matured over the years. (Except pro tools. Hahah.) I’m very much big on software. There are so many lofty audio myths out there with no basis, and I’m not convinced of “analog” as an inherently good thing, and it’s certainly not something worth foregoing the convenience of software over. I’m huge on Sylenth1. Its unison detune is absolutely spectacular sounding. I also find myself using a lot of the simple synth 3xOSC. Lately I’ve grown to use a lot of Sytrus. So a good part of my arsenal are FL-native plugins.

Cal:

So how do you respond to the argument that constraints breed artistic creativity?

Porter Robinson:

Often times an artist can create something impressive despite their constraints, but scarcely is it better, if evaluated on its merit without taking the constraints into account, than what the artist would have created without the constraints.

Cal:

Well your sound is huge here in Toronto.. I hear your remix of Seek Bromance getting rinsed in a lot of clubs. How was that track released anyway?

Porter Robinson:

It’s been pretty hectic. I’m not sure if that ever was released. It’s a bummer because I think it was some of my best work and it was for a high profile artist, but some things just don’t pull through. I know it was leaked at one point. It’s probably good that people have the song in the end.

Cal:

Definitely. A lot of artists spend a great deal of time leaking stuff online before they get a break out like you did. Any thoughts on how that’ll affect your release strategy going forward?

Porter Robinson:

Oh, I don’t think it will have an impact. I think that ultimately, my remix of Seek Bromance was circulated less as a result of it never being released. I mean, when a song gets released, it enjoys the not only the exposure from the underground circulation through piracy, but also through legitimate promotion and charting on major music portals. The takeaway from “Seek Bromance” is make to make sure stuff gets released. Hahah.

Cal:

True say! So how did you end up getting your first Beatport #1 ‘Say My Name’ released? What tools were useful, and who was your first believer?

Porter Robinson:

Say my Name was released on the upstart label of a close partner of mine from the old music scene I was in. What was cool about the success of Say My Name was that it happened pretty independently of management, a big label, or any real promotion plan. I just tossed the song to a bunch of friends and posted it on a few forums I was active in. It’s clear that the song really resonated with people. My original goal was for it to reach the Beatport Electro-House Top 100. I was totally unprepared for its success. Stoked, but shocked.

Cal:

You had another big success with ‘Hello’ that began just before it hit Beatport too right? Can you tell us a bit about what working with Lazy Rich was like?

Porter Robinson:

Me and Rich had a good workflow. We tossed the parts of the song back and forth as .wav files because we weren’t using the same sequencer. Rich is an absolute gentleman and one of the best people I’ve ever worked with. I highly suggest that aspiring producers send demos to him for his label Big Fish Recordings because I’ve never had better and more smooth experiences with a label manager in my life. He really is one of the founding fathers of this “complextro” thing that we’re bearing witness to now.

Cal:

You have some upcoming opportunities with some other exciting artists this month too. When you’re in Toronto on February 19th you’ll be playing a show with Skrillex and Nero right?

Porter Robinson:

Yeah! In the tour with Skrillex, Tommy Lee, and NERO, I’ll be playing Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver, Toronto, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New York, and Atlanta. I am way way way excited. They’re all artists I admire greatly and this will be my first lengthy tour. It’s gonna be very exciting.

Cal:

I was going to say, you are a big fan of Skrillex right? Any predictions as to why his music has been so successful?

Porter Robinson:

I’d be much harder-pressed to find reasons he wouldn’t succeed. His music is powerful, energetic, aggressive, detailed, and melodically interesting. He’s an innovator, too: his quintessential “monster” synth was basically unheard of before him. Some cynics have attributed his success to his history with the music industry, but I think that’s preposterous. I truly believe he’s succeeded on merit alone. I love Skrillex.

Cal:

You mentioned that you started DJ’ing recently – I imagine as a response to your sudden and unexpected success? How does DJ’ing fit in with your career aspirations?

Porter Robinson:

I definitely fall in the ‘not-primarily a DJ’ camp. My interest, first and foremost, is to make really powerful music with awesome drops that get people excited. I made “Say my Name” before I had ever been to an event where a DJ played. But on the flipside, I think DJ’ing is a cool endeavour with room for creative possibilities. It’s a blast to get to bear witness to people going batshit insane to your music. But I’m not sure how relevant that is to production. There are amazing producers who don’t DJ, and amazing DJs who can’t write music.
When I first got started with DJ’ing, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. I thought that the fact that we commission our favourite musicians to come engage in the mostly-irrelevant activity of DJ’ing was kind of absurd. But more and more I’ve realized that musicians can be really apt when it comes to song selection. Musicians are really intimate with the scene and usually pretty likely to be familiar with and play the songs that are most relevant to their style. I’m still refining my opinion on this, but there are a few things I’m sure about. I would always rather be identified as a musician and not as a DJ, but to be known for either is way too awesome to bitch about.

Tim Berg - Seek Bromance (Porter Robinson Remix).mp3
Porter Robinson and Lazy Rich feat. Sue Cho - Hello (Radio Edit).mp3

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