North Carolina-born DJ and producer Porter Robinson began making music age 12, teaching himself how to produce electronic music on the computer. I’ve never spoken to him on the phone; I’ve only ever spoken through email.
porter robinson worlds story – AEG Presents
I want to see how it goes before committing to another year, but the part I feel absolutely certain about is putting on a super cool lineup of stuff that I think is legitimately great, and trying to make it the best musical experience possible. And Goldenvoice handles all the other logistical aspects, so that’s the part of the festival that I’m excited to see how it goes.
The final piece of the puzzle involved integrating the visual and sonic elements so that Porter could manipulate all the components on stage together in real time. To do this Porter worked with audio specialist Laura Escudé (a.k.a. Alluxe) — who’s worked with Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Drake — to help him adapt Worlds to the stage. It was an exhausting, whirlwind experience.
If you’ve already arranged your Porter Robinson tickets, consider attending a Madeon concert or Dillon Francis performance. I’m really controlling and obsessive with my music, videos, festival presentation, with every project I do I like to control the multimedia as much as I can.
In 2014 I launched Worlds Live, it’s something that I worked on and made a long time ago. It’s something my fans have a strong affection for. A lot of people really want to see that show exactly as it was several years ago. It’s something that they idolize, they could probably say it better than me, but they really have come to revere this specific show.
First off, having also been a former DDR-head , I really enjoyed Worlds, and I thought it was so interesting how much nostalgia there is for that particular sound. I think there’s a whole generation of kids, maybe, who first heard dance music, or europop, or that kind of techno construction on Dance Dance Revolution.
That’s so great — I guess there’s a lot of people who know of DDR just because it was really present in popular culture. Like, there’s a Malcolm in the Middle episode where Hal gets really obsessed with DDR. I remember that was really exciting on the DDR PHP forums that I used to frequent. Laughs But the music is still really inspiring to me, and it’s something that I listen to a lot. There are a lot of people who wonder why Japan is a pretty consistent influence in my music, and I think it’s because the reason I started writing — my intro to electronic music was Japanese music. And now I’m following all those DDR artists on Twitter and whatnot. And some of them follow me back, which is cool.
Electronic music is in a weird place right now, especially in America. It’s never been bigger, and as such, it’s never been more divisive. EDM is sweeping the mainstream: Martin Garrix’s undeniable Animals” appeared in a recent Madden video game, and Skrillex scored the indie smash Spring Breakers and made an appearance in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. This music is enormous, and yet when most people hear the term EDM,” they turn up their noses.
People began taking notice of Porter Robinson when he was just a teenager. Born in 1992, his rapid success in the electronic industry at such a young age was quite incredible. His studio and remix albums have received critical acclaim, with singles like “Easy” and “Shelter” becoming modern EDM classics.
Working on the video brought Robinson back and forth to Japan about seven or eight times this year (he currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina), but he has had an interest in Japanese culture for much longer.
It turns out not very much. With the support of Goldenvoice, the promotion company behind the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Southern California, the first day of Second Sky sold out instantly. So they added a second day — and that one sold out too. Now Robinson, who this year was nominated for the best dance recording Grammy under his alias Virtual Self, is wondering where his ambition can take him next.
After defining and dominating the electro house and complextro genres, Robinson broke free from the grips of cookie-cutter EDM with the progressive ‘Worlds’, his breakthrough 2014 debut album that catapulted him to international fame and initiated an industry-wide sea change in electronic music. He did it all over again in 2017 with the launch of his newest project, Virtual Self, which sees Robinson abandoning his polished electronic pop sound for hard-edged, maximalist neotrance.
Around 2011, Porter Robinson’s career is just starting to take off. Early on, Porter Robinson garners the attention of Skrillex who signs him to his new label OWSLA. In 2010, he drops ‘Say My Name‘ which reaches #1 on Beatport. Subsequently, he releases ‘Language‘ which hits #1 on Beatport as well. This all leads to his mainstream breakthrough and infamous Language Tour. As a result, Beatport invites him to their offices to stream a live set. This mix includes both of those tracks plus ‘Unison,’ a cut off his Spitfire EP from the record deal with OWSLA. Therefore, it definitely deserves inclusion in any discussion of the best of Porter Robinson.
Robinson: Like, I remember when I was told by people in the drum-n-bass scene that the jungle and d-n-b world took it as a point of pride to resist trance influences. But for me, when I was 10-years old and hearing electronic music in video games, I didn’t make those genre distinctions. I couldn’t have explained the difference between jungle and the Y2K trance I was hearing at the time. It was all the same to me, and I loved it.
Porter Robinson makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His interest in electronic music began at the age of 12, when he was inspired by the sounds in video games like Dance Dance Revolution. Robinson is very interested in Japanese culture and anime, and that has had a huge influence on his style from the very beginning.
The animation process took place over five straight days at Porter’s house. (Porter’s 12-year-old brother also chipped in a bit, creating three visual looks for the show.) Once animation completed, Porter reached out to friend and video-artist Ghostdad to edited and cut the visuals together in a way that would flow with the live show.
I don’t get feedback. For example, I don’t know if Lady Gaga has ever heard my remix. As far remixing huge pop acts, I don’t know if it’s something I’d do again. I don’t think I really benefited much from it. It was the kind of opportunity I looked at because remixing a huge, major pop act seems like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but in the end, her fans just want to hear her music, and my fans don’t want to hear Lady Gaga especially.
His future was clear to him, and he decided to make one of the riskiest, most difficult moves that any artist and producer could ever have possibly made. At the time, he received a lot of negativity from fans and artists, saying that “he shouldn’t change his sound” and that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off- that this move would be “suicide” for his career. But Porter didn’t listen; he did this change entirely for himself, and guess what? It has only worked to his benefit.
At age 26, Porter Robinson already stands as one of America’s greatest, most ambitious producers of his generation. From his humble beginnings as a self-taught bedroom producer, Robinson has risen to a level of creativity and artistry all his own, continuously challenging the electronic status quo and transforming his sound over and over again.
Only sharing 3-D art and cryptic messages after the initial October announcement, Robinson saw his fanbase and, indeed, the entire electronic community begin to buzz about Virtual Self. He would go on to release a second single, Ghost Voices,” a glistening groover that Robinson categorized as Neotrance.” Then in late November, the five-track Virtual Self EP surfaced. Next, he unveiled Virtual Self live, with a smashing performance at a Brooklyn warehouse a week later.
After catching Skrillex’s ears with ‘Say My Name’, Robinson joined the producer’s then-nascent OWSLA imprint, which originally launched in August 2011. One month later, the label released ‘Spitfire’, Robinson’s debut EP and the imprint’s inaugural release. Featuring six Robinson originals, the audacious ‘Spitfire’ EP spans aggressive dubstep (‘Spitfire’), heavy electro house (‘Unison’), moombahcore (‘100% In The Bitch’), progressive house (‘Vandalism’) and trance (‘The Seconds’), giving an early glimpse into the budding producer’s fearless approach to sonic experimentalism. The lore behind ‘Spitfire’, too, is charmingly delightful: After both Skrillex and Tiësto tweeted a link to the EP, the resulting tsunami of clicks crashed Beatport’s servers.
Porter Robinson: The main reason I wanted to do an artist-curated festival is I have this fantasy of there being a place where all of my favorite music can coexist. A lot of the music I listen to, that I think is really good, amusing, important and needs to be heard is A) not the music people associate me with and B) isn’t always at the festivals that will have me. I really wanted to see if I could showcase and create a live space for music that I’m actually listening to.
In 2012, Robinson would go on to release his timeless, euphoric anthem, Language.” He also co-wrote Zedd’s chart-topping hit Clarity” and joined forces with fellow production prodigy Mat Zo for their collaborative single, Easy.” Robinson had hit the electronic-music world’s big-time stage.
Robinson: So, when I was working on this project, I realized that I wanted Virtual Self to exist in this weird limbo between the genres of the time. That’s how I remember this music – as an outsider – and as a little kid, I received all these disparate styles of electronic music in a singular package. So now as an adult, I wanted to recreate that feeling with Virtual Self.
The thing with Skrillex is that he’s an example of someone who’s massively successful without ever selling out. All he did was make the music that he loved and millions of people got on board, as opposed to other electronic musicians who just pander to the mainstream pop audience. He never pandered. He only did whatever it is that he wanted, and I have enormous respect for him for that.
The project came together when video-streaming service Crunchyroll, which specializes in Japanese anime, reached out to him about collaborating on an original piece of animation. The opportunity fueled Robinson’s longtime love for storytelling. He says he’s written short stories before and didn’t hesitate at the chance to work on this project.
Sea of Voices,” for instance, is just that: gauzy, feather-light vocals that float above an ethereal-shoegaze soundscape. That track trickles into the Years of War,” which transfers those levitating vocals onto radiant synth pop propelled by a fuzzy beat. He prolongs that pop euphoria with the anthemic Lionhearted,” which pushes-and-pulls between ambient sighs and power chords, further rewarding the listener with the glitched-out Fellow Feeling,” an avant centerpiece that swells from violin-driven sentiment to industrial static, before settling into palpitating chords.
I love Porter Robinson and his music, it was amazing to be able to see him live again. Madeon is wonderful as well, it been amazing watching him rise to fame. I remember when Madeon opened up for Lady Gaga in 2011, true talent there. Southside Ballroom is a HOT mess, emphasis on the word hot. I could NOT enjoy the event at all. It was like there was no air conditioning in the building, and when you have a thousand people in one room, you NEED air flow. Not to mention the venue looks like they haven’t finished construction. The show was COMPLETELY oversold, you literally had people falling on top of you the entire time, which seems inevitable, but I have been to many shows and concerts before and that is not normal. I really thought I was going to pass out because It was so hot and I could not move at all. I will never go to Southside again, but Porter Robinson and Madeon are amazing artists and people in general.
As we chat the night before the festival opens its doors, it’s clear that Robinson has a lot on his mind. He’s headlined plenty of festivals before, but this will be the first time he’s putting one on. On top of all of the new practical things he needs to now worry about, like food, security and production, he also has to figure out how to convince his fans who may have discovered him through more mainstream EDM channels to be open to smaller acts outside of that genre. “I want to see artists who I love, succeed. I want them to have a platform,” Robinson emphasizes.
In 2017, he created his alter-ego Virtual Self and released an EP which included the track “Ghost Voices,” that would later pick up a Grammy nomination at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. Currently sitting at more than 4.3 million views, the full video is available to stream via Porter Robinson’s official YouTube channel.
Because I was not coming from that culture, it freed me up from a lot of constraints that D.J.s have imposed upon themselves, like referencing other people’s sets or letting a song ride out for a long time. I was definitely among the first electro-D.J.s to mix super fast: one break, one drop, and you’re out and on to the next song. Now that’s like every D.J. set.
Continuing his ongoing trend of drastic transformations, Robinson unexpectedly unveiled his latest artistic evolution via Twitter in late 2017: Virtual Self. The new project completely abandons the shiny electronic pop that defined Robinson’s sound on ‘Worlds’ and his subsequent releases. He instead dives headfirst into all sorts of hard-hitting genres and menacing sounds, as heard on the debut ‘Virtual Self’ EP, released in November 2017. Across five tracks, ‘Virtual Self’ tackles everything from Eurodance and hard trance (‘Eon Break’), future house (‘Ghost Voices’) and happy hardcore (‘Particle Arts’).
A perfect combination of two insanely talented musicians. I knew Porter had an amazing singing voice but Madeon was a huge surprise. The vibes were out of control, so positive. I loved everything about it.
The industry-wide influence of ‘Worlds’ is still unfolding today. The album is widely credited for heralding the next trends that would dominate the American electronic scene at the midpoint of this decade: the rise of live indie electronic bands, like ODESZA, and the flood of future bass artists like Louis The Child, k?D and Whethan. As a whole, ‘Worlds’ proved that electronic music is not limited to the dancefloor, but rather is a sound with limitless possibilities for those unafraid to reach them.
When musicians and longtime friends Porter Robinson and Madeon surprise-dropped their joint single Shelter ” and announced a joint North American Tour last month, fans and critics alike rejoiced. The single and the forthcoming joint North American tour captures both artists as they enter a new phase of their respective careers.
Robinson: I just really want to maintain the purity of the atmosphere of both projects. For Virtual Self, I obsessed incessantly for years on end trying to maximize a certain kind of aesthetic – that’s captured by the sounds used in the song, the style of chords, the production style, the look of the visual art, the look of the videos, even the vibe of the fonts used in the designs, needing to ensure that it’s all absolutely right and as Virtual Self as possible. I want a Virtual Self show to be the most Virtual Self experience you can possibly have, you know? Same with the Porter shows. I’m interested in immersion above all else. I want people to get to feel like they’re living in a different world. Anything that breaks that immersion is something I don’t want.