In anticipation for Porter Robinson’s excitingly refreshed forthcoming album ‘Worlds’ due out on Friday the 8th of August, we spoke to the North Carolina producer from his parents house where he has resided and has produced all his music to date (bar that Mat Zo track).
In the engrossing chat, we explore everything from his love for Anime, the new album, Tumblr vs 4chan war, emojis, the new live show and more!
SR: You’ve taken a break from the usual routine of DJing huge festivals and touring the summer circuit with the lead up to your album. What does a day in the life of Porter Robinson look like right now?
PR: This is kind of like how sausage is made but it’s really been more intensive work than I’ve ever seen before. Once an album is done, it’s not really done, like you still have to go through and make instrumental versions of every song on the album, I’m making a few radio edits and creating the live show as well.
I made it really hard on myself, because in the way that I organise my projects It’s kind of like trying to get the egg out of a baked cake, in that I’m trying to get elements out of the songs that I’ve made. I’ve really fucked myself in terms of organisation. So yeah, I’m just working on live show stuff, I’ve been practising singing, rehearsing songs, and been working on sample triggering stuff and trying to get my live drops up a little bit before I launch into the tour.
SR: What can we expect from the new live show?
PR: I think that the best way for me to characterise the show would be that it’s all my music; I won’t be playing other people’s tracks. I’ll be singing occasionally, I’ll be triggering samples, running multi-tracks so I can pull the vocals out of a song if I want to, or drums or whatever, playing keys, it’s gonna be a lot of self mash-ups.
I’d reference the Daft Punk ‘Alive’ show or ‘A Cross the Universe’ (Justice), that sort of genre. Very much an artist showcase type of thing, and I think the ultimate impact of that sort of thing is going to be for the people that follow me and listen to my music, I think it’s going to be the most fun time for those people. It’ll be seriously amazing for those guys, and for those fringe fans who saw me at a show once and want to see something really crazy, it’s less of a spectacle I think. Although, I’ve really been trying to up the ante in terms of visuals and production, particularly in terms of visual stuff. There’s a ton of hand-drawn animated content that’s gonna be used for the show and there’s not a single frame of it that hasn’t been revised or given feedback on or changed by me.
It’s all based on fit boards and style bibles that I’ve seen over the years, so if I had seen an image on tumblr or something that inspired the album, I’d save that image. It’s really gonna be a visual journey too, it’s gonna be so fun.
SR: You said in your Reddit AMA that you basically went home for a couple of years to write the album. How did the experience differ from basically writing stuff on the road as most producers do?
PR: It’s what I’ve always done. I’ve only ever written stuff from home. The only song I ever wrote on the road was Easy with Mat Zo in the back of our tour bus. I guess it’s different to how most people would do it but it was in fact necessary for me to write that way because that’s how I’ve always done it and that’s what I’m most accustomed to.
It’ll probably be the last record I ever write that way though, like I’m at home right now, my parents are downstairs. I intend to move and have a proper studio. My speakers right now are facing my bed and I need to change my sheets. That’s seriously what it’s like here. I consider the album to be really retrospective and super nostalgic in a way that references myself as a kid. I can go into more detail on that if you have like 50 hours.
I think it was nice to write like that though. I think a lot of the album explores a lot of memories, particularly related to escapism, stuff like video games and fiction and stuff like that. This is where all that took place for me, so it was nice to write it at home.
SR: I read up a little bit on Chapel Hill (where Porter lives) and it sounds like a pretty classically Americana sort of town. What was it like growing up with Anime, Japan and Dance music consuming your life amongst all that? I imagine you would have been seen as pretty unique amongst your peers.
PR: I definitely didn’t have the standard interests that someone from North Carolina would have, I don’t think. Not to say that I was the only person in the entire state that was interested in those things, they had anime conventions in North Carolina every year, but for the most part they were really unusual interests to have. The closest arcade for me to play Dance Dance Revolution was like a 50-minute drive so I did it once a year.
I had the home version obviously, and played it every day. It was like, amazing when we got a sushi restaurant in North Carolina though. When I brought my Girlfriend here and I wanted to show her the city I realised I didn’t even know that much about Chapel Hill. My entire childhood was spent on the Internet, and in games. My whole life is basically online. I was literally trying to give my girlfriend a tour of North Carolina and I literally had to look up shit online [Laughs]. I don’t really think living here inspired my interests in any way to be honest.
SR: You’ve been pretty vocal about how you’ve basically fallen out of love with what you’d describe as the “EDM” scene. Do you think it’s just a fad or do you think things will only get worse from here?
PR: I feel really optimistic about the future of electronic music, in part because of your continent. I think that fans of electronic music that got into it a few years ago got into it through Skrillex or something, and then they probably got into dubstep, and then electro, and then main stage dance music.
I really, really find that a lot of those people are now interested in more left-of-centre electronic music, I mean it’s not like people went back to listening to hip-hop or rock music, they still want electronic music. I think they want something new, and they want to be shocked, and they want to hear something surprising, and I think that’s been to the benefit of a lot of young producers, particularly Australian artists.
A lot of young soundcloud core electronic musicians are really filling that niche. There’s an unprecedented desire for new electronic music, and I think that’s really gonna have a moment over the course of the next few years.
SR: Most people were pretty shocked to see the change in style that came first with Sea of Voices and then the other two singles. Is there stuff to come with the release of the full album that you think is going be a big surprise?
PR: One thing that I was a little anxious about with the songs leading up to release of the album was that they almost conveyed too much breadth, I think. I actually think the album is really consistent and has a strong signature to it. I think there are a lot of songs that have the vibe of sad machine. The most poppy song is Lionhearted and the least poppy song is Sea of Voices, so I have those 3 songs out and people are saying ‘Wow! It’s such a diverse album!” and I’m like, well for me I wanted to come out with something that has a strong signature and sounds really cohesive.
I think the best indicator of whether someone will like ‘Worlds’ is if they like Sad Machine. It’s my favourite song on the album, but there are a lot of other treats on the album as well. There are a few songs that are 128 bpm but they certainly don’t feel like electro songs or something. They’re actually kind of rude. There’s a lot of stuff happening at 90 bpm like Sad machine but I’ll be putting out one more song before the album comes out called Flipper, and it’s another 90 bpm jam although it’s kind of cutesy.
SR: Now that Worlds is finished and you’ve created the album that you always dreamed of making, where do you go from here on a creative level? Do you see something completely new over the horizon?
PR: I already have new stuff that I’m wanting to explore, but I think the difference between the next release of mine and Worlds will be a lot smaller than between Worlds and say, Spitfire. I think with Spitfire I was trying to showcase how many genres I could do, because that’s kind of what was happening at the time, and with this new album I wanted to cast off the trends and do something to my own taste, something that references me and all the stuff that I loved as a kid growing up. I think those are all tropes that I can’t really get away from, so I have a feeling that the next album or EP or whatever will definitely have more in kin with Worlds than anything else. I’m really happy with the ideas on the album. I think there’s one sound on the album in particular that people will really be able to sink their teeth into, which really feels like something I’m gonna stay with.
I think that a lot of my exploration is gonna take place in terms of songwriting. I don’t know if feel like I have much pressure on me to create a new sound, It feels like in a lot of electronic music the way that artists move forward is to come up with a new sound, and I’ve found the sonic territory that I’m happy with, and I want to write songs within that little universe. I want my effort to go into song writing, and writing iconic melodies and hooks that will stay with people. In a lot of ways that’s part of how I feel. I feel really passionate about Sad Machine, in terms of the lyrics and the hooks and the lead melody. Honestly, it’s the proudest song for me. That could be because it’s the most recent song that I wrote, because I always like my most recent song the most, which is probably bullshit. I really like that space sonically, and I want to write songs in that space as opposed to finding a new gimmicky sound.
SR: You tweeted a couple of days ago that your mood rises and falls with your levels of productivity. The same thing happens to me. What advice would you give to someone looking to get out of a creative rut?
PR: Oh man, If I had that answer I’d be the happiest person alive. I think that for the type of work I do where I don’t have to be connected to the internet I use a program called Freedom which basically shuts down my internet for as long as I type in, sometimes up to like 3 or 4 hours. Often times the thing that happens to me is that I’ll be listening back to something I just made, I’ll press play, and then switch over to your browser and spend like 20 minutes on twitter. I think those productivity tools are useful if you can force yourself to use them. I drink a lot of coffee, but I try and be careful about when I do, I’d encourage people not to use amphetamines as well. I think ultimately it just requires willpower, and this is probably the best tip I can give. In the early stages of making worlds, if I was out in the car listening to music or something and an idea popped into my head, I’d always take out my phone and go into the notes and write it down in a way that I’d remember it. It’s so obvious, but being diligent about note taking is so incredibly important to productivity. If I ever was in the studio and thought ‘oh shit, I just finished a song, now what do I do?’ I’d always go to my list of ideas and try 2 or 3 of them. I’ve never had a Writer’s Block buster that works as well as that. You have to be diligent. It’s not enough to just tell yourself that you’ll remember; you always have to write it down.
SR: Let’s talk Internet shit. As an avid tumblr user yourself, what are your thoughts on the current 4chan/Tumblr war? Are they at war?
PR: Yeah, apparently they’ve been raiding each other on a daily basis.
Interesting, I mean I use 4chan occasionally, I like its fashion board, which is so weird because that’s the last thing you’d expect 4chan to be good at. I remember raids back in the day with SomethingAwful and ytnmd.com, it’s kind of silly. I dunno, Reddit and 9gag have this rivalry, it seems like it’s mostly in good fun but I dunno. I’ve been so off the grid in the last few months making the show and making the essential mix. I didn’t know there’s been a war though. Maybe my blog’s been fucked up but for now it seems like it’s in tact. I do tend to read Reddit pretty religiously and it seems like I would have read a head line about it but I’ll have to check into it.
SR: You’ve found a corner of the Internet and identify with a subculture that’s pretty notorious for obsessive levels of fandom. Do you ever find it hard not to get swept up in the culture that you’ve immersed yourself in?
PR: I think that in general I am a pretty obsessive person, like for instance I’m really obsessed with Lil B the Based God, I’m serious, I talk about him several times a day. I read his blog, his Instagram, I go out of my way to do it. I think I’m kept so busy with my work that I haven’t been able to get into games and stuff as much as I’d want to.
I’d like to explore more stuff like that, like I was thinking about doing something recently where if you’ve ever watched Netflix, do you guys have Netflix over there?
SR: I have it, I use an unblocker but most people don’t have it.
PR: [Laughs] I suppose it’s like simulcast, where you watch something with a friend on the internet, I’ve been wanting to do that with all of my fans basically at the same time, like getting everyone on twitter and Facebook to all press play on an anime episode with me at the same time, and watch and talk about that. It’s stuff I want to do when I’m not constantly overwhelmed with work.
I think maybe that day will never come though, I thought there would be a day after I finished the album where my schedule would slow down but that was a fuckin’ pipe dream. It’s cool though, because it’s not menial work, it’s all shit that will have serious impacts.
What a guy! Again, ‘Worlds’ is set to drop August 8th (that’s a Friday) here in Australia before the rest of the world.