Henry Johnstone, Sydney - Australia - on 30/8/12
Regarded by his peers - who include Tiësto, Skrillex and Deadmau5 - as one of the nu-breed saviours of electronic music, 20 year-old young gun Porter Robinson is arguably one of the biggest artists to come off the back of the current 'EDM' explosion happening in the United States. After only a couple of years in the game, his tracks are topping the Beatport charts and the young prodigy is finding himself already in top-billed slots at festivals like Coachella, Tomorrowland, Creamfields and Lollapalooza. Rising up the ranks at lighting speed, he is a true product of the new internet-ruled music industry.
Despite his youth, Pulse's Henry Johnstone found Robinson to be a particularly switched on and articulate individual during their recent chat, which, amongst other things, uncovered Robinson's developing interest in deep house and attempted to address his recent put down of 'original' dubstep.
Pulse: Hey Porter, where are we speaking to you from at the moment? Porter Robinson: You’re witnessing a rare moment where I’m actually at home. I’m almost perpetually on tour but I have one day off in between being in Vegas and then Paris tomorrow. So I’m at home, my family’s eating dinner just outside right now actually.
Must be nice to have a bit of downtime. I live for producing. DJing is great but I got into all this to produce so when I have opportunities to be home and I get to write music, it’s my favourite thing in the world.
I read that you’ve recently been getting into some deep house, which you said you were once vehemently opposed to for the longest time because you didn’t get it. What was it that ‘clicked’ in your mind where you found something that you liked in the genre? Well still to this day I couldn’t really name many artists, though I do like Eats Everything and Maceo Plex. I think the moment that really sold me on deep house was in Sydney last year I believe for Future Music Festival. I don’t think I ever really heard it in the right context, but on the FMF tour in the lounge areas where they would serve food and have ping-pong and billiards, they would always have some cute girl playing deep house. I finally understood it and it made sense! It could not have been any more pleasant music for that type of environment. It was great, everyone was bobbing their heads and relaxing to the music. It was all deep and vibey and perfect for that setting. Now I’d love to hear it in a louder, darker setting.
So cute chicks won deep house over for you? Yeah [laughs].
That’s OK mate, you’re only human. Do you think that your newly found interest in the genre is something that might influence your productions in the future? Do you feel you’re the kind of guy who could do a complete 180 and have a go at producing something completely out of your comfort zone? I’m not sure that people really know what my comfort zone is. I’ve put out a lot of electro, but I’ve been making variable tempo, weirdo fucking music for a long time and I’m growing more comfortable with the idea of releasing left-of-centre music, because my experience has consistently shown me that as long as I’m making precisely what it is that I like and as long as it’s authentic, my fans have been with me. A lot of my peers struggle with that where their fans want them to return to their old style, but whenever I experiment it just seems to get a bigger reaction. Not that that should be the biggest consideration – one should care less about the reaction it gets and be more concerned with artistic integrity and writing something that’s meaningful to them. But yeah, I intend to write unusual music and I also intend to continue writing high-energy, fun dance stuff that I love.
As far as deep house goes, one thing I’m wary of is doing the whole, “I’m going to produce this genre now”. I think it’s better to just take influences from various styles as opposed to committing yourself fully for only one song to a different style, because in all likelihood you’re not going to nail it.
You mentioned earlier this year that you find ‘true dubstep’, as opposed to ‘brostep’, “thoroughly uninteresting, c-grade production”. Do you think maybe that’s down to the same reasons you used to be so opposed to deep house - that perhaps you don’t get it yet? Yeah, I mean OG dubstep has grown on me in the latest months. I kind of object to how that article was framed a little bit. That was mostly…I intended to make a defence of higher energy dubstep because I felt that it gets a bad rap, you know?
Sure. So you started making messing around with making beats at age 12. Which artists or style of music had you come across on the internet back then that inspired you to create your own music? Well when I was super young the music that I was really getting into was dance revolution music, like hilarious Japanese Euro-beat. But the music that really inspired me to make high-octane, hyper-detailed music was definitely Wolfgang Gartner. I think he’s one of the most effortful, advanced producers on the planet. He’s a leading influence for me.
You toured with Tiesto on his college invasion tour last year. He’s a guy who’s been in the scene for a long time now, compared to yourself who this is all a new experience for. Did he regale you with tales on his career, what the industry was like before the internet, dance music history, things like this? Me and Tiesto kind of just kept it light, I didn’t really solicit him for advice. We just laughed and had fun and partied together. We discussed music a little bit, but I don’t think he was in the mood to lecture me.
Because Skrillex does that a little doesn’t he? Not lecture, but shows you things he thinks are cool, or tries to influence you with his musical tastes? Yeah, definitely. I’ve found Skrillex to give some really sage advice over the years that I’ve known him. He’s always trying to push his stuff - he was one of the first guys to really show me proper techno and electro. I remember back on the OWSLA tour he was trying to sell me and Zed on more minimal dubstep stuff. He’s a lover and he likes a lot of music.
I know he likes a lot of different music compared to the brash, heavy-hitting music he makes himself. Do you like to listen to sounds that are vastly different to what you produce? Yeah, definitely. Basically all I’ve been listening to lately is Phoenix, Grum, Two Door Cinema Club - a lot of indie-dance has been my jam lately. I don’t listen to much electro because I get enough of that at night.
From what I’ve read, you seem to be relatively knowledgable on other scenes and genres within electronic music and also seem quite aware of your own demographic and audience. I was wondering if you have an idea of where you’d like to be or how you’d like to progress within music in say the next five years or so. Is it something you think about, or are you more concerned with the here and now? It’s always really hard to say where you’ll be in five years, because I couldn’t have predicted what my tastes would have been now say only a year ago. Most generally – and I know this is barely interesting at all – but I hope that in five years from now I’m making what it is that I enjoy and writing music that’s inspiring to me and that people are still down with it.
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