What Porter Robinson did next

The first time inthemix interviewed Porter Robinson, he was 19 and riding the success of his Beatport-crashing Spitfire EP. “I’ve been writing dance music for seven years, but I wasn’t putting out releases, I wasn’t touring and I wasn’t even seeing DJs until last year,” he told us at the beginning of 2012 (dig a bit deeper in the ITM archives, and you’ll unearth a mid-2011 mix from the star-in-the-making). No doubt, going from bedroom producer to OWSLA signee and internationally-booked artist in the space of year is an impressive ascent.

Fast forward 18 months, though, and Porter’s rise seems to have been kicked into turbo-drive. Now, he’s sitting further towards the top of the bill each festival he’s booked on, topping the charts with singles Language and Mat Zo hook-up Easy and is hard at work on his debut album – a release a lot people are hanging out for. So it’s no wonder we gave him the #1 spot on our list of 25 Under 25: The Young Stars Leading 2013.

In amongst the upcoming dates at Ultra Music Festival Europe, Electric Daisy Carnival London, Japan’s Fuji Rock and the inimitable Tomorrowland, Porter’s also made time for an Australian club tour kicking off in October. In the lead-up, we got dance music’s most likeable prodigy on the phone once more.

So how’s the album going?

I think I’m wrapping it up. I mean, it’s kind of hard to say, but it’s getting to a point where I think I’m happy with it. Which I think, for me, is scary as I’ve cancelled more completed songs than I’ve released in the last two years. But I think it’s getting there. And you know, I reserve the right to delay indefinitely – but my hope is to have it done before July, so that’s what I’m reaching for right now.

I saw you tweet recently “if you wear neon green hats that say blow on them, you’re not gonna like my album”. How’s it sounding? Different to the last couple of tracks you’ve released?

I think it has more in common with Language and Easy than it does with some of my other material, but it’s even less EDM than the stuff that I’ve released to date. One thing that I’ve been trying to eschew is that there’s an extremely functional build-up. In a lot of big room or EDM tracks, there’s a 16 measure section that serves no musical purpose other than preparing someone for a drop. I’m trying to get away from that and basically throw away as many DJ friendly moves as I can, and to get into my own, more personal musical territory. And I’m doing so without really any regard for how it could affect me later. The music can be completely unplayable by DJs, but I can’t care about that anymore.

You also tweeted that it’s nice working on an album, because you don’t have to worry about every track succeeding commercially. You can present more of a whole vision.

Yeah, that still rings true. It’s hard for me to not treat each song like the big one, because the standard thing for dance music people is to write songs that are all very reaching, given you generally release music as singles in the dance music world. It’s easy to try and make each one huge. But I’ve been intentionally pumping the brakes from time to time and keeping some things in album track world, because a lot of my favourite albums, some of the strongest moments are quite down in terms of their tone. One of my favourite Daft Punk songs is Veridis Quo from Discovery – it’s probably the most relaxed song they’ve released and I find it gorgeous.

Are you liking Random Access Memories?

Yeah, I am. One of my peers pointed out that some of the music they’re paying homage to has maybe been done better, technically. But I think just as far as songs, several of them really succeed. I think Give Life Back To Music is awesome, Gorgio by Moroder is awesome, Doin’ It Right of course feels like a big winner and then of course Get Lucky. Lose Yourself to Dance too, and Instant Crush has been a surprise favourite of mine. Half the album’s songs I wouldn’t listen to independently, but I think it’s important to understand that as a moment in a career as opposed to just an album. I’ve heard the argument a lot that classic disco was better than Random Access Memories, but I’d just point out that it shouldn’t be compared to classic disco. It should be compared to Daft Punk because it’s part of the art. I think it stands up alone. I think also it’s an important moment in a legacy.

Getting back to your stuff… I know that you’ve said that a lot of songs on the album are a similar structure to Language – three-quarters instrumental with a short vocal interlude. Have you brought on any big names for vocals? Are high profile collaborations something you’re interested in for the album?

Well, I started tracks with a lot of your lefty/alternative type people – your Two Door Cinema Clubs and your Passion Pits – and we’d always get like a quarter of the way through the song and it would just not happen. So basically what has ended up happening is I’ve been working with smaller artists, and I think it’s actually worked to my advantage in a way. Although I won’t have the ‘name’ on there, I think it allows me more to push it in the direction that I want and land on the melodies and subject matters that I favour. Whereas when you’re working with bigger artists, you have to compromise more and I don’t want to do that. It’s really hard for me to work on music that I’m not totally happy with. I’ve been working with smaller artists whose names I don’t think would necessarily mean a lot for me to say, so I’ll hold off until a tracklist is announced. But I’d say I’m taking inspiration from a lot of other artists. Some of the vocalists I’ve got sound a little bit like the artists I mentioned earlier.

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