Porter Robinson‘s new multi-genre Spitfire EP has taken the charts by storm. Ranging from bright trance sounds to moombahton to dubstep to electro bangers, the 19-year-old producer has shown his mastery through a wide range of heavy bass driven electronica. Over the summer we had the super sweet opportunity to sit down with Porter Robinson and discuss his musical background, his rise to fame in the electronic music community, and the direction of electronic music itself. There’s even a few producer tips in there.
The New Philadelphia: What is your musical background like? How did you get into all of this?
Porter Robinson: As far as making music…it all started when I was 12 or so. I never took piano or anything, and my parents didn’t make me do music. I ended up getting into electronic music through video games. Most people who become DJs come into it through going to clubs and raves, and seeing the scene and all that. But that’s not how I did it. I was making songs well before I had ever seen a show with a DJ. I received my first booking before I had ever been to a show. That’s a weird thing to have to do. That said, I’d listened to DJ sets online and watched videos, but I had never actually been out and done it. And that’s because I live in North Carolina – where we don’t really have a scene. Well, we didn’t. It’s coming up. Like everywhere, it’s coming up.
TNP: Very true. So, how old were you when you started producing?
Porter: I was 12 when I started making really, really bad music. But I think my music started getting good when I was about 16 or 17. When I was 18 my stuff was being put on Beatport.com, and that was crucial in bringing me up. Say My Name went to number one on the electro charts. That’s how I got my first booking, from being in those charts, and by not being known. Beatport really played an integral role.
TNP: How did it feel when “Say My Name” hit #1?
Porter: It was a dream. I was watching it obsessively. My original goal was to get into the top 100. I listened to every song in the top 100, everyday, I knew them all. This is where the gods reside. I just thought it was cool as shit. I remember I got into the top 100 in 3 or 4 days. And that was stellar for me. I was happy with whatever would happen. And then it climbed. It probably had the slowest descent to #1 spot ever, because #1s are usually Steve Angello, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Wolfgang…no one really knew me. They were learning on the go. I remember I hit #1 while I was at the beach with my family. We didn’t have internet, so I had to learn to use my brother’s droid so I could check the Beatport charts every day. That was last August. I was on top of the world. I had listed Pance Party as my favorite musicians, and they loved “Say My Name.”
TNP: Pance Party is great!
Porter: They’d be so happy to hear you say that! I got a phone call from Ben and I basically flipped out. They wanted to represent me with their management. That’s what ended up happening, so I now work with Aaron Green and Niel o’Connor of Slush Management. But at the time I was stranded at the beach, far from my studio and the internet. I couldn’t read any of the blogs. It was sort of surreal. I was 18. I didn’t really have any concept of what was going on, but it was amazing. This has all happened in basically under twelve months.
TNP: That’s pretty nuts. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?
Porter: I’m just gonna go right through my fuckin’ laundry list. I loved meeting and working with Skrillex. He’s a great guy, he’s hilarious, and the celebrity status he has makes him super cool to be around. We were in Salt Lake City, Utah, Mormons everywhere, and he was getting recognized by some kids who loved From First to Last. Meeting Deadmau5 was really crazy. I had no idea that he was aware of me in any caliber. After my set at the Phoenix, in Toronto, he came to me backstage and said, “You’re not gonna say hey?” He goes into his camera (he’s into photography) and starts showing me pictures he took of me during my set. It was the first time I’d ever been star struck. Also, my good friend, Madeon, is a 16 year old producer. We used to produce in the same music scene before we both did house music. We collaborated back then, and we’ve always been shooting things back and forth. He calls me his mentor, which is really flattering, and I think that’s because I was one of the only people who would listen to and criticize his music. That’s what happened to me. I had a mentor who was really almost cruel. He infused high standards into me – so I would always try and make nothing less than what he would dig. I try to do the same thing for Madeon, because he’s clearly fucking brilliant. He’s definitely smarter than I am, and I think it has paid off – his music is spectacular.
TNP: His Yelle remix is awesome.
Porter: Yeah, “Que Veux Tu.” I think Yelle has actually been playing his version in her tour and singing over it, mixing from the original version. His Deadmau5 remix is the one the really freaks me out.
TNP: What direction do you see the electronic music scene going in? It’s a loaded question, we know.
Porter: With the advent of digital DJing, being able to DJ with laptops becomes more acceptable everyday. There are fewer people who are sticklers for what type of DJing you do. It’s much easier to mix between tempos on digital DJing formats, rather than vinyl or CDs. You can mix between electro, moombahton, dubstep, and drumstep really seamlessly. All house music is around 124 to 128, which is a very narrow category, and that’s because you need to be able to mix them together as a DJ. We’re going to see more music in a wider range of tempos, which will dissolve genre barriers in a lot of ways.
TNP: Have you thought about experimenting with any other genres yet?
Porter: Absolutely. I have a song on my EP that’s a banger, hard electronic music, but its not classified neatly into any specific genre. It’s somewhere between drumstep and Justice’s slow electro. It’s in that awkward range. That’s something that we’ve had the liberty of doing in the last few years.
TNP: What are some of your favorite DAW plug-ins?
Porter: Native Instruments Massive, you can’t leave it behind, unless you’re using the Modern Talking oscillator. That oscillator can be heard from a mile away, that OYOYOY. Alchemy is great. Funk Agenda and I were on the way to Nocturnal in Texas. He pulls open his laptop and starts talking about synths, about Massive. He says, “This one here is Massive on crack.” And then he showed me Alchemy, and it blew my mind. It’s a more advanced version of Massive. Sylenth I, by Lennar Digital. Can’t live without it. Every single synth used on Say My Name, came from Sylenth. Imageline Citrus is an FL studio plug-in. I don’t know if you can get it on other sequencers, but its really cool. I’ve also been really big on one of the iZotope plugins recently, besides Ozone and Stutter edit, it’s called Alloy. It’s phenomenal – I’ve been processing way more with it.
TNP: So you do all your own mastering as well?
Porter: The songs that I play are always my own masters. For Beatport, if you’re working with a record label, you need to submit your master to them, and what happens from there is anybody’s guess. I haven’t had any problems, but I wish I could have total control over it. I had one master that actually really improved the sound of the song, and that was The Wildcat. The song’s kick was way too quiet, and I didn’t have the original project file. The mastering engineer was able to bring it out, using a weird compression technique to isolate the kick. It was done by a guy named Paul Hutch, from Germany.
TNP: Nice. So you’ve played a ton of festivals recently… Which was the craziest?
Porter: Aw, man, I really don’t want to play favorites. Although, most of them are being put on by Insomniac. Beyond Wonderland Seattle was fucking magical. I’ve never done anything quite like that. It was so euphoric, and people were so responsive to what I was playing. It was a great crowd. For the last 30 minutes of my set the energy was super high, it didn’t matter if it was just the beat or the drop or the breakdown.
TNP: We talked about this briefly, but what kind of projects do you have coming up?
Porter: I have an EP coming out on Owsla, which is the name of Skrillex’s record label. My song is the first song that will come out on his label. The EP is 5 or 6 songs, all aggressive hard and fun electronic music. I’ve been getting support from Skrillex, and everyone involved is really happy.
TNP: Have he and his team heard the new stuff?
Porter: Yeah! They dig it a lot. It’s got Skrillex’s thumbs up approval.
TNP: That’s sweet, we can’t wait. Thanks so much for taking some time out.
Porter Robinson was a genuinely fun guy to be around. After much anticipation, here is a portion of Spitfire. Check out the EP on Beatport.com for additional remixed material!
Porter Robinson – The State (Original Mix)
Heavy dubstep hitter – with a spooky vocal sample of an ex-senator from hell preaching against the government. Melodic and ominous plucks pull you towards a wild ride of hard stabs and distorted glitching basses.
Porter Robinson – Unison (Original Mix)
Gentle pumping electro basses under a poppy, catchy lead, take you to a soft and verby drop. From there the song builds into bright, trance anthem chords, before dropping out and into a groovy mix up feel good trance and rumbling bass lines.
Porter Robinson – 100% In The Bitch (Original Mix)
Sexy moombahton at its best. I can’t place the sample, and it kind of rambles, but the drops are great. Whipping zipper basslines and heavy pitch bending subs. Dip with it.
Progressive chords with soft floating female vocals build to a spacey drop with trance anthem chords. The drop hits hard with bright chords and heavy signature Porter bass lines. Glitchy breaks carry the song from heavy to bright and back to heavy again.
Porter Robinson – Spitfire (Original Mix)
Classical-esque chords with bouncey, warm synths underneath, lead to a heavy dubstep drop. The song evolves from dubstep, though, into a hard to place electronica banger, with heavy basses, glitchy breaks, and poppy bass stabs driving the whole thing. Pleasant yet morose chimes carry the song through, giving it an eerie feel. The chord progression and arpeggio bass lines remind me of some of Muse’s older stuff.
Make sure to support the artist and buy his EP online!