Porter Robinson: Reach for a DAW…Land on a Star?
It’s been a year since Porter Robinson exploded onto EDM’s center stage. His first single, “Say My Name” shot its way up to the number one slot on Beatport and Robinson has seen nothing but swift progress ever since. DJs like Deadmau5, Tiesto, Skrillex and many others took heed to the young producer’s exemplary talent which led to him being the first ever release on OWSLA (Skrillex’s Record Label). His first EP was released on Sept. 13 of this year and the title track, “Spitfire”, has been featured on Pete Tong’s Essential Countdown. Every major festival in the world has showcased his DJ skills (which he just picked up this year) and arguably the biggest star in the world summoned Porter for her “Edge of Glory” Remix (Lady Gaga). He is featured in any and every “up-and-coming producers” article in the last year alongside the likes of Avicii and Alesso. So, we ask the 19 year old, where do you begin to digest it all?
I look back on my senior year of high school and I’d just turned 17. I was swelling with anticipation not knowing what the next few years had in store for me. The same went for the rest of my peers . Questions I needed to answer weighed heavily on the outlook of the coming years but there were only a few of them. Would I be sticking around at home or venturing off to a university across the country? Tennis was a significant factor in my life and being a young high school grad I wondered if I should play for a year before going off to school in order to increase my chances for a scholarship. Some of my best friends were in the same boat while others didn’t even have those options. They were attempting to balance their work schedules to help pay for rent and/or their own schooling. However, aside from the minor details, the big picture looked quite similar for all of us: MORE SCHOOL. We’d be playing it safe and going down the warranted path. There are very few people at this age who have the vision, insight, and courage to do otherwise. Not many want to “break the rules” and skip out on college to chase their passion. In his final year of high school, Porter Robinson would be one of those very few doing exactly that with just his computer, keyboard, and a DAW.
Check out some of our favorite tracks from his debut EP and pick Porter’s brain with us after the jump:
Porter Robinson- Unison (Original Mix)
Porter Robinson- Vandalism (feat. Amba Shepherd) (Original Mix)
Porter Robinson- Spitfire (Original Mix)
Purchase Spitfire : Beatport
As many young and aspiring producers look to Porter for guidance, Dancing Astronaut picked his brain for any secrets to his speedy ascent to the top of EDM. With so many details in his drops and massively thick bass lines many wondered if he’d had any help designing his sounds. The producer quickly shunned the idea stating:
“I have never had any help from producers or engineers in mixing my music. I’ve been doing it completely by myself since I was twelve. I don’t know of any good producers who used an engineer as a crutch when they got started. If you have someone mixing your tracks for you, then you’re depriving yourself of valuable practice and your music will not improve. There are no shortcuts. My only advice is this: make music, work hard, and hold yourself to an impossibly high standard.“
Porter started producing music at age 13, and by 18 he’d topped the Beatport charts. It’s no surprise to find out that he may put about “50 hours” of work into each of his tracks. With so much focus being put into the details of one’s work they may not realize exactly how good it turns out. “My original goal was for my first released song, “Say My Name”, to reach the Beatport Electro House Top 100,” Robinson explains, “It ended up eventually hitting #1, which was far beyond what I had hoped for.” Due to the number 1 hit, his final year of high school became a balancing act between his social life, school work, and a promising career in music:
“I can only make music at home, so I don’t write while I’m touring. But I started working on the Spitfire EP nine months before it came out. Remember that I was in high school until June. That means I had five or six months where I was home Monday through Friday going to highschool and I was only playing gigs on the weekends. During that time, every day I got home from highschool and immediately went to work on the EP, and then I flew out and played gigs on the weekends. Since the summer, I’ve been touring full time, and it’s been way harder to make music since then. I think the only song I’ve made since summer started was Vandalism.”
When we asked Porter when he’d realized his passion for music had churned its way into a profession he gave us a very humbled response saying, ” I aspired to do a few paid DJ gigs here and there, but touring full time and internationally seemed out of the question. My expectations have been fully, thoroughly exceeded in the best way possible.”
A new sound had taken the EDM world by storm and an 18 year old was at the helm of it. In his last semester of high school Porter Robinson worked on his debut EP “Spitfire” during the week and flying out on the weekend for shows. As fun as it seems it may be easy to overlook the pressures he faced. His debut EP could establish him in EDM as a powerhouse or label him as a potential “one hit wonder” if it duds. He still had homework and tests to prepare for and don’t forget the fact that he had to learn how to DJ and do it for tens of thousands of screaming fans (shout out to Porter for MASSIVE improvements in his DJ skills in the past 6 months!). Another thing to consider is that so many artists he may have considered idols were watching Porter and this may have weighed more heavily on him than any of the potential pressures mentioned before. “Getting props from my idols is more meaningful to me than selling out a show or getting a number one tune,” Porter proclaims, “My motivation in making music has always been to impress the people who are better than me.” With this in mind, Porter stepped up to the plate in 2011 in a big way.
As graduation approached, Porter would be nearly done with his EP and previewing his tracks on weekend shows. Proms and grad night were were an afterthought as he was discovering new places, people, and things. Although the option to rage is always there while on tour he foregoes it to just relax and check out the cities he visits. DA asked him about some of his favorite experiences/places on tour :
“I’m actually not much of the afterparty type. I like to relax and eat good food and chill at the hotel and shop and shit like that. I love Vancouver a lot. The girls are breathtaking and I dig the downtown.“
Porter would travel to some shows by himself and leave family and friends at home. We were curious about those experiences because some at his age may find it difficult to deal with. However, it comes with the business and it doesn’t even seem that he acknowledges the downside to it at all:
“I don’t bring my friends and family on tour. When I play my solo shows that I fly to, like the ones that aren’t on the Skrillex or Tiesto tours, then I’m completely alone. That’s why bus tours are vastly more fun (among other reasons): it never gets lonely. But now I’ll be bringing my badass new tour manager, Dan, on the rest of my shows. He’s hilarious and awesome – he might even compete with Skrillex’s Road Hog – and that should make the fly dates a little easier.”
In order to be successful in any field or discipline, talent can’t be your only attribute. A combination of maturity and confidence must be in your command and both of these traits are exemplified by Porter Robinson at all times. You can see it in something as elementary as the program he produces with. Although Ableton has become the standard DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and few producers nowadays use anything else, Porter never questioned his using FL studio because to him it was about what he knew best. His rewards for his self-assurance are laid out right in front of our eyes. That won’t be the case for everyone but you shouldn’t be doing something with your life just to show it off anyway. For those of us at a crossroads it may be easier to just play it safe and do whatever everyone else is. It’s not about doing the right thing but rather doing the right thing for you so try to take that page out of Porter’s book if you can’t figure out how to get those massive drops just like he does. Expect big things from Porter Robinson as we know his career is just beginning.