Porter Robinson on ‘Worlds’ and looking inward for inspiration
“There isn’t a real premium on expression or individuality in the scene at the moment.”
It’s mid-June and by the time I arrive Porter Robinson is likely in hour three of his press junket for the release of his upcoming debut album Worlds. He sits at a grand piano in Astralwerks New York offices, prodding away at a non-descript melody as I sip my coffee. If he’s grown tired of the “EDM” question, he shows little sign, eagerly discussing what could best be described as a creative lull in an otherwise exciting genre.
“There are a lot of fast moving bandwagons,” Porter begins as he moves from the piano to a couch nearby, “People are not interested in what they want to express with their music and more concerned with what’s that next hot shit. That’s why you see people who had no interest making deep house a year and a half ago are making it now.” He shrugs, “People are going to think I’m attacking EDM, but I’m not. Most of my criticisms of [EDM] came about not because I think no one should make it or that party music shouldn’t exist — because I think it should — but it’s not something that I’m concerned with making any longer.”
It’s this lack of interest in electronic party music that led Porter to begin work on his first full length album Worlds, an album that has seen incredible support, as well as distaste, from some of his most loyal fans. The first release “Sea of Voices,” was celebrated and reviled almost equally, considered by some to be an experiment and nothing more. For Porter it signified a new direction for his career.
“If I had just released some singles with no indication of any album coming out I think that people would hear it and think ‘Oh, thats a cool track’ but then they’d forget about it. An album was critical for me because it showcases a real commitment to a new sound. It tells people this is exactly the album I want to make. This is what I want to be known for. An LP was paramount to showing my commitment to a new style.”
In sharp contrast to most of his fellow producers, Porter’s sound has evolved a lot since the days of “Unison,” an evolution that played an integral role in the development of his new album. Catching fire during the complextro days alongside Zedd, Porter developed a talent (and a fan base) for amphetamine-laced electro sets. Leaving that behind was an essential part of his growth as an artist, but it was not met without its challenges or a hefty dose of uncertainty.
“At first it was hard to find a new identity, I knew I wanted to do something different but I needed an idea. “Divinity” was the first song that really clicked for me. It was a watershed moment that ended up defining the tone for the rest of the album.”
The rest of the album flows in much the same way as “Divinity” opens, an expansive soundscape of indie electronica that scoffs at genre distinctions and the very nature of EDM. A sea change in the career of a producer who could have towed the party line instead of taking risks, Worlds is the politest middle finger Porter has ever thrown. But in his mind it is boredom, rather than fear or aggression towards a scene gone stale, that drives him; “I think the future of arena smashing EDM isn’t going to go anywhere that is inspiring. It’s all the same idea with a different tempo, there’s only so many ways you can do it before its just tired. Artistically it’s just boring.”
When the topic of genres is broached, a palpable tension fills the room. “I know it is inevitable, I just don’t want to make it a style,” he asserts, “I don’t want my music to be called “post-EDM” I just want it to exist.” His distaste for genres comes not from personal experience but rather from the rampant plagiarizing he sees of Waveracer’s music. “[Waveracer] opened a door and people just straight ripped him off. It’s not ‘bubble trap,’ it’s Waveracer. It’s frustrating to see someone have a great idea and then have a bunch of bandwagon hoppers kill the sound before it ever had time to grow. You can’t fake all the stuff that went into [Waveracer] discovering something in a very sincere way and it bums me out when people who don’t share his influences are just copying his style because it sounds cool. It’s insincere.”
In an industry marred by copy-cats and cookie-cutters, Porter urges fans to be honest with what they create, to look inward, rather than outward for inspiration.“If I had one hope for the future of electronic music, it would be that people would look inside themselves for inspiration and try to find their own unique identities. I think that will empower them as artists and the music will be better if it is honest.”