EDM upstart Porter Robinson strives for emotion
If listening to Skrillex is akin to cochlea assault for you, it likely means you’re old and you may want to give this article a pass as it’s going to make you feel like a geezer. The 24-year-old dubstep demigod has a protégé named Porter Robinson, who is 19 and wasn’t alive when Wayne and Garth sang along to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. He’s handsome, friendly, and talented. He’s never worked a shit job in his life and makes more money for an hour-and-45-minute DJ set than you do in four months. The only thing you can rip on the wunderkind for is that his very existence makes you feel like a geriatric failure at life. That, and his diet, as he’s speaking with the Straight via Skype from a McDonald’s in the Czech Republic.
Inspired by video-game music, Robinson began producing EDM when he was 12 and living in rural North Carolina. When he was 17 he released his breakout electro house track “Say My Name”. Though he hadn’t set foot in a club at this point, the song was a still a massive dance-floor pleaser.
“The energy that’s required to make an audience excited is intuitive. I do think it translates well to a home listening system if you have a sense of how energy flows,” Robinson explains and then adds, “ ‘How energy flows’ sounds sort of silly.”
Things really picked up for him through a fortuitous encounter between Skrillex and Robinson’s manager, who had booked him for a club show. “When Skrillex was in the car, my manager, being the awesome opportunist he is, put on my music,” he recalls. “He was really into it.”
The two quickly became friends, shared tracks, and began touring together. Since then, Skrillex has chosen Robinson’s 2011 Spitfire EP to be the inaugural release for his label OWSLA and has been a mentor to the young lord of the dance. “He’s the best advisor I’ve ever had in my entire career. He’s steered me straight every time I’ve humoured the idea of veering away from what it is I actually love.”
What he’s loving these days are uplifting trance anthems of raves gone by. “Really emotional electronic music is something that’s underexplored in the United States right now. I think, to a point, people are getting tired of the same old aggressive sound over and over again. I wanted to take another angle. I started with the idea of making something that sounds nostalgic and sentimental and can make you cry or give you goosebumps.”
The net result of this idea is Robinson’s current single “Language”, a phenomenally euphoric number which is likely to induce synesthesia when you’re peaking on whatever shit-mix of chemicals dealers are pushing as ecstasy these days.
However, it’s not all blue skies ahead for Robinson. Winter is coming and it has a set date: July 15, the dark day when writers will have to stop obsessing over his age and he’ll be forced to confront the dreaded two-oh.
“It [my age] is the most relatable and obvious thing about me,” he says, understandingly. “Overall, it’s definitely an asset to me and it’s helped my career and inspires my fans. I wouldn’t feel right complaining. Twenty’s still kind of young, right?”
Hey, if lying to yourself is what it takes to help you cope with your quarter-life crisis, go for it.
Porter Robinson plays the Commodore Ballroom next Thursday (June 14).