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EDM’s Rising Star: Porter Robinson

The big room electro artist plays at Sunburn Noida

Ambika Muttoo Oct 05, 2013
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Porter Robinson. Photo: Alexander Frederick

Porter Robinson. Photo: Alexander Frederick

It’s difficult to believe that Porter Robinson just turned 21 this year. We speak to the sought-after American DJ ahead of his India tour this month and realize that he’s been handling his grueling tour schedule since he was 18 with ease, but seems to have surfed through all the possible pitfalls that come with meteoric fame. He shot out of a cannon three years ago, and in that period of time, has released tracks annually that rise to the top of Beatport charts. It’s unusual to be at a festival where he’s not on the bill either. 

Robinson’s also known to be one of the genuinely nice guys, who’s not just friends with his contemporaries, widely accepted as the new vanguard of dance music (Zedd, Madeon, Mat Zo), but seems to have been anointed by the older, established dance music crews (Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Dillon Francis), as well. In the era of sky-high egos, Twitter beefs and genre posses, his profile is a bit of an anomaly. 

Robinson has been producing music, from his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from the age of 13. He began under the alias ”˜Ekowraith’ producing music from a genre called “hands up,” loosely, a more trance-driven version, similar to Eurodance. But then, he started making electro under his own name in 2010, and his track “Say My Name” rose to the top of the Beatport 100, and sat pretty for a couple of weeks, much to his surprise. Says Robinson in an interview over Skype, “My first goal, when I started releasing music under my own name, was to enter the Beatport 100. That’s something that’s been stigmatized since then but at the time, to me it was cool, exclusive and elite. I was studying it very diligently,” he said. “I kept an eye on it and it went to 70, then 60, then eventually was no. 1. That was the moment I realized that the goals I had set for myself may not have been aspirational enough and perhaps this could be something else entirely. That’s been a philosophy I’ve tried to hold on to. I’ve always tried to aim bigger.” 

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He did get bigger. The year 2010 heralded the start of a journey that’s taken Robinson to every festival on the circuit, incessant tours, and tracks that are widely regarded as the biggest hits of the year. “Spitfire” followed in 2011, on Skrillex’s label OWSLA. Skrillex also took him along on tour that year, with Zedd. “Skrillex is one of the best people I’ve met in my entire life and I say that without a hint of hesitation,” says Robinson. “He instilled in me the philosophy of holding artistic integrity to the highest standard and not pandering to what people want to hear. I fucking love the shit out of Skrillex.”

The latter half of 2011 was with Tiesto, who took him on his massive College Invasion tour in North America. Robinson released his single “Language” in 2012, followed by “Easy” with Mat Zo this year, each of which had a similar chart-breaking reception. Not bad for someone who had never been to a festival or a club before he released his first production. 

Apart from the steady touring, Robinson’s attention is focused on his new album, which is scheduled to release this year. The music on it, Robinson reckons, is the most thorough, distilled expression of his taste yet. The inspirations behind the new album are Graduation by Kanye West and Discovery by Daft Punk ”“ his favorite, most nostalgic albums. “I’m trying to write songs that are good, musical and effective, and induce goosebumps. The way I’ve been describing it has been M83 meets Sleigh Bells meets Language,” he explains. “It’s loud and it knocks, but in a lo-fi, vintage-inspired way. It’s a little bit older and more analog-sounding. And it’s a lot more emotional.” Robinson’s also keyed into the multimedia aspect of the shows, which involves a lot of writing, art direction and designing a new show. “I’ve been compiling what I call a “style bible” or mood boards over the years. I’ve been diligently taking notes,” he says, “Every time I have a thought or see something I think is beautiful, I’ve written it down. Recently, my work has been going through all my writings, trying to find themes and commonalities that I want to express in the multimedia aspect of the album.” 

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The date he’s given himself to finish everything up is October, which is also when he visits India. His two close friends, Zedd and Mat Zo have already visited the country this year. “The common thread I hear from people who have gone to India is ”“ and this sounds like such pandering bullshit, and I swear it’s not ”“ that the crowds are supposed to be insane,” he says, adding, “Funkagenda says it feels like ”¦ the first time they’ve heard music, every time. Not that I’m suggesting that people from India don’t have a significant involvement with dance music. Tons of scenes have come out of there ”“ especially the psy Goa stuff.” This was the moment we interrupted the interview. Robinson digs the manic Goa scene? “Dude full-on, daytime, night-time ”¦ Infected Mushroom, and I love listening to artists like Neelix and Asterix,” he laughed in response. “Mat says the crowds are the best ever and the shows are the ones you go to sleep thinking about.” 

Porter Robinson plays at Sunburn Noida on October 6th.  Dash Berlin, Nervo, Shogun, Rank 1, Lost Stories X Anish Sood, Vipul
Dualist Inquiry, NDS & Blue also on the bill. Entry: Rs 2,400. 

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