Porter Robinson: Finding My Inspiration
Porter Robinson ends his European round of Nurture Live Tour shows at iconic Camden Town venue Electric Ballroom for two sold out shows. After pleasing his London fans with his Worlds and Shelter shows before the pandemic, the artist told us all about his future projects as well as how he came up with the ideas of Worlds and Shelter which later led him to explore new boundaries and inspiration to create Nurture. Breaking the barriers of music and not focusing on straightforward EDM, his shows have been described as “something to experience at least once in your life” - fans commented from his queue outside the venue.
I had the chance to sit down with one of the musicians whose music changed my life, an artist whose lyrics and sounds made me cry so much in the past seven years of my life, the music that made me meet my now best friends, my family. Porter Robinson can touch that feeling that nobody has ever been able to pull out of people. My heart was racing but here’s what he told me:
How does it feel to be back in the UK?
It's incredible, in large part, because I've only done a few shows here in the last decade or so like, probably less than 10. And they're always so good. The crowd brings so much energy. And I always like going to other English speaking countries as well. I mean, I love going to all countries like Canada, Australia and England, because they're the pin points of a map where you can notice which things are different. You know what I mean? Like, it's it's a very similar field to the US, but not at the same time.
Do you think there's any difference between your crowds?
I think the crowds in Europe in general tend to go a bit harder. I think because in the US are a bit more reserved, there's just always my experience on this tour. This one in particular, every show that people have been screaming all the songs all the way to the back. It's just been like a higher energy level. Maybe it's the fact that I'm playing bigger venues in the US and smaller venues here. So everyone's a bit closer together. That might be why the energy so high, or maybe it's also because I don't get to play enough shows in Europe compared to maybe the United States. There's a built up demand.
Do you have any favourite city in Europe?
I really loved going to Ghent, Belgium. That was unbelievable. Very like, medieval city. And I love to be in Utrecht a lot. I've had a great experience ever. I love Paris. I mean, I love it all. Yeah, it was really sad. I didn't go to Spain on this tour. We used to always go to Barcelona and play Razzmatazz every year. I'm not gonna go to Italy which is sad.
You know, I played one show in Italy ever, in 2011.It was the only show that I've ever had like a catastrophic, really ending to the show where, usually if you're DJing, and like your laptop breaks, you can pull up the backup or like if your DJ controller break, like, during the show, both my laptop and my DJ controller broke in separate ways in the middle of the show. And I had to end the show, it was just really horrible luck in the middle of the show. The fans were so cool. They're like, "Oh, we love you". But I was like, "I'm so sorry".
Yeah, it was the only show I never finished in my entire life was my show in Italy. And I actually don't even remember where it was. . It was like a decade ago. But I feel so guilty about it. Because you know, people came up to see me I couldn't finish this gig.
Oh, that's a bummer! But I'm sure you'll get to go again soon!
I want to go for sure!
Today is your first year anniversary of "Nurture". Is there anything special that you're going to do tonight?
Yeah, so one thing that I did today was I went through and I watched pretty much every video that I took on my phone while I was writing the album and I made a little compilation video of like, behind the scenes at various music, video shoots and some videos of my project files and stuff about it like working on the songs and demos and stuff like that. I think I'll probably put that online later today when it whenever makes up in the US just to say, you know, "Happy Nurture Anniversary!".
What is "Nurture" about?
I think it's about finding the the beauty of reality and cherishing the experience of life. A lot of my previous material was very focused on escaping into fictional worlds. And because I went through such a tough time, I really wasn't convinced that life was worth living. Nurture was about me learning to fall in love with reality again. And so that's where there's so much depictions of nature and so many of the visuals are just little iPhone videos, things that are up close and intimate and personal than things that feel grand and epic and faraway was my focus.
Is it difficult to transition from a project to another one?
It's not difficult for me to transition between the projects, because it's usually driven by passion. When we were doing "Shelter", I was like, really excited about doing "Virtual Self", for example, I was like, I have this idea in my head. I know what I want it to feel like and I obsess over it until it's done. It's not like I have to force myself to work. It's more like I get really excited about a new idea. And I pursue it wholeheartedly until it's ready. So the transition isn't tough, it's more fun, because I'm doing what I want to do. And I get to experience like different things at the same time,
Getting to be play the role of like, singer on this tour is very different from what I did in the past. And I'm not doing it because I think I'm a great singer. But I'm doing it because I wanted to explore lyrics as a mode of creative expression and felt like I had things I wanted to say. And I wanted to see what it felt like, you know, to stand on the stage in a different way. I'm always trying to find something new to be excited about. That's my favourite thing in life is like, getting excited about a new idea and pursuing it. And so I actively look for it. Like I'm always trying to find new things to be excited about.
Are you working on something else now?
I am always working on something new. And I have like some basic ideas of what I'd like to do next.
Would you ever go back to doing "Virtual Self"?
really don't know, I really enjoyed everything I did with "Virtual Self". But I don't want to force it. If the inspiration is ready, then I'll go for it. Right now, I'm not working on new "Virtual Self" material, really. But I don't want to say it's a closed chapter. I had some ideas on how to continue the project in the past, but right now I the thing is if I just decided "oh, I should do another"Virtual Self" project" it wouldn't feel real, maybe. Without the passion, the whole thing falls apart. And I feel like everything that I ever did, that sucked.
That was because I forced it. And the things I think I did that I still feel proud of years later. And I think resonate with people over things that I was more excited about it, then all the people I was showing, like I show my music to my managers. It's my label. And I'm the one who's like, "it's great, right?" And people are like, "Yeah, that's cool". And then like later, those are the ones that become the chord. Like "Sad Machine" was that way.
When I wrote that song. I basically had to fight the label to make it a single, because I just made it at the last second. We already had a single plan. And I was like "Guys, we have to change. It has to be Sad Machine. I'm telling you, this is a hit". And they're like, "Okay, cool. iI's fine". But they weren't sure you know, it's not to say that they're wrong. It's just to say that I'm always like, getting into their credit, they were flexible, and they let it happen.
But that's how it happens for me is like, I feel like the good stuff is the stuff that I'm so excited about.
"Shelter" was one of your biggest projects, which again, personally, I think it changed a lot of people. How did you come about with that project?
Me and Madeon, we always knew we wanted to make music together because we had known each other for a very long time. And our styles were pretty matched up at the time like we're both inspired by each other. And so we made "Shelter" made some attempts at some other music as well but ultimately we just finished "Shelter". We also thought to do a back to back tour around the single. And our idea for that was to do this mashup of our discographies. Like, "Easy" and "Pay No Mind" together, for example, and that was great because it was like, Man, he's so talented with live shows, Hugo is such a force of nature with live performance and visuals. And I learned a lot from him on that tour about visuals and colour and bringing an idea like that onto like the screen.
And I've done the World's Tour and I had those visuals. And so I had already done a full audiovisual live show, but the Shelter show was very focused, it was very organised and every song had a strong colour scheme, and it was very tight. Madeon's tracks are extremely tight. If you've seen "Good Faith Forever", it's extremely tight. A lot of contrast, strong colours. Whereas, you know, my ideas tend to be more storytelling. His stuff is architectural, it's laser focused. And so Shelter was kind of like a combination of those right? Dream like fantasy worlds with Hugo's amazing sense of colour and precision. And,I think he only got better at that with his newest tour.
Is that also a semi like, open chapter?
Never want to say never, you know. And we're always sending each other new material and bouncing feedback off of each other. But like I said, I'm just gonna follow the inspiration.
The other thing is that nostalgia can be really dangerous. Because it's a bit like Instagram, it's a highlight reel, like when you remember something fondly, you really only remember the good parts. And it's, there's been quite a bit of sugar added by the feeling of nostalgia. And so I never tried to recreate things from the past, because you can't really go home. It's like, you can never be 12 years old again.
You can never, you can't go back to high school, you can remember those things fondly, and you can take things from them. But I always want to find the next thing for me because, I've even seen artists in the past, who I love and look up to who tried to recreate their own success, and it didn't probably work. At first, it's cool, but it doesn't last the way that the first thing that because nostalgia is really powerful, but really fleeting. It's really strong, and it's really short lived. It's like you know, World of Warcraft came out with World of Warcraft classic. And everyone everyone's like, "it's not the same as it was in 2003".
It won't hit the same. It's also like when you're really hungry, and you get like, a cheeseburger, like the firt that first bite is amazing. But once you're getting full, if you order a second cheeseburger, it doesn't hit the same show. Again, like art can be similar. The thing that really sticks with people is something new, something novel. So it's sad. It's sad that you can't really go back, you know, but I tried to resist it. I tried to resist going back. But you know, sometimes we're doing nostalgic things because like, I did an electro house set the other day when I was in Dublin, it was great and I loved it. I mean, I'm a very nostalgic, that's why I'm careful about it is because I can fall for nostalgia really easily and sometimes it's not the right thing to do.
What inspires you the most?
Oh, it's always changing.
Do you feel inspired right now?
Yeah, I do feel inspired right now. I'm like, I'm really excited to get home and write music. I think what inspires you - this is so cliché - I think inspiration comes from experiencing something new. So I am always trying to watch new movies, listen to new albums. It's like You have to fight to find new things to fall in love with. It doesn't anymore just come to you. Like if I just sit at home and played a comfortable video game and ate shit food all day and listen to all the album's I know. I'd just run out of fuel. And for me, inspiration isn't really something that comes from me. I don't feel like I'm coming up with my ideas. I write it down. I don't feel like I came up with "Virtual Self". I don't feel like it came up with "Nurture".
I feel like it's little pieces of things in the world that I love. This is my collection. That's how it feels. Just the things that make life worth living. And I can't make music when I'm unhappy. I am a very sensitive person. When I'm in a bad mood, when I just feel down or feel depressed, my motivation is zero. When I'm excited about something, my motivation is 100. And I just have to feel happy, like, and for me, one of the things that allowed an album like "Nurture" to happen was that I decided that my happiness is more important than my music. Because when that was the other way around, when my music was more important than my happiness, my music sucked. That was two years of writing nothing. I was like, "doesn't matter if I'm happy or not. I have to write music.
That was back to people forcing you to do thing, it's a cycle.
Just to be fair, no one was forcing me, I was forcing myself.
The thing is though, I'm so honoured and happy that people would want me to do "Virtual Self" again, or that people would want me to do "Shelter" again, because it meant something to them to begin with. And like when I was first releasing "Virtual Self", I had so many comments being like, "This isn't Worlds. This sucks". So for me years later, to have people be like, "When would you do Virtual Self again?", I love it. Because I really put a lot of love and caring thought and passion into that project. And knowing that years later, it's remembered fondly, and that people would like to experience something similar again. That means the world to me, it really does. But that's why I also have to be careful to say, you know, I would never have made "Virtual Self" which we love now, if I did what people want me to do, you know, so it's always that way.
With "Worlds" I got so much hate when that came out, because people want me to do really straightforward EDM and I'm not just complaining. It looks like I'm saying, "oh, people always criticise me". It's not really like that. In fact, I think my fans in particular, the people who follow me are extremely patient and understanding, very tolerant. It's a great group of people. When I go to "Second Sky", and I meet people. It's like the nicest group of people I've ever met in my entire life, I'm so lucky. It's more just like, there's a there's a push pull between artists and fans. And I think it's healthy. But I have to, like, I have to stick to my principles to make great stuff.
What is next for you now?
The thing that I've been thinking about besides today in tomorrow's shows, I miss my fiance Rika so much. I'm gonna see her for a couple of days when I get home. And I'm going to Mexico right after that, which I'm very excited about.
The Mexican fans are so passionate and so like, patient too, because I haven't gone to Mexico very much. But every time I've been, it's been such a great experience. I'm really excited about that. And then I've been working on some of the things - can't see too much at the moment -. We want to keep it as a surprise.
Follow his journey on @porterrobinson.
Article Sal Fasone - Photos Federica Burelli