As of today, Porter Robinson won’t be considered for Billboard’s who’s who of young artists–the “21 under 21″ list.
That’s okay though, because he was the first DJ/producer to place on the list in 2011 and peaked at 7th for the 2012 edition. In 2011, he opened for Tiesto at the Home Depot Center outside of LA in front of 26,000 people, dubbed ”the largest single DJ event in U.S. history.” Every record he has released so far have topped Beatport‘s charts (think iTunes for DJs). For the last Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, the EDM summer festival, he appeared on the main stage around midnight, around festival prime-time.
At 20, the small-town North Carolinian, who still lives and produces tracks in his childhood bedroom, has already made it in the music industry.
The electronic music industry has been criticized for being formulaic. Big DJ sets often comprise a generic playlist of the current anthems. But Robinson has steered clear of this course–he was never on it from the beginning. His handful of records cover a spectrum of styles, from his gritty early days to his recent emotive grooves.
When Robinson release his first single, “Say My Name,” he was entirely unknown. However, it attracted attention from The M Machine after he showed interest in their earlier project. This began Robinson’s career. Slush Management’s Aaron Greene recounts: “I called Porter and [asked] if I could fly him out to CA, and he asked if his dad could come. I said, ‘Sure.’ At the time he was newly 18, [and] I got him two shows… We’ve been working with him ever since.”
Bringing in Mr. Robinson meant a certain amount of parental skepticism. In the documentary, the father recalls thinking, “It’s as good or better than a summer job at Wendy’s.” Standing in an empty venue, large speakers stacked in the background, he adds, “Obviously, it progressed after that.”
And progress it did.
His first tour took place with Skrillex in the summer of 2011, shortly followed by the College Invasion Tour with Teisto. Around the same time, he released Spitfire EP, an exercise in diversity of style and sound. “Unison” is a progressive banger; “Vandalism” js a fest-friendly house anthem; and, “100% in the Bitch” is a slower Moombahton track. The EP’s title piece, “Spitfire” shows influence from Skrillex’s dubstep style. “The State” is dark, industrial, dubstep gem that exudes the dystopia and tyranny of government. The track samples an audiobook reading of Murray Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.” Part of it’s mantra goes: “For centuries, the State has robber people at bayonet point, and called it taxation.” Not surprisingly, it lit up the Libertarian blogosphere.
Less than a year later, Robinson does not want to talk about it, perhaps realizing that politics and his career do not mix.
Six months later: ”Language.”
A gorgeous tran-them that played for weeks on progressive trance podcasts like Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy The beauty and emotion in this song are remarkable, and surprising from a guy who spent a year playing with, and sounding a little like, Skrillex. After another almost six-month period, the prettiness continued with “Easy,” a joint effort with Mat Zo.
I wouldn’t characterize Robinson’s love for his fans (and his brand) as “easy” though.
“I got into this to write music,” he tells the Washington Post. Having taken months off between tours to produce original tracks, his release schedule is not as frequent as he might like.
“Besides [Language and Easy], I’ve made many songs and shelved all of them,” he reveals in an more mature interview with Billboard at Lollapalooza 2012.
His taste seems to be maturing too, with his favorites comprising of not-so-mainstream deep house and techno tracks. In mid-2012, he describes his fascination with Maceo Plex’s remix, “Love in Me,” and in another interview mentions the minimalist track, “Control Movement” by Gesafeistein.
Crushing my hopes, Robinson talks about his next album with inthemix.com.au, “I reserve the right to delay indefinitely – but my hope is to have it done before July .” He hints in a recent tweet, “If you wear neon green hats that say blow on them, you’re not gonna like my album.”
This feels like Andrew Bayer’s ballsy new album, “If It Were You, We’d Never Leave,” a downtempo masterpiece which gives me hope for popular electronic music. Along with other innovators, Bayer will tide me over until Robinson shocks the EDM world with yet another twist in his musical journey.
Pete Tong, a revered veteran from the roots of electronic, describes the future of EDM being directed by talent like Porter. ”There is a tendency where so many DJs… in America, particularly in Vegas, are playing the same 20 records. But once in a while, someone different will break out ‘cause they made an amazing record, or are incredibly talented, or just different. We’re already seeing EDM 2.0 in the shape of Porter Robinson.”
The EDM bubble may burst. No matter. All the glitz and glam of today’s scene does not seem to have cast a spell over the likes of Porter Robinson, who will continue his craft despite the season.
Check out Murray’s other articles in this Young Producers series!