“Surreal, Beautiful Things” With Porter Robinson (Exclusive Interview)

“Hear What I Hear”

Porter Robinson is nothing if not a one-of-a-kind artist. From afar, anyone can see his bold musical style executed to perfection by his full-scale tour setup. We’ve seen this need for excellence even early on in his career, from the culture-defining beauty of Language, to his latest efforts with Worlds. But up close, he’s more than simply a DJ. Or a producer. Or some far-off personality churning out music. It’s easy for us as fans to disconnect ourselves from the people making the music we love. Electronic music in many ways by nature is impersonal. But mere minutes into our chat, we could see that Porter is an artist bursting at the seams with a need to create something entirely in opposition to this.

As he describes it, Robinson’s latest efforts were rooted more in “doing it for the music, and less for the reception of the music.” All too often in our scene, we see music pumped out on a strict release schedule, played out at festival stage after festival stage, and then forgotten forever. For both the album and the live show though, the whole Worlds experience was meant to be one thing: Iconic. A year before the album was even finished, work had begun to bring it to life on stage. “I made a big mood board and a 27-page style bible, and that was the visual language of the album,” he notes, referencing the expansive vision he had planned from the very beginning.

“That’s the other thing too, I think there’s that added benefit of what I hope is a consistent and coherent style. I wanted the show to feel like you were being taken to another place. Something that’s really evocative of fiction, and surreal, beautiful things. It was exactly what the album needed.”

But it wasn’t simply the effort and careful planning that stood out to us with Porter. Beyond that, there was him wanting to help us understand his creative ambitions. A voice beckons from his track Fellow Feeling, reflecting this need, to “please, hear what I hear.”

“The Little Universe” of Worlds

Whenever a new album comes out, everything that happens on the periphery is fine-tuned toward promoting and selling the music. Usually this culminates in a support tour, merchandise, and a huge marketing kick of interviews. What we saw from Worlds was a similar process, but for far different reasons. Everything, from the album commentary on Spotify to the extensive work on the tour visuals, was geared toward helping us better conceive of what he was trying to accomplish.

“The art direction was very, very dear to me in the beginning. I wanted everyone to understand the little universe of this album. In some ways this was aspirational, but in other ways it seemed to me like this was the bare minimum to keep this stuff from being misunderstood.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist whose goal is to help you see what they see in their art. A typical release will see someone put an album out into the world, leaving people on their own in trying to look beyond the bleeps and bloops, and into the soul of the music itself.

For Worlds, Porter made a clear, concerted effort to help us see behind his eyes, and then into the vast universe he created with the collective work. But even so, that’s really only the first step for us as listeners. Once we dig into understanding the “what” of the art, what’s arguably even more important to him is the “why.” As he matter-of-factly attested, “I like being honest about my intent.”

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