Porter Robinson Gave Up Everything for Music

Age is certainly not a factor in music maturity. Porter Robinson is only 20 and shot to stardom after his debut EP, “Spitfire” dominated the #1 position on Beatport for 2 weeks in a row. He has been invited to play at massive music festivals such as Ultra Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Coachella, Tomorrowland, Daisy Music Carnival and more. Despite his new-found success in DJ-ing, Porter is not lured by fame or money, and at his core, is essentially a down-to-earth chap who enjoys unwinding at home with his family and dog.

We spoke to Porter and found out that the wonderkid’s early influences include Dance Dance Revolution, his aspirations of creating authentic music that evokes emotions and his dreams of collaborating with Kanye West in the future. Impressed by his immense aptitude in music, we probed further and asked for his formula to success. Turns out he downs a whole lot of Red Bull to stay in tiptop condition, but that’s second behind sacrificing his other hobbies to focus his waking life on music.

Things seem to be going really smoothly for Porter and whilst he aspires to make music for as long as he can, his place in University of North Carolina is still open for him to go back should he wish to. We’re being selfish here, but for the sake of our music industry, we are secretly hoping he never goes back.

Popspoken: In 3 words how would you describe your music style?

Porter: It’s interesting because I’m changing my style a little bit. Most people know me by the electro house genre – like hard, energetic dance music. But the new music I’m writing today has a new emphasis on emotion. The kind that will give you goosebumps when you listen to it. I love that kind of music the most but I also have a passion for dance music.

Popspoken: I read that you were inspired by video gaming music, in particular the Dance Dance Revolution.

Porter: Yes, yes, yes!


Popspoken: What drew you to it?

Porter: It’s kind of complicated. I was a nerdy 12 year old – really into video games and a Japanophile. My brother introduced me to all these crazy nerd culture.

I’m from a very rural country part of the US where there are no clubs, no DJs and no dance music. So when I first heard electro music, it was totally new to me. I’ve never heard anything like it before! it just blew my mind and I immediately fell in love with it. I liked DDR because it was physical – I like sports and it was also a video game. I used to go to arcades and got really good at it.

Popspoken: Aside from that, you mentioned you play sports, what kind of sports?

Porter: I used to fence, play baseball, soccer and basketball. But when I started writing music when I was 12, I had to give up my hobbies to put everything into music.

I gave up most of my social life too, because I was working almost 8 to 10 hours a day on music after school. It was important to me to have good grades. I exited high school with really good grades while still focusing on music. I don’t do anything very much outside music anymore.

Basically, I fly planes, I DJ, then go home to write music and spend time with my family.

Popspoken: Will you go back to college to further your studies?

Porter: Part of the reason why I focused so hard on my studies is that I would have another option if music didn’t work out. I got into the school I wanted to get into – University of North Carolina. That remains open so I can go back any time in the future. I’m happy I put in all that effort but I do hope to do music for as long as I can. It’s a big part of me and it’s really important to me. I won’t want to go back to school, but I can.

Popspoken: Which is your favourite track, is it “Language”?

Porter: The favourite of mine is something that isnt out yet. As I’ve told you, I’ve be writing an album right now. “Language” is my top-played track, and it’s sort of has an emotional-side that infuses some art into pure party music, so it’s something that means a lot to me too.

Popspoken: As of now, who is your biggest inspiration?

Porter: I’ve been listening to more emotional music. I’ve been really inspired by movie soundtracks, indie bands like Stars and older stuff I used to listen to, like The Postal Service. Sigur Ros is a great example of music that can make people cry. I wish I could just show you my iPod, that would make it a lot easier!

Popspoken: If you could choose one artiste you could work with, who would it be?

Porter: This is kind of different from my goal to write new music. My favourite album ever is Kanye West’s album, “Graduation.” I would love to collaborate with Kanye West – but we’ll see.. I don’t expect it. Although he announced he wanted to work with Skrillex, so maybe it’s possible.

Popspoken: Which is your most memorable festival thus far?

Porter: I think it has to be at the Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas – it’s the biggest crowd I’ve played for, there were over 60,000 people and it was just incredible.

Popspoken: Do you find yourself having to change your repertoire for ZoukOut – since it’s in Asia?

Porter: The track list is not always the same. People generally have a very good sense of authencity and they can smell when something is fake. I would not try to pander to the crowd just because its Asia. People come to see my taste and my music. That’s why I don’t like playing commercial music too much.

Popspoken: How do you deal with the fame and fortune?

Porter: Well, as I was walking through ZoukOut, only 1 person recognized me. In my town, since it’s a rural place and there are no clubs and stuff, no one actually knows me as someone famous. Even though I can afford a house, I would rather be at home with my dog and brothers. I don’t want to go crazy with money. I also don’t do drugs – it’s a personal choice. For me it’s important to take care of your body.

Image credit: Zhi Wei (Zouk Singapore)
Image credit: Zhi Wei (Zouk Singapore)

Popspoken: If you could choose someone to have dinner with, who would it be?

Porter: I don’t have a very good answer. There are a lot of people that I would like to meet!

There’s this Japanese pop idol that I’m really obsessed with – Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – she did a really famous song called Pon pon pon. I would love to meet her, but she doesn’t speak English. Also, my music idols! I would love to talk to one of my first music idols. There are  a lot of people I want to meet that’s why it’s a tough question.


Troop down to Porter Robinson’s official page for more great beats.

EDIT (24 November 2015): Porter Robinson will be spinning on Day 1 of ZoukOut 2015.


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Explore latest trends in contemporary culture