On The Road With Nineteen-Year-Old Porter Robinson

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Photo by Alexander Jacob (alexanderjacob.me)

In a world of rising stars Porter Robinson has enjoyed a massive amount of success in a short amount of time. The Skrillex bump surely helped. The release of Porter’s “Spitfire” EP via Owsla back in September of last year was more like a launching pad (remember when it crashed the Beatport server?!) for the nineteen-year-old producer and he’s been going strong since. Radio 1 airplay, a residency with Wynn Las Vegas, playing Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, which marked the kick off of his headline “Language” tour with Anjunabeats fast-rising star Mat Zo and Owsla labelmates, The M Machine. The tour will have them all bouncing around the US and Canada until mid July—see dates below.

You travel more than the common man. Do you have any tales of extreme excitement or boredom that the average person might enjoy reading?

You know, I remember learning in AP Psychology that a person’s happiness is correlated somewhat closely with the length of their commute. Maybe that’s why so many super-privileged DJs are so whiny on Twitter.

Are there any cities or club nights you’re looking forward to playing most on this trip?

Seattle, Vancouver and Portland are my favorite cities. Best vibes. The shows there tend to be pretty stellar too.

I’m also looking forward to returning to the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, NC, which is barely more than three hours away from my little hometown. Last time I played there I was opening for Steve Aoki. I had such a different stage presence back then; I was getting on the mic and going out and flailing around in front of the booth and stuff. It’ll be nice to correct all that.

Do you have a favorite airline?

I don’t consistently fly with one single airline, so I tend to barely know what airline I’m on. I’ve gotten like silver status on most of them because we’ve pretty much tended to take the cheapest flights, regardless who the carrier is. Air Canada is dope and so is Qantas.

Are there any airlines you won’t fly?

Not really, but I’d never want to fly with RyanAir. From what I understand, they’re one of those absurdly low fare airlines who prioritize affordable tickets over comfort. That would suck. Also, Zedd sued them once and won.

Do you make a right or left when get on a plane?

Coach every time, unless the airline upgrades me. Frugality, dude.

What’s an under 21 year olds’ drink of choice?

Uhh… apple juice or baby formula or something! I’m a good kid!

Do you remember the first time you had a live audience’s complete attention?

The circumstances that led to my first show were kinda unusual. I wrote electronic music for years before ever doing anything DJ-related, so my first show was in fact a headlining gig. It was in Santa Cruz, California and I got the sense that a good number of the people who were there were aware of my music. They were pretty high-energy.

A fun piece of trivia is that I’d never seen a DJ play before my first show. Also, I opened and closed with my only successful song at the time, “Say My Name,” so that was kinda tacky.

Which do you prefer, a smoky, low-lit club or a big stage with bright lights and colored gels?

Artists aspire to the headliner-y, production-y, ticket-y shows, and I think there’s a good reason for it. There’s an undeniable thrill to walking out on stage and hearing people scream just by the sight of you. It rocks, for real. So I think it’d be dishonest to say that headliner shows aren’t my favorite. But on the other hand, I’ve found that the most memorable shows are those that defy a low expectation. When I think a show will suck and it blows me away, it just renders that show unforgettable. And more often than not, that sort of thing happens at smoky little clubs.

If you were the biggest musician in the world, what would be on your Rider?

One important bit of history about me is that I got into electronic music through Dance Dance Revolution, the Japanese arrow-stomping arcade game. When I was that young, nerdy rhythm games addict, I measured wealth in Dance Dance Revolution arcade cabinet machines. This is so fucking embarrassing, but true. I always wanted one, and I’d cruise eBay for them. I remember they averaged for like $4,000. So I guess my fantasy rider would ask for a DDR machine backstage, just to bring things full-circle.

Do you travel with anyone specific?

Just my bearded, whiskey-drinking tour manager Dan (aka Cowboy Dan).

Do you have an adventurous palette?

My diet is pretty atrocious. I’m not only a risk-averse eater; I’m a vegetarian (for ethical reasons). I basically eat pizza and veggie sushi for both meals. I’m not proud of it.

What is the most colorful/memorable incident you have involving a fan?

Once after my set, a girl tried to grope me as I was leaving the DJ booth to return backstage, and accidentally just fucking punched me in the balls.

Also, I’ve gotten tons of awesome fan-art and cool gifts from people who like my music! One girl recreated my cartoon Twitter avatar out of beads.

How do you like to spend your free time/days off on the road?

A day before a show in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we stayed at a Villa with 12th Planet, one of my best fucking buddies in the world. In typical Villa fashion, there was a super skilled maid (I don’t want to call her merely a “maid” because it seems demeaning and belies her incredible skills as a chef) who would make us quesadillas and margaritas and chips and salsa and the best guacamole you’ve ever fucking tasted. No Mexican restaurant that I’ve tasted has ever compared to the food she prepared us. There was a Jacuzzi on a porch overlooking a goddamn rain forest and the ocean. I felt so spoiled after that. I figure I’m probably going to die early and horrifically, just to balance out the really fun lifestyle I’ve had the privilege of living. I savor every second of it and try not to take it for granted or lose perspective.

Describe a moment of what may or may not have been “paranoia” in your life.

It wasn’t really a moment, but early in my career, I would always obsess and worry about pleasing everyone and it impacted my ability to perform well. I was so timid around promoters and tried way too hard to gauge the crowd—this crowd is so commercial, so French, so indie, etc. I tried to pander to what I perceived the audience to be and that was stupid. The result is almost always better when I perform exactly how I want to. Artists: don’t pander! It’s the easiest and most impactful mistake you’ll make.

How, if at all, is being on the road conducive to your creative process?

DJing has somewhat informed my tastes as a producer. Sounds become overexposed more quickly to me and I gain a better sense of what’s effective with audiences. There’s good and bad with that. Making DJ-formatted music impedes your creativity, I think, and it pressures you to adhere to a very rigid “club-friendly” song structure.

If you were to describe your sound as a scent, a signature fragrance as it were, what would it be called?

Hahah! Uh…woody, smokey notes. Or something. I dunno!

Do you have any pets? What do they do while you’re on the road?

I have two dogs. A petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (fucking adorable mutt, basically) and a corgi-Chihuahua thing. I have to omit their names because I’m pretty sure their names are the secret answers to all online account password prompts. And I’m not willing to lose my MySpace.

What the first thing you do when you wake up?

Brush my teeth, immediately. Unbrushed teeth and bad breath equal the worst thing.

What the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

Scour the hotel room for AC plugs and plug in three laptops and a phone.

What do you look forward to most when the tour is over?

Seeing my dogs. Specifically one of them. She flips out.

Tour Dates:

10-Jun Las Vegas EDC
11-Jun Reno @ Knitting Factory
12-Jun Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
13-Jun Seattle @ Showbox at the Market
14-Jun Vancouver @ Commodore Ballroom
15-Jun Calgary @ Flames Central
16-Jun Edmonton @ Edmonton Events Centre
17-Jun Saskatoon @ Tequila Nightclub
18-Jun Winnipeg @ The Garrick Centre
21-Jun London, @ ON London Music Hall
22-Jun Toronto @ Sound Academy
23-Jun Montreal @ New City Gas
24-Jun Philadelphia @ TLA
25-Jun Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
26-Jun Charlotte @ Neighborhood Theater
27-Jun Atlanta @ Masquerade
28-Jun Nashville @ Marathon Music Works
29-Jun New Orleans @ The Howlin' Wolf
30-Jun Houston @ Stereo Live
1-Jul Dallas @ Granada Theater **
2-Jul Albuquerque @ Sunshine Theatre
3-Jul Tempe @ Marquee Theatre
5-Jul Salt Lake City @ In the Venue
6-Jul Boulder @ Boulder Theater
7-Jul Denver @ Ogden Theatre
8-Jul Tulsa @ Cain's Ballroom
9-Jul Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
10-Jul St Louis @ The Pageant
11-Jul Minneapolis @ Epic Events Center *
12-Jul Mariaville, NY @ Camp Bisco *
13-Jul Detroit @ Elektricity *

*Mat Zo not appearing
**The M Machine not appearing

Tickets available now at Wantickets.