Electronic music prodigy Porter Robinson performs in Vail Friday
If you go ...
Who: Porter Robinson plays Decimo.
Where: Mid-Vail, Vail Mountain. Access via Gondola One.
When: Friday. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Cost: Tickets start at $100.
More information: Décimo is a 21 and over event. Visit http://www.decimovail.com.
Though Porter Robinson has been out of school for awhile now — he’s 22 years old — he still has homework every single day.
“I have to listen to maybe 50 songs a day,” said the electronic music producer, who is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “In some ways it’s a compulsion; I feel uncomfortable if I’m missing something. And it’s also one of those pseudo-productive procrastination things, in that it feels pseudo productive.”
Called an EDM prodigy, Robinson started making music on his mom’s computer using pirated software when he was 12 years old. When Robinson played his first DJ set at a tiny club in Santa Cruz when he was 17 years old — his dad went with him, he said — he’d never actually seen a DJ perform, and he’d only been to a total of three concerts in his life, including an R.E.M. show with his dad.
“Honestly that I didn’t know what I was doing was a real asset,” Robinson said. “I was less tied down to conventions and rules that other people had been following.”
Robinson did the thing that was most natural to him — putting on a really energetic show playing short snippets of songs rather than in their entirety. At the time, that style wasn’t nearly as common as it is now, he said. He basically picked up DJ’ing in a week and a half or so. He calls it “baptism by fire.”
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“I wasn’t the world’s best DJ,” he acknowledges. “I consider producing and writing music to be a more complicated task. I’d been doing that for six years — that was the hard part.”
But Robinson was a quick study, and soon found himself traveling the world. His “second or third gig was in Germany,” he said.
He’ll take the stage at Mid-Vail Friday night for Decimo, a night-club style event on Vail Mountain.
FROM GRASSROOTS TO TERMINAL 5
The artist’s first foray into music came through the arcade-stomping game “Dance Dance Revolution.” These days, he’s graduated to StepMania.
“A huge amount of music that I listened to for a long time, like 200 people have probably ever heard these songs,” he said. “And a lot of it was bad, C-grade emulations of dance music being made in Europe. But something about the tempo was super-interesting to me.”
He came into his own in 2010, when he scored a No. 1 Beatport hit with his single “Say My Name,” which lead to that aforementioned first gig.
His grassroots following exploded through the release of a successful EP and series of high profile DJ gigs. Then, in 2012, Porter scored an iTunes No. 1 with the shimmering “Language.” Porter found himself touring five days a week, crashing at his parents’ house when he was in town.
“It took me to a place where I wasn’t writing music. And I was DJ’ing a lot of other people’s music,” he said. “I think that helped speed up how sick I got of dance music and all of its tropes.”
That leads us to Robinson’s latest release, “Worlds,” which was released in August and entered Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart at No. 1. Robinson calls the album “more of a synth pop record; it’s not really meant to be DJ’d.”
The song “Divinity” on the album, which features Amy Millan, provides the soundtrack for the “Google — Year In Search 2014” film, which takes a look back at the searches, questions and moments that defined 2014. The video has more than a million hits on YouTube.
‘I LIKE NOVELTY’
Robinson recently wrapped up his first-ever live tour, an extensive North American run that sold more than 100,000 tickets. It included two nights at Terminal 5 in New York City. During his live show, Robinson sings, plays the keyboard and only plays original songs. He calls it his “passion project,” but it costs significantly more to produce — at times he barely breaks even, he said. Of late, he’s been doing live shows about 90 percent of the time. His DJ sets, which is what he’ll be doing in Vail tonight, make up only about 10 percent of his shows these days.
“The effect I hope to produce when I’m DJ’ing is to make people go ‘what sound is that? I’ve never heard that before.’”
He likens a DJ set to being in the car with friends and “you get to dictate the music for the entire car ride, that’s what DJ’ing is like for me. I’m going to do the soundtrack and hope that it’s impressive,” he said.
He’ll play his own music, along with music that’s been inspiring him lately.
“I want to play stuff that’s surprising from people I really admire,” he said. “In the context of dance music, I like novelty. … I don’t think my DJ sets are very safe. There’s nothing super obvious.”