Interview: Porter Robinson - Road to Ultra Macau


Ahead of the first ever Road to Ultra: Macau, Time Out talks to Porter Robinson, one of the event’s headliners, about the difficulties of writing new music and the future of dance

Ultra is one of the biggest brands in dance music. The original festival in Miami attracts over 150,000 revellers and the world’s best DJs for a weekend of music mayhem. Famed for its huge sound, cutting edge visual effects and massive stage production, the party finally lands here. Taking place at Cubic on Saturday June 13, Road to Ultra: Macau promises to be the biggest single night of the year for dance music fans. 

One of the night’s headline acts is the celebrated wunderkind Porter Robinson. Time Out caught up with the young American DJ ahead of his set in Macau.

What does Ultra mean to you? You’ve played there before…
I do love Ultra. To me, there’s something very international about it, and there always will be. Between the global livestream, all the different flags, and the new Ultra events popping up all over the world – I think that’s pretty cool.

Do you have a few tips for new fans attending this sort of event for the first time?
Hahaha, actually, I never went to festivals until I started performing at them! So it’s hard for me to say.

What’s your favourite track to play right now? And what excites you about playing it?
Probably my favourite track to DJ lately has been KRNE & Portrait’s Italics. But lately, I’ve been doing my live show more than DJ sets. So I’ll be doing my live show at Ultra in Korea, but for Macau I’ll be DJing. I love DJing a lot too, but my live sets are increasingly important to me. In my live show, I only play my own music; I sing, play keyboard, have synths and a drum pad on stage, and so on. In the last few years, I’ve tried to move away from the DJ career. When it’s my own set, I like playing Sad Machine, it’s my favorite song off my album [Worlds]. It’s the most touching to me.

Dance music gained so much popularity in recent years, where does it go from here?
I don’t really know! I just hope in the future, artists will be more concerned with their own ideas and their own taste, rather than following trendy genres. 

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
For the summer, I’ll be playing festivals all over the world. Writing music that I’m happy with is really hard for me – I tend to throw away most of what I create. So it’s tough for me to write music on a schedule... I don’t know when I’ll have a new album out.

Everyone is wondering when your follow up to Worlds will be ready. Can you provide any more information on that?
It’s really, really difficult. I’ve had several months to try to write a follow-up, and I haven’t kept very much of what I’ve written. I try all day, every single day. I know my ideas will come, but in order for me to improve to the point where I’m satisfied, it takes time.

Do you find it hard being on the road and touring? It sounds like you have a tight relationship with your parents and brothers, is it tough being away so much?
I’ve been touring for about five years now, so it feels natural to me at this point! I do miss my family, but I also see them fairly often. I’ve learned to schedule breaks into touring so that I don’t lose enthusiasm.

How do you compare making music in a studio with live gigs, especially ones as large as Road to Ultra?
I think performing live is easier than recording music. When you perform live, no matter what happens, you have to accept the result. But when you write music, there’s no schedule, and it’s completely open-ended. It’s very hard for me to feel satisfied with the music that I write, and it’s incredibly easy for me to start ideas and throw them away. I’ve written music this way for 10 years now and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

The music industry can be tough – did you have doubts at any stage about succeeding?
Constantly, but I try not to worry about success too much. I don’t want to lose sight of my own ideas for the sake of success. I don’t want to succeed doing something insincere, so I always try to put my heart into what I do and try not to compromise.

You’ve talked a lot in the past about the online games you used to play. Do you still manage to game today?
Yes! I loved MMO [online games]. The feeling of being completely immersed into a virtual world was so dear to me, and has clearly influenced my work. I still play games from time to time, but obviously I don’t have as much time as I used to. So much of my time ‘off’ is spent on planes. Since I’m stuck on planes so often, I can’t play MMOs. I watch a lot of Japanese animation, and that inspires me.

Road to Ultra: Macau Sat Jun 13, 8pm-6am, Cubic, City of Dreams Macau, Cotai. Tickets: $780;


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