Unknown to literally anyone except probably Madeon and his very closest friends and business partners, Porter Robinson had been secretly cultivating a new sound for two years called Virtual Self. The product of digging through years of trance records on Beatport, exploring methods of referencing nostalgic sounds without giving in to unintentional irony, and no small amount of his own mental health issues at the time, the Virtual Self EP was born last November.
In his exclusive interview with FADER, which Porter Robinson calls the “best virtual self interview” he’s done thus far, goes in depth on many of the questions fans and contemporaries have had about the project since its inception. Where did it come from? How did he made old sounds sound new? What was the process in creating the lore behind the identities of Pathselector and Technic-angel?
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview, at least to me, was in how he created the mysterious questions and sentences that came with much of the first singles, including “EON BREAK” and “Particle Arts.”
Porter told FADER, “The idea was not to convey specific meaning but an overall atmosphere. I used a few techniques to generate a lot of them, like writing sentences and translating them into Russian into Czech into Korean and back into English using Google Translate, and seeing how the mistranslations would introduce a new word or change the grammar in a way that I liked.
“I used another similar technique called Markov chain, an algorithmic process that takes a large body of text and tries to generate new sentences from patterns it sees. That’s how a lot of ebook Twitter accounts work. I took all the texts I’d written and ran them through Markov chains and generators, and picked the ones that felt the most ethereal and cyber. So it was partially done by AI and curated by me, which, as machine learning gets better, I think so much of the future of art is going to be. Machines will make tools and parts that humans will curate and arrange into art.”
If that doesn’t give you a new appreciation for the project and attention to detail that Porter devoted to Virtual Self, perhaps you’d be more impressed with the amount of music he listened to and learned to reference in all of the productions.
Porter told FADER that in the span of roughly two years, he estimates he listened to around 100,000 songs (or at least snippets of songs) in researching “trends of sound design and structure” to use in his own work.
“I went on Beatport, sorted the entire trance genre by release dates, and listened to every song from 1998 to 2003, not just the ones from charts. Same thing for breaks, jungle, drum and bass, techno. I must have listened to snippets of 100,000 songs over the course of two years.”
Porter also went into some detail regarding his struggle with mental health, specifically depression, anxiety, and OCD. While these issues present some degree of difficulty in his work, he’s been treating his mental health as a “second full-time job” and doing his best to not let them get the better of him.
The full interview is an inspiring and insightful look into the mind of one of dance music’s most creative and dedicated producers today, and worth a full read.
Oh, and if you were wondering, yes… he has still been writing new Porter Robinson music this whole time.