Porter Robinson interview on the Second Sky Festival
He’s not kidding about the theme park part. Produced by Goldenvoice, Second Sky features production design by Nassal, the designers of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter World at Universal Studios and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. Inspired by Robinson’s love for video games, sci-fi / fantasy, and anime, the event was designed around a loosely inspired narrative from To feed.
It will be Porter-centric drinks and food, as well as a 50-foot tree, whose roots will traverse the site to connect a myriad of worlds. It’s a big investment for a single artist, but the demand for The World of Porter is clearly there. When Second Sky went on sale, each of the 40,000 available tickets was in a basket waiting to be purchased.
To really push things over, Robinson – who says Billboard on the phone, he was a little stressed about the event because he cares so much about it – he will be launching a new side project called Air to Earth. Merging progressive house and disco, Robinson opens Second Sky every day under this new alias, with the goal of getting fans in early, so they can discover new artists and spend enough time in his world.
Below he talks with Billboard on the new project, as well as the theme park, and all the other Second Sky stuff.
I know for you Second Sky is a chance to give some of the artists you love the most bigger stages. What do you think of this concept?
There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time looking for music and finding new genres and new little musical niches to obsess over. And when I watched some of these artists, some were doing well – but a lot of artists that I thought were really talented weren’t quite getting the sparkle that I felt they deserved.
I think every artist has this idea of making a label imprint or something, and it never felt quite right to me. It never seemed fair to be tasked with releasing someone’s music and making a deal against them in a certain way. It was a bit dated. What really turned me on is creating a place where people can go, where all this music that I love – most with one foot in electronic music, and one foot in independent music or whatever. – could come together. I was under the impression that there wouldn’t be many places where you could see G Jones and Kero Kero Bonito in the same lineup. But I know there are people out there, most likely people who follow me, who wouldn’t like anything more.
In terms of what you create on the festival site, Second Sky really sounds like bananas, and probably like it’s been a ton of work for you and your team. What are you trying to achieve here?
I think with everything I love, I always try to take a bath in it. This is the best way I can describe it. If there is an aesthetic that suddenly calls me, or a sound or a vision, I want to immerse myself in it as much as possible. Between me and my manager, we have always talked about what would be absolute ambitious goals. I think I kind of achieved a lot of things that I dreamed of – so it was like, “What would be the craziest thing we could shoot for?” What is the highest level of success in creating entertainment? “
I think it’s having your own theme park – like Nintendo just arrived with Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios in Osaka. Some of the companies that have created some of the coolest theme park attractions in the world are working on Second Sky. This is what I have the right to say.
What was the reaction when you brought this grand vision of the setting to Goldenvoice, your partner in the Second Heaven?
The people of Goldenvoice, from what I told them, is that they’re like, “This is the biggest little festival we’ve ever seen. I think sometimes me and my team can be on the verge of perfectionism. We try so, so hard to do it all … we try to do like a Disney thing, practically. It’s really difficult for the amount of resources we have. I know Goldenvoice enjoys working with us because I care about them a lot too, and I really respect them. We are all on the same team.
Not all artists have their own festival. I imagine this is meaningful to you.
Oh, this is amazing. I enjoy Second Sky so much. I can say without hesitation that the first year was one of the best five days of my life. It was so much fun. The thing I think of when I remember how awesome it was – I actually think of Peter Berkman from Anamanaguchi, and Peter Berkman’s mom, Tracy Berkman, coming to me backstage and saying, ” Everyone here is so nice. ” At first I thought she was talking about our staff, but actually she meant the audience. She was walking around and I think she was expecting something a little louder. It was so cool for me. And then I heard it over and over and over again.
You’re also launching a new side project this weekend called Air to Earth. Tell me about it.
I did a side project called Virtual Self, it was like three years of my life. Air to Earth wasn’t even a sparkle in my eyes three months ago, so it’s really different. I had this idea of how to open Second Sky – I open every year, as I mentioned – and was trying to figure out what the set would be like. Some people in my world were like, “You should go back to the old Porter’s songs. I know people would like it, but my heart wasn’t really there. I just wasn’t excited about it.
So I kind of pivoted into that other form of nostalgia and thought it would be really fun to play a progressive house inspired set from 2008, 2009 – like Dinka and EDX and Helvetic Nerds, Adam K, Kaskade. . It was my plan at first and then once I started to dive into it it kind of took a turn into something new for me. I’ve described it in my social media posts as being mostly progressive sample-based house and then a lot of really fun and light disco.
And did that sound better to you than flashbacks?
I got a lot more excited after that, because I feel like nostalgia is fun, but it doesn’t really have legs. I felt like nostalgia made all the flashbacks like “I remember this song”. It’s fun in the moment, but it doesn’t stay with you. Once I started to find that pocket of music by searching online that felt a bit newer to me, I just spent a ton of time finding music and putting other stuff together. Then it was like, “I actually feel like I want to name this just in case there’s more than I’m thinking right now.” The name Air to Earth came to me. It’s a different take on my other side projects where I just feel like there’s more to it, but I haven’t really done it yet.
How does it feel to be immersed in a different kind of sound?
Air to Earth reminds me of something that four years later I would like to go to a house festival and play, or do surprise sets with it. Someone asked me, “Why do you think you have to develop an alias just to play a different music sound?” And that was an interesting question. It’s two things: I constantly try to be free from expectations, because I feel a lot of pressure. I have expectations – like, all the time.
But the other thing that strikes me as a lot more important is this: When I sort of stumble across what I feel like some sort of untapped artistic knot that I find really interesting, I just don’t want to put a toe in it. I want to swim there, as I said earlier. I want to dive into it. I don’t want to play 15 minutes of it in another set from Porter. I want to live there a little and go there as much as possible, which is why it is so essential for me to distinguish this from what I normally do. People will see it differently.
If you ride on a Porter Robinson DJ set, people say “I wanna hear ‘Sad Machine'”. and knowing very little it’s just a better feeling. It’s just nicer.