In an interview with Michelle Lhooq of Fader, Porter Robinson goes into detail about the work that went into Virtual Self and his inspiration behind the project. Yesterday he released the video for ‘Ghost Voices‘, and he is well on his way to building a completely different brand of music for new fans.
“I must have listened to snippets of 100,000 songs over the course of two years.”
Porter spent two years at “peak obsessiveness”, listening to every song across a range of genres from jungle, drum and bass, techno, and the entire trance catalogue on Beatport to come up with sound for Virtual Self. The goal was to create music that would alienate people, something different from Worlds, and something that was nostalgic to him.
After listening to all these songs he spent a year working on recreating the sounds of the early trance era. The other aspect of the music is that even though the sounds are all from 1999-2003, the format of the songs follow a more modern format. He says “‘Ghost Voices’ starts out with the hook, but if it was a song from back then, it would start with three minutes of intro drums and bass.”
Regarding the atmosphere he has created around Virtual Self from two characters making the music, random strings of text with seemingly ethereal meaning and digital-sounding words, Porter admits he took a lot of imagery and design tropes from the 1999-2003 internet era. Back when the internet was the wild west of Kazaa and Limewire, and the “digital grunge maximalist abstract art” lens covered everything, Porter sees a way to visually connect listeners with the the sounds he has created. He loves immersion and escapsim. As for the cryptic writing and answers to questions on the Ghost Voice video, he he had this to say:
“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.[…] 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.”
He has a lot more Virtual Self music written, but he also has a lot of Porter Robinson music written, he just doesn’t know if and/or what will be released. He is always writing music, always exploring. If Virtual Self doesn’t continue, we know that he has put all his effort into it and whatever is next will be just as curated.
Read the full interview here.