Talking Shelter with Porter Robinson and Madeon
Ahead of their Australian tour, we talk to the guys about the project, the importance of a live show, and their future plans.
Header photo taken by Jasmine Safaeian.
When reading interviews with electronic producers, one question that always seems to arise are about influences. What are your biggest influences? Who influenced this? Who influenced that? The answers are always similar. Daft Punk, Soulwax and Justice. Diplo and Skrillex. Porter Robinson and Madeon. So, when Shelter – the collaborative project of the latter two – was announced unexpectedly back in August last year, people naturally lost it.
Combining the shimmering, playful synth of Robinson with the soft vocals and charging, in-your-face production style of Madeon (real name Hugo Leclercq), Shelter has left its mark on the electronic world. Firstly, there was the track which, as good as it was, was one-upped by a battling collaborative live tour and then one of the best music videos in recent memory – a touching, animated short film written by Robinson and brought to life by the legendary A-1 Pictures.
With an Australian tour and their final Shelter date at Coachella soon approaching, we caught up with the boys to talk about the collaborative project and their one song, one tour mantra, the importance of a live show in electronic music, and their respective plans for the future.
Shelter, the collaborative single by Porter Robinson and Madeon, is out now. Grab it HERE, and check out their Australian tour details at the end of this article.
Porter Robinson and Madeon on how the idea for Shelter came about:
Madeon: We knew each other way before Worlds and Adventure [their respective debut albums] – like, 10 to 11 years ago now – so it’s been a long time coming. We realised the opportunity was there and it just made too much sense. We figured we would finally do it after our debut albums, which we did.
Porter: We were sending each other music and influencing each other way before either of us had a dream about having a career in music. The whole time we were both gaining popularity and suddenly being able to tour we were like, “Hey, I wonder if we’ll ever be able to do a tour together or able to do a song?” And then, after the release of our debuts we felt like we had coalesced stylistically and that we would probably be going in different directions separately in the future, so we thought this would be a great way to remember our decade-long musical friendships in one fleeting collaboration.
On the creation of Shelter in Madeon's home studio:
Madeon: Porter actually flew out to my house in Nantes, France, where I live and where I’ve made music my whole life, so we shared my little studio together and had a great time. That’s what we wanted to capture. To capture that vibe. That unique vibe we have when we’re together and talking about music and playing music.
Porter: I strongly associate the vibe of that song with the place that it was written. I guess that’s natural, but there’s something in common. Like, Hugo’s studio is really, really beautiful, it’s in his childhood home and there’s a really beautiful, luscious green bamboo garden right outside the studio and there’s lots of natural light so it’s quite an inspiring place to work and write. It really created that connected feel in Shelter overall.
On the differences between collaborating face-to-face and collaborating online:
Porter: It can be hard to say on the particulars of sound. I think it was more where we were musically and what we wanted to express. I don’t know how differently it would’ve turned out if we worked more on it online, but I do think there’s really something to be said for working together in person. There is definitely some kind of inspiration though. I think there’s an increased understanding that happens when you’re actually working together in person. I don’t think Shelter would’ve come out quite the same if we didn’t work in person. One of the big things on Shelter for us was the lyrics. I think that came out of a pretty real, inter-personal moment and some real struggles and feelings that were definitely easier to convey in reality than on the internet.
On why Shelter was just one single, and not a whole album:
Porter: The plan from the beginning was to write Shelter – to do the one song, one tour. There was never plans for an album or anything at all. I think we see albums as a way to express a really strong, personal vision and I think any collaborative project – at least for the both of us – would probably turn out a little bit weaker because there wasn’t that one, singular, unifying vision. The passion of getting crazy about one of your own ideas is, in my opinion, really critical to a great album.
Madeon: When you collaborate, there must be some sort of compromise. Something magical and special can emerge from that compromise but I don’t think that’s something you can stretch over the length of a full-length album. I think the problem with the full album would’ve been that our tastes don’t fully overlap, and that would’ve appeared too much over the course of a full album.
Porter: I’m not going to say that great collaborations and great collaborative albums don’t exist, but I think that for the both of us, it’s the way that we’re used to working in solitary ways. There were tonnes and tonnes of albums in 2016 – not just in electronic – but everybody dropped an album last year. Practically, it was a hard time to release an album because there was a lot of competition, but that wasn’t a factor for us in the large part because we didn’t know that was actually going to happen. The real reason was that just wasn’t inspiring to us – we wanted to write the song.
Photo taken by Justin Nizer.
On what to expect from the Shelter live tour:
Madeon: I think what you need to know if you’ve never seen it but you’re somewhat aware of the two of us is that we’re both on stage together at the same time – sort of like a band. It’s not two separate shows, it’s one show where we are both on stage playing live – not DJing. We’re playing our own music. We’re playing our own instruments. We’re singing a lot. We are playing drums, keyboards, synthesizers. The music we’re playing are brand-new versions of all our favourite music we’ve made, basically. Some of the ways that this manifests, for example, is at one point, Porter plays a cover of one of my songs. So, he sings the song that I normally sing, making a version that sounds more like him than me. In other parts of the show it’s opposite, and I will play a Madeon-ised version of one of my favourite Porter songs. It’s all those different ways we found to combine our discographies and that’s the best way I could sum up Shelter Live. It’s also a very fun time I think, and a show that has a big scale visually, but I think that what it has that makes it different from our previous shows is that there are two of us on stage, so there’s this very human interaction and you can really see the two of us having fun.
On why Shelter is a live show, and not two DJ sets:
Porter: I think we want to play live because it allows us to put the emphasis on our own music and the performance of it rather than our selection. When you really want to emphasize your own music, there’s only really a certain number of ways you can select your own songs and play them in varying orders – it’s a little uninspiring in my opinion – and I don’t think either of us want to stand on stage and play other people’s music in our live show. We wanted to play our music. Then the questions comes up, “Okay – is it really that interesting to stand there and DJ all your tracks in a row?” And I think one way to create interest and mix things up is to switch things up and have this element of live and risk and I think the audience connects with that too.
Madeon: I think that we, at least for me, think of myself not so much as a selector – I don’t think of myself as someone that is trying to have this finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the DJ world and bring that to the crowd. I think that the best thing that I can bring as an artist is my singular vision and the world I’m trying to create when I make the album and the best way to express such a world is through a live show I think. I think Porter is similar in that way. His music shines best when it’s not just sparkled over a selection of completely unrelated music, I think it benefits in terms of immersion because you stay in that world for longer and so you understand its rules.
Porter: I tend to see it both as a fan and as an artist. I think we can create the most coherent and immersive experience with our own songs and I think it’s better for the fans too. For the real fans. For somebody that wants to go have a crazy party time, it might not be ideal because they might not know all the music, but that’s not the core of our fanbase. It’s mostly comprised of people who want to hear our songs.
On Porter Robinson's live edits:
Porter: I don’t think that future of my music is a bunch of edits, like I don’t see my live show as being a place where I premiere new music and that I later share. The live edits are for the live show. It’s not as though I have a bunch of hyped-up tracks that I’ve been playing in my live show that I will then release later on – that’s not how I like to really release music. I have fans ask me like, “When are you going to release that live edit or this live edit?” The way that I approach music in a live setting is a bit different to how I write music in the studio, and I would also kind of like to say that I think that a lot of the music that I’m writing does not sound like the live edits I also work on. When I come out with something, I want it to be a new, coherent vision.
On Madeon's forthcoming record:
Porter: Hugo’s next album is going to be amazing. His next record is incredible. He’s being showing me music for a really long time and I think that’ll probably be what people here next.
Madeon: I have had some specific moments over the past few – you know, before Shelter started – where I had this kind-of massive burst of inspiration and vision for an album and the future of my project and I’ve preserving that and working on that since. For a while I was a little anxious that maybe Shelter would interrupt that for me and distract me but instead I think it provided me with even more inspiration and being with Porter, who has been such a huge supporter of what I’m making right now, and being able to talk about that music with him frequently on the tour and show him that music and discuss it together has actually helped me more if I had spent that time in the studio somehow. I think that’s what’s going to come next. We’re going to go back to our solo careers after Coachella and we’re going to have our respective new music and new projects and live shows coming up and you should look forward to that.
Tour Dates (click through the poster for tickets and details):