Chet Porter Interview

Chet Porter is an up and coming producer from Toronto looking to make an impression on the electronic music scene. Though his debut single “Awakening” was released only less than a year ago, Chet has achieved a great deal of growth and popularity. His remixes, in particular, have caught the attention of new listeners and fans - all taking note of his integration of existing vocal samples with original drum progressions and unique sounds. Check out his music here

The young producer is currently on tour with LEMAITRE, an indie electronic duo from Norway. I was able to chat with Chet prior to his performance at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.

When and why did you start producing and performing?
I used to be in a band actually. We signed some weird record deal and ended up breaking up because of it. That's when I realized I still wanted to make music, but I knew I couldn’t play guitar, drums, and all this stuff by myself so I sort of just turned to trying to making music on my computer. Yeah, so it was sort of accidental - me just wanting to still make music and still use the components that you would see with a band. So that's how I turned more electronic.  

Which instruments and what type of equipment do you use?
I used to play guitar and sometimes bass - but mostly guitar. Now for producing I just use my laptop. For live performances I use my MacBook, I have a couple keyboards, SPD-SX for drums to trigger samples. I always want to expand it, but it's just a lot to travel with. So for right now I am good with where it is. And for producing the software I use is Logic. I’ve always thought about switching to Ableton but I have just always used Logic. The way I do my sets my songs is I’ll have an edit of my tracks with either a drum part or a piano part missing - so it can be very intricate where I’m still doing a set but also playing those missing parts over it or on parts that I want to be playing. 

Do you mostly play your own music during sets?
Yeah mostly. This particular set starts off with mostly me, then I do a bit of classic DJing in the middle - so I have some flexibility. For the most part, the first part of the set will be the same, and the last parts of sets will be the same. But as for the middle, I am able to play different things if I want to just for the fun of it. 

Growing up was your family at all involved in music?
Uhm, no actually - like no one at all. My brother really enjoyed listening to music - he would always go out and get CDs and stuff. He was more of a big music fan I guess, but he never really played anything.

So how did you initially get involved with music and instruments in general - what was the initial pull to start?
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Canadian music, but there was this program that was sort of like our MTV - and I think that was what made me want to buy a guitar. There was this band called Alexisonfire - they were kind of Screamo I guess but also very technical and fun. It was kind of before most of these other Screamo bands, and at the time it was very new and exciting. It made me felt like I really had to go out and get a guitar. 

Who are some of the musicians that you admire? Why?
Probably my favorite band for awhile - like years and years - has been Death Cab For Cutie. They always inspire me in some weird indirect way. In particular, their lyrics are so obscure - in general they just really great writing. On the electronic side, I would say Passion Pit, and Porter Robinson. I’m sure a lot of people can hear those influences. 

Have you ever had to deal with a mistake on stage or during a performance? How did you manage that situation?
Oh yeah, I literally make mistakes all the time. But usually they are like really small mistakes, I can easily recover. There have been times when I literally accidentally muted everything - it just like awkwardly goes quiet for how ever many seconds and I’m like “oh shoot.”  I’ll usually just hop on the mic be like “sorry everyone I messed up.” Luckily everyone sort of just laughed - I think acknowledging it sort of just helped it. But I don’t usually get on the mic that often, I guess I would say I’m more of a shy performer. 

Do you ever practice sets or production techniques? How often and what do you do to get better?
Ahhhh, I really should a lot more. Like before this tour, I’ll be completely honest, I really didn’t practice at all - but I really really should have. Not to say I’m playing really bad or anything, but its just a good habit to be practicing and I - I guess I just had a lot of other things to do and I just didn’t have enough time. But I wish I did though. 

What goes through your head before a performance? What kind of preparation do you do?
Nothing really hahaha. Someone asked me the other day what my pre-set ritual was and I was like “I literally just have no idea.” I guess I like quiet, but like sometimes I’m just talking to people and I’m like oh I have to go on - I just don’t even realize. So I guess I wouldn’t say I have a specific routine. I feel like if I were playing bigger shows or like I was headlining some massive room then I would probably want like 10 minutes to myself to just like get in the zone or something. But, with other shows I can really just have fun with it. 

What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing music but are hesitant or nervous to act upon this inclination?
Don’t be nervous. Just like keep making stuff. I go through - like once a month, I’m like “shoot, maybe I should just quit, I actually suck” - and then 30 days later I’ll make something cool and I’ll be like “oh okay, you don’t suck.” And I’ll just be really excited for five days and then it dies down again and I go back to feeling like I should quit. But there are times when I’m really nervous to just sit down and try to make something - because I just feel like I may not be able to. That’s when remixes can really come in handy. For some reason doing remixes for me are a lot easier that just like writing my own songs - so it sort of allows me - or I don’t know it just makes being creative somewhat easier. I guess I will have this vocal and it allows me to picture something underneath it. But when I start from nothing it can be hard to picture. 

How do you balance your music with the rest of your life?
I do music full time, but I guess the only things I try to balance it with are like friends and family and my girlfriend. It’s pretty easy right now because my girlfriend is living in Dubai -  but when she comes back it may be a little more difficult. And all my friends are doing things back home in Toronto. Like my friends are getting all their own places and having house warming parties and I’m not able to go. That's the only like bummer thing but I don't really have to worry about any other work stuff like that. Just relationships I guess. 

Are you currently working on any new music? (Album, Single, EP)
Yeah, I am working on an EP right now - it’s proving to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I want it to be really exciting and really me - and that's been a lot tougher than I thought to go about creating. But overall it’s coming along slowly. The mixing is also tough, because I’m using elements and instruments I haven’t really used before and it’s hard to make them all fit together. I also have a remix that just got approved today. Hopefully it will come out within the next few months, but I’m really excited about it. 

Can you tell us what it is or is that a secret?
I don’t really know, but it's for Broccoli hahah. But yeah I am really stoked - that’ll be a fun one.

How would you describe your music or your specific sound?
There are so many subgenres - and what happens is some producer will put a song on Soundcloud that sounds like nothing else and so people just sort of give it a new name - that happens like every day now. I just call it all electronic music or I guess you could say this new stuff is going in more of an indie pop direction. I don’t know, genres are tough nowadays - it’s actually ridiculous. I had someone online refer to me as an anime, super bass thing and I don’t know anime isn’t really a genre hahaha it didn’t really make sense. 

I’ve seen your remixes have earned you a lot of attention. Is there a remix in particular that was especially enjoyable to work on? Additionally, how do remixes differ from original tracks in terms of your creative process and approach?
I think my two favorite things I have ever done were actually remixes. One of them being “It’s Strange” by Louis the Child. I feel like that remix was sort of the music I had always been trying to make. That became sort of a moment where I felt like I almost 100% succeeded in doing what I wanted to do. I would say the same thing about my remix for “Over U” by Hitmane. Yeah those two just came together really well - I was very happy with them. For remixes I pretty much take the vocals - like when you have that vocal there you can imagine thins going underneath it, but when starting from scratch on an original, it’s hard to picture something under silence. There isn’t necessarily something sparking that idea. You just sort of have to create it out of thin air without this vocal - which is really a tool that gives you a bit of a guideline. I have these options when I hear it and then I can take it into different directions, but I know what each of those directions are. 

Do you ever use original vocals in your music?
Yeah, actually in the Broccoli Remix - I actually used my voice. So I just like recorded myself, then just really really messed with it. It’s a cool sound though. I like sang this note, then I cut it, and then I put distortion on it. - Oh wait, I put autotune on it first hahah just to make sure it didn’t suck. Then I bounced that out again and then dragged it into a sampler, and then I think I just went through a lot more processing on it. 

What do you hope to accomplish during your live sets/performances? 
I hope that - well I obviously want people to have fun and enjoy the music and stuff. But a lot of the times I feel like I am playing to EDM crowds. And I hope that in some ways I am introducing them some more maybe relaxed music. I don’t know - I have never been too much of a party music guy, but I always end up playing with people who do a bit more of the party music. I’ve never hated that, I love like EDM and fun songs, but i just have never really been making that. I guess I just hope I can introduce people to something new and maybe they’ll think “oh this is cool,” or maybe it will inspire them to try making something that's different. I think more often than not the people I play with can be a little more high energy than myself. 

What is your approach to music discovery? How do you keep your personal library up to date?
Okay - this is like a really good question for me because I don’t. If you have any new music please give it to me hahaha. I have nothing right now. I am so just not up to date it's pretty insane. I guess just lately I have been so focused on just trying to make my own thing. Like it’s hard to listen to music while you are making music. I am just really behind.  

Do you ever just stumble upon a song and it inspires you?
Definitely. Not so much lately, but certainly in general. Like most of the time if I hear a new song it’s probably because one of my close friends told me to listen to it. At least lately, just because I haven’t really had the time to go digging.  


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