Porter Robinson Special Interview about “Po-uta”

Q1: How do you feel about your voice becoming a "Po-uta" voice bank this time? Also, how did you feel about using "Po-uta" in the actual production of the demo song?

The opportunity to turn my voice, in the pitched-up way that I used in my album Nurture album, is a total dream for me. Vocaloid music was such a pivotal influence on the Nurture album -- I used to drive around in my car listening to DECO*27, KZ/Livetune, Sasakure.UK, and buzzG, and their sounds were very influential to me. It helped inspire my love of the melancholic sound of Japanese chord progressions and melodic sensibility. I thought it was extremely cool when Fukase's voice was immortalized through Vocaloid, and so I'm extremely honored to be able to do the same.

Using the voice bank was inspiring, because it forces me to work in a different way -- you become very methodological about the syllables. Normally, when I write music, I start by singing fake English into auto-tune, and then I start to form words later. Using VOCALOID made me want to form the meanings and melodies in parallel.

Q2: What are your thoughts or hope on the demo song?

I want people to contemplate the future of AI, and to feel a bit of grief and sadness for all of the confusion and ethical dilemmas that will emerge in the age of AI. It's a story about an artificial mind, Po-uta, who looks up to me, Porter, as a father figure. But because I'm mortal and he's not, he's separated from me for all eternity, and comes to terms with the grief that ensues. It's a story about a child grieving its parent. Of course, it's looking at AI through the lens of human emotions, so I don't know if it's realistic, but after all it's art that's meant to resonate with humans.

Q3: What made you decide to create "Po-uta" this time?

I just love Vocaloid and Vocaloid music so much. The opportunity seemed very cool to me. This kind of thing is just as meaningful to me as any award... the opportunity to be involved in the world of VOCALOID that's brought me so much inspiration, I hope I, too, can inspire someone else.

Q4: Please tell us about your encounter with VOCALOID and your episode that led you to VOCALOID.

Like a lot of other people who are interested in Japan and Otaku culture, I became aware of Hatsune Miku a long time ago. When I was writing my 2014 album Worlds, I wanted to inspire similar feelings -- the alien familiarity, the cuteness, the strange emotion that accompanies a digital voice felt needed in that album,  which was a reflection on the memories we make in fictional universes. Before long, I found the English-language vocaloid named "Avanna", and used it on three songs on the album -- Sad Machine, Fresh Static Snow, and Goodbye to a World. Since then, "Avanna" sort of feels like a classic character in the English-language Vocaloid world. I'm happy to have some part of that.

Q5: What is your favorite part of VOCALOID?

Vocals are the most powerful element in music, because they convey both melody and meaning. It's an indescribably powerful combination. And variations on the human voice are extremely interesting -- some of my first exposure to electronic music was through Daft Punk, who have used the vocoder and talkbox extensively, as well as other voice-shifting techniques. Vocaloid was the natural next step in these technologies, and it's extremely powerful -- not just because it's a great songwriting tool, but because of the sound, which is a little artificial in a good way. Its eccentricities make the magic.

Q6: Do you plan to use VOCALOID and "Po-uta" for future productions?

I associate Po-uta fairly strongly with the sound of Nurture, since it's using the same pitched-up and formant-shifted vocal effect I used so much on that album. So, in a way, Po-uta feels a bit like a way of immortalizing that sound, so for me, it feels kind of final. But, to be honest, I can't plan very much in the studio. I don't think creativity respects plans at all. I make my best work when I'm exploring with a playful, heartfelt instinct that defies logic, rather than planning with my mind. So, that's to say, who knows what'll happen.

Q7: If you have any ideas about who you want to use Po-uta, or what you want Po-uta to do, please let us know.

I really hope that Vocaloid creators and songwriters will embrace his unique voice and give him original songs that explore his character!

Q8: What are your expectations for VOCALOID in the future?

I think that VOCALOID will continue to become more and more flexible and realistic as time goes by. I think it's possible that AI will be able to suggest melodies, suggest intonations, pitch-scoops, and even lyrics at some point in the future. My hope is that human beings can retain the spirit of artists that use the tools in front of them -- no matter what they are -- to explore and express the ideas in their hearts that are trying to take shape.

Q9: Please give us a message to your fans.

Thanks for caring about my music, I'm grateful for you -- let's make the most of our time being alive in this world.