Porter Robinson has shared his contribution to the League Of Legends’ Star Guardian event and it’s a far more emotional, gut-wrenching anthem than we’re used to hearing for Riot’s multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).
Speaking to NME, Robinson explains that it’s because he has such a personal connection to the game. But he wasn’t always such a big fan.
Robinson’s fiancé has been a League player for close to a decade now and, as you might expect, was always trying to get him to play. He was finally convinced to give it a go at the beginning of the pandemic and “it ended up being something really good for me and my friend group.”
“That promise of working together with my friends kept me coming back,” he continues. “It’s different to Diablo or World Of Warcraft, where it’s just this endless grind. The best description I’ve heard for League is that it’s basically a game of basketball where every time you score a point, you grow an inch. It’s intensely competitive and I love that.”
“There’s a reason people don’t play on easy against NPCs all day. It’s not the little burst of gold that’s fun. It’s not watching the enemy character fall over that’s fun. It’s not the exploding tower that’s fun. It’s the fact that you’re winning against somebody. When me and my friends are playing together, and we’re losing but then we all clutch up, and everyone works together, and we turn it specifically because of our teamwork, concentration and focus, it just feels meaningful to me.”
Once hooked on playing League in the evenings, Robinson then saw Arcane and fell in love with the world: “I thought it was incredible.” The musician was sure he’d previously turned down a Riot-collaboration in the past because it didn’t feel like the right fit at the time, so hoping he hadn’t missed his chance, he approached the studio and offered to do something for the second season of Arcane. Instead, Riot mentioned the Star Guardian event and Robinson set to work almost immediately.
The resulting track is ‘Everything Goes On’, a beautiful song that wrestles with melancholy, hope, love, desire and loss. Porter might have made a name for himself as an EDM DJ with the release of his 2014 debut album ‘Worlds’ and was first inspired to make music by the pulsating beats of Dance Dance Revolution but in recent years, he’s embraced the world of emotional indie rock. Robinson’s second album, ‘Nurture’, is as stunning as it is heartbreaking and ‘Everything Goes On’ continues that journey.
League Of Legends’ 2022 Star Guardian event is a tribute to the mahō shōjo genre of anime and Porter Robinson’s track was inspired by his favourite entry in that genre – the subversive, shocking and graphically violent Madoka Magica.
In the anime, the girls take an oath to become superheroes to fight monsters, but those powers come at a cost. “I took that and imagined the Star Guardians taking this oath to become superpowered beings, but in exchange for all that power all of their loved ones would basically forget that they exist. They would forgo their real life for this super life.“
“What if I was with someone that I loved and I knew that when the sun rose the next morning, that they would forget that I ever existed. What would that last night be like and what would I want to say?”
That fictional world soon “pivoted towards real life,” said Robinson. “My fiancé has been having some health issues over the course of the last year and when someone you love is suffering, it brings to mind ideas of mortality, grief and loss. She’s going to be totally okay but it’s been really difficult.”
‘Everything Goes On’ is “basically about what it’s like to be in love as a mortal creature. It’s about wanting to get better, wanting to go and experience life fully but also worrying that you might not be able to do the things that you want to do. I tried to find the jelly centre of the pain and grief that’s at the core of love.”
“It’s just the type of music I make,” explains Robinson. “I know a lot of League’s music has been these arena-sized battle anthems, but I wanted to make something that was more of a tearjerker.”
The song forgoes that larger-than-life expression for something more intimate. “I don’t like the idea of something just being aesthetically emotional. I want it to be heartfelt and sincere, because I think people can sniff out when something doesn’t feel fully honest. My initial approach might have been this fictional idea but as I continued working, I knew I had to put my heart into it. I had to put some vulnerability on the line, or else it’s not going to be as meaningful as it could be.”
“I didn’t want anyone to hear the song and think it sounds like something I just made for a game, y’know. I want people to hear that I put the same level of effort, care and heart into it, that I would for any of my other songs,” he continues. “If you’re going to say words on a song, if you’re going to use language to convey meaning, there better be real meaning there.”
Robinson’s collaboration with League Of Legends comes at a time where the worlds of music and gaming are becoming more and more intertwined. “It feels like Riot in particular have realised the importance of that connection and have made an actual, focused efforts to make the most of it,” says Robinson. “I’m just really excited to be involved and be involved in the right way. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
‘Everything Goes On’ isn’t a leftover track from ‘Nurture’ or a throwaway song written in one afternoon. “I spent a few months of my life working on this track, trying to make it as good as it could possibly be. It’s not about getting in front of Riot’s audience, it’s a really heartfelt song that means a lot to me,” says Porter Robinson. “Plus, I think if I saw the animation and heard this song, I’d be clamouring for a Star Guardian anime.”
Robinson is currently putting the finishing touches to plans for his annual Second Sky festival, which is taking place in October in Oakland. Apart from that though, he’s planning some “extensive” time off after a busy 12 months that have seen him release an album and tour it. After working 16 days straight at the end of last month, he’s just had four days off where he’s done nothing but play video games – both League Of Legends and Chivalry 2.
Porter Robinson has reached the point in his career where he only does the stuff he truly wants to, whether that’s curating his own festival or pouring himself into a song for one of his favourite games.
“That’s my entire mission in life. And it’s not just this principled thing where I’m doing it because I think you should only do the things that you’re passionate about and if you don’t that’s some sort of moral failing. It’s because the only things I’m good at, are things I love.”
Again, that’s why ‘Everything Goes On’ sounds the way it does and says the things it does.
“If I try to make a song that I think people will like, I’m playing with this very simplified cartoon version of other people’s taste that I don’t understand all that well. If you do that, you’re pandering to this very simplified notion of what you think will resonate with people,” says Porter Robinson. “What I understand much better is that I love. I understand that in vivid detail, so that has to be the guiding light in everything I do.”
“I’ve learnt that if I only make things I love, then people who have similar tastes to me will rock with it. Sure, other people might hate it but passion is such a good guiding light,” he explains. “I’m always actively looking for new things to inspire me as well, because I can’t get enough stuff to love.”