Riot Games has been circling Porter Robinson for a few years now. The company behind League of Legends has previously tried to collab with the mega-popular electronic artist, but for Robinson, the time just wasn't right. After finally getting into League of Legends back in 2020 and later being engrossed by the Netflix series Arcane, Robinson and those at Riot have finally found a way to come together for this year's Star Guardians event.
In finally teaming up with Riot for "Everything Goes On," Robinson wanted to make a song that served multiple purposes. Not only does it stand as the pseudo theme for Star Guardians, which kicks off today in League of Legends, Wild Rift, and Teamfight Tactics, but Robinson wanted the track to mean something to him on a personal level. Rather than just creating a composition that was thought of from the outset as being tied to a video game, Robinson stuck to his usual song-making process and looked within to come up with ideas that matched the themes of loss and moving on.
To coincide with the release of "Everything Goes On," we recently had the chance to speak with Robinson about his journey in making the song and where his inspiration for it came from. We also chatted about what it was like to work with Riot's music team, the process of matching the music with its animated video counterpart, and what his own favorite champs to play as in League of Legends are.
Becoming Familiarized With League
ComicBook.com: Before we get too much talking about the song and Star Guardians and how the collaboration came about, I'd love to get a little bit more of your own personal history with League of Legends. Can you maybe just talk about how you got interested in League in the first place?
Porter Robinson: Yeah, so my fiancée, Rika, has been playing League since I think 2013. She's been playing for a really long time. She'd been encouraging me to play forever. She wanted to play together. For the longest time, she would play League while I would go play VR games. This was for years. One day, it was early pandemic, I tried it and yeah, I got the bug. Everyone understands it after dying 20 times in a row, and then you finally get a kill and you realize like, oh...
To me, the thing that makes League, the thing that keeps me coming back, is it's a truly competitive sports-like experience. There's something fundamentally human and meaningful about besting somebody who's also trying their best to beat you. We're sensitive to that. League presents a really good arena for real competition. Especially, and this is what I found out over the course of the pandemic, was when I would be in a five stack with all my actual friends and we were losing and it looked hopeless, and then we all focused up and clutched it, we'd turn the game at the 11th hour and just barely sneak away with a victory. That's one of the best experiences I've ever had in video games.
That's what I really grew to love about it is that the highs with League are really high. It just became this group activity that I loved doing with my friends.prevnext
Porter's Favorite Champions and Role
CB: So I also have to know, what role do you play? And who are some of your favorite champions?
PR: Weirdly, I play a jungler in the mid lane. I play Diana mid. That's where I've found the most success. My fiancée is an ADC main. She plays Caitlyn, Jinx, and Jinn. She's also an incredible Syndra support and Syndra mid player. I feel like it's low-key her best champ. We've done one vs ones. I've only ever beaten her in a single one vs one when she was playing Syndra mid. She's way better than me. I also play Xerath support. Yeah. Diana mid, Xerath support, Trundle top. Yeah, I got some junglers in my pool for some reason, but I don't know how to jungle.
CB: I've been playing a ton of Diana this year myself. She's been really strong and has been a ton of fun to play lately.
PR: She's really strong. When you master her E, I feel like that's it. She's a simple champ, but like when you get really good at knowing when to double E and when to save it for your next Moonlight. Anyway, she's awesome.prevnext
Introduction to Riot's Music Team
CB: With you being a bit newer to the League of Legends scene, were you previously familiar with what Riot was doing in the music space? Is that something that you took note of as a musician from afar?
PR: Yes, I was familiar in a couple of ways. One was that one of my close friends and colleagues, Zedd, I think did one of the songs for Worlds one year. I also need to triple-check this, but I'm pretty sure that Riot also even hit me up a few years ago to do something. I didn't end up making the time for it in large part because I wasn't super familiar with their games and didn't want to do something that I wasn't truly passionate about. The trajectory basically was that I heard some of Imagine Dragons' songs as well and since I got into League, I was a really big fan of a short they did for the 2019 season, which was called A New Journey.
It's an anime short that was made by P.A. Works. The basic plot is that this girl, she's on like a college campus and she gets handed a flyer that says to join the esports team. There are all these cute little jokes in there. She tries Yasuo for the first game and completely runs it down. I saw my own experience reflected because at the end of the short, her and four of her friends make up a five stack, they win a game and they all celebrate in high five and I'm like, "Damn, that's me." That was one of the big inspirations behind this, but then as far as how I actually got into it, there was a bit of a reversal because I watched Arcane and I thought it was incredible.prevnext
Arcane's Influence to Work With Riot
CB: What did you think about Arcane before you watched it? And how much did that series potentially make you want to work with Riot?
PR: I had tempered my expectations for sure. I just didn't know how it was going to be. By the time I got to the third episode, I was like, "This is shaping up to be one of my favorite stories." I've expressed this before, but the thing that I love so much about Arcane is the way that almost every character's motivations are super well substantiated. There are few characters to me that feel like pure plot devices. Everyone in that show to me felt fairly believable but also functional. Yeah, as a fan of stories, I really had a lot of admiration for Arcane.
That's a very long-winded way of saying that after watching Arcane, I was like, "I want to be involved." I reached out actually with the intent of wanting to do some music for Arcane. Riot was like, "Yeah, we'd love to have you. In the short term, we have this other thing that your name has come up a bunch when we were putting this idea together initially, we think you'd be a really good fit for it." That was 2022's Star Guardian event and the anime music video.prevnext
Beginning to Develop "Everything Goes On"
CB: Once you got looped in with Riot and agreed to work on this Star Guardians song, what was that process like?
PR: At first I was like, "Okay, let me see if I can come up with something for this." I said, "Give me a week." I asked Brendon Williams from Riot games music. I was like, "Literally go around your studio and just play random piano parts and play random guitar parts and I'll start chopping them up as samples and stuff like that. Start seeing if I can make a little sample-based composition from it."
Throughout that week I wrote something that was the basis of "Everything Goes On". I was like, "Oh, this is really something." The more I worked on it, the more I came to feel that this wasn't just something that I was doing for a game company or in collaboration with a game company, but a song that was really, truly heartfelt and expressing the exact thing that was on my mind. Also was a pretty good fit for Star Guardians in this world.
That was really important to me. For me, I want to make sure that everything that I do is done with full sincerity and for the right reasons. I wanted to make it something real and something that had a lot of meaning both personally, and also worked for the event and felt like an expression of some of those feelings of hope and grief that are so present in this whole Star Guardian campaign.prevnext
The Collaborative Process
CB: It's interesting how quickly this all came together, especially since Arcane was only just released at the end of last year. When you were working on "Everything Goes On," how much of this was really just you going off and creating the track and then bringing it back to Riot? Where did they step in and really help with the creation process?
PR: I would say the vast majority of it was just me alone in my studio trying to make a song I was happy with. The process for me, it was fairly similar to my typical songwriting process where I'll get a little bit of an instrumental idea that feels like a world that I want to live in for the next couple of months. Musically, it's a world that I feel like I can stay there and write lyrics and ideas and try to imbue with various meanings and approach it from all angles. I wrote the basics of the song, an initial verse idea, the pre-chorus and the chorus. I sent all that stuff after probably a few weeks of maybe worrying everyone at Riot and sent it to Brendon Williams from Riot Games.
He was like, "Oh, wow. This is pretty far along." They gave me some notes like, "We want like a little more energy in this place." I think maybe the biggest relief of this entire process was that I felt like every single note that I was given served the song, even if Riot was like, "Actually, we're not doing this project, but you can release this song anyways." I would've reflected all of their feedback in the final version of the song, because it was all just really good insight. It was like, "We need some like crash symbols here because we want this section to feel like a little more high energy." A lot of those things were things that I had considered, but then not done or some things that I hadn't considered at all. It was all really positive feedback and just really good insight. All of the string arrangement that you hear in the music, that was a hundred percent Brendon.
CB: The strings stand out a lot in the song, I was actually going to specifically bring that up with you.
PR: Yeah, that's Brendon's work there. He's an absolute mastermind with that stuff. I got to have the rare pleasure of watching him work. We went to Warner Brothers Studios and watched this unbelievable orchestra play. For me, I'm a software person. I've always made music pretty much completely using software and my own voice. For me, if I have a synthesizer, I know how to tweak the various parameters and make it sound the way I want. Watching that be done with a human orchestra, some of the most talented players in the world, and then being like, "Okay, can you speed up this legato here to our violas. I want you all to come in slower on this part." Watching that morph in real-time and getting to take part in that. Maybe I'm understating my own involvement here a little bit.
One of the really interesting things that Brendon contributed was... I had started this initial idea and I asked Brendon without ever hearing any of the music, if he could just record me random piano ideas, guitar ideas made him think of Star Guardian and made him think of my music in general, my type of harmonies and stuff like that. I thought if my initial idea doesn't work out, I can start running with some of his ideas and maybe I can blossom a really small part into a full track. My own initial idea ended up becoming the song.
One of the random guitar parts that he recorded is pretty much the entire pre-chorus of the song. That was written and played without ever having heard my music. I grabbed what he did and I just did really small changes to it to make sure it was in the same key, in the same tempo, super simple stuff. That little demo recording he did is in the final version of the song. There's this electric guitar that plays in the background and it was completely Brendon's contribution and it just ended up beautifully matching what I had started.prevnext
Where the Lyrics Come From
CB: So how did you come up with the lyrics for the song? Were you really focused on trying to make what you wrote applicable to Star Guardian?
PR: My head canon about Star Guardian when I first started this and one that really affected the lyrics was I thought it would be really beautiful and interesting if when the characters basically take the oath to become Star Guardians, that in exchange for this oath that they take, their loved ones and everyone who knows them will magically have to forget about them. That's the cost of what they're doing is that one day, they'll know you and then basically everyone's memory of you is wiped. I wrote the chorus with that in mind, imagining the last night together as someone who's going to take the Star Guardian pledge and become a Star Guardian. What would that last night with somebody be like in your apartment or whatever, going to bed, knowing that when the sun rises, they'll have forgotten all about you. You can hear the DNA of that fictional idea, which is not canonically true throughout the track.
Over time, as I continued working on the song, the lyrics started turning more toward the nonfictional and the personal things that I was really going through. A lot of the song is written about what it means to be in love and to know that you and the person you love are both just mortal and that you have limited time with somebody. The thing that brought that to the front of my mind was that while I was writing this song, my fiancée was going through some health issues -- not by any means life-threatening stuff. Just stuff that was really affecting her life and our life together.
My imagination naturally turned to writing from the perspective of being someone who was really sick and writing from the perspective of someone who's taking care of someone who's really sick, which is also a reflection of some other stuff I've been through in my life.
One other really important meaning of this song that I want to talk about is the last chorus of the song reframes the chorus in a way that I think is interesting. The chorus lyrically goes, "Don't try to make yourself remember, don't look for me. I'm just a story you've been told. Let's pretend a little longer. This is when we're gone, everything goes on." The basic sentiment there is saying, just forget about me, I'm just a burden. It would be easier. I'll spare you the pain. Just try to forget I ever existed. I didn't want to end the song on saying something that I didn't really believe. I don't think that's the best way to deal with grief or suffering is to give up.
The last pre-chorus reframes that statement by saying right before the last chorus drops where the chorus is going to say, "Just forget about me." The pre-chorus says, "I asked you to forget me, but you stayed by my side when I said, 'Forget all about me.'" I like the fact that the first two choruses earnestly are saying, "Just forget me." And then the last chorus says, "Hey, thank you so much for sticking with me when I was saying this bullshit earlier when I was in my feelings, and thanks for sticking with me when I was in such a sorry state."
I explain all that, just to say that the song's lyrics, they began through me imagining something fictional because stories are meaningful. But then they sort of turned towards personal things that I was really going through. What I'm saying is it was really important to me not to just like make a song for a game company. I wanted it to be heartfelt. I wanted it to be meaningful. I wanted it to be real, but I wanted Riot to like it. I wanted the fans to like it. Myself, I wanted to be able to stand by it. It was a pretty big effort, especially with the lyrics to try to make sure that all the meanings were true and good.prevnext
Matching the Music to the Video
CB: I imagine that one of the hardest things about this whole process is that Riot probably had some work done on the animated video long before you ever joined on to create the song. How much of the video had you already seen before you even started creating the track? And then how did you go about trying to get it to match the animation?
PR: When I first jumped on, there was no video yet. There was just a rough outline of the plot that was written. That was definitely on my mind, but it did not stop me from charging ahead with my own canon that I had in my mind. I felt inspired by it and I felt like it didn't matter too much if what I had in my head didn't perfectly match what was playing on screen.
Think about all the glorious AMVs of yesteryear. When Linkin Park wrote "In The End," they surely weren't thinking of Evangelion, but it's an incredible combination. I'm a big believer of sometimes the meaning of the music and the visual can be far apart. They had definitely gotten started. My main way of contributing to the video was besides being shown versions every once in a while and just giving a little bit of feedback on fairly small details. Although I think some of this stuff ended up being important.
The video edit I think ended up being really important. The full song is three minutes and 30 seconds, but I had to edit the song down to two minutes and 20 seconds for the animated video. I've made radio edits of songs before where you just cut to the best parts or you cut it in a way that does the least damage possible to the overall identity of the song. That approach wasn't good enough for this version. I was basically editing the music while watching the video and editing it to the video. It led to me making some interesting structural decisions.
The music was edited with a lot of care for the animation. I really wanted to make sure that each of the climaxes of the animated video matched with a lyrical or musical climax. That was one way where I think I was able to help out a lot, especially at the 11th hour. I had the whole song written, but I was like, "This needs to suit this two minutes 20 second video as well as it can."prevnext
Interest in Working With Riot Once Again
CB: Now that you've worked with Riot in this capacity on Star Guardian, would you have any interest in collaborating with the company again down the road? I know that in the past, they've worked with a number of musicians in repeated instances.
PR: I would totally be down. This was such a good experience and everyone that I worked with it right, was just extremely cool. I really liked their whole world. I love the campus. I love everyone that I worked with. Like, the whole experience was really good. And I think one thing that means a lot to me was that I felt like everyone at Riot kind of met me and my team where we are in terms of being down to try to accommodate my vision as much as possible. I think there are things that could have been way easier for everyone at Riot. If they'd had just been like, "Nope, it's this way yeah, we don't care about the art. Let's just get it done."
It was never like that. If you want it to be this way, like, let's make it work. I really think that the final product benefited so much from the room, not just the room that was left for passion. The priority that passion and artistic vision were given in every aspect of this collaboration. It did not feel like we were making a product. It felt like we were making art and that's a condition for me. I'm just so happy about that.prev