Special thanks to Steve Porter, Lindsay Tillis, and Jacqueline Kauffman for making this interview happen.
You grew up in Western Massachusetts in the 1980′s. You love basketball—even had a half-court in your backyard as a kid. Naturally, you fell in love with the Boston Celtics. You grew older on a healthy diet of Larry Bird, trophies, banners, parades, and the nutritious hatred of Magic Johnson and all things Laker.
You played basketball until you realized you’d never be able to dunk. Never be Larry Bird. Never be Kevin McHale.
Now, the Boston Celtics are playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, and the last commercial you made in collaboration with the NBA marketing division is set to air.
Welcome to the life of Steve Porter,31, a DJ and producer who grew up in Amherst, MA, just 95 miles west of the TD Garden.
Steve began producing when he was 16, in his dorm room at Williston-Northampton School—a boarding school in Easthampton, MA. While his friends studied, played sports, and hung out, Porter spent most of his days on his computer, downloading production software and creating innovative electronic dance music.
“I started tinkering around with software that I could find off the internet back in 1996,” Porter said. “I was downloading stuff off of dial-up.”
Porter practiced his DJ’ing at all school events, even his Senior Prom. After graduating from Williston, Porter decided to forego college and, instead, pursue a musical career. Porter quickly hooked up with a local record store, The Grow Room—open from 1997-2004—jumpstarting his life as a DJ.
“It was all about hard work,” Porter said. “I produced music like a madman–I still do.”
Porter’s popularity steadily rose, and he began DJ’ing in Boston and New York. In 2002, Porter began a global tour, DJ’ing around the world until 2009, when he began working with the NBA’s marketing division, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Porter may have travelled across Europe, Asia, and Australia but, to him, there is not a place in the world like the TD Garden at capacity crowd.
“The TD Garden is just hyped. It’s about the fans, it’s about the fun, it’s about the sound–non-stop.”
But what about the Staples Center, where Porter attended Game 1 of the NBA Finals?
“[The game] was amazing,” Porter said. “I just felt priveliged to be there.”
“I will say though, that the experience at the Staples Center doesn’t come close to what you get at the TD Garden. It’s more of a sitting crowd. I felt like I was in a stuffy hotel.”
VIDEO REMIX BEGINNINGS
Though Porter’s NBA commercials are a hit, his role in television advertising came about almost completely by accident. Porter created a new type of video remixing which exploded in popularity on Youtube. In his spare time, Porter would take a video, cut and splice the audio, rearranging the dialogue to match up with his own musical composition.
Video remixing became an internet sensation with Porter’s creation of Rap Chop, a remix of the Slap Chop infomercial which advertises a blade that dices, chops, and minces fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. in a matter of seconds. The rap-like video remix has generated more than 10 million views on Youtube and became so popular that it was used as the real Slap Chop infomercial.
“It was probably the third or fourth video I uploaded,” Porter said. “I was really, honestly, just experimenting and I had no idea that I was doing something I was good at.”
But Rap Chop was just the beginning of video remixing for Porter. Soon after, he created a video called Press Hop, which featured Allen Iverson’s infamous “We talkin’ bout practice” press conference and other sports hysteria. This video remix has been viewed more than 2.5 million times and has received attention from the NFL, NBA, and network television.
“Press Hop seems to be everybody’s favorite,” Porter said. “That video kind of started it all. The whole NBA campaign was anchored around the genesis of that video.”
Since the Youtube release of Press Hop, Porter has done video remixing for the NFL, Showtime, NBC’s sitcom, Community, and ABC’s sitcom, Cougartown.
NBA VIDEO REMIX COMMERCIALS
In September 2009, the NBA contracted Porter to compile 15 video remixes, the first airing November 3, 2009, and the last one airing this week during the NBA Finals. Porter’s NBA commercials have been a huge hit and a viral sensation—uploaded and viewed countless times on the internet.
Porter recently finished the last two installments, which will air during the NBA Finals. Both of the commercials are 60-second remixes of earlier installments. One of the commercials will remix the Amazing is the Dream spot, which focused on the legends of basketball.
“It’s a real tearjerker,” Porter said. ”It’s the kind of spot that will have grandpa snapping his fingers and crying a little bit.”
The final commercial will be all about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.
“We tweaked the teamwork commercial,”Porter said,”the one with Magic Johnson saying,’we gotta get back-into-our-game.’ It’s a 60-second version of that, and it’s all Lakers- Celtics. It’s really cool.”
After 10 months of exhausting work on the NBA project, Porter’s is excited to prepare for a tour of Asia in July, followed by Lolapalooza– an eight stage music festival in Grant Park in Chicago– from August 6-8.
“The NBA project was the biggest undertaking of my entire career,” Porter said. “It’s been exhausting– it’s taken all the creative energy I have. I put everything I have into this project.”
Imagine that: the man behind the NBA’s newest commercials, the man who has been making music since he was 16, the man who travelled around the world DJ’ing, has finally lost his energy.
Somehow, I don’t believe Mr. Porter. I think one more Celtics win, or another creative challenge, and all that energy will come flooding back.
And he may need it soon. Because there could be a party in Boston.
Who better to DJ?