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Review and Photos by Dave MacIntyre

Canadian Music Week 2011

I never make it part of my normal routine to start off a Canadian Music Fest evening with bass-heavy electronic music and then move on to folky-acoustic sets. Really good techno is infectious and gets trapped in my head, making the appreciation for a banjo playing musician challenging. So what made Wednesday night different then? Jake Brower did.

To the misfortune of patrons who didn’t arrive early, the artist better know as Robot Bomb Shelter, the San Francisco based electro wizard worked his brand of catchy dance tunes to a steadily filling room. What makes RBS’s music so unique is the fact that he creates it on the spot using a laptop and an Akai APC40. Everything coming from the speakers is improvised, original and highly magnetic in its appeal, as those who did take advantage of the roomy dance floor would testify. It was a fantastic set, but as feared, ruined any hopes I had of listening to other bands that night. I headed home with Robot Bomb Shelter’s 10-track CD Staring at Screens booming through my speakers.


Read the full article here.

Looking back at 2011’s electronic concerts and what’s to come for 2012

Toronto played host to some of the best live performances in 2011 spanning all musical genres. This alone is not news, but the big change worth noting was the increase in electronic artists that entertained the city and the enormous growth in popularity of electronic music (if you’re still not convinced, check out the list of electronic acts on theCoachella 2012 line up).

Whether they were stand-alone shows in one of the city’s countless intimate venues or a large-capacity stadium, electronic artists recognized Toronto as a must-play city in their tour circuit.

Now a recap in order of perfromance date, complete with a photo slideshow, of just a handful of the electronic shows I was fortunate to catch last year.

Robot Bomb Shelter aka Jake Brower visited during Canadian Music Week and wowed the audience with his on-the-spot electro grooves. He’s a name to watch as popularity in the genre continues to grow and we hope to see him for 2012’s CWM.

A chat with electronic mastermind Robot Bomb Shelter

Jake Brower, also known as Robot Bomb Shelter, is changing the dance floor experience with his innovative, fresh and extremely infectious brand of techno. What sets Robot Bomb Shelter apart is the fact that he creates the music on the spot. The beats are not pre-scripted, and Jake is not a DJ. The music is unique, improvised and always original. Most importantly, the music is amazing!

Robot Bomb Shelter took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his music, influences and upcoming plans.

At what age did you get involved with music? When did you realize you were serious about it? Did your parents approve?

I started studying music in the 4th grade by learning the clarinet. I quickly developed an aptitude for being able to pick up an instrument and play it. From there, I learned the oboe and bassoon and other woodwind instruments as well as piano. In the late 70s, I wasn't really into radio music. What was playing on the radio or on my parents' hifi wasn't what I was interested in...groups like Fleetwood Mac or Rod Stewart or Rolling Stones. I just didn't groove on those styles.

In late 1981 - when I was 11 - I was listening to the radio at some underground station and this band came on and it would forever change my life. The band was Front 242 and the song was Body to Body. Never before had I heard such amazing sounds that really slapped everything else in the face. I was hooked. I then went on a mission to find more like that...and I found a lot. The European music scene was bustling with this new electronic sound that really made me happy.

In 1987, I realized that making the music that influenced me was what I wanted to do, so I bought a cheap Casio keyboard and, using the rudimentary tools of the time, tried to recreate what I was hearing. I would spend hours playing "live" while I listened to the music. I didn't know how to record at that point.

I ended up being in a couple of bands in high school and throughout college and they really taught me about song construction and how to collaborate. It even taught me about what makes people dance and what doesn't. That's why I tended to go more towards industrial dance...Techno was in its infancy.

My parents did approve, but never imagined that I would really do anything with it. My dad was a classical 12-string guitarist and he loved it when I played for him. They had a harder time approving when I was being loud in the basement. My parents are so proud now and they couldn't be happier knowing that I am doing what I love.

Are you a self-taught musician / singer or formally trained? What instruments can you play? Are you planning to learn others?

I am classically trained as far as wind instruments and piano, but what I do now is self taught, with a ton of influence from my past. I study a ton.

Over the years, I learned more and more about hardware and software and how they interact. I became a controllerist so I am not bound by a mouse or what's on the screen or by a set list; it's about feeling. I am always learning more. In fact, I try to keep up on uber current technology and how it might fit into my arsenal.

How would you describe your music and your approach to songwriting?

I would describe my music as hard-hitting intelligent Techno. Over the past 20 years, I have evolved many times and taken pieces of each era or influence and made it my own. Now, when I evolve, it's usually by incremental jumps as opposed to leaping chasms in my younger years. I have found my sound, but I still learn something new every day.

My approach is simple: I create music that makes me happy. I really create music for myself first. If I don't love it, chances are others won't either. I don't put anything out that isn't a "10." I often find myself dancing to my tracks in the dark or even hearing new things that I don't recall making. I like using new techniques and methods to really make my tracks sing. I study a lot. I study at shows and break apart what the artist is doing on stage; I study everywhere I hear music.

I feel that a lot of music is changing so rapidly and new "genres" are being defined so quickly that some may have given up their influence to jump on the bandwagon. I really feel that it should take a musician 20+ years to learn and hone their sound. That's why it took me 22 years to put out my first official album.

I also believe in the live performance. What I do on stage is mostly improvisation; that's why no two shows are the same. I really want to help people understand that electronic dance music can be played live and is a skill that has taken years - decades - to develop. Many people believe that I am DJing, simply because they see a solo artist behind machines and computers. My mission is to change people's minds, one show at a time. I like to play near or on the floor so people can actually see what I am doing.

Are your songs written based on personal life experiences or from external influences? If both, which is the dominant source?

They are based on both, but the dominant source is personal. I have so much music in me and I can now tell - especially after I've written a track - what I was thinking when I made it. It's not as readily apparent in the beginning.

Most of my music is based on my degree of happiness.

Is making music your full-time job or do you have a day job?

Music is my full-time job.

If you didn't discover music as a career, what do you think you'd be doing professionally?

I have a degree in Computer Science, which has also helped me bridge the gap between the theoretical and the practical. I am not afraid of technology and, in fact, I embrace it. I was a software QA engineer for 15 years and worked in IT for nearly 20. I also have worked in process improvement design and implementation. Music, for me, is all about process, so it has helped in the professional world, too.

I would most likely be working with computers, process and technology.

Do you remember the first vinyl/CD etc you ever purchased? Who was it and do you still listen to them?

From question 1, I sought out Front 242 and bought the 7" record. CDs weren't around yet. I bought everything they put out, went to all of their local shows and even met them a few times. I still have pieces of a stage from a performance they did in Seattle, WA, back in 1992.

I still listen to them. They have also evolved over the years and gone through big changes...some good and some not so much, IMO. But, I am still a huge fan.

Who are your biggest influences?

Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Plastikman (Richie Hawtin), Depeche Mode, deadmau5, Fever Ray, MSTRKRFT, Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco, Meat Beat Manifesto, Modeselektor, Crystal Castles, Boys Noize, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, Severed Heads, Ministry...

If you could tour with any currently active band / artist, who would it be?

That is a tough one. I think I would do well with deadmau5, MSTRKRFT or Simian Mobile Disco.

What are your plans for the future?

I am in the studio now working on my 3rd professional release. It is an album of hard dance floor bangers that represent many new techniques in audio processing, effects and sound manipulation. I am also taking it back to my roots giving homage to where I began. I recently dropped a new track that had never been heard before (outside my studio) and the crowd went insane. THAT'S what makes me happy. I am also in the process of co-creating an electronic music collective in San Francisco by the name of We Were The Future. Look for that soon.

Jake was recently signed to Blue Pie Records in Australia and has the following appearances scheduled. Do not miss your chance to see him work his magic!

(c) 2012,Robot Bomb Shelter