Accidental Has a Chat with Jake Brower of Robot Bomb Shelter

by Accidental Bear
Jake Brower of Robot Bomb Shelter  has it going on. An impressive musical resume with decades of smashing work dating back to 4th grade when he was already getting familiar with a variety of instruments. Unless you’ve lived your life under a rock or stuck at home for agoraphobia you’ve most likely danced your ass off to some of Jake’s music, whether you knew it or not. I got Jake to catch me up on what’s happening in his world professionally and personally. Personally I think Jake’s quite the looker, professionally Jake is quite the master. Check out what he has to say!

San Francisco Electro/Techno musician/producer/controllerist (not a DJ) Robot Bomb Shelter (aka Jake Brower) has been producing his brand of electronic dance music for 2 decades.

Q & A:

AB: Brilliant name! How was it birthed?
 My partner and I were house sitting for 2 friends that were going to be moving away.  They had their house all packed up and they were away looking for an apartment in Florida.  I happened to look on a side table among all the boxes and papers and I noticed some random words scribbled on a crumpled up piece of paper.  In one corner it said, “Robot,” and another corner said, “Bomb Shelter.”  The 3 words literally lifted off the page and struck me in the face.  At that instant, I became Robot Bomb Shelter.  I had been going by “Fraktal,” but that wasn’t working.

AB: I see you have in bold, several times that you are not a DJ. Define controllerist. 

A controllerist is someone who uses hardware controllers to manipulate software.  in my case, I use hardware such as the iPad and the Akai APC40 and other tools to create music in real time on the stage.  I am not a DJ, but instead a musician/producer like other electronic bands.  I just happen to do it as a solo artist.  I play my own original music and my shtick is being able to create a set live on the fly.

AB: Your music has been highly successful decades. What keeps you ticking and fresh?

Thanks!  Constant learning and being influence by artists all around me.  I spent the better part of 10+ years just learning the technology and then 10+ more learning more technology and how my music sets me apart from everyone else.  Now, here I am 24 years later and I my sound is uniquely my own.  I still learn something new every day and try to incorporate that into what I do to see if it fits…some does and some doesn’t.

AB: A flash back question? Where were you in the early 90’s? Can you remember? lol

I had just moved to Seattle in the early 90s and it was the height of both grunge and Detroit Techno.  I was in quite a haze myself, but there I was…a new kid in a new city and so much music to be made.  Believe it or not, I was also a gogo boy during the early 90s, too.  I was exposed to a lot of great music and people during that phase.

AB: Do you think there is some music made to played to an audience on drugs? What’s your take on that?

Of course there is, BUT any music can be that way.  The way I feel is that, if someone wants to be high while listening and dancing to great music, so be it.  As long as you know your limits and aren’t harming yourself or others.  The key is to leave the club when you’ve come down from an amazing experience and not to do it again for a while; don’t make it a regular occurrence. 

AB: I read that you use a ton of tools to make such powerful beats. What are some unusual things you have used?

I have so many tools at my disposal that I’ve acquired over the years…some hardware and some software.  I use many of the industry standards for music making especially in terms of music software.  I use pretty much the entire line of Native Instruments’ software (Massive, Kore, Battery, Absynth, Reaktor) as well as reFX and Spectrasonics.  I create music on both Cubase and Ableton.

For unusual things I’ve used…in my early days, I used to record sounds with a pocket recorder and then sample them into my DAW to create unusual drum riffs.

AB: Can you think of anyone song that should never be touched and alway left in its original form?

Hmmm….Anything by The Smiths should never be touched.  They represent such a huge part of my growing up and it is a sin when I hear someone remaking a Smiths or Morrissey song.  They are classics and should stay so.

AB: Love the name of the song “Dirty Sunshine”. Is there a story behind that title?

I was learning how to create killer dirty bass about 4 years ago and one day in San Francisco (where I’ve lived since 2002), I was taking a walk outside and humming my track, which was still in progress, and I looked up on that beautiful day and the name just struck me.  I never name any of my tracks until the album is complete and then I wait to be inspired.

AB: I’m a sucker for song mash-ups. It’s the only way to make me listen to some of todays pop songs when they’re are mashed with something heavy. Are you a fan of mash-ups?

I am not really a big fan of mash-ups.  I am with you, I can’t really take many of the pop songs of today…and mashing them like potatoes does help, but it’s still a pop song.

AB: You have been trained in so many instruments (clarinet, oboe, bassoon, bass clarinet) starting in the 4th grade. Also, I read you have studied piano, musical composition and theory as well. Are there any instruments you are still itching to learn? I love a man that is good with his hands.

The didgeridoo.  What an amazing instrument and I think it sounds so haunting and beautiful at the same time.

AB: Besides music, what are some of your loves in life?

My husband, Joe, is my number one.  We love to travel and we do so a lot, especially with my tours and shows.  I also love foreign languages and was studying to be an interpreter (between non-English speaking languages) before I completed my computer science degree.  I love technology and learning about new toys that can enhance my sets or practices.  I LOVE sushi, too as well as spending time with my friends and family.

AB: I see your ink dribbling out from the sleeves of your t-shirts? Any favorite tattoos or better yet any regrettable ones? Would consider getting a portrait of me?

Yes, I do have a few tats and I love them.  The sleeve was completed in 2009 and I want more!  It is my favorite as it represents me and who I am as a person.  It keeps me centered and always in check with myself.  It’s my design.  No regrettable ones (LOL…no tramp stamp)!  I would consider it, but we’d have to collaborate on the design 🙂

AB: I see that your a partnered. I was told by a 82 yr old man recently that the most important thing that has kept him and his wife together  for 67 yrs has been laughter. He goes on to say ,” keep the one that makes you laugh.” Gays are known to be sexual -eye-wandering-creatures and bouncing from man to man (say’s me). Any advice for the gay couples out there trying to make it work?

Communication is key.  Couples (or throuples) need to be comfortable talking about anything at any time with their partner(s).  Everyone has eyes and there’s nothing wrong with checking people out; it’s our nature.  Laughter is another big secret for sure.  If you can make your partner laugh on a daily basis, then you know that there are still unpredictable things between you.  You should learn more about your partner(s) all the time.  Ask questions and answer them, too.

AB: Who is music god to you?

I have a few deities in my life: Skinny Puppy, Front 242, MSTRKRFT, Simian Mobile Disco, Crystal Castles, deadmau5, Richie Hawtin/Plastikman.

AB: What are the plans for Robot Bomb Shelter this summer?

I am working on my 4th release and shooting for it to be complete by fall.  It’s an album of bangers that represent even more learning and understanding of the sonic world and how to manipulate it.  I’ve also been asked by 4 bands (so far) to create remixes for them.  I guess my name is getting out there as a good remixer and it helps bring out a completely different side me while still retaining who I am.

I also have tours in Guatemala, Chicago and Japan with a few smatterings elsewhere.  I’ve been landing some pretty amazing shows throughout the world and it’s just amazing playing live techno for the masses.  Later in the year, I am touring with the SF electronic music collective We Were The Future (of which I am one of the founders) to Europe and performing in Spain, Greece and the UK.

Aside from touring and music, Joe and I are going through another round of remodels on our house in San Francisco.  We bought our first house last year and it’s been so fun remodeling it.

AB: I see that you have some amazing gigs/trips planned (May 2011: UP F.A.M.A. – Guatemala City, Guatemala and September 2011: Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Japan) . How are audiences in other countries compared to the US?

Audiences abroad are very different than in the US.  People have no problem getting on the dance floor for hours with guys, girls…anyone.  They are generally VERY interested in what I am doing on stage.  I prefer to play closer to the floor so people can see what I am doing with my hands.

Japan has been a big highlight and I remember looking up  during my 2 1/2 hour live set at the girls with drinks in their hands, dancing and enjoying life…and it really made my heart sing.  There is no pretension or prejudice in other countries (that I notice while playing).  It’s just humans have a good time with other humans.

AB: Are you a fast food junkie or are you full of tofu, celery and couscous? You can tell the truth, we’re all friends here. 🙂

We eat very healthy, unless I am touring.  We do try to eat as well as can when traveling, but as we all know, that can be hard.  I do like a good cheeseburger and fries and LOVE LOVE sushi, but we try to cook in the hotel and eat healthy snacks as much as possible.

AB: And some questions to please (feed) our men in the Bear Community.  I consider myself an Accidental Bear, a bear by default because of my fuzzy body and beard. Do you have a large Bear following or fan base?

I do have a large bear following, it seems.  I am not sure if that’s because of the people I know or what, but wherever I go there are always bears.  I don’t consider myself to be a bear…I am just me.  I have a beard and short hair and muscles, but I don’t necessarily identify myself as such.

AB: What comes to mind when I say, WOOF? Is that the same as cat calling a girl?

Honestly, I loathe the term.  But, it’s so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to get away from.  I prefer the term “RARF!” 

AB: After an insane day or after tour, what do you do to keep yourself sane and relax? Yoga? Smoke a pound of weed?

I like to relax by lying down and recalling the events of the day or the show/tour.  I take a nice, long shower (as I am usually drenched in sweat by the end of a show) and crawl onto the bed with my hubby.  My mind is usually swirling with things I did well/not so well and things to change for the next show.

AB: If you could change something about our local gay community here in SF what would it be?

I would want to somehow help people see that you don’t have to go to the same shows or do the same things as everyone else.  For example, just because someone is a bear and they want to “fit in,” they don’t have to be a lemming because they think it will enhance their status.  If you want to go and do something else, go and do it.  Be a leader of your own life.

AB: A Barbara Walters moment. Have there been any events in your life or hardships that you have had to conquer that has made you the person you are today?

Well, sure.  I’ve had a lot of hardships just like everyone else.  The key is to learn and grow from them.  Being gay and coming out in the 80s was not an easy thing, but I am a much stronger person now.  You have to keep focused on your goals (hopefully everyone has them) and work every day to make your dreams happen.  YOU are the only one that can make them come true and I am a good example of that.

AB: Bullying of gay teens is highlighted in the news these days. Were you ever bullied as a kid?

I was bullied, but I was the guy that bullied back.  I don’t take shit from anyone no matter how big they are.  Bullying in the 70s/80s was so much different than today and I really feel for the kids that have to resort to drastic measures to escape.  Life isn’t easy for sure, but in a lot of cases (IMO) standing up for yourself and finding friends that will stand up with you is something that bullies don’t expect.  So, stand up!


Thank you so much for the chat Jake! You gave it to me straight up. Big fuzzy armed hugs to you and your man! Bump into you soon.

Visit Robot Bomb Shelter on FACEBOOK

3 Comments to “Accidental Has a Chat with Jake Brower of Robot Bomb Shelter”

  1. Another thorough, entertaining and interesting interview AB!

  2. Jake does great work as an artist. Robot Bomb Shelter is one of San Francisco’s treasures!

    Drew Bourn

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.

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