Nicholas Weller, known professionally by his stage name as Bro Safari is no stranger to electronic dance music. Beginning his career in 1999 when a teenage interest in drum and bass sparked a passion for producing, Weller quickly found a career path when he joined the group Evol Intent in 2000 before branching off as Bro Safari in 2008. More recently, Weller is in the middle of his 22-date Pretty Good Tour after the release of his hit single “Reality,” a downtempo mixture of dubstep and drum and bass with a beautiful vocal accompaniment. Just prior to his show in Salt Lake last weekend at Therapy Thursdays at SKY SLC, we were able to talk with Bro Safari about his evolution as an artist over the last 16 years. –Julia Sachs
EDM Utah: Do you plan on checking anything out in Utah before or after your show?
Bro Safari: I’m waiting for a buddy of mine who lives out here to meet up so we can go get some dinner. His name is Jorgen Odegard, he’s actually an up and coming producer from the area. He’s a good friend of mine. He actually won a remix contest that I did two or three years ago and we just stayed in touch. He’s a soon to be local hero, he’s a sick producer—really talented.
EDM Utah: Nice, I’ll check him out. Is there anywhere on this tour that’s stood out to you in particular?
Bro Safari: I mean the shows themselves. I don’t necessarily want to single any cities out because they’ve all been really good. The crowds have been good so far on the tour and it’s been mostly fans coming out as opposed to [a mixture of] fans and regular patrons of whatever club I’m at which makes a big difference and the shows have had a lot of energy.
EDM Utah: You started working in drum and bass in 1999 with your first music project. What do you think of the genre’s recent comeback as a popular subgenre of electronic music?
Bro Safari: I feel like drum and bass is on this cycle where it will peak and then it goes back underground and then it comes back up. Drum and bass is my favorite genre of electronic dance music and it always has been. To me, the best [part of drum and bass] is that none of the producers are really compromising their integrity or their sound. Drum and bass now sounds the same as it did a few years back but it’s just improved production wise and the engineering is better. It keeps getting better and better but it’s staying true to itself and the roots of the genre so I’m all for a drum and bass takeover if it can happen.
EDM Utah: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve never really thought about it as one genre that’s kind of stayed true to itself over time.
Bro Safari: It definitely has.
EDM Utah: Do you ever see it taking a different direction?
Bro Safari: I think about ten years ago around when Pendulum and Noisia and groups like that came along was when [we saw] the biggest shift in drum and bass. Noisia and Pendulum actually shaped dance music to where it is right now whether people notice it or not, but their approach to engineering with their massive snare drums and almost rock n’ roll snare drums and things like that are a shining example of current dubstep. I think all of that music really paved the way for what’s going on now [in dance music]. As far as drum and bass itself I think there’s plenty of ways for people to take it into different directions and I think people have done that. [For example] with halftime drum and bass rhythms and drumstep, with liquid drum and bass which is kind of a precursor for drum and bass. There’s similarities that go between mainstream EDM and what has happened to drum and bass over the years.
EDM Utah: Your new track “Reality” kind of has a slower bpm but is sonically very similar to a drum and bass sound, can you tell us about the track?
Bro Safari: To me the bassline kind of has that drum and bass riff to it. I wanted it to flow more like a song than just another dubstep song. I wanted it to have its own personality. To me it’s just my version of dubstep … I had the vocals so I wanted something that would sound really pretty and then drop off into something really heavy before retreating back into ethereal soundscapes. I definitely had all of my previous training in production bleeding into that track as far as bridging genres.
EDM Utah: Can we expect more of this sound in the future?
Bro Safari: I think right now I’m just open to making whatever comes naturally and that’s the approach I take when creating dance music. Whatever I’m into Im open to trying to go for it but I’m not trying to emulate the current sound that’s popular. If anything I’ll take cues [from something I like] and create my own version of it. I don’t like to get too caught up in sounding as good as one artist or trying to go in the direction that one artist is going in. You’re kind of kidding yourself as a producer [if you do that], just do what you want to and if it’s good it will work out—if not then it won’t.
EDM Utah: I think if you’re doing that too then you’re kind of compromising your own artistic integrity because you’re not really producing according to your own personality.
Bro Safari: Absolutely.
EDM Utah: What are two up and coming sub-genres you’ve been into recently?
Bro Safari: Recently I haven’t been really keeping my ear to the streets in terms of finding new genres. This is a tough question to answer because I’m on tour right now and when I’m on tour I just like to focus on the shows and when i’m at home I’m focused on finishing whatever I had started before the tour. I haven’t really been digging around online and listening to any demos or doing any of my own searching just because I haven’t had the free time to do that. I think next year my sound may evolve a little bit into a different direction but I’m kind of willfully ignorant to what is going on in the scene because I don’t want it to effect or influence me one way or the other too much. I’m out at shows and in clubs hearing DJ’s play but I haven’t really heard anything that blew my mind lately if I’m being honest.
EDM Utah: What about up and coming producers?
Bro Safari: Again Jorgen Odegard is really good. His production is very clean and his songs are songs—he’s not writing tracks which, again, is something that I gravitate toward. Lately I’m thinking about people I play in my DJ sets and Barely Alive [comes to mind]. I’ve been playing a lot of dubstep lately now that I’m thinking about. Dion Timmer is another good one, he’s a kid from Holland and I say kid because he’s only 17 and its crazy. I’m working on a tune with him right now and his talent just blows me away. I started DJ’ing roughly when he was born and that just is a weird concept to wrap my head around when we’re working on something together. But it’s great, it keeps me young in the studio which is important.
EDM Utah: It always blows my mind when I hear a new artist and then find out that they’re only a teenager.
Bro Safari: Yeah I mean Jorgen is a good example [because] he’s only 19 I believe, but they’re making tunes that I would have killed to be able to make when I was their age.
EDM Utah: I think it’s the technology too that makes it easier.
Bro Safari: Oh yeah, the technology shift is everything within dance music. It’s changed everything. When I was producing I had to sit there and build everything from the ground up. Not just in the music but even in my “branding” there was no “branding” then, you were just a music group or a solo artist and you’d have to get booked on a local level and then work your way up to being booked on a regional level and then hopefully a national level and if you’re lucky—really lucky—you’d get international. It’s just a much different time with social media, tutorials, preset downloads for software for writing music—it’s just completely different.
EDM Utah: Yeah exactly, and even now with branding there’s such a formula to it these days.
Bro Safari: Yeah, I used to let stuff like that kind of get under my skin because I would think ‘ugh, I have to do so much more work [now]’ but that’s kind of the old man way to think of things. I swore to myself that if I didn’t understand something that the younger generation is into then it’s me that doesn’t understand it and I need to evolve with them otherwise I’m just going to become the old sound guy.
EDM Utah: Have you introduced your son to the music world yet?
Bro Safari: Yeah I mean he’ll come into my studio and bounce around when I’m working on tracks and he knows my songs. He’s come to a few shows. He went to Lollapalooza and saw me play there and he saw me play at Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was cool, he was able to hang out onstage and see what I do and he gets it now which is awesome.
EDM Utah: Does he like the shows?
Bro Safari: I think he’s more interested in my visuals but that’s understandable. He had his massive headphones on and he was kind of just in his own little world bouncing around. We would do a family photo in the crowd and bring him out and I think it [was nice] to start normalizing him to seeing that many people and kind of being on display for them. It’s cool for me and I think it breaks a barrier in [teaching him] to not be scared to be onstage or to be the center of attention if he has something to share. Musically I’m giving him a little more time but he’s definitely expressed interest in playing piano. Hopefully in the next year I can get him to sit still for ten seconds and take a lesson.