Steve Bug is an artist that has been at the forefront of the electronic music scene now for some time and always delivered a level of consistency much like his label, Poker Flat. There have been few record labels that have made such an indelible mark on the landscape of electronic music as Poker Flat. Founded by Steve Bug in 1999, the label coined a sound and style that dominated club culture for years and continues to have that ‘buy on sight’ reliability for both DJs and music fans to this day.
Often imitated but never bettered, Poker Flat was established to be a true original, championing both established acts and rising stars, and has remained fiercely true to that ethos for two exceptional decades. Decoded Magazine grabbed a few moments with label boss Steve Bug to talk about the label, the 20th-anniversary plans, and of course, what he has on the horizon.
When I spoke with Steve he was just drinking his green tea and slowly working his way through a bowl of muesli, and checking out some demos. I asked Steve about how Poker Flat first came about and what we were some of the first steps… “At the time we were running Raw Elements for about three years and we were thinking of new ways to run the label. We then decided to start two new labels instead of continuing the old one with those changes. At first, I started Dessous with a new distribution partner, and that changed a lot. It showed that with another distribution was reaching more people who were into what we were doing. So we started Poker Flat, it all went pretty quick to be honest, since we had all the experience, and a vision, the music was there, so we only needed the artwork and that was it. A new label was born”. We moved on to speak about the labels 20th-anniversary plans. I asked Steve what special events and releases are planned as part of the celebration… “There will be a series of remixes of classics by some of our favourite artists. They could choose a track they felt happy to remix. After the Tim Engelhardt mixes for Berkson & What are already out, there will be remixes by Butch, Michael Mayer, and Matthias Kaden for the Martini Bros. Plenty more are still in the Pipeline. On the event side, we will have a 20 years celebration in Zagreb Croatia with Mihai Popoviciu and Markus Homm, and we’re working on a few others.” I know I am looking forward to more of these special remix packages that are on the horizon.
Over the 20 years, Poker Flat has been running the dance music world has changed dramatically from the change in vinyl to digital, and the impact of social media on the scene. I asked Steve, how has he adapted to the changes… “Since it’s our daily business we slowly grew into it and adapted almost automatically. But I have to say that our team at the office in Hamburg does a good job of staying on top of the game. I’m personally sometimes a bit slower with adjustments. I’m more of a purist and maybe a bit old school as well.
I went on the speak to Steve about some the artists on the label over the year and asked him who have been some of his favourite discoveries on the label over the years and Steve was very direct with his answer… “Trentemøller, Tim Engelhardt, Hannes Bieger, Berkson & What and so many others…” Now that is some list!!! A list that many artists would be proud of that is for sure! Whilst on the artist topic, I asked Steve what he looks for in an artist when looking to sign new music… “First of all the music has to catch me…”
“I prefer to sign artists who don’t try to release on every label around. We are trying to give artists a musical home, without signing them exclusively.”
With so many new producers out there I asked Steve what some of the dos and don’ts are when submitting a demo… “Definitely never ever send a mass mail with all other labels being in the recipients. But generally, it got so much harder, because it is so much music being sent around. It is impossible for labels to listen to everything. I can’t really make suggestions anymore on how to get heard by the right persons”.
Moving away from the label for a moment, I asked Steve what was on the horizon in terms of gigs and releases… “Over the last months, I’ve been working on a lot of collabs, and they will, one after the other, start to see the light in the upcoming months. First will be a collab with Uner, followed by an EP with Tim Engelhardt, and a track I did with Matthias Tanzmann. Plenty more to come early next year, including collabs with some artists I’ve worked with a few times before”. So all in all a lot of exciting new music on the horizon for you Steve Bug fans out there. I know will be keeping my eyes and ears peeled for those over the coming months.
Steve has recently launched a new label, Sublease Music. I asked Steve why he started the label, and how it differs from Poker Flat… “I’d say it is even more reduced. Genre-wise it sits somewhere in the modern house, minimal, deep tech section. Stuff that I am playing a lot lately. Through charting these kinda tracks, the artists started contacting me, saying thanks for the support and started to sending tracks, since they didn’t exactly fit on Poker Flat, and Dessous recordings being at sleep, I still wanted to release them somehow, so we started a new label for this sound. I feel this sound will have a great future, as it goes back to the basics, and works great in the mix”.
Before I departed and left Steve to enjoy his day I asked him if he had anything else he would like to add… “Only together we can save this planet. And we all have to make adjustments on our own”. Very true words from the man and changes are something we are all going to need to make if we would like this planet to be here as we know it in years to come. I would like to thank Steve Bug for his time and congratulate him and the Poker Flat family on 20 very successful years. Here’s to 20 more years!!!
Press shots by Marie Staggat