A dedicated, energetic and constantly surprising talent, Steve Bug is nothing less than an electronic music ambassador. Resident Advisor once called Steve Bug the “Gentleman of Techno” referring to his sense of duty and dependability as one of the world’s most renowned DJs and producers. The same professionalism that means he’s hardly ever missed a DJ gig is evident in his work as a composer, producer and owner of the Poker Flat Recordings label. Every step he takes is well considered, but always tempered with his own fine humour.
Having grown up in Germany’s techno and acid-house heyday, Steve Bug’s love for a perfect groove is as apparent now as it was back then. His DJ skills and a keen, innovative ear led him not down the typical path of the early nineties trance and harder dance scene, but instead towards a fresher, hybrid sound–merging stripped deep house, tweaked out acid and more minimal forms of techno and electronic music.
Hi Steve, great to meet you. Thanks for find the time to chat to us at Decoded Magazine. How has your day been so far?
Nice to meet you too! My day has been very good so far. I woke up early due to my jet lag, had breakfast and went for a bouldering session here in Montreal. Then came back to the hotel and started to answer emails and ordered room service for lunch.
So we understand you’re currently on tour in America. D’you still get excited about travelling the world, or do thoughts now focus on the more mundane aspects of touring like logistics, management and execution of the tour?
The traveling part is definitely the working part. I mean most of the times the only things you see are an airport, a club and a hotel…maybe a restaurant, and what you see on the way to either one of those. There is no real time to explore the cities I visit and you simply can’t add an extra two days to every show, since you would never end up being home!
Traveling from A to B can be a pain in the ass. All this sitting around at airports, waiting for flights, sometimes dealing with flight delays, or even cancellations is definitely no fun, but in the second you start playing the first track, it was all worth it. Every time.
Can you talk us through the dates and where you’re most looking forward to playing?
Well on this tour I have Lightning In A Bottle Festival, Detroit and Washington lined up. For the next one it is going to be Treehouse Miami, Play New York, Bar Americas Guadalajara MX, Foro Normandie, Mexico City MX, Lost In Paradise Festival @ Guajataca Tunnel, Isabela PR, and Mamby On The Beach Chicago.
In between those two tours I play some European dates, but I don’t look forward to any gig in particular. I think in general the tour looks great, and if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s always expect the unexpected. So the gigs you were thinking would not be interesting at all, turn out to be the wildest nights and opposite. So I stay positive and let the night come towards me….
When you’re in America, what guilty pleasure do you indulge?
Well I’m a rather healthy person, so I crave the homemade granola’s at certain hotels here. Granola is not that famous in Europe. However, a good burger from time to time doesn’t hurt, and there are many great burger places in the US.
No doubt you’ve been many times, but do you have a favourite place in America?
Not really, I love New York though and I am happy that I am staying here in between the weekends on the next tour.
With the EDM bubble bursting for the US, how have your shows been received, and have you made new fans from those in a musical void now?
I don’t think so, but hey, who knows? my shows have always been received well in the US. I’ve been coming for so many years, I had the time to build up a following no matter what happened in the EDM scene.
Last year at ADE I had the distinct pleasure of spending a hour chatting with Ellen Allien. She told me about how she got her break DJing in a small bar for free and a promoter heard her play… In those days we played for love, now it’s all with an agenda attached. How long did it take for you to break through, and were you ever disheartened that things would never take off?
I started throwing my own parties at the club I used to bartend, after three years of DJing at home and making tapes for my friends. After 3 or 4 parties, I was asked to become a resident DJ at the club, and soon got invited by other people who I met clubbing and who started to DJ in other cities in Germany.
Do you remember what sort of music you were playing back then? Would you ever play those tracks in a modern set?
I was playing everything from Deep House to Detroit Techno; some of the early Trance and some English breakbeat kinda stuff that was released on XL Recordings. That is maybe the reason why I disagree with many artists using these drum loops again. I’ve heard them way too many times!
But there are definitely a few tracks that I still play today or that would be playable, while others have totally fallen out of place. My basement is full of records that I will probably never ever play again.
Ellen also talked about her love for buying vinyl. Do you still have the opportunity to go record shopping while on tour, and if so, which US shops will you make a bee line for?
I am still record shopping every week when I’m in Berlin, and I also buy vinyl online. But when I’m touring I barely go to record stores since in the end, they all pretty much have the same records.
Poker Flat celebrates its 18th birthday this year, congratulations! Navigating the various styles of house over the years has stood you in good stead. Of all of the styles Poker Flat has covered, was there a particular sound you really identified with?
I personally try not to think in styles or genres. Poker Flat has a certain sound; a feeling, and most of the tracks from the earlier years still work great today. It seems that we’ve been very lucky with our signings. Maybe my taste for rather timeless tracks was helping as well.
I was never into stuff that was too hyped. I always search for tracks that I would still play in a few months or maybe even years. I can’t exactly name it what it is, but when I hear it, I know it (at least most of the time!)
What do you have planned for the label this year?
We do have plenty of EP’s in the pipeline, and I am very happy with the all latest releases and with what’s coming up. We got so many great demos lately, I’m really looking forward to the next few months.
We love the new Martin Landsky release due soon. As with many of the roster, he has remained on the label for a number of years, so it must be a wonderful feeling watching them grow and flourish. Who else do you see on the label that will really break through this year? Dario D’Attis perhaps?
Dario is definitely one to look out for. His productions are very solid and rocking. Another artist that is on the rise is Tim Engelhardt, he is so talented and still so young.
We love a DJ who can play for many hours here at Decoded – many of us played those long sets and appreciate the time and effort involved. With time slots now so short due to the promoters wanting to attract as many people as possible, have we lost our attention span; our desire to find a spot on the dance floor and just let the music consume you?
I don’t think the general attention span decreased, there are still people out there who are staying on the dance floor for almost the whole night, not touching their phones once. They seem to enjoy dancing and letting the music put them in a trance. Maybe the problem is that the whole thing blew up too much. Maybe this music is not really meant to be for that many people.
I mean how many people attend shows without even knowing what the DJ is playing? they probably don’t know any of the artists productions. They come out for the wrong reasons. They come out because the artist is well known, because he made it into the top 50 of this or that poll… I call it the Kardashian syndrome!
Many artists spend more money and time on their social networking than on making actual music, and the big festivals definitely don’t help to change the fact that people won’t stay around for a longer set. There is a totally different atmosphere at big events or festivals.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to play festivals, but long sets are functioning the best in small clubs, and that’s where they happen. I just played Stereo Bar in Montreal open to close. First two hours I played for a very few people, but for the last three hours I had a full house and the atmosphere was amazing.
You can’t do that at a festival, there are many other stages people want to check out, so it would be impossible to build up a crowd that stays around. To take people on a journey they need to stay around and not run off because this one track might be too deep, or another artist is starting to play on another stage.
True enough… I think we should wrap it up there Steve, it’s been a real pleasure to meet you and chat, we hope the rest of the tour is a massive success. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks a lot, the only thing that I can add is that people should try to turn off their phones and get lost into music more often, it’s a relief: a super short holiday, a trip into your mind & soul including a nice full body workout!! haha
4/6/16 Hive, Zurich
5/6/16 Thuishaven, Amsterdam
18/6/16 La Terrazzza, Barcelona
19/6/16 Fact Music Pool Series, Barcelona
24/6/16 Treehouse, Miami
25/6/16 Play, NYC
30/6/16 Bar Americas, Guadalajara
01/7/16 Foro Normandie, Mexico City
02/7/16 Lost in Paradise Festival, Guajataca Tunnel
03/7/16 Mamby on the Beach, Chicago