A Sit Down With DJ Steve Bug
For the first half decade of his career Steve Bug was an also ran of the European house scene, in an age when underground dance music was largely dominated by American producers. In 1999 all of that changed.
Although his productions had previously been noticed by DJs playing a deeper, stripped back house sound, not least the ones on his early label Raw Elements, it was with the issue of his 'Loverboy' track, the debut release on his own Poker Flat label, that Steve gained a much wider and international recognition.
"I dont need lury in my life. As long as Im not starving, I have something to wear and I have a roof above my head, I think I can be happy."
Your debut Poker Flat track 'Loverboy' was such a success. Do you think in the early days it defined for other contributing producers what it was you wanted sonically for the label?
Err... No, I don't think so. Maybe for a while, but we pretty quickly went to things like the Hakan Lidbo stuff. 'Loverboy' is really simple. It's virtually impossible to make a track like this that still works and is not the same, if you know what I mean. If you take out the piano there's almost nothing. It would be impossible for us to have released music like that and still be here...what is it? 180 releases, 17 years later? The Moog bass sound was soon part of the label, but we've been pretty openminded. In the beginning it was more important to have people who I would call my friends on the label and build a family. That was a priority really. The label I was coming from, Superstition, had a lot of different music, a lot of different characters, so I really wanted to surround myself with people that I liked.
Take me back to when you started Poker Flat. What was your approach and vision for the label?
At the time, we were running Raw Elements. We kind of figured that the diversity of music we were releasing wasn't really going with the market. At the time, I also wanted to change distribution but my partner wasn't sure about it because he was running another label with the same distribution. When we started Raw Elements, it was like it is right now again, you know, more underground. You wouldn't even put your face on the label. But at the time we were starting Poker Flat, it was more about showing off and getting the artist's face in addition, and we used old Playboy magazines from the 70s as art to add a fun touch to it. A lot of people actually thought we were doing the shots ourselves! At the end, we decided to split Raw Elements and Poker Flat into two and switched distribution. Poker Flat had a great start with "Loverboy." Even after just two releases, we were thinking it was the best move we'd made. The new distribution was really into it. They really supported us.
Whats happening with you, on a solo level?
A lot of touring and studio work. As I said, I have new EP (Coconut Paradise) upcoming, which will be released in May on Poker Flat, plus a few remixes and of course more stuff that I cant quite talk about yet.
You play all over the world, primarily in Europe, though not so much in the US. What do you think of Detroit?
Obviously, its kind of like a dead city but in a way I kind of really like the vibe. Its really nice. Every time I came to play, I liked it always enjoyed it. I think people really appreciate good music in Detroit and it is great to play here.
You are one of the most wanted DJs in the world. Yet, you manage not to gather a lot of hype around you and still be at the cutting edge of refined club music. How do you manage that?
Unfortunately I cant really answer that question, maybe it is my personality or my taste in music, but I really dont know. It is just the way it is.
How do you find time for everything with three labels, production work and DJing?
I don't know. The producing is the thing that's kind of annoying me at the moment, I don't spend enough time producing. It's really bad because I wanted to do the artist album but I could never finish it because of all the work and all the traveling. I was working on it for almost two years and I had eight tracks that I had finished with and wanted to rework on those. One day when I wasn't really in a creative mood for getting some more material together I figured I'd start reworking on these tracks. I loaded them up on the computer and was thinking "This track is already one and a half years old" and I wasn't really feeling it anymore. The same with the next one and the next one. In the end I had just five tracks that I liked which wasn't enough, I wanted to do ten more because I had more ideas. But I thought I wouldn't be able to do that because I have to change my studio location soon. So when I sit down in the new studio I'll probably take two months off playing and just really concentrate on the album, otherwise I'll never finish it.
You said you were a hair dresser earlier. Were you doing that at the same time as you were DJing?
Yeah, I was. I think after three years of DJing, I finally quit. I did one day per week less every year. By the end, I was only doing three days. Every summer I took off for a couple of months to go to Ibiza to go party there, and so I would lose all my customers because they would be coming every month. When I came back, they were with other people in the shop. I was sitting in the back room waiting for people to come, so I was doing colours or even washing hair. I got bored sitting around, I'm a person who doesn't mind working a 16 hour day, but I can't sit around doing nothing and feel not needed or unused. I soon after decided to live in Hamburg.
You've been DJing for 20 years or so now...do you still get excited about every gig or are some of them more 'business as usual'?
Yes of course I still get excited. Luckily there is nothing like business as usual in a DJs life. Every night is different, every club has a different vibe, and every crowd has a different energy. Of course there are some records that work in every club, but still the overall feeling is different and thats what makes it so interesting. I think it also helps that I usually try to play only on weekends and don't fill up weekdays with dates as well. I don't like to overdo things, I need a balance between label, studio and DJ work, so everything stays fresh and interesting for me.
Do you also do Winter Music Conference? How would you compare the Detroit scene to WMC?
Ya, I do. I mean, WMC first of all is in Spring Break, so its like a totally different thing in Miami I mean we all know its a completely different city so the vibe is kind of different.. (pausing).. I dont know Winter Music Conference is like a lot of people trying to put out parties, label parties all around and so a lot of things going around. Its not like one spot where you can meet everyone. Like with this Festival (Movement) where you have the festival area. Of course, you have more and more parties going on after wards, every year. But still, during the daytime, there is nothing else happening so everyone is coming down to the festival and thats what I really like about it. And also, I think it kind of limits the lineup so its not like every label. Its a limited lineup which I prefer because you can check out more people. In Miami, it is sometimes too much. You cant make it to all the events. Its just too much at times. Here you can just walk over to the other stage.
When youre in America, what guilty pleasure do you indulge?
Well Im a rather healthy person, so I crave the homemade granolas at certain hotels here. Granola is not that famous in Europe. However, a good burger from time to time doesnt hurt, and there are many great burger places in the US.
When you started you were already onto the minimal style of music which has now become huge. What do you think about its current popularity?
I don't know, it's feeling weird because you know there is always something after this. For me there are a lot of bad productions at the moment which stop me producing a certain sound because I don't want... If there is a hype around lets say acid, there are some good ones but then after a while even the good tracks don't appear as good as they should be. So you are always trying to go somewhere else. I am always trying to develop my sound so I don't see it as a big problem, but in a way I think it has got to a point where people aren't really open minded. I like from deep house to techno. I like everything. I was always playing more housey stuff than minimal, at the moment there is a lot of minimal stuff that I like but I still play housier. Lately all the Detroit techno I really like and the same with deep house, there is a lot of great deep house stuff coming out. To me the whole minimal thing, there is this sound to it because everything was produced on a computer but it never went through an analogue source like a mixer or something. So they all have this certain sound, even if it is a different track you have this kind of flat sound. I like it, but after a while... If everything was produced with the same analogue equipment there would be the same problem but with analogue equipment everyone uses different gear. With a computer it is just a computer, it's kind of weird.
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 dont think so, but hey, who knows? my shows have always been received well in the US. Ive been coming for so many years, I had the time to build up a following no matter what happened in the EDM scene.
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