Steve Bug is one of electronic music’s true originals. His relentless commitment to quality has made him one of the world’s most revered artists and curators, and along with his label Poker Flat has made a sizeable contribution to the house and techno scene as we know it.
In 2019 Poker Flat celebrated its 20th anniversary, marking this impressive milestone with a series of remixes from artists including Tim Engelhardt, Michael Meyer, Catz ’n Dogz, Acid Pauli, Guti, Butch, Matthias Kaden, Francois K, Harry Romero, Catz N Dogz, and Acid Pauli.
2019 also saw the launch of a new sublabel for Poker Flat, Sublease Music which champions deeper, more club-ready, tracky cuts, and has to date seen releases from Kellie Allen, MANIK, Buraq and more besides.
We sat down with Steve prior to the release of his new studio album "Never Ending Winding Roads" which hit the stores on Friday the 13th of November.
Hi, Steve. How’s your life right now? What keeps you occupied these days?
My life is definitely less hectic, but a bit boring compared to what it was before. Haha. The summer months have been alright, I’ve been in the studio a lot, and I’ve done a lot of bouldering with friends. I enjoyed the rather “normal” life, with weekends off, etc. After 20 years of heavy touring, it felt like a nice break. But now, after all those months without deejaying, and the second soft lockdown in Germany just starting, it gets a bit tough.
I miss touring and playing music for people a lot. And now, I can’t do bouldering anymore either due to the second lockdown. So my two suppliers for endorphin have been taken away from me, which definitely affects my mood. But I try to stay positive, work on music, and prepare everything for the upcoming studio move.
Let's start with your new album “Never Ending Winding Roads”. You’ve said that the current situation (COVID-19 restrictions) in a way helped you to create your best album thus far. What did you benefit most? Could you explain this a bit more?
The biggest benefit was being able to work on music without being interrupted by the much loved touring. Before I only had 4 days in a row, now I have all the time in the world. And there is almost no distraction. No flights that have to be checked etc.
I could truly focus on writing music, and I didn't have much influence from the outside, so my mindstate was pretty much the same over weeks. That definitely helped to create this album, that to me feels more like one piece, than any other album I wrote before.
You really explored the wide spectrum of music in your album. How did you approach creating the album? Did you create every track on it with a purpose to be “an album track” or did you include some tracks which you simply created along the road?
It all started with me opening up some recent projects. I added some little bits here and there until I had like 3 tracks. Then with all that extra time given, I started to experiment more. I explored other grooves and tempos, which I always loved, but never really had the time for creating. And in no time, I had 6-7 tracks that worked very well together. Only at that point, I thought, ‘just a few more, and it could be an album’ So I continued to lay down more ideas, and finally ended up with these 11 tracks.
Do you think that you experiment more with your sound now that you’re an established artist or did you experiment more in the early stages of your career?
If you’re listening to my earlier albums like Volksworld, The Other Day, or Sensual, maybe even on all solo albums, you will find out that I was always experimenting with other grooves and sounds. There are also many releases on Dessous that have rather downbeat oriented b2 tracks. So I think I was always experimenting when I had enough time at hand. Just lately with social media being added to the workflow, and international traveling was on a very heavy level, I simply haven’t found enough time to do so.
I’ve read that climbing helps you to clear your head and revoke your creativity. That was quite interesting for us. Could you tell us what got you into this sport in the first place? Do you use any other “therapy” to clear your head and mind?
Sport always was a big part of my life. When I was a kid I used to BMX, later in my life I used to run a lot, I could have easily ran a marathon. Then swimming became popular in my life, but I started to have problems with too many people in the pool, I wish I had my own lane, I would still swim. Haha. I also played Badminton for a while. Before I discovered bouldering/climbing we used to play beach volleyball with a bunch of deejay friends. I also had friends who were rope climbing already who asked me to join them. I loved the idea of climbing, but I didn't want to start something else, where you would have to rely on another person.
Over the years I've learned that It’s rather difficult to align schedules with others when it comes to sport, so I rather do things that I can do alone. But then I saw a video of a friend of mine in the socials. She was climbing but had no harness, no one was belaying her. So I asked her what she was doing. And she said it’s bouldering. That was before the sport really boomed. So I decided that I wanted to try it out, called two friends, and we went.
For the second session, we booked a trainer to show us the basics of bouldering. From then on I went two times a week and started to really fall in love with this sport. It became my second biggest passion, meanwhile, I even learned to rope climb and everything that comes with it. Climbing/bouldering helps to forget about everything that you’re dealing with at the moment since you 100% have to focus on what you’re doing.
I already mentioned the endorphin, climbing/bouldering is proven to help overcome depressions. It’s a lot of fun, and it helps you to stay sane. And as a side effect, you get incredibly fit. Besides that, I am practicing yoga - unfortunately not on a regular basis, but I find it very helpful to calm my mind as well. In the past years, I also used a lot of my spare time to go to the mountains for long hiking trips. I think that being in nature, especially upon mountains, grounds you very much.
Poker Flat celebrated the 20th anniversary in 2019. Congratulations on this respectful milestone! How did you manage to stay present with the label throughout this time? I mean, it’s probably hard to run your own career and when you add a successful label to it, it sounds even harder. Could you pinpoint the future sound of your label or is that something that’s born along the road?
Thanks. To be honest, I never plan the future. I live in the here and now. For example, if there is a demo I dig, I release it. Simple as that. I try not to look at where the next trend is heading, I want to release music that I personally feel and love, no matter what the new hype is. And maybe in the end, that’s the reason we’re still here.
But it is of course a lot of work, and I am sorry for every un-answered demo, especially when it comes from someone I personally know. But sometimes it is just too much to handle next to my own career. Luckily there is a strong team behind the label that helps to stay on track, without them it would be impossible to run it.
You also had your first online masterclass not so long ago. Is that something that you’ve planned for a while or was this more of a “side-product” of the current state? Do you see yourself learning others regularly at some point?
I thought about sharing some earned knowledge for some time, so when the guys from sinee.de asked me if I wanted to record a masterclass with them I was all in. Unfortunately, it’s only in german, which is great for many german native speakers, but it narrows the field. There may be a subtitled version coming, but they don’t know yet. So it would be great to do another one in English soon.
When it’s allowed again, I could also see myself do some non-online classes. It feels great to share knowledge, and I am sure it’s even nicer when you have people sitting in the same room.
Going back to the album. Obviously, creating an album is a bit different than creating an EP or single, however, do you have the same expectations or do you expect more as an outcome?
Well, I hope that people will enjoy listening to the whole album in one piece, as I think it is a great musical journey. To me it’s like a good DJ set, it tells a story.
When I release an EP or a single I hope more for people finding their one favorite tune, that they play out, include in their mixes, DJ sets, playlists, etc.
Do you think that the music scene will have to form a new reality or do you think that things will go back to normal? What was your biggest challenge in the last eight months or so, since the early days of Pandemic?
For me the biggest challenge is to accept that there is nothing I can do to change this situation, no matter how hard I try, I won't be going on a tour next week. We have to sit this one out. And only time will show what’s left of the electronic music world that we’ve known from before the pandemic. Not everything was great about it though, there was a lot of greed for example. These things could change when electronic music is not such a money machine anymore. Hopefully, talent will play a bigger role again in the future.
Last but not least. What would you advise a 20-year-old Steve Bug?
Move to the mountains before 2020, build a small climbing gym, and a tiny club in your house! ;)
You can already grab yourself a copy of Steve Bug's Album HERE.