Filed under: Interview
If your grandmother was right about one thing it was that you are only as good as the friends you keep. Keeping that in mind while you have a look through Steve Bug’s phonebook at names like DJ T, Phonique, the Martini Bros. and Martin Landsky then you can only come to one conclusion. Thanks to connections he has built through his most successful label, Poker Flat, Steve is most definitely the proverbial bee’s knees.
Starting back in ’91 at a small bar on the island beast known as Ibiza, Steve Bug has chiseled himself a tidy career out of an industry made of stone. Not many people can claim to run three thriving labels, DJ the globe 24-7, remix for a plethora of producers and every now and then release a mix CD, like his “Bugnology 2” that hit shelves in April this year. No wonder the man doesn’t have time to thrash out his artist album. Thankfully he did have a little bit of time to talk to us before his set at Yellow.
Interview & Introducion by Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You’ve got a new CD out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?
Steve Bug : It’s the second Bugnology, the idea is pretty much the same as the last one. It’s like editing the tracks and mixing them on the computer instead of doing a normal DJ mix. Because I figured I’ve done three or four DJ mix compilations on vinyl but I always thought there must be something beyond that. What I do sometimes is edit some tracks then play them out a night using Cycloops [loop machine] and sometimes expand them a bit and making the mix smoother. To me it makes a lot of sense. I was thinking of doing all this and then mixing it with vinyl but then I thought that was just stupid. If I have it once on the computer then I can do it on the computer. I was also editing tracks down to a shorter time but still trying to keep the original vibe because I think you can destroy the original meaning of the track if you cut too many parts out.
HRFQ : Sasha and Richie Hawtin have done similar things recently, are you going to have to be a producer soon to be a DJ?
Steve Bug : I think it was always like this. Well, it wasn’t always like this but it became like this. You can be a cool DJ without producing but you won’t get any bookings or anything. It’s all about names and not really about the music. You can have bad DJs who may have a producer producing for them, so the producer does great productions for them and they are allowed to play everywhere even if they are bad DJs, just because they have a big name. So it’s kind of changed a little bit but I think it definitely helps if you can do both. But you can be an amazing DJ without knowing anything about productions, but of course you get more knowledge from everything working together. When I started in ’91 it was just in clubs or playing for friends at home I soon wanted to see how the production works. I was really interested, I wanted to know. I think if you are really interested in the music then you’ll probably start to produce at some point.
HRFQ : 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?
Steve Bug : 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.
HRFQ : One of your labels, Poker Flat, has a six CD compilation out at the moment with some big names on it. How do you manage to choose good music for your labels?
Steve Bug : I don’t know. I think it’s just my taste, I am always looking for good music and that is how I find stuff. We get a lot of demos and that is why we now run three labels, because we get so many good things.
HRFQ : Oh, you run three labels now?
Steve Bug : Yeah, there’s Poker Flat, Dessous and Audiomatique. Poker Flat was founded on my productions and some friend’s productions like the Martini Bros., Martin Landsky and pretty soon we found by coincidence Hakan Lidbo. He sent a demo to us and I thought the stuff was great so we released it. This was the first artist that wasn’t a friend. More and more became involved then I moved to Berlin and met Guido [Schneider] and he became a friend. So at the end it is all about demos and my friends in Berlin. That is the good thing about it, we have a base of good people and we talk a lot about music and we have kind of the same background. With Dessous it used to be Vincenzo doing all the stuff with his friends in the beginning but then he moved to Barcelona and he kind of stop producing. So, for that label Phonique came in and has kind of taken over and also now Vincenzo is doing some more stuff. I always thought it’s very important to have a certain community of artists to build up the label profile and then you can sign whatever you want to boost the roster. For Audiomatique it’s a little different because that is our playground, we just sign tracks we like. It’s not so political, it’s just fun you know. Maybe sometimes a big track will be played for two months and then be over but it’s still like, “Yeah lets do it!”.
HRFQ : How do you find time for everything with three labels, production work and DJing?
Steve Bug : 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.
HRFQ : When you do collaborations with people like DJ T and Matthias Tanzmann how do you know you are going to work well together?
Steve Bug : You don’t. DJ T is a friend of mine and he always wanted to go into the studio together. It was before Get Physical and I invited him, I like to work with friends. He came over and it worked well for two tracks, then he found a producer to get all his stuff done and now he is doing really good. While he was running Groove magazine he didn’t really have time to go into the studio or DJ, but since he sold the magazine his DJ career with Get Physical has gone great. With Matthias, he is also a good friend and I always liked his productions. I think it was in Berlin and we were having dinner together and he was like, “Yeah lets do it!”. Also with Nick Calingaert [Common Factor ] I did some stuff a long time ago when I was hanging out in Chicago. Just like musicians we go into the studio and if nothing comes out of it nobody cares. It’s not wasted time, it’s fun just trying. Even if you go into the studio on your own no one is saying you are coming out with a track. I spend sometimes five days a week without really finishing anything. At the moment I am working on some stuff with Martin Landsky, we did two remixes for an old Nick Holder track we signed for Poker Flat, “Erotic Illusions”. That is going really good, I’m working really well with him so we are thinking of doing more stuff together.
HRFQ : If we can talk about another collaboration, you did some work with a fashion photographer a while back, you’ve brought out a mix CD with a similar theme and now you’re here in conjunction with Diesel-U-Music. Is there a fashion theme going on?
Steve Bug : It’s not really about fashion, for me it is all about music. The photographer collaboration was interesting. Those guys contacted us because they liked the Dessous stuff and they had good music on their website. So, they had good taste and I saw their pictures and thought it could be a very good concept to have the combination of these pictures with music. I think in the end it was maybe the best product we have ever done. If you look at it we had a golden CD and a thick booklet with all the pictures and it really looks expensive, even though it isn’t. It took a long time because they wanted certain artwork and we wanted our artwork so it was all back and forth but I think it is a very good, fun product.
HRFQ : Well we’ll finish it there because we want you to have plenty of time to prepare for your set, but thank-you very much for talking to us.
Steve Bug : You’re welcome.
End of the interview
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