We had the opportunity to catch up with German dj Steve Bug at the 2015 BPM Festival. Head of Poker Flat Recording, Steve has just released a new EP under his Traffic Signs moniker. Read more below about what he is up to right now.
EDM Life: To start off with your label is ‘Poker Flat’, you have the Four Jacks EP and your parties are called the Big Bluff, what’s going on with the poker game titles?
Steve Bug: The fun thing is when we started (the label), poker was more of a back room game and it became quite popular over the years. And the major idea at the time was I would be playing in this small room in the back with rather cool people and you always had the main room. And kind of this dirty atmosphere that you kind of think of a poker room at the time, that was the main idea. I’m not a big poker player. But then of course I’m from Northern Germany and we like to make jokes based on words. And so we built a lot of things around the poker things and that’s actually where it came from.
EDM Life: With the label you just did your 15 year anniversary last year. How would you say the sound of your label and your releases have changed over the years from when you first started the label?
Steve Bug: In general some of the artists are still doing stuff with us and me as the head of the label of course still releasing. After 15 years working on the label, there has been a change in the process of doing it. So in general the main feelings for us are the same, the main reasons why we release something. We still try to find music that we personally a hundred percent would support and that is still in touch to the roots of the original old school house or Detroit techno and has a really nice groove and something special. In general its music that I personally have to really enjoy and that’s usually the stuff that works, a lot of this stuff is still playable today even though the sound has changed.
It seems looking back we’re looking for something timeless without looking for it. As an artist, even for someone who runs a label it’s hard to say how the sound really evolved because you’ve been evolving it all the time and you make it step by step. And someone from the outside who sees it maybe from five years later, for them it’s a big step, for us it’s all like small steps and small changes. Maybe we’ve been a bit rougher and more raw in the beginning because also the equipment we were using. It was just the time.
And then for a while we were kind of signing some artists that were kind of minimal or more at the time called electro sound. It was always music we liked, I don’t care if it’s called electro or minimal, whatever.
But right now we have a lot of great artists. It was a bit difficult for a while. A lot of people were moving to some other kind of music. And it’s always hard to find people who are doing the kind of music that you like when the hype is somewhere else. And at the moment it’s a good playground for a lot of people and a lot of different areas of sounds.
EDM Life: You have a side project Traffic Signs…
Steve Bug: Exactly.
EDM Life: And in the past when that first came out as we understand it you didn’t put your name on it. People didn’t know it was you at first. And why did you choose to release the album without your name on it?
Steve Bug: In general I always liked the idea of releasing music and see how people react just to the music without knowing who’s behind it. Instead of releasing something you have your name on and everyone sees it’s a Steve Bug record or whatever.
EDM Life: The expectations…
Steve Bug: So yeah. And I also like the idea to see how the market is. For example I did another project called the Loop Hotel. Quite unsuccessful. But also the B Series was a successful one and then the Traffic Signs of course the most successful maybe from the three of those series.
And sometimes you know it’s the right time for things like this and sometimes it isn’t. With the Loop Hotel it definitely wasn’t. Maybe we did something wrong, I still haven’t figured it out. And I only did two releases, usually we do three. Traffic Signs, because it went so well, we did six releases. Actually I’m coming back within new one (Cookie Jar), with a remix by Joyce Muniz and I did a Steve Bug remix on this one. And ones called the Blue Series, just in German, it’s not like we’re going to call it the Blue Series but now that we’re going to use blue traffic signs and I hope I can make it to three again with a different idea. More like a fun vocal part to it instead of just having basic tracks. But the main idea of course of working the tracks, the basic track is still the same kind of idea behind it.
EDM Life: Tonight now you’re playing at the Viva Warriors party with Steve Lawler. Is this the first time you played at BPM?
Steve Bug: No I played three years in a row now but I’ve been playing even before the BPM Festival for other people. I think it’s more than eight, nine, maybe ten years. So I’ve been here a lot, even outside the festival and other times. And I used to work with another promoter and since three years, maybe even four years ago I’ve been working with BPM and this is the second time I’m playing with Viva Warriors at the BPM Festival. Last year was amazing, I’m looking really forward to another night. I hope it’s going to be the same or maybe even better than last year.
And yes, we started working together on Ibiza, on Steve’s nights at Sankeys. Since then, even though I haven’t released on his label we’re thinking maybe I have to do a remix one day because we’ve been doing so much stuff together.
EDM Life: What do you think in general just about the BPM Festival – it is only a couple of years old now but its already internationally known with top DJ’s every January.
Steve Bug: They kind of got known in a very short period. Super quickly. They did a great job on promotion. And if you look at the line up it’s so many DJ’s playing and it’s an interesting project and I think they built it up the American way with a complete business background and they did a good job with it.
EDM Life: Now you have a new remix (just released), the Pentatones track, Karma Game. And the original track is known to be a little jazzy and not really dance music. It’s not something you would think “Okay, Steve Bug’s going to do a remix.” How did that come about?
Steve Bug: Pentatones’ the lead singer is Delilah De France – I did a track with her on my last EP on Poker Flat so we’ve been in touch since. She’s also sang on one of my favorite tracks ever from Robag Wruhme called K. T. B. It’s a slow, downbeat track and I want to do more stuff with her because I love her voice since this track. And so then she came up sending me this project she’s been doing with her band. And I’m like “Oh wow, this is amazing.” And then we came up with the idea of me doing a remix for one of the tracks and they sent me the track and I immediately had an idea how to do it and how to turn it into a more Steve Bug kind of style. And that’s how it worked.
EDM Life: We listened to it and thought it was great.
Steve Bug: Thank you.
EDM Life: Are you planning to play in the US soon, at the Winter Music Conference or a US tour coming up?
Steve Bug: We’re working on a new visa which runs through the WMC and I hope to be in Miami. It’s always depending on the parties that are happening and if I get booked but usually every year I’m playing. I’m sure I’m going to be there.
EDM Life: In the past you have mentioned how much you liked the ‘Sunday School’ parties.. Unfortunately that event is no longer around.
Steve Bug: Yes Unfortunately…. I remember when I first did it. At the time it was all about the US house DJ’s and there was nothing going on from the European side even though they had some people coming from Europe to party. But Sunday School really brought the first European artists to play there and a few years later suddenly you have all the European artists playing everywhere and it’s another big take over.
EDM Life: You play a lot with the Cocoon guys but you also play with Steve Lawler at Sankeys on Ibiza. This summer, do you have your plans set who you’ll be playing with in the club on Ibiza that’s coming up?
Steve Bug: Last year I was only playing with Space and with Sankeys (four different parties). For Steve’s party, the Viva Warriors and for the Flying Circus. And then at Space, I played Kehakuma and We Love on Sundays.
I don’t even know if I can talk about it yet – I might have a residency with Josh Wink at Kehakuma this year. We’re going to play a back to back kind of sessions throughout the summer. And yes, looking forward to that as well. We always have a fun time together.
EDM Life: Last question: you have an affinity for vinyl records and may be releasing on vinyl. However the Four Jacks compilation was a digital only…
Steve Bug: No, it’s actually, we released the Vinyl in four pieces and then the compilation came out as a whole piece. So if you look at the art work, the four gentlemen, the four jacks and so every EP had one of the guys. So it started with one on the top left and the top right and then went through to make the whole circle complete. And so it’s all been released as EP’s and then at the end we released the whole album. So it was also on Vinyl as well.
EDM Life: Is there anything coming up that we should know about?
Steve Bug: We talked about the Traffic Signs but I think it’s a very very great track and we have a super cool video for it coming up from some crazy guys called Ben and Julia and they have also started to get a lot of publicity – I think I touched them at the right moment because now they’re super busy and they’ve got every popular and they even have a TV show coming up. But I’m really excited about this project.
I also have some remixes coming up for Manuel Tur on Free Range Records. And a remix for Laurent Garnier, I don’t know when it’s going to be released but it’s a part of his project. He released five EP’s last year on various labels and now he’s going to release the whole package with one of the tracks of the EP’s is always remix and the other side is the original. So it’s always like ten tracks I think, maybe, hopefully. And yeah, that’s what’s going to be. And then I’m working on a lot of new stuff but nothing is finished yet.
Be on the lookout this March 16th for the release of Traffic Signs & Jake The Rapper – Cookie Jar
A1 Cookie Jar (Steve Bug’s Dirty Fingers Mix)
A2 Cookie Jar
B1 Cookie Jar (Joyce Muniz Remix)
B2. Cookie Jar (Joyce Muniz Dub Remix)