Catch up with Steve Bug

Words by: Marcus Barnes
Posted: 24/10/12 8:42

Steve BugSteve Bug remains a constant presence in the world of house and techno, always on tour, always in the studio and always releasing great music via Poker Flat and its associated artists. This year he released his fifth album, a solo project entitled Noir. With that new release out now and lots to talk about besides, I caught up with Steve to get the lowdown on his goings-on...

How's life in general at the moment?
Apart from some back problems, everything's well.

What's up with your back?
A few months they were thinking my discs had flipped out, but they hadn't so I just had to do some physio and some sports to build up the core muscles. But last weekend it was quite rough, I had a five hour flight delay and I could feel it coming back, I didn't have enough time to focus on the exercises. I'm not in pain, but I really have to be careful now.

And what's the cause of that?
A lot of people have problems, Josh Wink I know has some trouble, Heidi... I think it's just comes with the job. The worst thing for the back is standing and sitting for long periods and this is what we do all the time – especially when your muscles get tired, all your weight goes on the discs because the muscles can't keep the back upright and I think that's when the problems start. There's more pressure on your back when you're bent over a little bit. I know DJ Hell had these problems a while ago, it's a typical DJ problem especially for people who used to carry their records around all the time.

That's one of the good things about the digital revolution, people don't have to worry about carrying record bags full of vinyl around with them.
Exactly! That's definitely a good thing. Anything sound-wise we don't have to discuss but for travelling it's made everything so much easier.

I think someone needs to open a gym class for DJs so they can build up their back muscles.
Maybe I should do it. I'm loving sports at the moment, so it's something I could think of as a second job during the week, I could join the class and I'd be the fittest out of all of them because I'm doing it for like four hours a day.

It's the first album I've worked on alone in ten years. There have been a lot of improvements in my productions so it was really interesting to go back to the studio and work on an album, I'm very happy with the results...You could be there in your Lycra getting everyone moving.
It could be like the video for Eric Prydz's song, Call On Me [laughs].

Haha, and moving on to your album. How do you feel about the whole thing, I mean, it's not your first...
I'm really happy with the results, it's the first album I've worked on alone in ten years. There have been a lot of improvements in my productions so it was really interesting to go back to the studio and work on an album, I'm very happy with the results.

I haven't listened to my previous albums after they were finished and still enjoyed them as much as I have with this one. I haven't found stuff I would change if I go back to the studio whereas, with the others, I was like, 'I could change this, I could change that'. I don't think I could have done it much better if I'd had another month to work on it.

I guess having been working on music for as long as you have helped to do this one?
Yeah the more knowledge you have about music... I mean you have DJs who put together ten dancefloor tracks and release them as an album, for me I always try to get more of a musical journey going. Of course with more knowledge and the more music you've listened to it changes your view on an album and you get deeper into stuff and play around with more ideas that you could when you'd just started producing.

Why did you call it 'Noir'?
When I had a bunch of tracks finished for the album and started thinking about the title... since it was quite moody and melodic and I like simple words, I tried to find something – and it all came down to something that had been used before, like 'shadows' or 'black'. But with 'black' you need at least a second word to explain it, 'black' is just a colour. With 'noir' it's only the French word for it but it has more connotations, like maybe sexy underwear. There are a lot more ideas that come with the word and I really liked the idea of calling it Noir. I remember checking up on everything that came with the word and, of course, there's perfume and whatever but also the film noir stuff. Also it fits in with the music I've produced so far and it kind of shaped the direction of some of the tracks I wrote after I decided on the name.

And is that a reflection of yourself as well... being a bit moody and dark?
Yeah [laughs] unfortunately I think it is. I'm usually enjoying myself a lot and having a good time and laughing a lot, but there is a side of me that is melancholic. Actually I just did a feature for Groove magazine about the six best albums or something and I found I was always into the melancholic stuff, even the books I read, there's always this character that's just broken. Thinking about it, it's somewhere in me even though I'm a more outgoing happy person. Somehow it's in me.

Yeah I'm the same, I love to play and listen to moody music. Like a lot of the stuff that comes out on Life And Death... you've got a couple of vocalists on the album, how did you hook up with those guys?
With Foremost Poets, he actually contacted me on Facebook asking if I wanted to work with him and I was really surprised because I knew him from the very early days when I first got into house and techno. I never even asked him why he contacted me but I think he was working on an album of his own and he was contacting different producers to see if they wanted to contribute to his project. Unfortunately... or fortunately for me, I couldn't deliver in time but we ended up working together on my own album. I'm very happy with being able to work with someone I respect.

With Emilie (Chick) I had a deep house track from her from years ago, I always loved it and sometimes when I go back to my hotel I put on my deep house selection and that track always popped up, I loved the vocals and decided to work with her on my next project so I got in touch and she sang on the track. Afterwards I checked out what else she's doing and she's doing a lot, working with a band and I really hope we can do more stuff in future because she has a great voice and I hope it's not how it often is where everyone's gonna work with her – a lot of times someone discovers someone, then everyone works with them and like ten different tracks come with the same vocalist on it. But, we'll see...

Yeah, there's been times when even bad music would sell up to a thousand copies - I mean they probably never left a lot of the stores, but even getting stuff into stores is difficult now. You really have to do a lot of work around the promotion, even a little white label, if there's no story behind it people just never pick it up...What else is happening with you now the album is out?
There's an album tour coming up but there aren't many more dates than usual – I've been playing every weekend for many years now – but you turn it into an album tour to promote the album a little bit, so I think that will go on until mid-February, half a year is definitely enough. It's always good because it's a different promotion for clubs.

The tour is coming up but during the week I'll have time to work on music, I've already finished three or four remixes since I finished the album and a 12” that I did for the album but it didn't really fit the mood, it's a track i've been working on with Mr .V with two versions that he did and I did a couple of versions.

Now I'm working on some new stuff... but it's always so stupid when you've released an album and there's this gap where you release remixes from the album then there's a lot of time where you interviews and touring, and studio time, but you don't release anything original because of the album. I have something that's not 100% finished but I want to try and get it soon somehow...

Yeah it must be weird having to be a bit restrained because there's an album out there...
Exactly, you feel like you have to wait until the remixes have come out and then you can release something. With the first albums I did, everytime I did a series – like the B Series and the Traffic Series – I started releasing stuff under a different monicker. Even with the last album I did the Loop Hotel stuff, I think it was just the times, it was so much easier to release music where there wasn't a name when vinyl was still alive. These days if you're a label with a bunch of artists that push stuff with their names and their gigs and only release vinyl for the first few months or years, then it's easy but otherwise, if it's no name and you can't promote it, it's almost impossible to get through to people.

Steve BugVery much so, back when it was strictly vinyl you could put out a limited white label release under a pseudonym and it would sell.
Yeah, there's been times when even bad music would sell up to a thousand copies – I mean they probably never left a lot of the stores, but even getting stuff into stores is difficult now. You really have to do a lot of work around the promotion, even a little white label, if there's no story behind it people just never pick it up. The best thing is to go to the shops directly I guess. That's another reason I like to do stuff without your name, to see how it sells without 'Steve Bug' on it, it's still music you wrote and it's interesting to see the difference in sales.

With the Traffic series and B series it's been really good but with Loop Hotel it didn't sell at all, I think we sold the few vinyls we produced, but digital didn't get to anyone. I think it's difficult for young artists to make a little bit of money, not just to make a living I mean but even to be able to just pay for a release.

Have you had much feedback on the album from your peers?
I only played some of the tracks to some of my close friends and that's how I decided what to have on the album, but I haven't given it away to a lot of DJs – we started the promo just a week ago. The 12” (Those Grooves/Tell Me Why) has been out for a while, and we got good feedback on those. I've always been... shy isn't the right word, in a way I don't want to give it away too early and I don't want to give it to the wrong people – I don't want to bother people and make them feel like they have to play it.

The way I am with promos, it's just too much these days, of course you play the stuff from people you know but for me it's still something I have to find a way to get along with better and give out music to DJ friends before release. Maybe it's also because I'm in the studio so much in Berlin, I'm not always in contact with people, Skype-ing like a lot of other people do, exchanging tracks and so on – I've never been into this stuff, I'd rather be in the studio than emailing and Skype-ing.

Good for you, and how's Poker Flat doing?
You always have to depend on what demos are sent to you, but lately I think we've been very lucky with what we've had and the artists and music we've had, right now we're at the point where I really really like every single release and it might not be the biggest tunes for what's happening right now but we've never been looking for the next hype thing and trying to be on that hype train. For me it was about releasing great music and what could be great music in three or five years from now. So I'm very happy with what we're releasing these days and how the artist roster is growing with younger people that have great energy, which for me is almost more important than the music.

How's the year been for you all round?
Yeah it's been busy, actually my back problems only started after I finished the album so the summer has been a bit rough because you start thinking about your job when your body isn't 100%. Apart from that it's been a great year, I got my back back in place – actually there's a bunch of DJs I was playing beach vollyball with all summer.

Who were you playing with?
Alex Niggemann, Phonique, Vincenzo, Ralf Kollmann, the Pan-Pot guys, there were more, quite a lot of them. Not everyone was there every time, but we had up to ten people sometimes, it was great.

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