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Steve Bug

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Artist Spotlight

Gray Area Spotlight: Steve Bug

Harry Levin

5 min read

Steve Bug would not be alone in saying he's involved with dance music for the love and the passion. It's a culture that inspires, enchants, ensorcells, and otherwise intoxicates nomadic individuals to love any and all with every fiber of their being.

What makes Bug unique is his universal application of that love and passion. For nearly 30 years, the Berlin-based polymath has served as a producer, DJ, event curator, and label head to a plethora of different imprints. 

Steve Bug on tour with Ritter Butzke | at Staatsoper Berlin

In the mind of Bug, none of these activities are mutually exclusive. They all embody the same thing. If he is going to do one, he will do them all because that is how he can best represent dance music as a human being.

"To me it's all a big thing. I'm either in it 100 percent or I'm not," Bug says, dialing in from his studio in Berlin. "I don't think I could just be a DJ or just be a producer or just a label guy. To me it has to be the whole thing. I want to do everything because I love it so much. This is what brings me joy."

Preeminent physicist Isaac Newton's third law of motion states that "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction," and Steve Bug proves this rule via his introduction to dance music. His first authentic experience was an evening at Hamburg's now-legendary Front Club in the late '80s.

"My friend said I should come with her to Front Club in Hamburg where they play this house sound. I didn't know anything about it. I hadn't heard anything about it," Bug says. "So I went to a record shop and basically found two records. The House Sound of Chicago and one other compilation that I don't remember right now to know what was going on. So I went home and listened to those records and I really enjoyed what I was listening to, but I didn't know what to expect from the club."


Front Club Hamburg 1988

Bug proceeded to "dance his ass off all night," in this mecca for dance music culture surrounded by people expressing themselves without inhibition. But what truly sparked Bug's attention was the nonstop music.

"Before DJs in the discotheques weren't really mixing records together. It was just one track one by one. Music stopped and they played the next track," Bug says. "I was enjoying the music nonstop. That was really blowing my mind."

Bug took action through attending Front Club that one fateful evening and the equal and opposite reaction was a complete and utter passion for dance music.


Steve Bug DJing in the 90's

Soon after Front Club, Bug completed his DJ set up with two turntables and a mixer. He started working with others to produce music before building out his own studio, and after that, he started running his own record labels. That was over 25 years ago, and throughout that time, Bug has proven himself an innovator in all three of those areas (his activities within dance music go far beyond DJing, production, and record labels as well).

As a DJ, Bug has a dedicated fanbase worldwide, playing regularly at hotspots like Miami Music Week and festivals like Germany's Fusion, Saint Maarten's boutique island experience SXM, and BPM. His production catalog spans seven full-length albums and dozens of singles and EPs. Along the way, he has run a variety of record labels, including Raw Elements, Dessous, Traffic Signs, Sublease Music, and Poker Flat Recordings.

Steve Bug @ Rodriguez Jr. & Friends Rooftop 2018 (BE-AT.TV)

"We're doing Poker Flat right now and Sublease Music. These are the two we're focusing on. The others I prefer to say they're asleep instead of saying we definitely put them away, and that's not ever going to happen again," Bug says with a laugh.

Raw Elements was Bug's first label. He adopted a genre-spanning approach from 1997 to 2000, releasing various styles from disco house and electro to Detroit techno. After discovering that so much diversity on one label wasn't necessarily viable paired with some issues with their distributor, Bug put Raw Elements to sleep and started Poker Flat Recordings in 1998.

Poker Flat Recordings is Bug's most prominent and longest-running label. Over the last 23 years, he's put out over 300 different releases on Poker Flat from artists like John Tejada, TRENTEMØLLER, Tim Engelhardt, Alex Niggemann, and Francesca Lombardo, as well as his own productions, all while being sure to maintain the label's integrity; remaining true to the off-kilter and eerie approach to minimalism regardless of whatever sound is the trend of the day. 

"Integrity is not about setting trends. Music to me and I think for a lot of other independent label owners is about passion and about something you personally feel. It's not about what other people like out there, and if a trend is shifting, it's not a smart move to shift with a sound financially, and in the long run, you keep your integrity, Bug says. "It's who we are. I can't do it differently. This is how I do it, and I think this is true for all people who run these sorts of labels, no matter if it's dance music or any other sort of music. Independent labels are basically driven by passion."  

Bug is still driving the culture forward with that passion. He is signing exciting new artists to Poker Flat like Ausilio Jo (whom Bug discovered through a track feedback session at SINEE Electronic Music Production School), he's curating more "reduced, hypnotic, and raw sounds" through Sublease Music, he's producing his own music (Bug had the final release on Poker Flat in 2021) and tours are coming soon as well.

With Bug's love and passion, even a global pandemic couldn't stop him from being in dance music 100 percent.

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