German multi-talent Steve Bug has not only released his own music with quality labels like Rejected and Watergate, but his Poker Flat Recordings is, without doubt, one of Europe’s top outputs for authentic house music.
Following several hundred releases that include works from youANDme, Detroit Grand Pubahs, Tim Engelhardt, Alex Niggemann, John Tejada, Martin Landsky and a long list of others, Poker Flat will celebrate 20 years with a number of label showcases and special remix EPs.
We spoke to the Poker Flat boss about the impressive anniversary, what’s to come from his own studio, what gigs have him excited and more. Grab the full discussion below.
Thanks for sitting down with us, how are things in the life of Steve Bug?
All good, I can’t complain. Just got back from a short USA tour with two incredible gigs in NY and Washington DC. In a few days, I will go on a hiking trip in the alps.
This year you celebrate 20 years of Poker Flat Recordings, what’s in store for the anniversary?
We are planning a bunch of remixes of classics by artists like Francois K, Butch, Catz n Dogz, Acid Pauli, Matthias Kaden, Michael Mayer and more. These will be released as single or two-track releases. First one to drop is by Tim Engelhardt who remixed a track by Berkson & What feat. vocals by Robert Owens. Besides that, we are planning a few label showcases around Europe. First one will be on August 3rd at Hive Club Zurich.
And 20 years is a pretty long time, what’s the most important lessons you’ve learnt running the label?
Consistency pays off, do not change the sound with every hype or trend, stay true to your origins. The sound of a label evolves naturally with the artists you’ve signed. It is important to work with artists for more than just a one-off release. This way they will get involved in the development of the label. Give them space to breathe, but don’t sign everything they send you. Try to keep your vision while letting the artist experiment with their sound a little. And sometimes you need to let go if someone is too far from what you envisioned for the label.
Your own music has now appeared on labels like Watergate and Knee Deep In Sound, how does it typically work when organising a release with their teams?
Yeah, Cle and I just signed our third release on Rejected, to be released very soon. And I have a track with remixes coming up on Snatch records. From all the labels I have worked with so far, I can say they have been very professional with the promotion and everything. Normally I would connect their promo team with my personal promo team so that they can avoid double features and may help each other out to get good coverage for the release.
But most importantly, and that’s what a lot of artists don’t understand, you gotta make sure there is room to breathe between your releases, don’t have two to three releases lined up in a month. At least give a release four weeks, before you schedule your next one. It’s not that easy to align with everybody, but it is essential.
And how involved do you like to be when it comes to artwork, social media and promo stuff? Both for Steve Bug and for Poker Flat?
Most labels have their own label artwork as we do at Poker Flat, so it’s rare that you can actually get involved. For our last release on Rejected, that came out last year, the picture on the artwork was one that I took during a tour in Ecuador earlier that year, which did make it a bit more personal. A lot of times that wouldn’t even work with the label’s artwork., but that’s fine with me.
For Poker Flat I am of course involved with our artwork, that’s one of my jobs, and I love it. For social media it really depends, if I really have a great idea, I tell the team and we may be able to create something special. Like that video we did for the more recent Poker Flat Wax only, the cardboard pressing plant, it was my idea, but the Poker Flat head office did such an amazing job setting it up, the video ended up being better than I ever expected.
For promotion we have our team, like most other labels, and I let them do their job. Sometimes I’m involved in making decisions of what to do, and what not, but I think that’s rather normal for artists/label honchos to do.
Do you have any gig coming up that you’re especially looking forward to?
I am always looking forward to play at my own events at IPSE (Steve Bug presents Play) the next one is on August 31st with another splendid lineup.
There is always something special to play in your hometown, especially if it’s your own party. It’s like coming home, you feel way more comfortable than in most places, you know the sound system, the room, the crowd, the vibe, it’s almost like a residency, even though if it’s only a few times per year.
We mostly do this during the summer season, since the outdoor area is kinda essential at this place. But we also did winter editions only on the warehouse which I personally enjoyed a lot as well.
What tune are you going to open with?
I never make any plans on what to play, with one exception: at the Space closing in Ibiza, I created an extra playlist of around 40 songs, from which I knew that I could play any of the tunes. I did that, because I only had 45 minutes to play, and I didn’t want to end up searching for music.
Because Space has played a big role in my career, both as a clubber and as a DJ, I also wanted to play some classics, and it would have been hard to think of them during the set, so that’s why I pre-organized a special record box for that occasion. Other than that, I simply play what I feel is the best to play at that moment.
Before we go, what is something someone said that has stuck with you throughout your career?
“Don’t open the cut off all the way.”
Tim Engelhardt’s remix for Berkson & What’s Keep On is out August 16th on Poker Flat Recordings.