Cornerstone Tracks
Steve Bug outlines Poker Flat in 5 records

It’s not easy to reach and stay at the top tier of DJing, and harder still when you add in running a reputable record label. Steve Bug has been one of dance music’s focal voices since the late 90s, meanwhile his label Poker Flat remains one of house and techno’s best loved. Bug’s early classic Loverboy helped to set a precedent for the label’s musical direction, laying a foundation for a style of sleek deep house that artists like Lee Burridge, John Tejada and Trentemøller would later strengthen.

Bug’s career has covered much ground in the two decades since then, but one of the main constants has been Poker Flat. Earlier this year saw the imprint release his Paradise Sold LP, and before the launch party with us on 2nd June, he gave us an insight into its illustrious history.

No House For Old Men – Daniel Dexter [Poker Flat]

I got in touch with Daniel after his incredible release on Semester Music to let him know that I would have open ears if he ever felt like sending over some tunes for Poker Flat. I was in Miami for WMC when the demo finally arrived. I think he sent 8 tracks, I remember feeling nervous to listen to them since I loved his release on Semester Music so much. But then I finally hit play and all of the tunes were awesome. I think I even signed two EPs from the package.

How do you usually go about signing new artists?

There is no business as usual. Sometimes I discover an artist and get in touch to see if he’d be up for sending some stuff for one of the labels. Other times, artists I’ve befriended ask me if it’s OK to send a demo. Sometimes it’s by discovering something interesting in all the demos being sent to us.

Do you still spend a lot of time searching yourself?

As a DJ I spend a lot of time searching for new and interesting tracks, so I think it goes hand in hand with that.

Polar Shift – Trentemøller [Poker Flat]

I met Anders in Kopenhagen, I think. We played a party together. He had a release out on Naked Music at the time, the Trentemøller EP. I loved that EP so much, and I was looking for new music for Dessous Recordings, so I asked him to send some stuff over. The tunes he sent were rather techy, so I decided to signed them on Poker Flat. Several EPs followed and they were topped by the unforgettable album release, The Last Resort.

The Last Resort must have been the record that blew him up. Was that the biggest release you’d signed at that point?

That album was definitely a very big one for us. And with music sales going down in general, it will probably always be the label’s best-selling release.

What do you think has made Trentemøller’s music appeal to such a broad demographic?

Apart from Anders being a very talented musician, and the album being really, really good, it was right time, and the right music. He had a sound of his own, and he had remixed many popular artists. Everything just fell into place.

Everything Is All You have – Tim Engelhardt [Poker Flat]

Marcel Janovsky (long time colleague, DJ, producer, promoter and and and…) got in touch with me about a new talent from Cologne. To be honest I’d never heard of Tim. He had a few releases out on smaller labels. I think he was 16 years old at the time. Marcel sent me those tunes, and I couldn’t believe the quality of them. Tim has a classical music education, but he has a true sense for club music, even though back then he’d never been to clubs. Most of his knowledge came from his brother’s record collection. We built a strong relationship and not too long ago he released his first album on the label.

What do you think fuels the creativity in artists at such a young age? Similarly Aphex Twin wrote his debut single when he was only 17.

It’s hard to say, I think it’s different for everyone. But looking back to when I was that age, I was already really into music, and was being very creative and productive with many other things. I’m sure that I would have been trying to create some tracks if I had some musical equipment at the time.

The Clapper – Detroit Grand Pubahs [Poker Flat]

I don’t remember how we first got connected; if we met at a gig in Detroit, or if we spoke via email. But Sandwiches was such a big tune for me, and I was more than happy to receive a demo from Paris The Black Fu. So I hit play and had to immediately jump off my seat to start jumping around my living room. The Clapper has such a great energy, and it still (or maybe again) sounds very fresh. This also resulted in an incredible album, Galactic Ass Creatures From Uranus.

Do you always look for that instant connection with the records you sign? Have there been any others that were slow burners that you didn’t think of signing straight away?

I think the instant connection is the most important thing for me, in signing or buying music. Of course there are some slow burners here and there, but most of the time, I am right about my feelings. But that doesn’t mean that the records I like the most are always the biggest selling records!

You can hear the original Detroit electro sound in this. How much has Detroit’s music influenced you?

Definitely A LOT – like all the other early house music from Chicago or New York. I still think that these roots are very important in today’s house and techno. It’s what still drives these genres.

Ghosts – Berkson & What [Poker Flat]

Like pretty much all of Berkson & What’s tunes, I was blown away by this one. It is still such a great tune today. I simply wish there was more stuff like this out there today. No one makes this kind of sound these days. Maybe it’s time for a revival. These two guys are also still in the top 3 house and techno live acts I’ve ever seen. What a great duo. Dan now has his own jazz trio, and I think James is still living in Asia.

This sounds like it would work early on in a set. When would you normally play it?

Personally I think if this track is played at the right time, after the right track and in the right surrounding it’s an absolute peak time track. But I think a DJ should try to tell a story, rather than playing obvious peak time track after obvious peak time track.

Do you typically draw from a lot of stuff from the label in your bag?

Yes, and I am happy to have these tunes. As I mentioned I had an instant connection to all of these records, and most of the time it stays that way.

Photo: Marie Staggat

Saturday 2nd June

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