“If I wasn’t making music and DJing I’d probably have ended up being a personal trainer,” admits Stefan Bruegeseh, more commonly known in dance music circles as Steve Bug.
A self-confessed fan of Bikram yoga sessions, tennis, jogging and, erm, ping-pong, it’s amazing the Berlin-based house and techno aficionado has any time to make and play music at all.
But all that exercise must actually spur him on because he’s just released his fourth production album ‘Collaboratory’ through his own Poker Flat label, an album that spans atmospheres, sounds and ideas that all fall within his deep, tech and minimal house parameters.
“This is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” says Bug, who also owns deep house imprint Dessous and offshoot label Audiomatique.
Anyone who’s still playing classic Bug cuts like his deliciously deep, tech-house tune ‘Wet’ and early gems like ‘Ho’ won’t be disappointed by this album, which sees him collaborate with Minimise boss Donnacha Costello, Paris The Black Fu (of Detroit Grand Pubah’s fame), Cassy and Clé (of Märtini Bros), Simon Flower and Brazilian vocalist Virginia Nacimento, amongst others.
“I’ve always liked the idea of getting ideas together with another producer and coming up with something that will be a little bit of both characters,” says Bug.
“It ends up being a gathering of different minds and characters on the album.”
A Kiss fan in his early years, Bremmen-born Bug got into electronic music through ’80s bands such as Simple Minds, Depeche Mode and Visage. The progression to house music was a natural step and by the late-’80s Steve had already amassed a collection of vinyl that he’d mix in his bedroom, urged on by his pals. His early mix tapes were based on sounds he’d hear at clubs in nearby Hamburg and when he went to Mayday in Berlin, in 1991, he decided making music was what he wanted to do for a living.
“After that I decided to go and spend three months working in Ibiza for the summer because I’d heard that it was a good place for house music,” says Bug. “I played my first proper gig at a small bar near Space.”
Back then the clubs in Ibiza ended at midday and this little bar became the club’s official after-party.
“The funniest thing about it was that I was DJing in a kitchen!” remembers Steve. “And it didn't have any windows so I couldn't see what was going on outside. I couldn't get any response from the crowd and they didn't even know someone was playing so the whole thing was bizarre. It was more like playing for yourself. I ended up just doing the opening party and it was definitely an experience!”
Despite not having a specific residency, Steve regularly DJs at some of the best clubs in the world, including Fabric, in London, with music from Essen-based artists Manuel Tur and DPlay currently rocking his boat. He DJs using Traktor but also remains a vinyl junkie.
“I was one of the first Germans to use Traktor playing out but I still control it through vinyl ’cos I like the feeling and I think it sounds better,” says Bug.
“These days too many DJs play low quality mp3 files all night and that's really disturbing to my ears. I still buy vinyl. Sometimes I play promos as mp3s but once a track is out I still buy the vinyl then encode it again. I think that's the main problem, a lot of people just don't care about the sound any more. I know a lot of DJs who only play promos and they don't go to the stores.”
Steve, on the other hand, makes a point of visiting his local record store — Melting Point in Berlin — every Wednesday without fail, where his “record dealer” picks out a hefty stack of vinyl for him to go through.
“For me, it's still a passion to search for new music and go to record stores,” says Bug. “I still think it’s one of the most important parts of my job.”
DJs, producers and DJmag readers clambered to put their own questions to the Poker Flat boss so we put him in the line of some friendly fire…
If you were to be reborn as someone else in dance music, who would it be? AUDIOFLY
"I pretty much like being myself but if I had to decide I think I might go for Laurent Garnier. He's one of the only other DJs I know that is able to create a good flow even with very different styles of music, and he has his very own style of production and that's what I appreciate."
With respect to the huge volume of new releases and promos flying around each week, how do you cut through the 'crap'?? MARK HENNING
"I know a lot of other DJs have someone who does a pre-selection of demos then they only get stuff that's been filtered through but, to be honest, I've stopping listening to things I don't know. I just don’t have time to listen to all the promos I get sent from artists I don't know and labels I don't know. I'd rather go to the record shop and listen and I do that at least once a week.”
When was the last time you had shivers down your spine? KRISTAN J CARYL
"Last week in New York when I was playing at Save The Cannibals, at a venue called Rebel, in Manhattan. At the beginning of my set I had lots of computer problems because of vibration. My laptop kept falling off the stage, then they finally fixed the problem and I could properly let go. The longer the night went on, the deeper the music was and I was really getting into it. The whole room was getting into it too. It was mentally building up and getting really deep. I was getting sucked into the music I was playing and then, I don't know which record I put on, but I remember thinking, ‘Wow! That was one of those moments.’"
What do producers/DJs/label owners/promoters, etc, end up doing when they are old and grey? ALEX JONES
"That's a question we all ask ourselves. For me, I'm always going to have something to do with music. I have a record company with my label partner. I might be DJing for a lot more years but maybe when I get older I’ll cut down on gigs a bit. When I'm really old and grey and unable to travel I’ll hopefully have made enough money to retire."
Will you ever come back to Hamburg? SOLOMUN, DIYNAMIC
"I don't think so. I like living in Berlin even though my family is in Bremmen and a small town close to Dusseldorf."
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘minimal’? DJ T
"To be honest, it has to be Robert Hood's 'Minimal Nation'. That album was what I would really call minimal music. What people have recently called minimal I don't think is minimal at all."
Given that your new album is called ‘Collaboratory’, were there any people you wanted to work with but didn’t get round to it? DJMAG
"I’d planned to do something with Dan Berkson but it never happened, I ran out of time. But, for me, collaborating is all about finding a person I personally like and we have something in common as human beings. Then, if we both like each other’s music, that's when it makes sense to go to studio.
“Just because I think someone is a great producer I don't necessarily want to work with them. It’s always a personality thing for me too. Apart from Robert Owens, that is. And I think a collaboration with him might happen one day soon."
How do you feel about the house/retro revival? Do you feel old (it was better the first time) or do think it’s a just natural cyclic evolution??? CRAIG MORRISON (SILICONE SOUL)
"Definitely a natural cyclical evolution. I'm happy about it because I'd rather have someone warming up for me with old skool house rather than 125bpm minimal techno. Although with every trend that comes up, I do think it's boring when people just play that one genre. I've always loved playing bits of everything. Some people will only play the new on-trend music and ignore all the other good stuff out there. I think that’s a shame.”
What advice would you give to new producers and where is the future of production taking the bedroom producer? FRANCIS BENALI
“My advice would be to try to find your own sound otherwise you won't be noticed in the flood of upcoming producers. And there are already so many established producers out there so if you’re not coming up with something fresh you’re going to struggle.
“With regards to the bedroom producer, I think everyone has to find their own way with their equipment. It's just like in DJing: you can still use only vinyl and be a better DJ than someone using all the technology but who has no idea how to rock a crowd.”
What would you say to people who think house and techno is drug music: music that can't move you the way lyrics and guitars can? KRISTAN J CARYL
"I totally disagree. I can see why someone who’s not into techno music might think that but for someone who's into the music, it's not that way. You can understand house and techno without being on drugs."
What did you think of the Superfreq party at the top of the Center Point tower in London? CHRIS CV
"It was amazing. Unfortunately they couldn't put in a big soundsystem but that didn’t really matter. The sunlight was so beautiful up there. I loved it."
Do you think there’s any need for sub genres or genres at all? DOBBY
"Yes and no. If everything was labeled under one genre it would be hard for someone who doesn't want to listen to cheesy house or hard techno to filter things out. On the other hand, it's important to check out certain things and not narrow it down to tiny genres.
“For me, it’s enough to stick to wide genres such as techno, house, deep house and tech-house. I don't need more than that. Maybe electro. I don't know why everyone else needs all these tiny sub genres."
After all that you've achieved, what’s your next big goal? DARK ROOM ROBOT
"The next thing I'm working on is a mix compilation for NRK. After that it's hard to say. The album I've just done was a long-awaited project. I think now I might take some time off and try and work on something that’s just an in-between project. There’s lots of good new stuff coming on my labels so that’s enough to be getting on with for a few weeks.”