Techno Tuesday: Steve Bug talks label longevity, new album ‘Paradise Sold’ with Langenberg
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
For over two decades, German innovator Steve Bug has carved out an elegantly crafted niche in the genre alongside like-minded collaborators. With titles including “producer,” “tastemaker,” and “label-head,” Bug consistently transcends hype or trends by melting together a unique hybrid of acid, deep house and minimal techno. Bug finds hoards of fans internationally, having recently played at top clubs including Hive Club in Zürich, Closer in Ukraine and INPUT in Barcelona.
While Bug is lauded as a modern day techno pioneer, he has humble beginnings in the heyday of Germany’s acid house and techno scene. Bug honed his craft until his big break in 1999, with the release of his classic “Loverboy” and the launch of his new label, Poker Flat Recordings. Bug’s willingness for experimentation proves his resilience; almost twenty years after its inception, Poker Flat continues to push boundaries with releases from fellow techno figureheads Carlos Sanchez, Vincenzo, Doc Martin, Langenberg and more.
Out via Poker Flat on April 6, Bug’s impending full length LP Paradise Sold is a collaborative effort with the latter artist that has been years in the making. We sat down with Bug to chat label longevity, his creative process, Paradise Sold and more.
Your labels Poker Flat Recordings, Dessous and Audiomatique have seen impressive longevity in their nearly 20 year runs. What are some core values you and your team stand by that have given the labels such long-standing success?
First of all, we are not following any fast coming and going trends or hypes. It is also important to us to build a stronger relationship with our artists. We are not looking for one-off singles of hip artists, we are rather looking for a longtime relationship. And we try to keep the quality level high at all times. We would rather have big gap between releases than release something we don’t 100% feel. And last but not least we have good stamina to go on a long run.
What is your best tip to get out of a creative rut?
That’s a though one, and I think it is different for every artist. But what helps me the best is to try to let go and do something completely different until “that feeling” comes back. Or you could try to work with other people to get out of it – that might help as well.
Does your new album Paradise Sold pay homage to a particular era of techno history? Which ones/how so?
Not really, we didn’t have anything particular in mind when we were writing the tracks. Everything just fell into place. But I am sure that any personal musical history is always going to be a part of what you create. And I never try to put my tracks in a specific place, it’s all about feeling them or not. I mean in general writing music should reflect your actual mood, and should come naturally, instead of planning what you want to tell or where you want to get to. But that is the difference between being an artist and a producer I guess.
How did this collaboration with Langenberg come about?
We’ve known each other for a long time, and I’ve been a big fan of Langenberg’s collaboration with Manuel Tur – RIBN – and we’ve been exchanging remixes since about 2009. Then Max released a few EPs under Langenberg on Dessous, that finally resulted in a full album in 2016. At the time I was in a little creative rut, which I was trying to get out of. I was bouldering (climbing) quite a lot at the time to get my head free, but I simply hated being in the studio. I was already working on a coupe of tracks with my old mate Cle, as well as on some own material, but at one point I thought why not try to work with someone else as well. So I asked Max: being a fan of his stuff for many years, it made sense.
We got to know each other better a few years ago, when we used to play beach volleyball in the summer. So I invited him to come over to work on some tunes. And then it was a match made in heaven – haha. After the first three tracks, we felt so comfortable working together, that I came up with the idea of simply continuing to write music until we have enough material for a whole album. And the rest is history!
Where were you when you recorded Paradise Sold? Tell us a bit about the recording process for the album…
We met at my studio, which is actually set up to work together: lots of outboard gear, with a big mixing console, so a lot of the synths are on the desk at the same time. It is fun to jam around, trying out different sounds and synths. Sometimes, at least in the beginning, one of us had an unfinished early idea, that we started working on together, and the tracks easily took shape. Towards the end, we mostly started with a blank page and created everything from scratch. After we arranged the tracks, we recorded the synths and took the stems to Hannes Bieger’s studio to mix the stuff down with him. Not having to think about the mixdown gave us more freedom during the creative process of writing music. And having another, even fresher pair of ears, definitely helped to make the tracks sound even better.
Does the album title have any correlation to the 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost?
Neither of us are fans of titles with bigger meanings, we like titles that give the listener enough room for imagination. I think in many ways Paradise Sold is a great title, but it is not related to anything else for us.
Where in the world are you most excited to play out this new music? Any live show dates coming up that you’re particularly excited for?
We are not planning on playing live together though, but we are touring as DJs, playing a few gigs together, starting from April. One of my first destinations will be Japan. I am always looking forward to play there: I just love the vibe and the people. May is going to be a very German month, which is also great, since I don’t play here much. Then I’ll be heading to the US and Latin America, with several European dates in between.