Anfisa Letyago has been a rising techno star for years, first playing around her home base in Naples, Italy then launching into the global scene on the power of her darkly swirling productions — and some extra help from techno tastemaker Carl Cox.
Years ago at an event, Letyago gave Cox a drive with some of her music on it. She then realized he was playing a lot of that music during his set. The pair have been tight since, with Cox becoming a friend and mentor to Letyago over the years. Today (March 25) she’ll make her Ultra Music Festival debut on the festival’s Resistance Stage, which Cox has curated for 20 years.
Born in Siberia, Letyago has lived in Naples for almost her entire life and says the Italian scene is as robust as other more famous dance hubs. The southern part of the country also offers her the space to relax at the seaside farmhouse, where she goes to spend time in nature, and balance out her existence as a name to know on the worldwide techno circuit.
Here, Letyago talks genre trends, being from Siberia, her essential electronic albums and more.
Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
I’m in my beloved city now, Naples, but I will probably be somewhere else when this interview will go online. My schedule has been pretty hectic lately, I’ve been playing a lot of gigs all over the world, and I’m very happy about it after the last two years.
What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
The vinyl of the first studio album of Daft Punk, Homework. What an album guys!
What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do or did they think of what you do for a living now?
My mother was a pastry chef, my father a chef, but he also was the bassist of a rock band as a second job. They are very happy about what I do, because they know I’m happy with my life.
What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
I bought a small old farmhouse from the 1700s on the Ionian Sea in southern Italy. I totally fell in love with this place the first time I saw it. I have a weakness for places surrounded by nature, especially if there is also the sea nearby. Feeling a connection with nature is fundamental for me, it makes me feel alive.
If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance music, what would you give them?
What’s the last song you listened to?
I’ve been listening a lot to my next single. I can’t say much except that it will be out soon, and I hope you like it.
What’s the first electronic show that really blew your mind?
Eric Prydz’s Holo show. It was stunning, not only because he proposed a set that ranged a lot in terms of sound, but above all for the spectacular visual effects, all the 3D images that surrounded him on stage, transporting you to another dimension. I will never forget that night.
You live in Naples. What are the defining elements of the techno scene in your home city and in Italy at large?
The techno scene in Naples is very lively and no less important than that of many other European cities. Many internationally renowned artists come to Naples to play. The groove is for sure one of the most defining elements of the Neapolitan techno music, probably influenced by the culture of this amazing city. An example is Gaetano Parisio, who is a Neapolitan producer I respect a lot.
How did techno become your sound. What is it about the genre that speaks to you?
When I moved to Naples, I was immediately fascinated by the artistic and musical culture of this city, and in particular the nightlife that takes place at any time of the year. This led me to go to clubs very often, become a disc selector and make connections with different DJs of different levels. Living this kind of music day-by-day gave me the opportunity to get passionate about it, and this passion naturally resulted in the start of my career.
I understand that Carl Cox had a big effect on your career. Tell us how?
Meeting Carl Cox for the first time is undoubtedly one of the biggest moments of my career. It happened just before one of his sets. He didn’t know me yet, and I gave him a pen drive with my music on it. During the show then I realized that he was playing all of my tracks, you can imagine how much excited I was. He’s been a great friend and colleague ever since, supporting me and my music so much that he has played my tracks on the biggest stages of the world. He gave me credibility, and a lot of opportunities started coming.
How has the pandemic stalled your career, and what’s your strategy for making up for that lost time? Do you even consider it “lost time”?
No, I don’t think so. I couldn’t play of course, like all the artists in the world, but I tried to take the most out of the time we were forced to spend at home during the pandemic. I worked a lot on new tracks, and I gave birth to my own record label, N:S:DA, which I’m very proud about — because it gives me the possibility to express even more on an artistic point of view. I took some time for myself too, of course. I became more aware of the environmental issue, for instance, and began to put more efforts on my habits to be more respectful towards the environment. You will see me involved in some projects based on this.
Are there particular trends or micro-trends you’re seeing and hearing in techno right now that we should know about?
We are witnessing the birth of several new nuances of this musical genre, and this is probably the result of the historical period we are experiencing as well as technology development, which allows producers to create more sophisticated and refined sounds. Also new to the scene is the fact that music is more accessible to people, and there are many young producers with extraordinary skills who have the possibility to work on their own music with little budget and equipment, but still create very good music. My advice is to keep an eye on this new wave.
What’s your guilty pleasure music?
Aside from electronic music, I listen to a lot of rock. My father was a musician and a rock lover, so he deeply influenced me with his listening habits. I can tell it was my first love before meeting my music.
You were born in the Siberia region of Russia. What’s your take on the current conflict with Ukraine? What can the dance scene do help?
I was born and raised in the Siberian tundra, until I moved to Italy. Imagine that Siberia is an hours-long flight from Moscow. I have never really lived my homeland, so I feel distant both in mentality and culture from the question you ask me. About the conflict I can tell you that every kind of war or form of violence is a defeat for mankind. I hope it will come to an end very soon and that that diplomacy can somehow undo the wounds of this conflict. Music in general can play an important role giving a voice to those people who suffer the most from the consequences of this type of tragic events, namely kids and young people.
Did you have a day job before DJing, and at what point were you able to quit it and focus on music full time?
When I was 18 years old, I started off my career as a DJ. Before that, I did a lot of occasional jobs to pay for my studies, as many other young people do. I’ve always been very determined and tried to make my dreams come true at all costs, so everything I cared about was to hit my goals.
What tracks do you know will always work, regardless of where you’re playing?
What your favorite place to listen to and experience dance music?
This is simple: by the sea at the sunset while drinking an iced cerveza. You should try it!
What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
The best choices are always the ones that start from my heart, when I don’t follow guidelines and trends, when I follow my instinct. If I had to tell you one, I would say: when I decided not to be just a disc selector but to challenge myself and started my career as a producer.
Who’s been your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?
Carl Cox, without a doubt. He told me once: Stay always true to yourself, and don’t look at others at all.
One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
“Anfisa, don’t overthink — and enjoy life, give the right weight to things.”