Propaganda Records Boss Nastia & Her fabric Promo Mix

Anastasia Topolskaia might hail from a small village in Ukraine but, as Nastia, she’s been known throughout the country for many years. Recently though, her name has been appearing on lineups all over the world – she’s got a touring schedule that you get tired just reading. She’s been hosting her own radio show on Kiss FM Ukraine since 2006 and after tying that into her record label, Propaganda, she’s been steadily climbing up the circuit, going from go-go dancer to international headliner.

We spoke to her ahead of her appearance alongside Ricardo Villalobos right here in Room One on the 29th August as she was taking her first weekend off in five years. Our conversation went from her beginnings and her time in Donetsk, to how she juggles raising her daughter with her busy diary…

Download: Nastia - fabric Promo Mix

Can you tell us a bit about your early life and how that shaped you as an artist.

Nastia: That’s a difficult question because I never even thought about it. On the way to where I am, I’ve just been doing what I feel and what I do. I had no plans. I just ‘go with the flow’.

Well, did your parents listen to any music? Did you have music at home?

Not so much. I didn’t grow up in an atmosphere of music. We didn’t even have a gramophone so I didn’t see any records around me, but I just had this feeling so no one could stop me.

When did your love of music really start then?

When I went to school. I can remember the moment exactly - it was the mid ’90s. I have two older sisters and they were already listening to some electronic music. I really liked it and so when at school I was performing for the parents - we had a little concert - I was already dancing to electronic music tracks. It was ‘Snap!’ or something like that. Then I used to listen to this music with my sisters all the time. I was quite addicted.

How did you start DJing?

Well in 2004 I finished school and I moved to the nearest big city – Donetsk – and my two sisters were living there already. I went there to study and at night I would be dancing in a club. I was a performer, like a ‘go-go dancer’. I had a boyfriend and of course he was a DJ. After one year of dancing I liked it, but I wanted to move. My next step was obviously DJing and I asked my boyfriend at the time to show me how it works. I started to learn and see how to mix. In three to six months I was already beginning to play in clubs - this was in 2005.

Do you remember the first party you played?

Oh yeah, of course I remember my first party. The first time I played I wasn’t really meant to, but I wanted to give it a go. Of course I was excited, because everyone knew me as a dancer. They were all asking what I was doing. They used to say ‘Nastia, come on, you are a dancer, you dance so well and you love it, why do you need to move to DJing? Everyone wants to be a DJ now’. They didn’t believe in me at all, but I knew I had to do it. The first time, my hands were shaking. I knew that people around me were judging me. I had to be perfect, because I’m also kind of a perfectionist; and it was actually quite stressful.

Can you tell us a little about your affiliation with the Kazantip festival. When did that start?

In 2005, we had a party in Donetsk, which was for Kazantip. They had some of the guests from the festival playing. One guy was doing visuals, and the other was a DJ. I met them because I was warming up for them. We were talking and they must have found me cool, because one of them asked me for a mix. I gave him a mix and he took it with him to Moscow and he gave my mix to the person making the selection of local DJs for the festival. They have a special system of control. They choose ten new artists to be residents for the festival – so you could send a mix to them and they would choose the top ten. So I was one of the ten that year – it was 2006 – and that was my first year. I played so much for the three weeks and the final week I did well enough for them to ask me to play three times in 24 hours.

Amazing! How would you describe Kazantip?

If you can imagine… it’s a really small, poor village with old women around you everywhere. Old buildings and houses for rent to stay in - the accommodation was really low level. Sometimes you wouldn’t even have water to have a shower. You’d get there and wonder what was going wrong and if things would get better. Then you would go to the festival and you’d get to the gate and you’d see a lot of freaks – people taking off their clothes and with weird hair and makeup – and you’d feel like ‘wow! What’s gone wrong here!’

The whole atmosphere is that you feel really freaky. You can go as crazy as you want. You can get naked and no one will tell you not to. I’d never seen anything like that, there were no limits on anything. You felt like you’d arrived at a summer camp where there was no one to look after you - and I was only 18 years old. The music never stopped, there were so many bars and a really hippy feel.

Then, year by year they were trying to make the festival better, so they made better constructions and [got] better organisation. At the same time, when you care about how it looks and you care about the lineup, you lose this hippy aspect. In the end Kazantip became more or less a regular festival, with a regular European lineup and in the end I left the project in 2011, just in time. After that I don’t know what went on, but now you know the whole team has broken up and I don’t know if there’s anything good for Kazantip.

Yeah I heard reports that it may not happen again…

Well a couple of weeks ago, the police on Crimea, the original space for the festival, said that the organisers couldn’t do it this year. I really think it’s finished.

There are so many European Festivals out there now… I actually caught your set at Sunwaves Festival in Romania. It seems that they still really care about what they are putting on...

Yes that is a festival that really cares mainly about the music. My favourite festival this summer though has been Outline in Moscow. It was just perfect. You know Arma 17 make a proper concept for a festival. It’s not just the music: it’s for art, entertainment and they do a lot of stuff. That’s a proper festival so to say.

"To be honest, I don’t have a sound. As one of my friends says: ‘when you bring Nastia, you never know what she’s gonna play’."

Ok, so let’s talk about your label, Propaganda. When and why was it started?

Well I had my radio show on Kiss FM Ukraine from 2006, right after my first Kazantip. The head of the festival offered me a radio show and I was really up for it. Since then I have changed the name of the radio show three times. The last name is Propaganda and I came up with it in 2010 and the story is that I became fairly popular after Kazantip 2009 because of one crazy video of me from the festival. I didn’t want people to know me like that, they were getting me wrong. They were saying ‘oh look at her, she is on drugs’ – but I’ve never tried drugs in my life. So it was just totally wrong and I knew I had to change everything. I cut my hair, changed my name, the name of the radio show, the music I play – I was really hard on myself. In 2010 I changed the format and the music for the radio show – and that was the beginning of Propaganda. For me it meant that I wanted to show people that I wanted to change and it was a propaganda through sound.

After that, for three years, I was only doing my radio show and only a few parties. Then in 2013 I started my label and I linked it with the same name: Propaganda. Obviously the word propaganda might have negative political associations now and I don’t identify with that; I have no political intention with it at all.

What are your plans for the label?

I have a lot of plans actually. I have so much stuff to release now. The first will come out on the 1st September and I have already planned another 4 records after that, so we will be releasing every two months or so. The only thing I’m going to change is the concept – I am working with a designer now that is going to make something special to make my label more recognisable. I’m going to work more on visuals and things like that.

I’d like to release some more experimental music; there will for sure be some weird stuff also. I’m somewhere in between experimental music and more mainstream house and techno and I try to keep the balance.

"I want to make people dance because in the end people really come to dance. They want to move and they want to be put in a good mood."

I was going to ask you actually, how you might describe your sound to somebody that hasn’t seen you?

To be honest, I don’t have a sound. As one of my friends says: ‘when you bring Nastia, you never know what she’s gonna play’. Every time I try to mix it up. For example last summer and the summer before, I was playing more house and now I feel like I play more techno. I like drum & bass and dub techno so I try to surf between all these styles. In the end I just try not to restrict myself, and I like to be flexible. Of course it depends on the event, the audience, the sound system… so many details that you feel in the DJ booth and you then understand which direction to go in.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that you started as a pure DJ; other people who start as producers make music of a certain type and they then feel restricted to that type of music when they play, whereas maybe you haven’t felt that?

Yeah, I think the good thing about it is that also I was a dancer before and I knew what made me dance. Still to this day I play the music that makes me dance. There are places and more conceptual parties, like Arma 17, where I always play differently, always something special that I never played before. Even the last time at Outline, I was playing quite strong techno and experimental tracks which I hadn’t ever tried playing. I had been collecting them. However most parties I want to make people dance because in the end people really come to dance. They want to move and they want to be put in a good mood. My dancing days helped me a lot with this. When I dance, other people do also.

That’s quite a refreshing way of seeing it.

For me it’s the only way!

What is your touring schedule like. Is it still crazy?

This August is going to be the craziest month of my whole life so far. I have 20 gigs, there were going to be 21, but one got cancelled. The original plan was to have 13 gigs in a row, over two weeks, literally playing every day. I am the kind of person who likes challenges and I want to see if I can manage it. Since 2009, my touring schedule has been pretty full. Towards the beginning I would play about five times in a week around Russia, because I was more popular there, but now I go abroad more. The quality of the gigs is also getting better and people are starting to know me more now around Europe. For the last 5 years, I have had gigs literally every weekend. I don’t really take holidays; thankfully I’m still young and full of energy so I can still do it.

Do you get much time at home?

To be honest, no. This is the first summer were I have taken one weekend off and it was this weekend. I travel so much now that I really don’t have that much time to spend with my daughter. For the first part of the summer she stayed with my parents in my village, but then she was staying in Kiev and I planned this holiday and we went to the seaside – and we were together for the whole week. Now we will not see each other for the whole of August.

I am not a producer and I can’t support myself in any other way apart from the gigs, so I have to work, now, as much as I can because I see what is happening around me. People want to see me and they invite me. I really am doing this for my future. Maybe later I will calm down a bit, but not just yet.

How do you feel about playing at fabric for the first time?

I’ve heard so much. It’s legendary. I’ve read so many books about music and culture that talk about it.

And [to play] alongside Ricardo! I always try to see Ricardo. If he is playing somewhere in the middle of the week I always go to see him. I love talking to him, he’s one of my favourite artists and I have been lucky to be close to him and have some private conversations. I get a lot of energy from his personality. I am so happy to play with him at fabric for my first time. It’s like a perfect combination.

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