Anfisa Letyago has been a rising techno star for years, first playing in her hometown of Naples, Italy, and then launching herself onto the global scene with the power of her darkly swirling productions – and with additional help from techno tastemaker Carl Cox.
Years ago, Letyago gave Cox a ride with some of her music on it at an event. Then she realized that he played a lot of this music during his set. The pair have remained close ever since, with Cox becoming a friend and mentor to Letyago over the years. Today (March 25) she makes her Ultra Music Festival debut on the festival’s Resistance Stage, which Cox has curated for the past 20 years.
Siberian-born Letyago has lived in Naples most of her life and says the Italian scene is as robust as other more famous dance centers. The southern part of the country also gives her the space to relax at the farmhouse by the sea, where she spends time in nature and balances her existence as a household name on the global techno circuit.
Here Letyago talks about genre trends, her Siberian roots, her essential electronic albums and more.
Where in the world are you right now and what is the environment like?
I’m in my beloved city of Naples now, but I’ll probably be somewhere else by the time this interview goes online. My schedule has been pretty hectic lately, I’ve played a lot of gigs all over the world and after the last two years I’m very happy about it.
What was the first album or piece of music you bought yourself and what was the medium?
The vinyl of Daft Punk’s first studio album, homework. What an album guys!
What did your parents do for a living when you were a child and what do they think or did they think about what you do for a living today?
My mother was a pastry chef and my father a chef, but he was a part-time bassist in a rock band. They’re very happy with what I’m doing because they know I’m happy with my life.
What was the first non-gear thing you bought when you started making money as an artist?
I bought a small old 17th century farmhouse 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 in nature, especially when the sea is nearby. The connection with nature is fundamental for me, it gives me the feeling of being alive.
If you had to recommend an album to someone who wants to get into dance music, what would you give them?
I would recommend two albums: Trans Europe Express from power plant and game by mobile. You can’t say you’re into dance music unless you check out these two masterpieces first.
What’s the last song you heard?
I’ve been hearing a lot about my next single. I can’t say much except that it will be out soon and I hope you enjoy it.
What was the first electronic show that really blew you away?
Holo Show by Eric Prydz. It was overwhelming, not only because he proposed a very expansive set sonically, but above all because of the spectacular visual effects, all the 3D images that surrounded him on stage and transported you to another dimension. I will never forget that night.
They live in Naples. What are the defining elements of the techno scene in your hometown and across Italy?
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 certainly one of the most defining elements of Neapolitan techno music, probably influenced by the culture of this amazing city. An example is Gaetano Parisio, a Neapolitan producer who I respect a lot.
How did techno become your sound? What appeals to you about the genre?
When I moved to Naples, I was immediately fascinated by the artistic and musical culture of this city, and in particular by the nightlife that takes place at any time of the year. This led to me going to clubs very often, becoming a disc selector and making connections with different DJs of different levels. Living this kind of music every day gave me the opportunity to get passionate about it and this passion naturally led to the beginning of my career.
As far as I know, Carl Cox was a big influence on your career. Tell us how?
Meeting Carl Cox for the first time is undoubtedly one of the greatest moments of my career. It happened just before one of his sets. He didn’t know me yet and I gave him a USB stick with my music on it. Then during the show I realized he was playing all my tracks, you can imagine how excited I was. Since then he has been a great friend and colleague who is so supportive of me and my music that he has played my tracks on the biggest stages in the world. He gave me credibility and many opportunities came.
How has the pandemic stalled your career, and what is your strategy to make up for this lost time? Do you even consider it “lost time”?
No I do not think so. I obviously couldn’t play like all artists in the world, but I tried to make the most of the time we had to spend at home during the pandemic. I’ve been working a lot on new tracks and I’ve started my own record label N:S:DA, which I’m very proud of – because it gives me the opportunity to express myself even more artistically. Of course I also took time for myself. For example, I became more aware of environmental issues and started to put more effort into my habits of being more respectful of the environment. You will see me involved in some projects based on it.
Are there any specific trends or micro trends you’re seeing and hearing about in techno right now that we should know about?
We are witnessing the birth of several new nuances of this genre of music and this is probably the result of the historical period we are witnessing as well as technological developments that allow 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 exceptional skills who have the opportunity to work on their own music with little budget and equipment but still make very good music . My advice is to keep an eye on this new wave.
What’s your Guilty Pleasure music?
Besides electronic music I listen to a lot of rock. My father was a musician and rock lover, so he influenced me a lot with his listening habits. I can say it was my first love before I got to know my music.
You were born in the Siberia region of Russia. How do you assess the current conflict with Ukraine? What can the dance scene contribute to this?
I was born and raised on the Siberian tundra until I moved to Italy. Imagine that Siberia is an hour’s flight from Moscow. I’ve never really lived my homeland, so I feel removed from the question you’re asking me, both in mentality and culture. About the conflict I can tell you that any kind of war or any form of violence is a defeat for humanity. I hope that it will end very soon and that this diplomacy can somehow heal the wounds of this conflict. Music in general can play an important role in giving a voice to the people who suffer the most from the consequences of these types of tragic events, namely children and young people.
Before DJing, did you have a day job and when were you able to give it up and fully focus on the music?
I started my career as a DJ when I was 18 years old. Before that, like many other young people, I did a lot of odd jobs to finance my studies. I’ve always been very determined and tried to achieve my dreams at any cost, so all I cared about was achieving my goals.
Which tracks always work no matter where you play?
What is your favorite place to hear and experience dance music?
That’s easy: by the sea at sunset while sipping an ice-cold cerveza. You should try it!
What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
The best decisions are always the ones that come from the heart, when I’m not following guidelines and trends, when I’m following my instincts. If I had to tell you one thing, I would say: when I decided not just to be a disc selector, but to challenge myself and start my career as a producer.
Who was your biggest mentor and what was the best advice they gave you?
Carl Cox, without a doubt. He once told me: stay true to yourself and don’t look at the others at all.
Any advice you would give to your younger self?
“Anfisa, don’t think too much – and enjoy life, give things the right weight.”