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Nastia on new DJs: "You need to play something outstanding so that people pay attention"

Nastia talks Ibiza, BURN residency and what it really takes to make it as an international touring DJ...

Nastia's journey began in the Ukraine where she was born into a “normal” family, with no musical education. Fast forward to 2018 and she’s one of the underground’s biggest names, passionate about individuality, finding new music and helping others. We grabbed her after her BURN Residency panel at IMS 2018 to discuss her relationship with Ibiza, how she inspires new DJs, and the importance of being yourself...

You just finished up talking on your BURN Residency panel at IMS. How did it go?
“I love to talk and to be on stage with a microphone and have people listening. I enjoy it a lot. When it comes to the BURN ambassadors, I help them and they come to me and ask me questions and ask for my opinion. Yesterday we had the ambassadors DJing at IMS, and I was watching and giving tips on what they were doing and talking to them about what they could do better. It’s always interesting to work with people and try and help them. It’s cool.”

What kind of advice were you giving them?
“First of all, they played almost the same music. If you didn’t see who was playing, you wouldn’t know the DJ had changed. They didn’t have a signature, they didn’t have character. You need to play something outstanding so that people pay attention and they ask ‘Who is playing? What is this track?’ Force them to pay attention.

“It’s also about the way you educate with eclectic music — not just the common ‘Have a good party’ [attitude], but also make them search for the track and be curious about what the track is. Make them think, ‘I want to listen to this track again tomorrow and the day after that. I have to find it’.”

It must be difficult for new DJs to take those risks before they gain experience?
“It’s not risk. It’s a way to be. If you’re playing the same music as everyone, you are not making yourself interesting. What’s interesting about you? You need to give something that no one can give. That’s how DJs stand out, and how they become famous. You need to do something different, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. You need to be the one and only.”

On your BURN panel you mentioned that when you found new music, you would play it over a few shows and then you wouldn’t want to play it again. How do you find the time between shows to find completely new music every week?
“At the hotels. I can’t work at home because I have a family and I’ll need to go spend time with my daughter. So usually I’m only working when she’s at school in the morning, so I have a window from 9am to 1pm to listen to the records I’ve bought and find new music. When I come for a gig I have two or three hours to find music too, if I have a good internet connection.”

Is it always online or do you still have time to go to record stores?
“Only sometimes, it’s very rare. In Ukraine we have one [Diskultura] and I was there just last week as I have some friends who work there and they help me. If I find a record on Discogs when I’m touring, I’ll ask them to order it for me. I love another store in Berlin — Spacehall. It’s my favourite record store ever.”

That community aspect you find in record stores is super-important for new DJs too...
“Of course, you need to have a group of friends around you with the same interests, recommending each other music, this is how it works. If you have friends thinking the same way as you, you help each other. It’s amazing. You share things and it’s super-helpful and it gives you more confidence to be yourself.”

What’s your Ibiza summer schedule looking like?
“I’m playing maybe four or five times in Ibiza this summer, and that’s enough for me. I don’t really like to play in Ibiza, it’s not my place. Every scene has a character, like Romania for example, they have a big community with style. Ukraine also. When you go to Berlin it’s only tourists, Ibiza it’s only tourists. It’s a feeling that you get — you have to play a little bit simpler, be a little more flexile, you have to be able to satisfy them. I don’t enjoy it so much.

“I understand it of course, they come here on holiday for some sunshine and they want a certain thing. But I don’t want to do something else, or something different, so I feel like we’re not on the same page.”

What advice would you give to new DJs? Should finding new music be their main priority?
“First thing, if you’re planning to be a DJ and you really think it should be something you should do then you must read the history of electronic music. All the books, like Laurent Garnier’s Electrochoc. I have a whole library of them — you need to know how it started, who was doing it, what kind of music [was made]. When you go through the history of electronic music and you see what we have now, you will have a vision of what you can do, and how you fit in. It helps a lot to understand what’s best to do, what kind of steps you should take, what kind of music you need to play and for whom. Is it gonna be vinyl, is it gonna be Traktor? All these decisions you need to make will be easier when you know the history of electronic music. It’s the most important thing you can do.”

Nastia On: Family Balance
"I have a daughter and she’s 10 years old. In the beginning I used to put her second — she was number two in my life. I was focused on my work. I was a single mother and really working hard, not sleeping at night to make something good for her. It took me a few years to release myself and now I’m satisfied with what I’ve done and my ambitions are satisfied. To keep the balance is key, but it’s hard — there are no rules about it, it’s just your intuition. Sometimes you’ll miss things because you need to focus on family. You need to make a proper plan and give the right time to everything.”

Nastia On: Booking Agencies
“It’s a good thing to dream about having a booking agency, as you think they will have contacts. I asked my best friend to help because I was over-busy with flights, talks, emails — when you have too much and you feel like you don’t want to do this anymore, then you ask for help. It’s better with your best friend who believes in you, has fun with you at the parties, who really helps you with everything. But onlywhen you can’t handle it by yourself do you need to get help. You don’t need an agency. I was in two agencies in my life and I left them both.”

Watch Nastia on the Burn Residency x DJ Mag: How To Become An International Touring DJ panel at the International Music Summit in May 2018 here

Declan McGlynn is DJ Mag's Digital Tech and Ibiza editor. Follow him on Twitter here.