Resident Advisor

Nastia: Battling demons

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Anastasia Topolskaia opens up to Carlos Hawthorn about the pressures of life as a touring DJ.

Dawn beckoned as I walked into Watergate. The Berlin club’s main dance floor, throbbing to the pulse of LEDs, was roughly half full. Anastasia Topolskaia, the Ukrainian DJ better known as Nastia, was smiling and rocking gently behind the decks. The music stood out for its quirkiness: swinging tribal tracks flowed into hectic breakbeats peppered with squeals and other freaky sounds. She mixed with impressive agility across three CDJs—as soon as a track was out of the mix, she was working the next one in. At one point, a young girl, wide-eyed and friendly, extended a hand into the booth. Topolskaia squeezed it tenderly and smiled.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Topolskaia, a DJ who occupies a curious position between, for lack of better terms, the underground and the mainstream. It was my first time seeing her play. Up until then, my opinion was based on two excellent mixes—Boiler Room and the BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix—both of which show a DJ with broad tastes and a love of nerdy sounds. (The Essential Mix, from July 2017, runs the gamut from Luke Slater and Aleksi Perälä to golden-era Skream.)

Topolskaia rarely gets a chance to play this kind of music out, except at a few key places, like Closer, the Kyiv venue that’s currently considered one of the world’s best clubs. She plays there two or three times a year, including at the annual Strichka Festival, which she runs in partnership with the Closer team.

“I trust our people,” she told me over a long lunch in Berlin. Sharp and with a dry sense of humour, she spoke with a constant twinkle in her eye. “They’re so educated. So cool. So open-minded. They don’t want you to play normal; they want you to play freaky and crazy and weird. I appreciate it. That’s where I’m real. Maximum me.”

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