A few weeks back, ANIMAL received an email from an account belonging to 5WPR’s semi-insane CEO Ronn Torossian. The subject read: “The DJ of The Kremlin Visiting NY – Plays for Putin, Medeved, Prokhorov & others… Interested in interviewing the DJ to the Oligarchs?” We replied yes, because why not? One of Torossian’s underlings responded with a date and time to meet DJ Fenix.

Born Alexander Mamonov, Fenix is an EDM enthusiast who’s best known as “Putin’s DJ” after Russia’s version of MTV held its music awards at the Kremlin in 2014 and he was invited to deejay. It was the first time thump-y music was played in the historic building, which represents the seat of Russian power. How does a 28-year-old from Moscow get chosen for such an honor? Talent and connections. Here’s what we were told about Fenix:

From private events for Prime Minister Medeved to traveling all over the world with NJ Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for his events, he plays all over the world. He has played with many of the world’s leading DJ’s – including David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Swedish House Mafia & others –

He emanates from a FSB Family (formerly the KGB) and famously (at least in Russia) chose a life of music rather than a military life (his father is a high-ranking FSB official.)

As if to confirm his shadowy intrigue, days before our interview Fenix posted a video of what seems to be an FBI vehicle flashing its lights and blaring his name over the PA. As it turns out, it was indeed the FBI. They were just horsing around. (His manager says that they met the agents at a pizza spot and they got a kick out of him being Putin’s DJ.)

Part#2 FBI "EDM" CAR feel this Sound… #music #party #street #car #EDM #lights

A video posted by DJ Fenix (@djfenix) on

But if the Feds were secretly monitoring our meeting, we couldn’t tell. In person, Fenix was down to earth, relaxed and media savvy. (His English isn’t the best, but it’s a lot better than my Russian.) This trip marks his first visit to the United States, and although he has done gigs all over the world, it was important for him to play in New York. Donning a custom white gold chain with headphones and lengthy leather jacket, Fenix was prepping in Cliffside, NJ for what his what his manager said was a sold-out show at Marquee in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. In between takes of recording a custom vocal intro for the club, we engaged in small talk about EDM and his anti-drug lifestyle all while tip-toeing around what we really wanted to know: his politics.

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Considering Fenix’s relationship to Putin, we wondered how Fenix reconciles Russia’s adoption of draconian anti-gay laws with EDM’s strong gay roots. Some of his responses might surprise you (and Putin): He’s not a fan of Pussy Riot or their music (but he loves heavy metal) and he acknowledges that he has gay fans and that they’re important to him. But ultimately, perhaps due to his apparent privilege, Fenix was able to separate his music from his politicized environment easily. “I know everyone speaks about how I’m the favorite DJ of Putin, but for me I focus on music things because I’m a musician, I’m a DJ,” he said.

(Photos/Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)