With more than 130 music video screenings, live performances, a fashion show and an experimental culture-themed day, the 10th edition of the Berlin Music Video Awards transformed the venue Club Gretchen into a truly unique space of art, film and fashion for four days. Since it was founded 10 years ago, BMVAs has grown into one of the most important events in the industry, featuring music videos of big names such as Grimes, FKA Twigs, Stromae as well as newcomers in the 2022 edition.
From the 8th-11th of June, the festival brought together a diverse mix of directors, musicians, performers, fashion designers – and everyone in-between – from all around the world to network and mingle, but above all, to celebrate their love for music videos. Among the guests was curator, musician and DJ, Parma Ham who was also a jury member for the ‘Most Bizarre’ category of the festival. We caught up with them at the Berlin Music Video Awards to chat about today’s goth scene, fashion, and being on the jury panel.
Œ: What’s it like being part of the jury at the Berlin Music Video Awards 2022 and how did that come about?
Parma Ham: I think I first heard of it a couple of years ago when I was asked to be part of the jury for the ‘Most Bizarre’ category. I think they were looking for someone that understands bizarreness but also gets music, art and video on top of that. I agreed not knowing what it would be like since this was all during the pandemic, but it sounded fun and it’s nice to look at other people’s videos since I make my own videos as well.
My own film, my own identity and the events I organise in London are all about promoting underground, alternative, transgressive or subversive performance, art, film, music. So, it’s very much my world. And when I see a film, especially a music video, it hits all those nerves. It needs to be performative, it needs to have visuals, it needs to have fashion and it needs to have collaborators that understand it. Now that I’m here at the event I’m learning more about it – there is the awards ceremony, there are performances, DJs, and all the different film categories they have. It’s a really interesting event. It has different people from all around the world mixing, mingling and networking. I’m impressed by it and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.
Œ: Describe the process of becoming who you are today. How did it all begin?
Parma Ham: When you’re a teenager you see so many artists and musicians that you admire from a distance, but then there was a moment where I was like: “Instead of just consuming it, I could just fucking try and be it!” There is quite a large hurdle to jump there because when you admire all these incredible artists you ask yourself: “Well, am I good enough to do something as big as some of these artists out there?”
I guess I just got that confidence from being in London and from already making small waves as far as the club scene goes and my image. It was never my intention to get people to look at me, but just being myself I was suddenly getting a huge audience and I went viral a few times. That gave me the courage and I thought: “Okay, people are interested in consuming me in all these different ways – maybe I should start actually trying to program myself to give in that way by making sculpture, music and performing.” It was a process but I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the community and the scene in London. I’m a total product of that environment and that subculture.
Œ: What do you think of today’s Goth scene compared to when it began 40 years ago?
Parma Ham: A lot of subculture these days is quite nostalgic. It very much looks to the past for the rules or inspiration. I think with me and the people around me, it’s like, we acknowledge the inspiration and the subculture that we come from and we refer to it – but really what we’re trying to do is go further and try to change things. To go harder and bigger and be more successful with it! I love Goth as it is now but it doesn’t really affect the mainstream in any way like it did 20-30 years ago. Now I guess there is this hurdle to overcome and to say: “Actually, no, goth is relevant on the mainstream platform!” Music art, fashion, culture – they can all have relevancy. It needs to be edgy again, it needs to be transgressive again, it needs to upset people – including goths! So many of them are happy with things being exactly how they should be. But kids don’t fucking want that. We don’t want to be dancing to the same music our parents danced to. No, we want something more aggressive, more outrageous. I think that’s where we’re at now and I think we’ll see that a lot more over the next 5-10 years as a new scene blossoms in its own direction.
Œ: You’ve gained quite an impressive Instagram following of more than 80.000. What are your thoughts on social media?
Parma Ham: The last couple of years social media has done this weird thing where it has kind of eaten itself. You’re always getting silenced, you’re always getting blocked, you’re always getting your account removed. That has ramped up so much harder in the last year; we’re now routinely getting deleted. When you start silencing subcultures and communities it really kind of blacklists whole groups of people, which is pretty awful. Social Media used to be relevant – not so much now. That outreach around the world is really hard and that’s a big shame because there are people who are trying to find themselves no longer have access to people like myself. You don’t have role models and I can’t stand that!
Œ: What’s your earliest fashion memory?
Parma Ham: Growing up, I was always rebellious at home and school, and I was very much an outsider. I was instantly attracted to goth and punk fashion; it had this subversion that felt right for me. At age 13, I remember how exciting it was to be putting on make up, painting my nails and wearing soft clothes; for someone AMAB and living in a binary society, it felt dangerous.
A little later in life I noticed Goth being referenced on the runway, most noticeably through designers such as McQueen, Rick Owens, Mugler, Comme Des Garçons, Anne Demeulemeester and so on. I loved the ways these designers took inspiration but then ran further with it – and I think that’s what inspired me. Goth has a tendency to be nostalgic, self referential and look backwards, but I always want to push for the next thing, to be more extreme, but never forgetting to have fun with it.
Œ: Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
Parma Ham: I like vintage fetish zines, 80s and 90s goth, the moment when punk used sex to shock, video game fantasy, pagan mythology, perverted stuff by HR Giger, bloody things by Hermann Nitsch, Sopor Aeternus practicing Butoh, androgyny, Megan Thee Stallion wearing latex, beasts, organic bodies and machines.
Œ: Where do you buy fashion? Any favourite designers?
Parma Ham: For the past few years I prefer vintage fetish wear. I buy or collaborate a lot with local designers – that way I can obtain custom fits according to a specific vision. Most recently, I’ve been wearing Narcisism, House of Erotica, Sinister Clothing, Judassime, and Possessed. I think these amazing designers have work that combines elegance with sex, and a touch of avant garde; which isn’t the easiest vision to get right.
Œ: What can we expect from you next?
Parma Ham: If all goes to plan I should be releasing two music videos in August and September, and a mini album in October with my music project Cult of the New Flesh, which I do with Angus P. The videos shot by Jordan Hemmingway are particularly exciting as it really pulls together our worlds of fashion, art, performance and music into a single project.
I’ll also continue programming my club Wraith in London, which platforms performance and live music. Wraith is an important event that is shaping the creative and subcultural landscape in London so I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops. We released a Wraith book a couple of months ago with the layout by Hila Angelica, and a Wraith documentary is underway with Uchercie Tang.