For Mimi Barks, music has never been about cultivating any kind of brand. Rather, it's ritual, tapping into a sense of spirituality - an existential exercise that functions equally as an emotional purge and a sensory charge.
It's that method of operation that ensures authenticity is baseline. The only way Mimi knows how to work out the turmoil in her head is to translate that onto the track she finds herself lost in. There is comfort in complete immersion - something that became habit during the darkest times of the pandemic lockout. As a result, her most profound project in her DEADGIRL mixtape has surfaced - a seminal effort that underscores the progression of Mimi Barks from stylistic enigma to a gamechanger in the space of outsider art.
Confronting her personal demons through her music, the Berlin-bred/London-refined aggressor has harnessed a compelling weave of doom trap that sources distorted bass, grizzly imagery and Barks' vocal venom to flout the boundaries of conventional heavy music. While her arrival in 2019 with her Enter the Void EP asserted Barks was more than stylistic spectacle, her 2022 DEADGIRL mixtape is a testament to her artistic drive fueled by a profound sense of catharsis that makes the darkness of her sound that much more genuine.
Coalescing personal anguish and unbound artistry on a nine track presentation, the DEADGIRL mixtape serves to eulogize the Mimi Barks that was victimized by her trauma and aims to weaponize it. The theme of empowerment and personal reckoning on the release, punctuates a year that saw the hitmaker unleash her live assault while sharing the stage with the likes of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Combichrist and Saint Agnes.
Making converts out of skeptics, Barks' bold individuality and inability to be conveniently categorized has proved potent with fans both in the live setting and on record. Melding compelling visuals, unhinged live performances, and sense of unapologetic sincerity throughout, Barks has in fact proven to be all bite.
The Kerrang! Disruptor of the Year detailed how DEADGIRL marks an important turning point both personally and professionally and how the songs on the mixtape underscore her journey from darkness to light, hated to healing, vulnerability to vengeance.
DEADGIRL seems to have a personal chronology. The progression of the songs seems to begin with you at your darkest and culminate with you coming into your own - emerging from the trauma. Was the idea to map out your personal evolution on this mixtape?
Barks - You got it right, it marks my emotional, spiritual, physical & mental journey.
'Abyss', The final track from the DEADGIRL Mixtape, is the conclusion of an era of suffering and self-destruction. It’s the deepest I’ve ever went into the darkness in order to be able to see the light.
From hatred for myself and the world, narcissistic and delusional aloofness all within the chaos in my brain, leading to self-growth through spirituality. From self-hailing to self-healing; this is the final dance for letting go of the past. It’s the rebirth of a broken child, a DEADGIRL. Now reborn as a leader, as her own god; indestructible and inviolable. This is revenge.
You’ve been candid about being immersed in your music during lockdown. How important do you think that time of sequester was to you both personally and as an artist. Do you think DEADGIRL is as powerful and personal if not for the pandemic lockdown?
Barks - I went into lockdown asleep and came out conscious. The lockdown gave me the time I needed to confront myself, giving me the opportunity to heal and delve into myself and access my subconscious. Shortly before the lockdown hit I experienced a great loss in my life which was accompanied by great trauma. I’ve gotten through by putting my grief into the most heaviest and aggressive songs I’ve created to date, my personal catharsis.
However, my pain body was still hungry for destruction and it kicked me in the head on occasions, so I started writing the first tracks for what would later become the DEADGIRL Mixtape while going through my own process of therapy, self awareness and spiritual awakening.
You tap into very subversive, very dark imagery especially on tracks like “Abyss”. Does it take a toll on you personally to dive into that trauma again in for the sake of authenticity in your art?
Barks - Creating this music is painful and sometimes I sit in the studio feeling like I’m losing my mind when facing the decision between reliving the trauma through writing my music or letting myself sink into the nothingness, cocooned in hopelessness aka ending myself, but progress is never comfortable and giving up is no option. So, I do what has to be done - create.
In 'ABYSS' I accept my demons for what they are and own them, make them my accomplice in order to execute my vision. For most humans the goat is a symbol for the devil. I like the imagery of being conceived inside the darkness, the evil and born into the light. Taking a full cycle.
This mixtape is very symbolic of transition. How therapeutic was it document your growth in these songs and with the release of DEADGIRL, do you put that period of personal damage to rest?
Barks - Creating DEADGIRL was my catharsis and when I finished writing it I was in a state of absolute zen and that scared me. While writing SUICIDE for example, I went through spiritual awakening. It’s the suicide of my younger self. The suicide that leads to awakening. I was in a constant battle with myself. Asking myself If I would be able to ever reprogram my core beliefs and rewire my brain. When you go through the process of awakening, there are a lot of bad energy and emotion that will be brought up.
The question I was asking myself was: if I want to be able to see. If I want to actually understand. Or if I just wanna stick to the reality I have created for myself in order to suffer and in order to be able to create. Because I believed that I could only create out of pain. When you suffer for your art, it’s one down for hopefully two standing.
Identifying as a misfit, an outlier, it is strange at all to now be in a position where you have fans and followers. Do you find any gratification in being the voice for other people that colored outside the lines?
Barks - Shit just never feels real when you’ve been taught the antithesis all throughout your life. But it’s all down to acceptance and I’m working on it. I’m not surprised that others can relate to my music, I lay my music down the moment I experience the feeling, it’s raw. I had artists soothing my pain through their songs in the past and you can tell what is real. And it’s a beautiful thing that we can live out and self-medicate our dark journey in this way.
Prior to relocating to London, you shared that you spent lots of late nights and early mornings in techno clubs in Berlin. From a musical standpoint, how did that sound, that community have a lasting influence on you as an artist?
Barks - We’re in a dark, cold, dungeon like techno bunker, stomping to hard, distorted kick drums while someone is fucking in the corner next to you, makes you wanna take your clothes off. As the ketamine hits and your body sags, you’re floating through from dance floor to dance floor. You’re now in full trance, it almost feels like meditation. Timewarp. Jumping to when the beat has reached its peak, pulsating at 135bpm through a cut off / high pass and bringing you back into the room when the beat drops, absorbing the collective energy feeling at home in a room full of strangers. And then it all starts again.
I want my music to project this feeling.
In terms of trap metal, what intrigued you artistically about that sound? How did aggressive art and hip hop foundation intersect for you?
Barks - I’m an ultra vert and so is my music. I love the larger-than-life feeling a fat trap beat can bring, but hiphop just wasn’t aggressive enough for the anger I carried inside so I started screaming on top of the beat.
You earned the title of Disruptor of the Year from Kerrang in 2022. Given how the award seems to celebrate your spirit of nonconformity, does that win have added significance to you?
Barks - Kerrang! were the first to feel and see my vision, it’s more than an award to me.
There’s no boundaries in what I do, not in my music and not in the way I present myself through visuals and my aesthetic. Not everybody likes that. It’s insane to see that a notorious magazine like Kerrang! is pushing art that certainty will piss the majority of people off.
Given how personal DEADGIRL is, was there any particular track that was especially definitive? Was there one that still seems to standout to you both in terms of the music and the message?
SUICIDE & ABYSS as explained earlier on but there’s one other track that really marks the final violation of my life’s work, the cause of my pre-lockdown trauma, which led me to stop putting my trust into certain people from then onwards. 10.steps.back You gotta keep an eye on the snakes around you and watch them from the distance, to make sure that when you need to, you can keep them at a distance.
Surrounded by goats and covered in blood - you discussed how the finale of DEADGIRL is about rebirth. Putting to bed the demons you have lived with and coming out stronger as a result, is there any closure for you here? Does DEADGIRL mean the end of the venom and vitriol that has become synonymous with your sound?
Barks - guess we’ll have to see and wait for the next album to drop. I’m finalising it at the moment and anticipating that moment when I finally get to see who won the battle; The Awakening or the pain-body.
DEADGIRL from Mimi Barks is currently available via Silent Cult. Get the release - HERE
Mimi Barks has also confirmed a brief headlining run in 2023. She will be playing special shows, showcasing tracks from the DEADGIRL mixtape in London, Haarlem, Berlin and Cologne in March 2023. Tickets, dates and cities can be found - HERE