Mimi Barks: “I’ve shaken hands with my demons. Now I know how to take them”

Mimi Barks almost lost her mind working in the decadent techno clubs of Berlin. As the doom trap queen’s tour brought her back to the German capital’s most infamous venue, Berghain, K! joined her to see first-hand life with alt. music’s darkest new star, hear tales of nudity and piss drinking, and giving fans surprise tattoos…

Mimi Barks: “I’ve shaken hands with my demons. Now I know how to take them”
Nick Ruskell
Esmé Surfleet

“Hey, Kerrang!, you need to choose these guys’ tattoos!”

Mimi Barks is brandishing an A4 piece of paper. She’s just spent five minutes sketching designs onto it – skulls, a poison bottle, barbed wire, a grave – with a Sharpie. Behind her, gun in hand, is Giacomo, a tattooist friend of the German doom trap ghoul, who’s set up a guerrilla studio backstage. Next to him are Ania and Dawid, who’ve travelled to Berlin today from Poland, and for whom already having one lot of Mimi ink on their arms apparently isn’t enough. So, she’s giving them the chance to get more before her show in the German capital. She waves the paper in our face again.

“Come on, pick! We’re going to make it a surprise – they won’t see what they’re getting until it’s done.”

And so, following a secretive vote involving K! and Mimi’s touring party, two members of The Flock – the name she’s given to her growing cult of fans – sit down to get inked without first knowing what they’re getting. They couldn’t be happier about it.

“It’s not my first random, spontaneous tattoo,” says Ania. “But these are special because Mimi does the most special performances and creates the most special memories. The emotions, the feelings, everything she puts in her music resonates with me. When you listen to her, you feel like you’re with her, forming a close connection. ”

This is all Very Mimi Barks: impulsive, fearless, diving in head-first, searching for something real that shakes your emotions and talks to your more sinful side. It’s how she lives her life (“There’s no security, but I don’t give a fuck”), how she approaches her art, how she keeps moving forward.

Tonight’s stop at infamous Berlin superclub Berghain on her first-ever headlining tour is a personal one, an affirmation. Having decided in 2019 that “Germany wasn’t ready” for her fiery mash-up of metal, hip-hop, industrial, goth and dark dance sounds, Mimi upped sticks and headed to London, with not much plan beyond making music. With her 5K-rated DEADGIRL mixtape now finally out, and her profile as one of alternative music’s most exciting new weirdos rising fast, this return to Berlin, where she used to work and party and almost went crazy in the city’s notorious techno clubs, is a vindication.

“Playing Berghain means I’ve made it,” she says. “The circle closes here. Berlin is my roots. Now I’m at a point where Berghain accepts me to play. That feels special because if they want what I’m doing, it must be good.”

Housed in an enormous structure that started life in the 1950s as an energy plant, Berghain – known as the world capital of techno – is an imposing building. Even with its massive scale, even at 3pm on a Sunday, you hear it before you see it, the thump of the ferociously loud techno audible in the surrounding streets.

At the weekend, it opens on Friday and doesn’t shut until Monday morning. Punters can queue for five hours only to be denied entry on the door for having the wrong vibe. Standing by the main entrance, K! scribe Sam Law delightedly reports seeing a clutch of “disappointed yuppies” being turned away. In the basement, meanwhile, there’s a room for men only, which has the apparently hard-earned reputation as Europe’s most extreme sex club. It sounds like Super Hans’ New Year’s Eve party.

“There’s people fucking in the shadows and stuff,” says Mimi of what goes on within. “It’s just freedom. There’s so much going on. Naked people, people pissing on each other in the toilets…”

Excuse me?

“In the bathroom, I once saw this guy basically pissing into someone’s mouth, and he was drinking it.”


“Yeah, but people don’t give a fuck,” she shrugs, as if she’s just been telling us about the door price. “And it doesn’t matter what you were thinking about before, it’s like another world. The moment you step in, no-one cares [what you’re doing]. No-one looks at you. No-one judges. It’s freedom.”

Mimi never worked in this particular club (“They offered me a job, but I already knew that techno clubs turn you into a vampire. Berghain would have killed me, man…”), which is saying quite a lot, given the things she’d see during her time at other places.

“[In one club] over the dancefloor they had rope art, with people hanging naked, while everybody else was dancing below,” she says. “But no-one would look [at them], other than in the most beautiful way. There was a pool in the club as well, and you could swim in it. But I wouldn’t recommend that…”

No. But this sense of liberation and exploring life’s dark side runs through Mimi and her music. Onstage in Berghain’s Cantina venue – a mercifully drier place than the main club – she is venomous, ferocious, jubilant and, despite the 3am pitch-black vibe of everything she does, almost glowing. Between the sinister energy of her performance, the Slipknot-ish dancing with drummer Koen and DJ Monticolombi, and charging into the crowd to be with her Flock, it’s an exercise in impulse, a nervous reaction set to tantalisingly dark music.

“It’s like in the clubs, you can be in there 10 hours and it feels like a minute, like meditation,” Mimi says afterwards. “I don’t know what happens onstage. It’s like a trip. I don’t think; I just do.”

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This tour is Mimi’s first time back on the road since tearing through Europe with Frank Carter late last year. The opening night at London’s Black Heart – her first-ever headliner in her adopted home – was sold out and wild. Two evenings ago at a stop in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, Mimi’s request for “crazy” strobes during her mid-set drum solo “made me nearly black out”.

These shows are also her first time onstage since DEADGIRL came out at the end of 2022, and her debut turn as a Kerrang! cover star. During that conversation in a Soho pub at the start of December, with her typical lack of ambiguity she spoke of the sacrifices she’s been prepared to make (basically everything) to live as she wants. In the bubble of touring, Mimi buzzes with even more energy than normal.

“I can’t stay in one place for two minutes. I get bored quick. I need to be on the road,” she says. “I actually don’t want to come home in between. Once you’re in that flow, you’re on autopilot. When you’ve been on tour for 30 days and come home, you have this massive downer, a comedown.”

Mimi isn’t someone you can imagine settling for the mundanity of normal life. There may be an air of affectation to the medical equipment that decorates her merch stand (“Pretty sick, innit?” she laughs, showing us what appears to be a kidney dish), but she’s also self-evidently someone who belongs to the night. The difference between what she wears onstage and during the hours of daylight is the fake blood dropping from her contact lens-ed eyes. When K! suggests it’s all an escape from hum-drum reality, she counters with another idea.

“Maybe touring is reality,” she suggests. “Doing emails, sorting bills, going to work, paying for a box that you live in to fulfil someone else’s dream, maybe that’s not what reality is. Maybe that’s just what they want us to believe. For me reality is being on tour, and fulfilling my own dream, my own vision. That’s reality. It feels fucking good.”

You don’t doubt Mimi when she talks like this. Part of what makes her and her music so magnetic is the assuredness that she’s on the right path, which is the one she makes for herself. To a question of, ‘Why?’, her view is frequently, ‘Why not?’ Often this means no safety net, an absence of consistency most people would insist upon. Even on tour, things are helped into fruition by a circle of similarly-minded friends, and making good with what you have. If she seems comfortable in this chaos, it’s because she is.

“There was never another option,” she says. “I always wanted to do this. It doesn’t really fucking matter if it goes wrong or right. At the end of the day, there’s no fucking wrong or right, you’re going to get to the same ending point.”

Since DEADGIRL was released, things have been going consistently right. This summer, Mimi will take the stage at 2000trees, Graspop in Belgium and Full Force in Germany, with more to come. While she waits, she’s already been working on a follow-up, as well as a follow-up to that.

Recently, she went to the wilds of Wales to work on new stuff in an isolated farmhouse, so far out of the way that her phone didn’t work, and warmth came from having to fill up a Rayburn. At night, she was enveloped in the type of suffocating darkness you only get in areas remote enough to be free of light pollution. You’ll be out of luck looking for it.

“The street didn’t even have a name,” she recalls. “The place was literally on the foot of a mountain, and you could walk for 20 minutes and still not be at another house. There was a gun there. I guess you need that if someone comes to fuck you up, you know what I mean? It was fucking isolated, mate.”

This solitude and self-reliance, Mimi says, is writ large in the music. When DEADGIRL was released, she explained in raw detail its concept of suicide and rebirth as a more powerful, focused soul. She may have shed skin, but the battles are still there. Only now, she’s using them for her own ends, taking energy from them like a vampire.

“I’ve shaken hands with my demons, for sure,” she nods. “I know how to take them. Now I see my demons as beneficial. The new stuff is gonna be dark, too. I’m sorry – it’s not gonna be any lighter! It’s gonna be dark.”

As stage time arrives and Mimi visibly becomes more focused (“I meditate every day to help with that”), you can see the Deadgirl preparing to dance with those demons again. What happens during the show is a mix of locking eyes with the abyss, and the cathartic joy of triumph over it. All of it feels dangerous. All of it is very, very real. All of it is exhilarating. And yet still, you sense that, having given everything to doing this, and seeing it blossom into success, nothing is ever going to be ‘enough’.

“I will never have completed Mimi Barks,” she asserts afterwards. “For me, there’s no other life. Every second of my life I think about this. Everything I do is in favour of this. I always think about this when I make choices in my life.

“There’s never going to be the perfect Mimi Barks figure, because you constantly evolve. The moment you stop evolving, that’s downfall. There’s always better. It’s never enough.”

You don’t need her to give you a surprise tattoo or take you to the sort of clubs you wouldn’t tell your mother about for Mimi Barks to make an impression on you – what she does herself is enough to point you towards life’s forbidden, exciting, enlightening side. She wants you to find it, too. As she disappears into the Berlin night, she repeats herself.

“There’s nothing else, but I don’t give a fuck,” she says. “This is what I am.”

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