Mimi Barks: “I’m in love with the pain. I’m in love with my broken heart”

Having just announced debut album THIS IS DOOM TRAP and dropped lead single FSU while gearing up for a huge UK tour, we catch up with alt. ghoul Mimi Barks to learn how she’s harnessing every ounce of passion and pain to fuel her bold new era, and how “there’s a lot of crazy shit coming up” for 2024…

Mimi Barks: “I’m in love with the pain. I’m in love with my broken heart”
Sam Law
Jack Defroand

Mimi Barks hasn’t been getting much sleep lately. There’s no time for that. Shaking off jetlag on a dreary Friday afternoon in London, the Berlin-born trailblazer has just landed back from a month-long trip to the United States, making contacts and meeting collaborators for her ever-expanding musical universe. Rather than taking time to decompress, however, she’s ramping things up with the announcement of her long-awaited debut LP THIS IS DOOM TRAP and lead single FSU (short for ‘Fuck Shit Up’) – the striking introduction to a bold new era set to unfold throughout 2024.

Momentum is everything. The pace might be gruelling, and the process of continually testing music’s outer limits mind-bending, but having built pace over the last few years’ single releases and 2022’s DEADGIRL EP – and having honed the definitive version of her sound – now isn’t the time to ease off.

Speaking exclusively to Kerrang!, Mimi explains how she's raising the curtain on the big picture she’s been building all along…

FSU is a hell of a way to kick off a new era. Are you back to Fuck Shit Up?
“Yeah! But I’m here to fuck shit up in a positive way. It’s about having found your true self and not giving a fuck how you’re perceived by the people around you. It’s just the beginning…”

It comes with a hospital-set video and you bearing a chest-scar. Is that symbolic of you tearing out your heart?
“The hook is ‘I’m in love with my broken heart / Build shit up, then I fuck it up!’ In this scenario, the scar symbolises a heart that’s been broken so many times that they’ve had to go in to try to fix it. Plus, I’m in a mental hospital. The question is, ‘Am I mad, or is that just what society wants you to believe?’

“It’s a song inspired by me constantly pissing people off: people I’ve worked with who misinterpret my ambition and obsession with productivity as me being delusional. That happened so much that I got to a point where I was asking, ‘Am I mad?!’ But then I realised that it’s them, not me. It’s that I move at such a fast pace that some people can’t keep up. And it gets to a time where you have to part ways with people – which is fine, as they’re on a different journey. I am still crazy, though (laughs). I’m just playing my part in chaos theory! They say that the flap of a butterfly’s wing can cause a monsoon. But I’m moving more like a pterosaur than a butterfly!”

The single coincides with the announcement of debut album. Does it feel like you’ve finally grown into the definitive version of yourself?
“It has always been very important to me that my debut album marks the point in my life where I’ve found myself, sonically. It’s where I’ve defined my feeling, my aesthetic, my energy. Those things have aligned in a way where it feels like a complete package. Everything I’ve done thus far has been leading up to this album. DEADGIRL was all about rebirth and self-growth and this is the result of me coming out the other end. DEADGIRL felt like I was walking a tightrope, but now it feels like I’ve got a harness and [a safety net]. It feels like a full-circle moment. People have said that FSU is a new sound for me, and I’d totally agree. I’ve been focusing on finding that new sound and embracing different possibilities for my voice: I’m singing, I’m whispering, I’m screaming, I’m drawing from the full palette. I’ve now got the skillset to deliver all the things I’ve always wanted to.”

What has changed in the time since the DEADGIRL mixtape in late 2022?
“Things just make more sense to me now. It all flows more easily. I don’t question myself. I know what I need to do. And I’ve got a great team of people to work with. That makes the whole creative process so much easier and more fruitful. I’ve learned to [hand over responsibility] a little more. Previously, my drummer and I were mixing the album and mastering the songs. But handing that job over to Owen Claxton in Sheffield, for instance, has added the extra 10 per cent that the songs were lacking. I’ve learned that you have to be collaborative and open – while keeping control – for other people to bring their [best]. I’ve been working with the guitarist/producer Kenny Graves in LA. And I’ve got a song with MorgothBeatz that we started all the way back in 2019. There are a few other very special features on the album, but I can’t Say much about them yet. Just that they’re goood…

You posted pictures in New York late last year and posted pictures of a private jet last week – has working on these collaborations made your life even more jet-set?
“I’ve been networking! A lot of the connections I’ve made with people have been online. In a lot of cases, we had talked about meeting up to work together, but then COVID hit. After COVID, I was super-busy on tour with bands like Frank Carter and Combichrist. There were festivals, record releases and I never really had the chance to properly get together with anyone. But at the start of this year I was like, ‘Fuck it!’ and booked travel to go and meet people. My intuition never fails, and I had the best time – as well as some really genuinely profound conversations. I was in New York for a week, Los Angeles for two and a half, then Seattle for a week.”

Having already been so shaped by coming from Berlin and living in London, what impact has being out in those big American cities had on your music?
“It’s definitely fed into things. I felt the energy a lot in New York. LA was more about making new musical connections – I probably met more people there in two weeks than I have in five years in London. There are just crazy numbers of super-interesting, talented people. And they gave me a real platform for me to be myself – they’re very open-minded. I love the mentality over there. Anything is possible, the opposite to depressed, negative energy. But it’s not really ‘urban’ in the same way as London. It’s not nearly as gritty. Everything is cotton-candy over there. They’ve got their demons, too, but they deal with them in the sunshine.”

Would you consider moving Stateside full-time?
“I’m considering going to LA. Every time I’m there I don’t want to come back! It feels like the next step. I love Berlin – the lifestyle, the culture, the club scene – but going there would be a backwards step. The only way for me is forward!”

As positive as your experiences have been, you still describe this music in terms of “pain” and a search for deliverance. Have there been painful steps to take?
“It’s always a painful process. It’s never not going to be. That’s just what life is about: we’re born to carry this pain-body in ourselves and life’s journey is to conquer that and to be in control. Essentially the pain-body is your ego. It’s about setting that ego aside to find what’s really meaningful to you. And it’s an ongoing journey. I’ve gone through an awakening, but there’s never just one awakening. You’re always going to be set back and to find yourself in pain again. It’s up to you to keep going and re-birth yourself over and over again. There’s no end to it. It’s a constant process until your soul is sucked out of your body and the next journey begins. I’m fighting the same demons, the same pain on this album that I have before. I’m just in better control this time. I’m using my struggle and pain as fuel for something positive. And I’m really enjoying that. I’m in love with the pain. I’m in love with my broken heart!”

What should we expect from the new you on your upcoming UK and Europe tour with YONAKA?
“Firstly, for us to drink shitloads of tequila! We did that on New Year's Eve and it’s become our little thing. Beyond that, to see us in some big venues. I’m very excited to play KOKO in London for the first time. I’ll be performing some new tracks from the album. I’ll have album-exclusive merch and bundles for sale. The fans have already embraced the new sound. I’m excited for them to experience it live and to feel their energy coming towards the stage!”

You’ve got festival dates at Resistanz, Takedown, Copenhell and Bloodstock and the inevitable massive album launch, too. Does it feel like 2024 is about to be a hell of a year for Mimi Barks?
“There’s a lot more stuff we haven’t even announced. Basically, it’ll be like what I did in 2023 – playing amazing festivals like Graspop and Download – but multiplied by three. We’re still only at the start of February and we’ve already had all this insane shit coming up. I’m at a tipping point right now, where it feels like the universe is throwing all this shit in my way, but once we get past that there are some insane things lined up. I feel that energy building. It’s gonna be a good year!”

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