First off, thank you so much for giving up some of your time to chat with us. I’m personally very excited to chat with you. For the sake of our readers, do you want to give a little intro into who Parma Ham is?
I’ve always tried to resist definition, as when that happens you can limit your potential. So when that inevitable question comes up at dinner parties “what do you do?” I always fail at giving a nice slick answer! In short I love to create, world build, agitate and transgress through any means necessary. I perform and make sculptures, I make music and dj, I curate and program exhibitions and events, and I write and publish. That aside I’m also easily recognisable for my huge hair styles and elaborate fetish clothes.
You do a lot then! Sounds like you’re super busy.
For this issue of UNICORN, our theme is PUNK – which is obviously so in tune with you and your style. We all have our own definition of what punk is, but what does punk mean to you?
Punk is a youth subculture that came through in the mid to late 70’s; but now it’s a term that’s become synonymous with resistance and rebellion. Post-Punk, Goth and the New Romantics were born from the ashes of Punk; and though I’m more aligned with Goth; punk runs through my veins and is an undeniable influence. Punk uses aesthetics to agitate ethics and politics, and makes the distasteful into a flavour. It harnesses shock by presenting taboos like rage, gender blending, and sex; which is why a queer punk movement continues to blossom. I love female fronted punk bands the most, and whiny pop-punk can go in the bin.
Music is clearly a big passion of yours. You also dj, and have been known to dj at Torture Garden. How is that compared to other gigs you’ve done?
Torture Garden created a blueprint for the rest of fetish clubs to follow; so it’s an honour to be a part of that legacy. Being surrounded by people fucking and living their fantasies is hugely comforting. I dress extreme and otherworldly most days and I’m very aware that in day-to-day life I’m often stared at or questioned for the way I look. But when I’m in an hedonistic and liberal environment I feel a release because I don’t need to think of myself as “other” any more; it’s a place where I can become unaware that I have a body, which is probably ironic because in a sex club everyone is checking each other out.
Then there is your band ‘Cult of the New Flesh’, can you tell me a bit more about the band and your music?
The project consists of Angus P and myself; and we wanted to push together our musical inspirations to create a fresh sound. It’s a little techno, with death metal, mixed with old school EBM and Goth tropes. That’s then regurgitated into a highly visual and performative show; our gigs are closer to theatre and opera. I think there’s less and less musicians pushing the envelope out as far as combining fashion and art with their music; of course it still happens but I don’t think as much. Angus is pretty sure we’re a hyper pop band, and they are probably right.
How did you come up with the band name?
“Long live the new flesh” is a quote we lifted from the 1982 film Videodrome. I love the word flesh for its carnal, gorey, animalistic, and sexual connotations. We went for Cult as though there are two of us in the project, we have a long list of collaborators; so we’re aware the project and who is part of that world is expansive and ever changing.
Of all your COTNF songs, which is your favourite and why?
I love them all. There’s real drama and a sense of cinematic grandness to our sound that gives it a bit of campness. Death metal and EBM are serious and predominantly masculine realms; and so for us to come along and disrupt that has raised eyebrows. We have an album coming out in summer, and we’ve just finished shooting a music video with photographer extraordinaire Jordan Hemmingway; so I’m fainting with excitement.
You’re also heavily into fashion, and created some designs in collaboration with Salvia (@salvia001011) on a project called Nullo; where initially you did a runway that redesigned fetishwear and bodily augmentation for today’s posthuman tribes. The Nullo project has since come to life through design, sculpture, performance, fashion and VR. What was your favourite part of this project?
Nullo began when Salvia made me a codpiece constructed out of a giant horn for my birthday. I loved it and realised we had to make more weird and wonderful strap-on appendages. We were inspired by the idea of the ever growing importance of online avatars; and in the digital realm where the body is infinite we reimagined our genitals to be other objects such as tentacles and even pig trotters! It’s a pretty playful project, but the reimagining of the body stems from feelings surrounding our transness, but also our desire to constantly reinvent ourselves aesthetically.
8. Can we expect some more fashion designs and collaborations in the future?
Yes it’s always been our intention to do more shows and collections; it’s just a question of time because both Salvia and myself are busy working towards our individual music projects. This September’s Wraith (the event I organise) is putting together an alt London Fashion Week coinciding with the official LFW. It will have around 15 independent designers / labels participating who are all part of our scene, so it’s really about supporting our own people and sharing our work with each other. We’re hoping Nullo will be able to present something then.
You’ve also formed the club Wraith which brings together all your skills and passions. “transgressive performance, music and fashion to a soundtrack of new developments in goth, industrial, and dark techno”. How did that come about?
I started Wraith in 2019 because I wanted to put together the fashion presentation for the Nullo project; and there wasn’t really any other club event that I thought provided the right context, so I made one. The Nullo runway had models wearing fetish wear such as harnesses and strap-ons, but it was really theatrical; and climaxed with a sex ritual with someone getting fucked raw with a real deer leg and cayote paw.
That night proved there was an appetite from both myself and the audience for this new platform; so I’ve kept it up. Our shows can sometimes be quite out there; this meant some loony toons people on the internet saw what we were up to with slaves and got me investigated for sex trafficking (I shouldn’t need to say this but I don’t traffic)! We also did a pop-up Wraith at Soho House and subsequently got banned because we retold the Samhain myth of the Pagan gods Dagda having sex with the crow like goddess Morrigan. In simple terms I put a crow up my ass in front of a load of yuppies and they did not like it. Serves them right!
For anyone reading who might want to get involved and join, how can they?
As a night club we naturally do live music and DJ’s, but alongside that there are fashion shows, film screenings, exhibitions, spoken word, performance, and so forth. Before Wraith happened I always thought it was a little sad that we have so many amazing creatives in our community but there’s few places where we can experience each other’s work. Of course there’s galleries and universities, but they do not belong to us, they are not our context; they are elitist, and honestly… they just aren’t all that fun for the kids. Every type of creative is welcome at Wraith; and if you think you belong in our tribe you probably do and everyone welcomes that. We just launched our own zine called INERTIA, which is a collection of images from the club alongside texts by our collaborators and patrons; so recommend buying a copy if you want to know what we’re about.
And, it’s not like you’re not busy doing enough other exciting things, but we spy that you’re also a producer at the Serpentine – have you got any exciting projects coming up that you’re allowed to tell us about?
Every summer a temporary pavilion structure is built outside the Serpentine Gallery by an up and coming architect. Like with all the Serpentine shows it’s free to attend. This year’s pavilion is designed by Theaster Gates and called Black Chapel; it will house a small cafe, so it’s a perfect place to chill out while shaded from the summer sun. Then during late summer a series of events will take place inside the structure during the evening called the Park Nights which is curated by the amazing Claude Adjil, it often features an assortment of live music and performances from a diverse cut of artists.
Finally – we love asking our contributors about queer people who inspire them, to open up our own world and references. Who would you say inspires you?
Kazuo Ohno, one of the founders of Butoh, is an inspiration toolbox for me. For those that are not aware of Butoh, it’s a type of dance theatre that came about in post WWII Japan. Initially it was known as The Dance of Darkness, and delicately included taboo subjects of its time such as homosexuality and cross dressing while exploring some the more grotesque displays of humanity. I’m so amazed at how Ohno could be multiple things at once – fragile, powerful, beautiful, grotesque, delicate, joyful, nihilistic, sad, feminine, and masculine. I’ve since taken some Butoh classes and referenced it in my music video for the track Obsession. Butoh also influenced a couple of my other artistic heroes including Anohni and Sopor Aeternus who also happen to be trans (and very much worth exploring if you don’t know them). I would guess there’s definitely something in that Butoh water for us all to like it so much.
Parma Ham thank you so much for chatting with us. We will be sure to keep our eyes peeled for your next music video drop and upcoming events because we’re sure we don’t want to miss them!
To check out more of Parma’s work and collaborations: