Words by Jess Ralph Lead photo from No One Studio
Dark, fetishistic , transgressive , hedonistic and with community at its core, Wraith is the club night for those who like their electronica gloomy and hard, their platforms stacked high, and don’t mind their dancing momentarily interrupted to witness someone being whipped- all in the name of art, of course !
Quickly amassing a cult following amongst the most macabre of East London’s party going darlings, the dark rave-cum-performance event aims to provide a space not only for indulging in some gothically minded escapism, but also a platform for non-conformist, anarchical artistic experimentation. Created and curated by Parma Ham, who speaks to UNDERGROUND about Wraith below.
Hi Parma Ham, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m an artist that mostly works in performance and design under the name Nullo. I regularly DJ, and founded the dark club night Wraith which attempts to platform every discipline, from live music to philosophy.
Wraith Creator and Curator Parma Ham
Photo Jeanie Jean
Wraith- what’s the club night’s manifesto? What are you about and who are you for?
Wraith reflects the community surrounding it, so each and every one of its contributors and attendees are an influence on its direction.
After a few years in the club scene I felt there were so many amazing minds in the audience, that I thought it would be a great idea to platform them ;whatever their discipline, and ideally all at once. It created a club that wasn’t solely music orientated. I’m relieved performance in clubs has become almost commonplace amongst queer raves now, but what sets Wraith apart is its penchant for the dark in both art and music, and the experimentation in transhuman fashion. Some people have said Wraith is elitist, which isn’t true, it just has a particular taste which maybe other people and nights do not understand and are intimidated by.
How did the idea for putting on Wraith first come about?
In 2019, I wanted to put on a Nullo fashion show with Salvia, but we couldn’t find the right place to host it, so I created a Wraith – that way we could guarantee a suitable environment. Wraith has never been run with economic profit in mind, and any proceeds go towards the night, which really helped with doing a fashion show which can be very expensive.
…And how has the club night evolved since then?
Wraith was an instant success in that a unique community of outsiders came together, so we kept putting them on. Perhaps the first few editions were a bit more classically goth orientated, before we found our feet. The music we play is very broad, DJ’s can experiment with any genre, but with a dark or aggressive element to it.
Following on from that, how would you describe the musical language of Wraith?
Anything that is dark and abrasive. Wraith has been around for 4 years now, and we evolve with whatever works in the moment. There’s always a couple of resident DJ’s on the line-up that ensure elements of industrial hard techno and EBM, but I really love how that combines with the guest DJ’s who bring their own worlds and tastes.
from left to right
@jazmin bean @leomonira @rexyrubin
pics by @jeaniejeanphotos
Could you talk about the performance art element of the night ?
Other than loving performance, I think perhaps it was my own attention span where I felt like I wanted more out of a party. Our sober guests particularly appreciate it too. I think there’s also something special about showcasing art, fashion, and music all at once, as they belong together and shouldn’t be individually siloed. Our nature is anti-censorship, which is particularly important right now as galleries often object to showing our work, and social media would be quick to take it down, so there really aren’t a lot of available platforms left where you can freely experiment.
Wraith is mostly situated at Electrowerkz , which is of course the home of Slimelight (the longest running goth club night in the world). Did you feel any sense of continuing legacy with Wraith, being on the same turf?
That was initially why we took residence there. That and I had a long standing relationship with Electrowerkz, and it’s generous and kind owner Mak from DJing a spectrum of alternative nights in the venue. Unfortunately the owner of Electrowerkz passed away during the pandemic, and the club has fallen into new ownership who prioritise money, so we had to let it go.
Wraith does continue a British legacy of dressing up, creating, and getting messy, but without the nostalgia that bogs down subculture. I think the subtle aim is the proliferation of a new subculture made from the fragments of those that have come before.
Does your day job as an art curator influence your approach to curating a club night ?
I think that informs a lot of my decision making. Working in the art world also informs me of what not to be, particularly regarding stale framing. Work is best enjoyed as a community ritual, amongst friends, and partying. The term curator is thrown around a lot, but I do think Wraith line-ups are carefully considered. It can be a bit tough as I work within a public realm with some budget, but when it comes to Wraith it’s DIY and community spirit all the way, which is nice, but there are so many more things I wish I could do.
Genderfuckery and fashion experimentation outside the usual binary codes has of course been part of goth culture since ground zero , could you talk about your own interpretation of this ?
The genderfuck is one of the things that attracted me to goth when I was growing up. Before I really understood terms like being queer or non-binary, goth presented a subculture where you could experiment with your appearance, without it really being a statement about gender or sexuality. It’s about an exploration of an aesthetic that transcends the body, and that in itself is quite liberating.
And from your observation, how do you think the interpretation of gender fluidity within goth subculture is different to how it has been historically , or say even 10 years ago ?
From what I gather the dialogue wasn’t there in the 70s – 00’s, and so the way people understood fluidity was very different. It was gender bending but with little intentional connection to the liberation movements. I always found goth inherently a bit queer, but actually when you pay attention to the alternative icons and musicians that came out of that time period, surprisingly very few of them are LGBTQ+! These days all the interesting alternative spaces are queer dominated, so clearly it’s not just me that sees goth as useful and relevant in a queer context for today. Perhaps the real comparison was that early goth was threatening and dangerous as it was an affront to aesthetic values – well in 2023,if you read the news what could be more threatening than queer and trans people!
Could you talk about Wraith’s magazine INERTIA ?
It was always the plan to do a zine, partly because I wanted lasting documentation to a valuable moment, but also because the zine is a work in itself. With the power of print you can include other mediums that are a little difficult in a club setting, for example philosophy, poetry, and short stories. The layout was designed by artist Hila Angelica, and it’s full of images by NO ONE STUDIO (some of those are included on this page ). It really gives the reader a sense of what the night is about, just in book form, with more space to dive into academia.
What is next for you and Wraith ?
We have some great collaboration dates coming up including Tech Noire in Paris, and Subverted in Berlin. Sadly in London we have been without a suitable venue for a few months as they keep closing down, and having the right venue that feels right is so important as it sets the tone of the night. I’m sure we will get something together soon.
Photos courtesy of No One Studio
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