Pure pop princess of Norway, Karin Parks, has ridden the pop carousel and now resides in the mysterious electro shadows. It is the dark twist of this gothic electro pop princess’s music and personal style that has caused the English music scene to sit up and take notice. Karin Parks talks to LUX FIX about men in high heels, recording naked and sheep fur coats with stockings – delectable!
Karin’s fourth album: ‘Highway Poetry’ marks a musical turnabout. Once a pure pop princess, she listened to her third album and thought, “I don’t like this – this is just boring to listen to”. She was, she says in her soft and mesmerising, voice, caught in ‘this pop circus, pop carousel thing.’ She was happy to be with a big label; and ‘really happy that someone liked the songs I made’. But since then she has been on a musical journey and waved goodbye to her initial fan base. ‘Maybe that wasn’t a smart career move in terms of success, but I have much wider audience on an international basis now’. And the tracks she makes she’d be proud to find on her ‘own playlist’.
Her fourth album has taken her from lighter pop to a deeper brooding electronica laced with a dark twist and a dub step vibe (which she has been taking round Europe supporting both SBTRKT and Azari & III on tour).
This has led many to tout her as a gothic electro pop princess – a phrase she thinks ‘correct,’ in that her influences are the likes of Depeche Mode and The Cure – Robert Smith is one of her vocal heroes. But princess? ‘I don’t really feel like a princess’ she muses. But being labelled doesn’t really bother her; recently a girl told her she sounded like a mix between ‘Bjork and Kraftwerk’ she says with a gleaming smile, and ‘that’s a really cool description. ‘
Another label that can thrown in Karin’s direction is stylish: standing at 6ft3, she has an instant presence and when I meet her, slickly dressed in slim, dark trews and a deep ivy green crushed velvet jacket, she appears effortless and yet instantly cool. And so it seems only right that she should be playing a DJ set at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out – but is Karin a fashionista? ‘I like to have fun with it. It’s something that I use to visualise my music – and when it all comes together with the music and clothes to express the same thing – it becomes more powerful.’ And like a million other girls the world over, the item that empowers her the most is, she says, the high heel. Really? At 6ft3? She’s matter of fact about it ‘I think high heels shoes are one of the most amazing things that we have in the modern world. I think it is a shame that more men don’t wear high heeled shoes, as you feel so empowered in them.’ And her favourite high heel shoes? ‘Jeffrey Campbell – the proper platform heels because that doesn’t make me look tall, that makes me look something otherworldly. I become so tall, that I feel not human.’
On stage then, she is an ethereal presence, towering over her audience from a great height, but I wonder if that’s how she dresses to record in the studio – her high heels strapped on in order to activate her musical personality? ‘No’, she tells me, ‘It’s not about that at all, it’s, well…I’ve tried different things: I’ve tried to record naked, I’ve tried whatever clothes. Or standing in a bucket of water. I mean, just to try it out but none of those things make a difference. It’s emotions, it totally comes from inside.’
So it’s certainly not tracky bums that Karin records in. In fact, Karin doesn’t really wear ‘cosy stuff’, except when outside at home where she always wears her sheep fur: ‘Because that’s just the most amazing thing to wear. Its so warm, and where I come from it can be -35 in the winter.’ But when she’s not braving the blizzards: ‘I like to just wear stockings and stuff.’ It has to be a little bit…’ she smiles, sexily, ‘it has to make you feel different.’ It’s a look her musician boyfriend (whom she lives with) certainly doesn’t mind.
Sheep fur coats and stockings: it’s a humorous and sexy mix – and Karin thinks of British fashion as ‘uber stylish, but there is always this little twist of humour in it.’ Which she loves; in fact she thinks ‘in Britain in general, everything has a sense of humour to it. Even in the Olympic Ceremony which was cool and representative of Britain yet with a sense of humour.’ She pauses and adds ‘the English are elegant on the outside, but down to earth on the inside’, actually ‘with a few drinks, and they’re back on earth.’
And so perhaps it is not surprising that Karin cites David Bowie as stylish – ‘that’s a given’, and appreciates Gareth Pugh as a designer (‘I really like him). But as to who is and isn’t stylish, she doesn’t think about that too much, as she points out ‘If you behave in a cool way, then you can wear anything.’ She says, ‘I think style is much more about the way you walk, how you talk and that sort of thing.’ And Karin Park walks well, talks well… you know, that sort of thing.
Words: Tibbs Jenkins