Paramida may have a reputation as a divisive character, but no matter what your take on the artist who once jokingly referred to herself as 'Berlin's Most Hated', one thing is almost always agreed upon; Paramida is a superlative DJ. Her label, Love On The Rocks, reflects her far-reaching, unpredictable DJ sets, delivering often winningly odd, refreshingly charistmatic club music that Paramida herself may have bracketed as 'house', but, reflecting her collection, garner influence from the dustiest corners of outsider dance culture across genres, tempos and continents.
Having elected to leave Berlin for a number of years, Paramida is now back on the scene, albeit leading what she herself terms a “hermit-like” lifestyle. Joking aside, she has a hugely exciting year ahead, whether taking control of Panorama Bar or sat inside, focused, endlessly digging for that next unexpected musical hit. There's also the matter of five years of her label, Love on The Rocks. Perhaps the best representation of Paramida's musical spirit, the imprint celebrated with an extensive compilation, 'Supergau', featuring contributions from regulars and associates, including Violet, Fantastic Man, Eric Duncan and Kornél Kovács.
In the wake of its release, Paramida caught up with John Thorp on a wintery afternoon in the German capital, considering both hedonism and organisation, the changing musical landscape of the city and keeping a good sense of humour amid the egos and madness.
I know you're not too keen on interviews, so my first question would be (in this interview): Why are you not keen on doing interviews?
I think it's that I don't really want to give generic answers. Also, it's a little like a self-reflection, but in public. Like pulling your pants down a bit, you know? So that makes me quite uncomfortable.
I guess it's harder and harder to do that because perhaps there's more of a risk in how you present yourself. And it's an effort to keep it more about the music?
Before you were doing interviews, before Love On The Rocks, does that feel like a simpler time?
To be honest, I wouldn't go back, let's put it like this. But for a certain period of my life, it was absolutely the right thing to do. But I think working in a record store is a lot less cool than people imagine it to be. It's a physical job.
Were you good at organising?
No, actually, I was terrible! I was only good at selling. Talking about the records, knowing people's tastes. In the beginning, I would sit in the back and do all the organisational stuff, and I wasn't really good at it. You have to sit and do the same thing for hours. And then, one of my bosses realised I was much better at talking and communicating with customers. And then, we opened the second OYE in Neukolln, I was working there most of the time. So me and one of the bosses, we started that branch, just us two.
Who were some of the people or Djs you used to sell to who you are still friends with or share bills with?
None at all. I moved away shortly after.
I've read in the past that when you were Djing, working in a record store, the whole thing of total immersion in DJ culture became exhausting? Who's playing what, who said what about who, who accidentally ejected who's USB stick...
Absolutely. And it can be entertaining in a way, of course. But the funny thing is, after I quit my job at the record store, I didn't check any new music for around a year. Which felt really freeing. Whereas before, I was constantly confronted with new music coming about. So when music and records came across my path accidentally, I kind of like that, instead of being swamped all of the time. And actually, it hasn't been something I've gone back to. I don't buy any new music any more.
Do you still check promos?
Then how does it work for you? Are you following archives of records, focusing on specific genres?
Right now, I only dig on Discogs. Because it's something I can do from anywhere, anytime I feel like it. And it's funny, I don't even like to go to a record store as I feel distracted by anyone and anything around me. And then you listen to a set of records, and ten are shit, and if ten are shit, the good one sounds amazing. And then you go home, listen to it again and think, “Oh, maybe I shouldn't have bought this?” So I like to sit on things and listen again and again, and if I like it enough, I'll buy it. So I actually buy a lot, but I have my own rhythm and time to do it. And I like to do it from my own home.
That's an interesting angle, especially from a DJ so invested in vinyl culture, as you are. Most Djs tend to talk about the record store as an important community space for music. You meet people, you get reccomendations, you feel connected to the culture and other cliches... Maybe you had your fill of that?
I think it totally depends on your personality. When I used to work at a record store, I spent a lot of time annoyed by conversations and customers.
What kind of behaviour annoyed you?
Mostly it was very ego-driven behaviour, very pretentious. A lot of people walk in to the record store and think that they're the coolest. They might want to teach you something! But not always. I'd sometimes have friends visit to buy records, which was always great. But I'm very anti-social these days, and I live like a hermit. So those aren't the interactions I want to have, but I can see how it works for the community and why other people enjoy it.
And of course, you still put everything out on Love On The Rocks on vinyl, so you want that material to be available in record stores?
Absolutely, and I love vinyl. I have a huge collection.
I want to talk about this reputation, or moniker you ran with for some years, 'Berlin's Most Hated'. I always thought it was interesting and funny, but perhaps it's even more unusual now, when Djs are very concious to seem approachable, friendly and relatable. You're not particularly a #blessed character. Has that position affected your life as a touring DJ?
As a DJ, or as a person?
Where does end and the other begin? OK; first as a DJ, then as 'a person'?
I don't think it really affected my Djing career negatively, because, as you say, it's kind of funny. And I think humour always wins.
Well, perhaps, but not always in Berlin!
It's funny you say that, because a German friend of mine actually gave me this nickname, years ago. And I think it's because people either love or hate me. Or a lot of people, they like me, but at the same time I think I can be very divisive. As a person, I think it affected me negatively that people think I can be that self-ironic, that it's OK to make jokes or fun about me. Because when it comes from other people, it can sometimes hurt you.
Perhaps there are even people who really like your DJ sets but can't stand you as a person?
Has that happened?
I've no idea! But it's an interesting position, no?
I think that somebody who doesn't like me as a person would never admit that I'm a good DJ!
Running a vinyl label can be difficult, even for that of the profile of Love On The Rocks.
Honestly, I haven't had the experience that the records didn't sell. But there are two reasons for that. One is that I press records realistically. And the other is that you have to react a bit to the market and select what it is that you're going to put out.
I feel like you operate from a crew of friends and like-minded people?
Yes, kind of. I think everyone I work with is someone that I like.
In the notes for this compilation, Five Years of Love On The Rocks, you mention that the label and it's progress hasn't neccesarily always unfolded in the ways that you expected it to. What's an example of things taking an usual left turn?
This isn't an easy question. There have been moments in which I thought I was going to stop the label, but also moments in which it would be going great, and I'd think, “I have to keep this going.” But even in the moments in which I've wanted to stop the label, something inside me said, “Mmm, not yet.” But a lot of friendships got destroyed, through working together. And it's not always easy, and when I sometimes look at other crews or labels, I think, “Wow, how do they do it?”
You've toured all over the world. Where do you think the label has made the most unexpected impact?
I think maybe Indonesia, or the Phillipines, but that wasn't so much of a surprise, as we have an artist, Jonathan Kusuma, who is from there. Sometimes I get messages from all over once I've done releases that are vinyl only as they have really obvious samples. People begging me to release it digitally.
They can always go to Soulseek, if they know where to look... Besides, this new compilation is coming out digitally? So it's not like you're against the digital format, even if you're more focused on vinyl yourself?
Not at all! Personally, even though I buy a lot of records, I rip them. I can't be bothered taking them around from gig to gig. Maybe only at Panorama Bar or Robert Johnson, if I know there's a really good setup and a great soundsystem.
Speaking of Robert Johnson, I know you're very much associated with 'Fries Before Guys', a queer party at that club. Can you tell me a bit more about it? I understand nightlife and especially queer culture is a very different landscape in Frankfurt, especially compared to Berlin.
I think, basically, it was the first 'cool' queer party. Of course, there were other queer parties, but they were more commercial in their music. It's booked by a friend of mine, who has now just become the overall booker of Robert Johnson, so I'm very pleased for him. He's been supporting me for years, and opened the door for me there.
I've been in Berlin for four or five years, so almost the exact same time as you've been away. Obviously, hedonism is still a priority for people, but I feel that just in that time, the city has become a little less sloppy, a little less slow and a little more organised. I think this is both a good and a bad thing. People get back to your emails sooner, but corners of the city are beginning to morph into London or San Francisco. What's your angle?
Honestly, I can't judge. Because four years ago, I was so involved, booking and going to parties. Whereas now, I'm not. But from what I've heard a lot of things have been shaken up.
John Thorp, January 2020.