Cobrah: “Within minutes I was naked, and she was oiling me up ready to slide into latex!”
Experimental artist Cobrah recalls her initiation into Stockholm’s queer and fetish scenes, charting the city’s kinkiest clubs, performers and events.
Two years ago, Cobrah was asked to create “something that would fit the K‑Pop market” alongside her friend and producer, Hannes Roover. What they created instead was IDFKA, a brooding debut single which combines industrial sound effects with heavy bass and a repeated refrain: “I don’t fucking know anymore”. To say it didn’t fit the brief would be an understatement. “It didn’t sound like K‑Pop at all,” she laughs, “but it was the first thing we had made that I felt could definitely become something.”
Cobrah’s soon moved from her home country of Sweden to Berlin in search of new producers, a journey which yielded experimental results. “We mixed techno and vogue music with Arabic melodies, and the lyrical themes ranged from the lives of gay men in Saudi Arabia to Paris Hilton’s sex tape. It was way out there!” After performing new material during live sets, she realised she hadn’t recreated the magic she felt with Hannes – so she returned to Sweden. “I reconnected with him and a new producer, Gusten Galqvist. [Debut EP] ICON came really quickly after that.”
The concise, high-octane EP has earned praise for its fusion of atmospheric production and percussive, rapid-fire vocals. “I actually have two main lyrical inspirations: UrbanDictionary and The Jerry Springer Show,” she explains. “I find fun words and key phrases that you can make stories from, and then I write lyrics like they’re instruments. I think they rhythmically sound better than these really amazing, profound statements.”
Rooted in sex-positive themes and textural descriptors (WET, GLUE), Cobrah’s music is as erotic as it is evocative. A search to create visuals that matched these soundscapes led her to the bedroom of photographer Katrin Unge, where she was first initiated into Stockholm’s fetish scene. “I didn’t have anywhere to live at the time,” she says, describing a period spent crashing on friends’ sofas. “I turned up to the photoshoot with nothing but a biker jacket, so she showed me a room of her creations: there were fantasy horns, catsuits, furs and gloves – basically everything. Within minutes I was naked, and she was oiling me up ready to slide into latex!”
This chance encounter led to her becoming a fixture on Stockholm’s queer and fetish scenes. “[Drag queen] Qween Dede was the first to play my music at [popular gay club] Backroom, and I got my first gig during Stockholm Fetish Week,” she recalls. With that in mind, we asked Cobrah to curate her own concise guide to the city’s kinkiest clubs, performers and events.
“I’m used to fetish clubs now, but I was a real prude growing up and didn’t really start exploring sexuality until later on. Then I moved to Berlin, and when I came back I was booked to play DekaDance during Stockholm Fetish Week – that was actually my first ever performance. I remember going to the soundcheck Benjamin, the DJ I was performing with. It was the middle of the day, so obviously in the club you can see everything – I remember thinking ‘wow, this isn’t what I expected to be doing in my 20s!’.
Then the night itself came. It was so amazing and so eye-opening for me. The fashion and the looks were incredible, and there’s something so special about walking through a crowd full of clubbers dressed in latex. You rub against each other in this very strange way, it’s so cool! It is members-only with a dress code, and obviously everyone is there because they share a common interest in fetish, but DekaDance attracts such a wide range of people of all classes, body types, ages, genders. I thought that was super cool, and that’s what I started to love about the fetish scene.”
“So this isn’t an official club – in fact, they’re not really allowed to have it! It’s actually a fetish night inside a sauna, which is really fun. It’s held on the outskirts of the city centre, and you need some sort of connection to be able to get the address. It closed for a while, but it’s just starting up again. It has such an aura about it too. Lots of celebrities were going there and it was known as a really cool, inner circle-type event, but it’s the perfect place for anyone who wants the freedom to just live and express themselves however they like.”
“FOMO is similar to DekaDance, but there are no strict codes and the emphasis is really more on the music. They highly encourage guests to wear fetish gear, and they’re really LGBT-inclusive – they make a huge point of talking about those issues. I love the idea of nights like these; they’re all about letting go and not being so serious, so posh – so restricted! Clubs tend to be so specific, and they come with these implied rules about how to behave, how to fit in. Fetish clubs just tend to be so free of those pressures, that’s why I’m so drawn to them.”
“It’s really hard for fetish clubs to stay open in Sweden, but there are other nights that embrace that same ethos of freedom. Trådgården is one – it’s only open during the summer, and it’s a bit of a walk because you have to go under this bridge to get there. It’s this crazy space, with a ceiling filled with speakers that you can only really hear on the dancefloor. You can play video games against the bridge pillar, and there’s the ‘proper club’ inside, where they sometimes have voguing battles and hip-hop concerts.”
“As well as clubs, there are some amazing performers here. The Villbergs have had international success, but not many people know they’re Swedish – anything tied to queer culture or the fetish scene doesn’t tend to be picked up by mainstream media here. They started out making their own clothes and then photographing them, but they wanted to do more with their shows, so they added music. They really inspired me to do more with my own artistry; to really be in control of the whole thing, including what I wear.”