Interview by Asia Lanzi & Marie-Pauline Cesari 

Five years ago, Clara embarked on a transformative journey when she first donned a black latex catsuit and a cinched corset. This moment marked the birth of COBRAH, an avant-garde electronic artist who has since evolved into a globally acclaimed vocalist, producer, and fashion iconoclast. With hits like the tongue-in-cheek "GOOD PUSS", she's proven her prowess in creating certified club bangers. Hailing from Sweden, COBRAH immersed herself in Stockholm's underground fetish scene, introducing her music to party organizers and quickly gaining recognition. Her debut at a fetish party became a pivotal moment, defining her unique blend of sexuality, freedom, and musical innovation. COBRAH's goal is to present a complete concept, where music, fashion, folklore, and kink coalesce into a world where she reigns as queen, a vision already gaining traction through collaborations, sold-out tours, and recognition from industry heavyweights. 

In this interview, she reflects on her evolution from a schoolteacher navigating a double life to a celebrated musician pushing boundaries. With the recent release of her EP "SUCCUBUS", COBRAH shares the intricacies of her creative process, the thrill of live performances, and the deliberate blend of provocative sensuality and power in her art.

Taking it back to the beginnings of your music career: Balancing your role as a school teacher during the day and immersing yourself in the fetish underground scene by night, it appears that the moment you first wore that black latex jumpsuit and corset marked a pivotal revelation. Could you elaborate on the details of this turning point in your life when you unearthed your passion for music, and how it paved the way for the genesis of COBRAH?

It wasn’t exactly a turning point. I’ve always had a passion for music, and I was just trying to support myself while pursuing my music career. So that’s why I took up teaching. It happened that I was looking for jobs, and there was a substitute teaching opportunity. I ended up doing it for a longer period than I initially intended. During that time, I also came across latex and that whole scene, which added an unexpected spice to Cobra. While I was working as a teacher to make ends meet, I was creating the first EP, doing a lot of photo shoots for fun, and experimenting with different photographers and outfits.

It was during this period that I met a photographer who had a strong affinity for latex, and that’s how this whole journey began. She had a room filled with various latex outfits and costumes that she had made herself. She dressed me up in these clothes, and I had a revelation – it felt like a second skin, a Cobrah skin.

I remember taking a snapshot and sending it to my friends, saying something like, “This is my new life”. It felt like a significant, transformative moment, although I didn’t fully comprehend how impactful it would be at the time. This experience led me deeper into the latex scene. I started performing my music live before any official releases, playing demo tracks at sex clubs in Stockholm. The photographer introduced me to these clubs, and I simply wanted to go out and perform my music. I reached out to one of the organizers of a sex club and asked if I could perform there. They featured other live performances and DJs, so my first-ever performance was at a fetish club. I think this is why fetish culture continues to be a significant part of my music and what I do. It all began with that initial introduction because it was such a joyful day.

During this time, did you ever experience a sense of leading a double life? And do you believe that these seemingly disparate paths played a role in shaping the person you’ve evolved into today?

I did feel a bit like I was living a double life. I couldn’t tell anybody I worked with what I was up to. I would mention being a songwriter and doing music, but I kept the specifics of my music genre a secret.

I was worried about potential consequences – especially since I worked with kids. So, I was cautious not to share what I did on the weekends or the type of music I made. So, it was definitely like leading a double life, but it worked out. I wasn’t conflicted about it in terms of my identity; it was more about a significant divide between my life in music and my life for making a living.

And when did you start focusing solely on music and pursue it full-time?

It happened about half a year into the pandemic. Right after I wrote “Good Puss” and some other songs that ended up on the Cobra EP. The timing was weird because it was a period of uncertainty in life, with no one knowing what was going to happen. I was initially set to perform at the South by Southwest festival, feeling a sense of momentum in my music career and a desire to expand, travel, and connect with people. Suddenly, those plans were disrupted.

During the summer, when I wasn’t working, I wrote more music. When I returned to school, I realized that I wanted to dedicate much more time to creating this second EP. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I felt the need to give myself the chance to fully commit to it. That moment marked a significant turning point when I decided, “You know what? I won’t spend more time not doing music. I want to give it a more dedicated effort.” Since then, it has taken off, and looking back, I believe it was the right decision.

Last week you released the EP “SUCCUBUS”. What has been the initial response from your fans, and how does it feel to release your creative work to the world? Can you share your thoughts and emotions leading up to the release?

The initial response has been really positive. Everything’s usually quite good, with people expressing genuine happiness and excitement. However, what has been particularly thrilling for me is that people seem to enjoy all of the songs and emphasize this aspect. It’s not something I’ve experienced in quite the same way before. Choosing the singles was also a challenge, as all the songs flow seamlessly into each other. 

Releasing a track is an entirely different experience. When you create a track, there’s a whirlwind of emotions involved in finishing something. It feels like a constant battle with the music, as if it’s slipping away, and you’re trying to bring it closer to you. You want to perfect it, but there’s this idealized version in your mind that might never materialize because it exists only in your thoughts.

It’s a complex process, but at least it’s somewhat within your control. Once you release it, that control stops. You’ve done everything – tried various approaches, experimented, created music videos, and brought your ideas to life. At that point, there’s nothing more you can do. You release it, cross your fingers, go on tour, and witness how it takes its own steps into the world. This is the scariest part, especially on release day. I always feel terrified and nervous because it’s the first day when everyone gets exposed to something you’ve been in control of and kept a secret for a while.

And it’s such a vulnerable process, right? You’ve been working on your music for so long, and obviously, you hope that the response is good. But it’s an incredibly vulnerable aspect of revealing oneself to the world.

Yes, definitely. It’s very scary in that sense.

What is your creative process when it comes to writing and producing music, in particular for “SUCCUBUS”? What inspires your approach to music creation?

I think music is all about feeling. I usually write with the same collaborators, so the entire “SUCCUBUS” album is just me and two guys in the studio for half a year, feeling very in tune with each other. Usually, we start from scratch and make a beat, like 10 out of 10, even “Manic”, “Feminine Energy”, and probably “Activate” as well. All of those songs were made together in the studio. Two of the songs on the EP started with a pre-made beat that we worked on. Usually, I have something in my head, and I tell the producers I work with. I try to hum how it sounds, show them what instruments I like, and then they create something. Then I start writing on it, but it’s like fake writing. You hum some sort of rap or melody, and you write placeholder lyrics over it. It’s like searching for buried treasure, trying to dig and see when you hit gold. The final step is always finishing writing the lyrics. For example, for “Suck” those were placeholder lyrics that were really funny. We thought, “Hahaha, suck my clit. That’s so stupid. We’ll rewrite it one day.” After a few weeks, we felt like actually keeping it like that. Some lyrics start off as stupid, fake lyrics that I’m not supposed to sing on the real record, but they end up being surprisingly good, so we keep them there forever.

What is the significance and symbolism behind the term “SUCCUBUS”? What does it represent within the context of your creative work?

Succubus is a folklore demon that attacks men by having sex with them while they’re asleep. In the past, they used to be depicted as terrifying monsters, but with modern times and fantasy, they are often portrayed as beautiful women. Originally, they were demons, inherently scary. When engaging in sex with men, they may consume parts of their body or soul, or at times, steal semen to give to the male counterpart, an incubus. The incubus then impregnates human women with demon babies. Scientists explain this lore as an interpretation of sleep paralysis, where the sensation of someone sitting on your chest can lead to hallucinations.

The EP is named “SUCCUBUS” because I appreciate the lore of that demon. I’m drawn to the idea of an attack through sex, which aligns with the main theme of the EP. Despite the explicit and provocative nature, it’s not about showcasing myself as a sexy woman. Instead, it’s about expressing my power, confidence, and creative vision. I use sensuality to convey more than just a visual appeal; it’s about being a person with thoughts and intentions behind my actions. I think this approach connects well with the lore of the Succubus.

When listeners and viewers engage with your artistic work, what messages, thoughts, and emotions do you hope they take away from it?

I’m not specifically hoping for particular takeaways from the record. Instead, it’s more about people genuinely enjoying the way they feel when they listen to Cobrah’s music. In general, the most significant feedback I receive is that people feel confident, happy, silly, stupid, and cool. I experience the same emotions when creating it. For me, music is an expression, not something I meticulously plan in my bedroom, contemplating what message I want to convey. Creativity is a flow.

Perhaps not explicitly hope, but what feelings do you want individuals to derive from your work?  

I want people to feel really sexy, really cool, on their way to doing something great – confident. I want them to feel like they’re enjoying themselves.

You’re embarking on a North American tour soon. What goes into delivering a high-energy live performance? How do you maintain confidence and stage presence, and what aspects do you love most about performing live?

A lot goes into performing live when you consider what I’m wearing, how I’m dancing, and such. But once I step onto that stage, I give everything I’ve got in my entire body. 100 percent of my focus and mindfulness go toward connecting with the fans through the music.

That’s when the music truly comes to life. For that one hour, you have me, and I have you, and all I think about is how to give back what’s inside me to the fans. All the uncomfortable aspects of latex, heels, and hair just disappear.

Your art consistently pushes boundaries through immersive visuals, particularly in your music videos. How central is the visual aspect to your self-expression as an artist, and what’s your approach to incorporating elements related to kink and fetishism into your creative process?

Visuality is really important. I enjoy making music just as much as creating visuals. When working on a project like SUCCUBUS, I usually have an idea in my head when creating the music of what I want it to look like. For example, with “Suck”, I knew when making the record that I wanted the video to align with the music. They work well together, and it’s a passion just as significant as the music itself. Using kink is something I always like to incorporate. Sex intrigues everyone, and adding depth to it makes it more thrilling and scary. We’re searching for thrills, trying to provoke or at least evoke a feeling. Making it more ambiguous through kink is exciting too. Personally, I prefer making things difficult on set, like a challenging music video or a photo shoot. The higher the skill level, the more painful it is, the more I like it. It doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished something unless I’m swimming in a slime pool at 4 a.m. or lying on a chair for five hours, freezing. It’s part of the ritual of making visuals, always uncomfortable, and I like that. It makes it feel like a sport, in a cool way.

Maybe it’s like a pain fetish.

Yes, a little bit. It’s not like I get turned on during a video shoot, but I definitely feel like I enjoy a challenge. It’s like an adrenaline rush when you have to go through pain, and it’s a good way of doing it for me.

From live shows to photoshoots, your distinctive and bold fashion choices are a significant part of your persona, whether it’s striking couture ensembles or kinky fetish outfits. What inspires your unique fashion sense, and which fashion essentials define the signature COBRAH look?

I think it’s important when considering my fashion preferences to keep everything minimal and clean. This inclination partly stems from being from Sweden, where avoiding clutter is essential. All the shapes have to be really dramatic, defining my style as very goth, always in black. I strongly hate color – it makes me uncomfortable – so I don’t incorporate it into my wardrobe.

The key is striking shapes that are minimal, dramatic, and definitely not functional but very gothic. That is the essence of the COBRAH style.

Do you typically dress like this in your daily life? Maintaining such a distinctive style seems challenging.

In my day-to-day life, I feel like I fail, but I’ve come to appreciate my days off. Now that I travel so much for work, dressing up and clubbing are regular occurrences. I’ve learned to value the time when I don’t have to maintain a full aesthetic every day, considering that about 70 percent of my day revolves around work. On my days off, I keep it simple – I only wear sweatpants. It’s key to a day off, going super comfortable to overcompensate a bit.

On your EP “SUCCUBUS”, you have a song titled “Feminine Energy”. What does feminine energy represent to you, and how does it manifest in your work?

Feminine energy is this force inside you, a lovely, soft, beautiful energy that propels you forward. It has action, motive, needs, and wants. It’s challenging to visualize or explain precisely what it is, but it’s a soft, strong, beautiful essence that I believe everyone possesses. When people truly embrace it, it’s like a soft yet potent energy – a moving force.

In your artistry, you challenge societal norms and the male gaze, redefining notions of womanhood and femininity by merging unconventional avant-garde elements with nudity and sexiness. Can you elaborate on how these aspects align with your personal concept of beauty and self-expression as a woman, and why you find it important to redefine these notions?

I generally follow my personal preference for aesthetics and expression. It’s interesting to hear that question because it’s interpreted in various ways regarding societal norms and such. While I understand it challenges those norms and pushes the culture, there’s never been a political statement behind it.

I feel like I’ve just been born with a brain that genuinely enjoys creating this type of music and videos because it’s thrilling to me. Maybe it’s thrilling because it’s a bit forbidden, but it truly comes from a place of joy for me in creating these things.

Absolutely, I get it. You’re just being yourself, and it’s not the classical definition of a woman because you incorporate these unconventional elements. I love how it distinctly diverges from catering to the male gaze or conforming to societal expectations of how women should be.

It definitely is that. When I was a kid and growing up, I could feel it in my being – the way I liked to be wasn’t generally perceived as attractive. I struggled a lot with that growing up, questioning how I was perceived by others and how I wanted to be perceived. I had a significant disinterest in what is considered a normal life or a normal way to dress or behave. With time, especially as I’m not 17 anymore, I’ve fully embraced it.

In the beginning, COBRAH raised eyebrows, especially from people I knew. Now, as it’s well-received, I don’t see it as provocative; I’m just living the fairytale life my teenage self would love, being free and appreciated for what I do. Now, it’s not a reflection anymore; I’m just indulging in myself.

Nevertheless, staying true to your authentic self and creative vision can be challenging. How do you maintain your authenticity and self-confidence? What advice would you offer to those looking to embrace their individuality, self-discovery, and self-empowerment?

You really have to dig deep within yourself to discover what it is that you genuinely like or want to do, not what you feel compelled to do or think you should do. I know it’s a bit unclear, but authenticity can be blurry because it’s something we all can feel. We can look at an artist or a painting and sense that it doesn’t feel right, that it lacks intent or soul. It’s hard to pinpoint why that is, though.

As an artist, that’s why it’s important to have a center and a genuine desire to do what you’re doing, not driven by external factors or benefits. It has to come from a place of love because that love manifests in a way that’s challenging to describe, at least for me. That’s what I strive to do – feel the thrill of what I love and express it genuinely.

Have there been moments in your career where you felt that certain pieces of your work or art didn’t align with your authentic self? Perhaps you went through such experiences, especially during the early stages of your career.

It definitely becomes more challenging as you collaborate with more people because there are many other eyes involved in your work. You end up with a finished result that might not feel like you because too many hands meddled in an original idea. It has happened a lot. That’s one reason I only worked with the same producers throughout “SUCCUBUS” because they are my closest friends, so they’re just extra arms when we’re in the studio. Working with others feels like introducing new arms that don’t belong to my body anymore, and the end result feels far from the original intent. So authenticity is important, and it can get confusing when people who don’t know your vision well become part of the project. It becomes harder to manage, but sometimes you can create things on a grander scale with more collaborators. So it’s both good and bad.

In one of your most popular songs “Good Puss”, you talk about a real good puss. Could you share the secrets to what you consider a real good puss?

I think it’s really simple.

A real good puss is just someone who carries themselves with confidence. It’s not about a physical thing; it’s a state of mind.

It’s the state of having the good puss, knowing it, and just going out there. Everybody can see that you know it and that you have a good puss. That’s it.

Your personal journey and career as an artist serve as an inspiring story of empowerment. What advice would you offer to aspiring artists looking to establish themselves in the music industry?

The way I started was by creating my own record label, which I still have. Actually, “SUCCUBUS” is still released on it. I think it was valuable for me to make a lot of music, put it out myself, and learn the music industry. This way, I could discover what I wanted to do more and what I wanted to do less. Instead of jumping onto the biggest thing they might want to do, I believe self-discovery and knowledge about the industry you want to enter are really valuable.

As soon as you step into a larger room with bigger people without knowledge, others might take advantage of that. Building creative and industry knowledge has been very beneficial for me, and that’s what I would recommend.

That’s indeed valuable advice, and that wraps up my final question. It was a pleasure listening to your insights, and I value your openness. Thank you very much.