Amoeba Hollywood - September 5th @ 6:00pm
Purchase Daphne & The Golden Chord in-store only at Amoeba on September 5th to meet Daphne and get your copy signed after the show.
“Aristocratic glam fuelled by wit, character and a clear and abiding love of rock n roll” - The Times, ****
Daphne Guinness was nine when, in 1977, Marc Bolan died in a car crash. It caused what can only be described as an early life crisis. And it led, in a roundabout way, to Daphne & The Golden Chord, her kaleidoscopic, effervescent, fabulously twisted new album.
“It hit me hard,” she says, of the death at 29 of the cosmic dancer with the corkscrew hair. “I lived in London from the age of nought to eleven, and my early childhood memories make up my freshest thoughts on the city. I would go to [long-gone legendary underground fashion emporium] Kensington Market and see what I could pick up with my pocket money. And I would go home and watch Marc Bolan on Top of the Pops. When he died I wanted to die as well, and it caused what I now realise was a nervous breakdown. That and the shock of becoming ten and going into double figures.”
When Daphne Guinness, heir to the Irish brewery founder Arthur Guinness, granddaughter of Diana Mitford, and elegantly experimental adviser and muse to Isabella Blow, alongside fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld, Philip Treacy and the late Alexander McQueen, launched a musical career in 2016, a few finely shaped eyebrows were raised. “Some of my friends and family asked: What on earth has happened?’ I’m used to them thinking I’m completely mad, but this was ridiculous. You do something because it is interesting, because you like it, not because you want to be famous. There would be no point otherwise. And music is, for me, a 24-hour thing.”
Daphne was deeply involved with music early on, studying and listening to the classical composers while developing a teenage passion for The Doors, The Kinks, Bowie, The Beatles and Bolan; it’s just that life had other plans. After a peripatetic, bohemian childhood spent between London, Paris, Ireland and a crumbling monastery in Cadaqués in Spain where Salvador Dali would pop round for a glass of wine, she was all set to study at the Guildhall School of Music with a view to being a lieder singer, but took a left turn aged nineteen towards marriage and children.
“And thank God I did because being on the lieder circuit would have completely cramped my style,” she says. “I would have got hung up by it. There is no way I’d be able to write the kind of songs I can write now because my experience wouldn’t be nearly so wide.”
Missing out on much of the 90s while raising her children, Daphne’s first new life came after a divorce in 1999 when she began assisting the visionary Isabella Blow, a family friend. But after Blow and then Alexander McQueen committed suicide in 2007 and 2010, followed by the death by cancer of her brother Jasper in 2011, Daphne reassessed everything. She hid away in a studio in Ireland, writing and recording songs as a way of dealing with grief. And after David Bowie, who asked Guinness to interview him about his costumes for the 2013 David Bowie Is… exhibition at the V&A, recommended her to his long-time producer Tony Visconti, another chapter began.
The product of that period was Optimist In Black, a mordant, romantic first album from 2016, which drew praise variously from Q Magazine (“Firmly rooted in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, its main modes orchestral glam and bejewelled psych” ****), The Times (“Has charm, humour and a certain florid, romantic quality”) and Noisey (“Drama-pop with a gothic tinge….powerful incantations”). And now Daphne & The Golden Chord takes her off on a new adventure. By turns funny, sophisticated, psychedelic, caustic and never boring, the album emerged after Daphne got a taste of the touring life in 2014 with Holy Holy, Visconti’s and original Spiders From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey’s supergroup formed in tribute to Bowie. There she met Malcolm Doherty, Holy Holy’s original Bowie figure and now Daphne’s co-songwriter and manager.
“I didn’t quite know what I was supposed to be doing,” says Daphne on piling into the back of the bus and rocking all over the world, or at least up and down the M1, with Holy Holy. “And I didn’t look like the other backing singers so I kind of stuck out, but it was a lot of fun, I loved the camaraderie, and at the same time I couldn’t stop writing songs.”
Doherty helped put together a band. There was Terry Miles, a boogie-woogie pianist who plays with the legendary indie recluse Lawrence in Go-Kart Mozart; former Thin Lizzy bassist Gary Liedeman; James Stevenson, who played guitar in first wave punk bands Chelsea and Generation X; and the preternaturally talented Italian drummer called Alex Marchisone. Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay dropped in to lay down some saxophone while Visconti, who Malcolm Doherty describes as “a Zen svengali, guiding it all along in a beautiful way,” brought in everything from timpani to sitars. The entire album was recorded at British Grove Studios, Chiswick - specifically to analogue tape on storied old consoles previously used on The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and Wings’ Band On The Run - within the space of three weeks.
“Daphne is a natural at songwriting,” says Doherty. “I knew she was a poet, but it is one thing to write poetry and another to set it in song. We would come up with some tunes of an evening and jam them with the band the following day. It’s almost entirely live, with only a few overdubs and spaces in the songs left for Tony to add orchestral arrangements later. When it came to recording, we only ever did three takes in a row. If we didn’t get it, we would move on. Tony says you have to grab the energy.”
As to the theme of the florid, comic, somewhat lacerating lyrics, says Daphne, “I can’t sing a single word I don’t believe in. It’s the closest thing I can get to a memoir without making people I know very cross indeed. It’s all there: love, hate, nervous breakdowns.” The music pulls on Daphne’s classical training, Malcolm Doherty’s punk rock immediacy and Visconti’s arranging genius, all tied together by a shared love of 70s glam and Daphne’s gliding, sonorous voice, which is reminiscent of an English Grace Slick. The result is Daphne & The Golden Chord: one of the most colourful, vibrant albums you will hear this year. It will make you fall in love with glam in its myriad forms, all over again.
Daphne Guinness - No No No (Official Video)