Daphne Guinness | "Some people have religion, I have music”

by Sam Bashaw

Like the dark, stout beer that is her surname, Daphne Guinness has a smooth yet strong voice, aged with experience, served with an air of elegance. The striking woman goes by many titles, but at the moment she is ‘musician’ with her newest album, Daphne & The Golden Chord, released in April of this year. The 11-track album breaks away from her depressing tones of the 2016 record she released, Optimist in Black, and creates a polar opposite feel in each ~happy~ sound wave. For Guinness, it’s always been about the music.

We caught up with music and fashion icon, four years after she was the cover of Flaunt’s 15th Anniversary issue, ‘The Selfie Issue,’ to talk about life, art and soul.

Do you come to LA a lot?

Yeah I do, I love LA. From here I get a lot of my best ideas. In LA a lot of things start. It’s a vice to be able to deal with Europe and everything that’s going on there and people go to bed mid-day here. There’s time to just relax and write without being too hassled.

Where are you mainly based out of?

Well, everywhere. I don’t really know. I’ve been having a London spell but I was in Ireland and New York and I was in Paris. I float around from studio to studio.

Your fashion and music is something I feel that is so well intertwined and references so many amazing moments. Are there any musicians or clothing icons that you feel you have built yourself on?

In fact 90 percent of what I have is what I create or I’ve created with other artists; everything I’m wearing now has something to do with me. I just live my environment and I create things that I feel are missing. After what was a very difficult time for me with the deaths of a lot of my friends and the grief and tragedy of all of that, I really wanted to get away from everything. It was all getting a little bit too much and out of control and in order to save myself, I put myself in the middle of nowhere and started to write. I always wrote actually, I was always a singer and I didn’t mean to make a record, but that’s what I started doing. I got in touch with Tony Visconti, my producer, who didn’t know anything about me originally, but he was Bowie’s producer and he, David Bowie, told him to produce me so he was very much involved in the first album and for that I am very, very grateful. He was, as Tony says, the Godfather of the first album and I was extremely privileged and grateful for all his mentoring.

I learn as I go along and I’m always discovering something. If I thought I knew it all or if I had nothing left to learn, then I wouldn’t do it anymore. I’m on a voyage of discovering which is a wonderful thing to be in; it makes me happy. Many people go from music into fashion. I did it all in reverse. It’s very much how I manifest as a visual artist, now breaking out of that rather silent world of pictures is really so great because it’s very funny to sing these songs because they’re all so absolutely true. There is a sort of terrible amount of treason which in turn is all a piece of art. It’s sort of magical really.

I love that. I feel like music and fashion—

It needs to happen, man! When I was growing up, the point about getting dressed was you were trying to find your tribe. It was the music you listened to, it was the bands you liked, the nightclub you knew, what you were wearing. It was driven very much from the audio world rather than from the brand or the magazine world. And that’s how I grew up. I’ve observed that now it’s not as driven by the music, would you agree?

I kind of do. I think it’s the visual first and then after that the music because there’s so much music out there. So if there’s a visual, however simple or complex it might be, has to have some kind of striking feature. If it’s outrageous or understated, but it still has to have that—

Soul. It has to have the integrity of the artist involved. What I enjoy is the fact that I know what I like so it’s not like I need other people to...I grew up in an era where you just got dressed yourself. It’s not like I’m being told what to wear or what to do.

And I feel like it’s very apparent in the way your music and your fashion is the same.

How I appear in a video is pretty much the same to how I appear in the studio. When I get up in the morning, I just get myself dressed and that’s how I feel and that’s about it really. It’s very simple but it’s become second nature to me really to become that and people think I dress weird or whatever, but that’s just the way that I am.

With the latest album, Daphne & the Golden Chord, you seem to exploit a lot of the 60s and 70s and I know that glam rock has always been a huge place for you and I wanted to ask about it, was that theremin that you were using in the song?

It was a theremin! There were 58 musicians on this album and we recorded it to tape at the British Grove, which pretty much nobody does anymore but I wanted to do that and Tony knows how to do it, so he said absolutely, let's do it. There were 24 strings, 3 saxes, and lots of percussion, lots of guitars. What is a testament to this record is that even without with all of those orchestral arrangements, the songs are solid enough to sing with just a guitar. They are solid melodies, very well constructed songs. I just get a kick out of singing them, they are very funny.

Is there a certain art for this particular project? Was there a visual or musical muse or, something that you were fixating on?

You know, I came out of the first album and I decided to carry it on, so it was really a voyage. It was sort of like, I’m just getting started so it was just a continuation. This album was the next chapter which was already there. It was the exploration of other instruments, other sounds, the exploration of the sound escapes. There wasn't anyone that I had in mind.

Was there a way, you felt sonically that there was something that you needed to start experimenting with?

What inspired me very much is how the Beatles used to make their records and Sgt. Peppers and The White Album and being able to reverse the tape. There are so many different tricks and there is such a tapestry of things if you break it down. There are so many tracks within the track, so many interesting things that we did, so all the vintage equipment that we were using was so much fun. I am a kind of a nerd so I will spend hours looking at valves and machines and I want to see how it all works. I am not explaining it very well but it's going all through my head, it's more like wow there are so many things that we can explore let's bring them all in. So many things are not used on rock records. They don’t use clarinets, they don’t use zithers, or Leslie speakers. I get a kick out of all of these things you know, what happens if you put this through that? It’s all about how much more can we do too, to make it more fun you know?

Is there any type of instrumentation or techniques that you are dying to explore eventually that you didn’t feel fit for this record?

You know what, I am always doing several things at the same time so I am exploring those things and I feel it’s the tip of the iceberg. When I get into a subject, I go all the way down. I want to see how far I can understand this because for me, music and how it works is the great unanswered question. Some people have religion, but I have music and that is a whole giant puzzle which is so much fun trying to figure it out and if I find the answer I will probably give up, but for the moment I am having a really good time trying to figure it out and it’s wonderful.

Are you performing soon?

I will be. I am just getting it all together. I will pop up in very unexpected places if I'm feeling it. I don’t really care if it's to 5 people or 500 people. If I have got my group with me it’s terrific, we will have a good time. That’s what it is all about.

I will be performing this album. I was trying to take a break but of course, I can't take a break for that long. Music just pops into your head and you have to get it out. It is always non stop, there is always a song that wiggles its way in somehow.


Interview by BJ Panda Bear

Photos by Rich Royal

To buy Daphne & The Golden Chord click here.