Daphne Guinness had lived many lives before she turned to music: heiress, philanthropist, mother, muse. She modelled for such fashion greats as Karl Lagerfeld and Philip Treacy, produced and appeared in Oscar nominated art films, designed her own lines of jewelry, make-up and perfume, and enjoyed long creative associations with editor Isabella Blow, designer Alexander McQueen and photographers David LaChapelle and Nick Knight. But really, her greatest work of art has been herself. With her extraordinary two-tone beehive hairdo, vertiginous platform shoes, exotically layered costumes and phantasmagoric jewelry, Daphne Guinness became renowned as one of the most strikingly dressed women on the planet. “As human beings, unlike any other animal on earth, we can transform ourselves, represent our interior on our exterior,” she explains. “My interest in fashion has always been about art and self-expression.”
Daphne came to music late. Or rather, came back to it. She sang as a soprano at school and earned a place at Guildhall to study opera. “I was obsessed with music but I met a boy, got married, had children. It was life. It was love. What can you do?” It was only after a divorce in 1999 that she emerged as a significant character in the world of fashion. A decade on, “a series of events” would send her spinning in an unexpected direction. The suicides of Daphne’s great friends and collaborators Blow in 2007 and McQueen in 2010 left her bereft. Following the loss of her older brother Jasper to cancer in 2013, Guinness fled New York and moved to “the middle of nowhere” in Ireland “Whatever had been cooking all those years was coming to the boil. It was a dramatic time, I was working to the point of almost a nervous breakdown. I have always written, I’ve got tons of notebooks and diaries full of prose and poetry, but with the songs I found a new focus. In Ireland, I had a big room with lyrics all over the walls, and I would cut things out and place them up and down, there was gaffa tape, paper and verses everywhere. It looked like a room where the person was truly insane.”
After two years work, she played her demos to her friend David Bowie, who in turn recommended her to his producer Tony Visconti. In 2013-14, at Bowie’s behest, she toured with Visconti’s Holy Holy, performing early Bowie songs. “It was terrifying, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” In 2016, Visconti produced her debut album, Optimist In Black, a set of dark psychedelic pop. Of Bowie’s close involvement, she says “he called himself The Godfather of the album. He was so clever, he had such a good sense of humour, and he was so encouraging and generous with his time. He was a very elegant person — a deeply civilized and good human being. Just lovely. He has a long history of helping other artists the way he did me.” They followed with the epic Daphne and the Golden Chord in 2018, featuring a huge Visconti production channeling orchestral drama, glam guitars and kaleidoscopic electro. She wasted little time creating the follow up, Revelations, in 2020. “The songs kept coming, the band was ready and I didn’t want to let the moment slip away,” says Daphne. “The main thing was that I knew my way around a studio, I understood the machinery and process. It was extremely fast, a precise targeted recording, and a lot of fun.”
She shrugs off accusations of privilege or dilettantism. “Why does anyone make art? Why does anyone sing? Because it’s a vocation, because they feel the need, because they have something to express. I don’t think I’m entitled to special treatment. I’m not going to be offended by what anyone says. All I want to do is make the best music I possibly can. People can write it off, or they can listen to it.”
Neil McCormick - Daily Telegraph
Daphne Guinness released her new single ‘Hip Neck Spine’ on July 13, 2023. Her first new music in three years, the track is lifted from Daphne’s fourth album, ’Sleep’, scheduled for release through Agent Anonyme in late 2023.