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Daphne Guinness

Daphne Guinness


Interview Mark Wardel

Portraits Etienne Gilfillan


“I’m on a huge adventure in sound and vision, seeing how far I can take myself…”

What seems like a billion people, a swirling, boiling mass of rainbow colours, whistles and chaos has brought London’s West End to a standstill on this hottest Pride day ever. But a few minutes later I step from the blowtorch heat and melting tarmac into the home of musician and high-octane muse Daphne Guinness, and it’s like stepping through the wardrobe into another realm where all is cool, calm, spacious and hushed. Soft light filters through leaded windows as billowing nets cast a diffused, ever-changing light onto Japanese screens, framed butterflies, glass bell jars, a series of top hats and various other arcane, museum like pieces that contrast with the cutting-edge contemporary art hanging on silk-papered walls. An eclectic outward manifestation of its owner’s inner psyche? Perhaps; because, in common with her friend and mentor David Bowie, Daphne Guinness has a super-bright and enquiring butterfly mind that skips from one subject to the next. Musician, model, designer and art collector, she’s as happy to talk string theory as string arrangements, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for all things creative shines as clearly as does her scrubbed, sculpted beauty.

Mark Wardel: Your new album is named ‘Daphne and the Golden Chord’ – so what exactly is ‘the Golden Chord’?

Daphne Guinness: It’s the secret of sound, and the mathematical, scientific and artistic routes you can take to reach all the magic numbers that exist in the universe. A sort of golden chord string theory… It’s that unanswered question, that reaching for something – the idea of God, or the universe. It’s a spiritual quest really.

MW: How do you set about writing your songs?

DG: I go in with an idea and often words will come to me in the booth. On the first album I just had bits of paper all over the floor all over the walls – automatic writing – then I cut it up and put it back together. The bottom line is you’ve got to understand what you’re trying to say – for me, these are emotions that I’m going through – in order to bookend it into a song.

MW: You have said that you need visual stimulation to create music and vice versa. I’m the same, when I make my art I always have music playing; I wondered if there’s a metaphysical connection, or is it just coasting on emotion?

DG: There is a metaphysical component, but all of the above is true. I observed this in my photographic world, which is a very silent world: I’d always have to have my headphones on and be playing Wagner or T Rex or the Stones or the Beatles to get some emotion from the music and create a mood: I want to set the scene in my head before I start the shoot. If you think about it, we all used to dress up to the music and we all kind of discovered who we were – you’d find each other through your clothing, clubs and what you listened to.

MW: Exactly, and your music dictated what you wore, who you mixed with and your whole life philosophy.

DG: Precisely. And through music you found your ‘tribe’ and created your look. When I was growing up we didn’t have access to fashion. The world wasn’t like it is now. I didn’t have very much pocket money when I was little, so you’d make it up out of plastic bags or whatever, you know? Kensington Market was about as rad as it got.

MW: But it fostered creativity.

DG: That’s what I liked! It’s nice to have money and be able to do these things, but if you took it all away I’d still be creating out of whatever I had available.

MW: Exactly! You don’t need money to be creative.

DG: No, you don’t. A lot of these brands… what they are looking for is talent, and that’s why I approach the industry with caution. The executives have a completely different idea of what creativity should be; but what have they created? Reality shows! Well, I’m sorry but that’s not me. If you want reality, look out of the window! Artists create fantasy – we don’t want to know how it’s all done. Who wants a television camera on them all day long? We want some mystery.

MW: We were the Bowie generation and he was launched on a tide of mystery. We knew nothing about him in the 70s.

DG: And who wants to know what celebrities had for breakfast or what the state of their relationship is? That’s not what I’m about. I’m about creation and illusion. The art should speak for itself, and people either like it or not. Somebody recently said to me: “People should know how hard you work on this!” But that’s not why I do it. I don’t want people to know how hard I work – that’s beside the point. I’m on a huge adventure in sound and vision, seeing how far I can take myself, and that’s what interests me.

MW: I believe Bowie encouraged producer Tony Visconti to work with you…

DG: Yes, he did! I was reading Götterdämmerung in the studio – I read a lot of music scores – and David came in and he was reading Parsifal… it was very spooky! There was immediately this connection. He was a magical creature… he is a magical creature. He’s still around, he really is!

MW: I love real strings and I get the impression they are very important to you in your music.

DG: Tony Visconti is the most brilliant string arranger on the planet, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. I solo all the strings and just listen to them. They are things of divine beauty that I have written out. Tony conducts them, 24 strings, and just it’s so beautiful sitting in on those sessions.

MW: Coming back to your songs, I get the impression there’s a lot of messages encoded in them and wondered whether they were aimed at any specific person or persons, or maybe even aimed inwards at a facet of yourself…

DG: Interesting! All of the above. I’m having conversations with myself, working things out in my head and also describing what is happening to me at the time and coming to terms with… well, thank goodness I’ve come to my senses and I’m actually back in the room now!

MW: Yes, they are quite triumphal messages. Have they hit their target?

DG: Well, I have a good time singing them and that’s the only target I want to hit!

Hair styling by Tom Berry
Makeup by Paul Rodgers using ByTerry
Photographer’s assistant: Paolo Navarino

@daphneguinness 

Daphne Guinness’ new album ‘Daphne and the Golden Chord’ is out now.

Just Suppose…

Just Suppose…

 


Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Geoff MacCormack


“As I remember, David and myself were fairly wired, yet this shot belies this…”

Just suppose that your Brilliant Pal, David Bowie that is, said to you: “Will you join my band (The Spiders from Mars) and come on a tour? And would you mind awfully if we travelled (first class) by sea to New York, and then sailed from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Canada, Hawaii and on to Japan? And then, from Japan to Siberia, through Russia (on the Trans-Siberian Express) to Moscow (for the May Day Parade), Poland, East and West Germany, and arrive in Paris just in time for tea at the George V Hotel? Followed by a relaxing holiday in Rome, just to chill out?”

Geoff MacCormack (aka Warren Peace) was asked just that. And then, just suppose, when you thought all the fun had finished, your Brilliant Pal said: “Would you mind being a dog (Diamond), and coming back to New York on an even better ship, eating caviar every day and joining another band, then another band, helping out on a few albums (six), and generally hanging out and having the time of your life for a couple more years? Suppose all that happened… Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have kept a photo or two?

geoffmaccormack.com

@geoffmaccormackcollection

Clifford Slapper

Clifford Slapper


Words & Portraits Kirk Truman


“I played the piano for what was to be his last ever television appearance in the world…”

The rain is tumbling down outside as Clifford Slapper begins to caress the piano keys atop Quo Vadis in Dean Street. It’s a familiar setting for him, one he played in every night for a number of years. Pianist, producer and now author, Clifford has strong ties with the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, as well as nearby Soho. The author of the first ever biography of David Bowie’s most frequent collaborator, pianist Mike Garson, Clifford is himself a well-respected keyboard talent, having collaborated with a multitude of singers and musicians throughout his career. Now, he has turned his attention to creating and releasing Bowie Songs One,an album in which a variety of vocalists join Clifford at the piano to celebrate the music of the late David Bowie in a collection of 10 of the Starman’s songs.

Born and raised in North London, Clifford has lived in Fitzrovia for the past 17 years, first on Cleveland Street and now on Charlotte Street, where he works from his studio. During his time here he has run a number of live club nights in venues around the area, from Bourne & Hollingsworth to Charlotte Street Blues, on the same site where, back in the 1930s when it was called the Swiss Club, David Bowie’s father ran a speakeasy-style jazz piano club in the basement. Clifford has made a name for himself as a go-to composer and professional musician, having performed at almost every club in this square mile of London, from the Groucho to Ronnie Scott’s, The 100 Club to The Ivy. “I don’t think there’s a single private members club around here that I haven’t actually played in,” he says. “I’ve come to find a balance between music and writing. It was a fortuitous chance that was I with Mike Garson, the long-term piano collaborator of David Bowie. We were talking for quite a while, and we got talking about Bowie, whom we’ve both worked with, and discussed the idea of me writing his biography. He said to me that I’d be the perfect person to do it, so I sort of jumped in at the deep end, and five years later, after a long labour of love, I published it.” The result, Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson, was published in 2015 by Fantom Books and has been extremely well received.

Clifford discovered his love of the keyboard as a youngster, when his parents bought him a toy piano. Drawn to playing live, by his teens he was regularly performing in pubs all over Islington. “For some reason, Islington has more pianos per square mile than any other borough of London! It became my stomping ground, and I played in a hell of a lot of places over the years,” he says. From Islington’s pub music scene, he continued to expand his musical horizons, going on to collaborate with designers such as Marc Jacobs and Tom Baker and performing at fashion shows. More significantly, in recent years Clifford has been working both as a composer and a recording artist, much in demand as a session pianist. “I started being approached by producers, to play for people like Marc Almond,” he says. “I also began co-writing with Robert Love, who sung the theme song to The Sopranos”.

In addition to these collaborators, he has gone on to work alongside household names such as Boy George, Jarvis Cocker, Angie Brown, Suggs from Madness and Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp. He also had the chance to collaborate with one of the major inspirations of his musical life, the late David Bowie. “Towards the end of the 1960s, Bowie was really struggling to get his career going. So, he came up with the ingenious idea for the character of Ziggy Stardust: an imaginary rock star from another planet. The character was everything he was trying to be, but was yet to become,” Clifford says. “With the Aladdin Sane album, he took the character of Ziggy on tour in America, which made his career really explode. Bowie’s entire band at this point was British, and then they recruited my friend Mike Garson, who is American, to join and play with them in the early 1970s. Bowie found America such an alarming and disturbing place to be. He was a true inspiration to me as a youngster – he inspired me in my music, and inspired me to pursue a career as a pianist,” remembers Clifford. “Some people say never work with your idols, as you’ll be disappointed, but David Bowie completely fulfilled my expectations. We spent two days together working on the set of the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras, just the two of us. He was a complete gentleman: modest, a perfectionist and entirely unassuming. He was incredibly funny, and had the whole crew in hysterics. I played the piano for what was to be his last ever television appearance in the world.”

Clifford’s composing and production work has become the primary focus of his career in recent years. He started work on the Bowie Songs Project in 2014, with the intention of reinterpreting some of the star’s greatest songs in unplugged acoustic settings, arranged for just voice and piano. Now, just over a year since Bowie’s death, Clifford’s first collection of recordings from the project will be released on March 3rd this year. Bowie Songs One has already been attracting a lot of attention. An intensely personal project for Clifford, this alternative take on the musical genius of David Bowie matches a wide range of contemporary vocalists, including Billie Ray Martin, David McAlmont, Katherine Ellis and Ian Shaw, with Clifford’s distinctive work on the keys. The collection moves from early works like ‘Letter to Hermione’, from Space Oddity, to Seventies classics like ‘Time’, from Aladdin Sane and ‘Stay’, from Station to Station, providing a fresh view of classic songs that both complements and brings a new approach to the originals. From his earliest musical inspiration to this contemporary reinterpretation, Clifford Slapper’s keyboard journey has, after all these years, come full circle.

Gary Kemp

Gary Kemp


Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Sandra Vijandi


“In those days, place was everything. You couldn’t find your tribe unless you went out the door…”

He explains to me, “Now, you can find it on your laptop. In those days you couldn’t.”Gary Kemp is talking about the reality of his youth. He goes on to say that where the internet has triumphed, the place has died out. “Any important youth movement was based around a place. Our place was Billy’s, The Blitz Club and then Le Beat Route club.”Guitarist and chief songwriter for new wave band, Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp unravels his own youth at the epicentre of the new romantic era and the origins of Spandau Ballet here on the streets of Soho.

Born and raised into a working class family, Gary grew up alongside his brother and fellow bandmate, Martin Kemp, in a council house in Islington. Kemp began acting in 1968, appearing on TV and film from an early age. When he was just 11, his parents bought him a guitar that they’d seen on Holloway Road, for Christmas. “I still can’t work out to this day why my father thought it was a good idea” he says, “but it was an immediate epiphany of wanting to write songs from the age of 11. I didn’t want to play anybody else’s songs so instead I wrote my own. I think in truth I quite like being alone, I quite like the company of a guitar. When you’re a creative person, you sort of make your own friends, whether it’s a piece of art or a song.” Here, moving away from acting, Kemp began to concentrate on a music career.

Kemp began his relationship with Soho as a youngster. The neighbourhood has been an integral part of his life–forward from his upbringing and into his career as a musician and songwriter. During the 1960s, after a screening of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’at what was then The Cinerama on St. Martins Lane (now London Coliseum), Gary’s mother and father walked him and his brother through Soho for the very first time. “My father was completely confused by the artistry of Stanley Kubrick’s movie,”he says. “On the way back, we walked through Soho to get a bus. In those days it was incredibly seedy. There were pictures everywhere of various models and naked women. I remember having this red face. There was this silence in the Kemp family; my parents were old working class Islington people, and anything remotely to do with sex wasn’t spoken about. I remember Soho having this danger about it.” And, of course, inevitably post-pubescent Kemp was quite excited by the place, unlike the child who had seen it in the mid-sixties.

Kemp recalls his first solo trip to Soho as a teenager very clearly. “I went to buy a pair of trousers that looked like the pair Bowie had on the back of the Hunky Dory album sleeve, sort of big loons, and then I bought one of those long-sleeved big scoop neck t-shirts covered with stars trying to look all glam-rock”he says. On another later visit, he attended a David Bowie gig at The Marquee Club when it was based on Wardour Street, Bowie’s last ever gig in Soho. After the gig, The 1980 Floor Show, he wandered with a girl and some of his friends about the streets of 1970s Soho, which was to be his first real glimpse of the neighbourhood. “I really felt it that day. There was this frisson of sexuality in Soho when wandering around its streets.”

With music becoming an ever-prevalent part of his life, he was quick to form a band with school friends, called The Gentry. His brother, Martin, who was more a sportsman than musician, was later to join the band as a bassist. The band started to make their mark on Soho’s club scene, and Kemp regards Billy’s as the club that changed everything. At this venue, the band became acquainted with the late Steve Strange – who, in 1978, began organising ‘Bowie Nights’, a club night that was later moved to The Blitz Club. At this time, The Blitz had been a normal wine bar in Great Queen Street. Soon, a mass of outrageously dressed former punks, soul boys, rockabillies and art students descended on the club. Thanks to Steve Strange and ‘Princess’ Julia Fodor, The Blitz Club became a thriving realm of creativity – the beginning of the Blitz kids. “Soho was a very scary place for us to dress up in,” says Gary. “We’d arrive looking like space men from the 1920s. There were teddy boys, punks and skin heads patrolling the area. To me it was just full of rats and old rubbish. It was very, very seedy.”

The Blitz was a collective – the most out-there of former punks. It became a hotbed of talent for new music and fashion. The club boasted an array of rising pop-stars, from Boy George to Steve Strange. After a friend of the band, DJ Robert Elms, saw a phrase scribbled on the wall of a nightclub lavatory during a visit to Berlin, The Gentry was to be renamed Spandau Ballet and became a staple act of the club. “Steve Dagger and I decided this was our time. I bought a synthesiser and wrote what became the first album. We became a household band. We’re more of a 70s band, really – the blue plaque is still there where The Blitz Club was, to say we played our first gig there in 1979.”

Their first album, ‘Journeys to Glory’ (1981), propelled Spandau into the limelight, with subsequent albums seeing them rise to worldwide fame. “Our band started on the steps of a club in Soho. As the band succeeded, became globalised, and our lifestyles changed, so did Soho,”he says. During the 1980s, Spandau Ballet’s success went from strength to strength, with Kemp writing many of the band’s early hits in his parents’council house. In 1990, the band split –the same year that both Gary and Martin Kemp appeared in lead roles in The Krays, with Gary starring as Ronnie Kray.

Tensions between the former band mates spiraled over the publishing rights to songs, with singer Tony Hadley, drummer John Keeble, and saxophone player Steve Norman taking legal action against Kemp. “There were various no-go areas on the map in fear that we might run into each other,”he says. “The day I won the court case was the same day the Admiral Duncan was bombed in 1999. I thought to myself, ‘my band is destroyed and somebody is trying to bomb Soho back to the dark days’. It was a bad day. Nobody really won, I just didn’t lose.”

With Gary taking on a number of acting roles in-between living his life and having children, 19 years since Spandau’s break-up had soon passed. “I was remixing a live DVD of the band about 10 years ago and I couldn’t believe the legacy of the band. I felt that the records that got played on the radio weren’t a true representation of the band and what we were best at. We gave a good show, my God we were good, and we had so much fun.” In 2009, the band reformed, with their coming together documented in ‘Soul Boys of the Western World’ (2014), which Kemp co-produced.

After a nine-month world tour and relationships between band members stronger than ever, Fitzrovia-based Kemp expresses a desire to record a new album and continue to play live. At present, he is starring in the suitably entitled play ‘The Homecoming’by Harold Pinter, directed by Jamie Lloyd, at the Trafalgar Studios. And Kemp is walking to work, through his old haunt of Soho, six days a week until the end of its run in February.

 

Ageless & Bold

Ageless & Bold


Words Peter McSweeney

Illustrations Luke Stuart


Here is a low down on some of the faces of Soho over the years. All connected to Soho is many different ways, mostly legal. They represent the creative, edgy vibe that Soho brings to The West End. They are Artists, and all are unique with their defined identity. You don’t have to love them (some you’re not meant to) but they are have contributed to the rich culture and help to start new trends which were born on these streets.

 

– David Bowie –

 

Turned down a knighthood, had a hit TV show names after one of his songs and humiliated Rick Gervais in Extras for being a ‘Silly Little Fat Man’, David Bowie proves he is more than your typical Music Legend, he is also a Soho Legend. An over used term by stupid media who lack imagination but in this case it is more than appropriate. The Marquee Club (now no longer) was where he built a fan base appealing to both sexes and what ever side you batting for didn’t matter, Bowie was the man! He drank in The Ship and his fashion and style was developed by vintage cast off on Carnaby Street, not to mention he would rub shoulders with The Krays.  Sir David, as he would have been known had he accepted the call of the Queen, might not have had such an authentic Soho feel.