Optimist in Black, the debut album and first ever music project from artist and cultural icon Daphne Guinness, is streaming in full via Noisey ahead of its release May 27. Listen here.
Produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex, The Dandy Warhols), Optimist in Black was recorded at New York’s Avatar Studios (formerly the Power Station). The video for “Marionettes” recently premiered via Cool Hunting, watch it here.
“I began in music,” says Guinness. As a child Guinness regularly stepped in on vocals for a 60s covers band near her family’s Spanish home and always looked set to pursue a career in music, even gaining a place at the U.K.’s prestigious music academy, Guildhall School, before life (and marriage) had other plans. “I never thought I’d get back to my ‘home,’” she says. “And now I’m physically back in my home—Ireland—but also back doing what I was trained for, what I’m proficient at, but I thought I’d never see again. And it was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been given a second chance.’”
Optimist In Black—which shares its title with the album track referencing the bleak period following the suicides of her close friends McQueen and Blow—explores male vanity, the malleability of identity, and the effects of alienation and ennui. It’s deeply inspired by 60s psychedelia and 70s glam, reflecting Guinness’ own lifelong loves. Her formative listening habits, as a teen, were anachronistic: “I’ve always been stuck in the 60s. Jefferson Airplane, The Small Faces, as well as Robert Johnson and all the blues stuff, David Bowie and on the top, The Doors.”
The project began with a chance meeting with Irish producer Pat Donne, Guinness’ main co-writer on the album, at the renowned Grouse Lodge studios near her County Westmeath home. The duo’s original demos were then sent to Visconti, more in hope than expectation. “I was sick with nerves, emailing him. He could have thought ‘Oh, it’s just this Guinness person.’ But he heard me through, and he loved it.”
Guinness and Donne decamped to join Visconti at Avatar Studios, where recording sessions took a deeply surreal turn when David Bowie appeared at the studio. His approval of the snippets he heard from Optimist In Black further mesmerised Daphne; “I feel so blessed that Tony believed in me,” Daphne says. “I thought I’d got an A* from the headmaster.”
Born in London, Guinness was raised between the U.K. and Cadaques, Spain, where her mother was a muse to neighbors Man Ray and Dalí. Shortly after graduating from school, Guinness married, had children and disappeared from public life. After re-emerging and reconnecting with her schoolgirl friend Isabella Blow, Guinness has been a muse to McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, Philip Treacy and many more. Guinness has also made well-respected ventures in the world of film, with her name appearing on the back of the Oscar-nominated Cashback, which she co-produced, alongside a role in art film The Murder of Jean Seberg.
OPTIMIST IN BLACK
1. Take Out What Didn’t Happen 2. Fatal Flaw 3. Make Up 4. Hitch Hiking 5. Marionettes 6. The Subtle Hand of Fate 7. An Optimist Dressed in Black 8. Magic Tea 9. Joke 10. The Long Now 11. We’re Old School, That’s Cool 12. Evening in Space 13. No Nirvana of Cooldom 14. No Armageddon