Killers in Glitter


It’s May 19th 2007 and a sold-out crowd is celebrating what would have been Joey Ramone’s 56th birthday. The Joey Ramone Birthday Bash Lymphoma Research Fundraiser is underway at Irving Plaza in New York City and new band comprised of iconic musicians, Clem Burke (Blondie), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Earl Slick (Davie Bowie) with lead singer Keanan Duffty, is opening for The New York Dolls. Duffty, dressed in a 19th century frock coat of his own design, grabs the microphone and swings into a song. The band launches an incendiary wall of sound and the audience eats it up. Matlock yells, “I think you all know this one!” and with the intro to “Pretty Vacant” and the snarl of “We’re so pretty, oh so pretty” a new band, Slinky Vagabond is born. Keanan Duffty started making music as a teenager in Yorkshire, England. The Sex Pistols and David Bowie inspired him to head to London where he was discovered by Adam Ant’s manager Falcon Stuart, while studying fashion design at Central Saint Martins. Duffty jumped at the chance to record at EMI Records studios (made famous by The Beatles on the covers of their Red and Blue greatest hits albums) and the resulting album entitled Water Sport was released on the UK independent Awesome Records. Duffty was booked for a tour and a session by BBC DJ Janice Long, thereby sealing his future as both a musician and designer.

Many hairstyles later, Duffty moved to New York to start a clothing label. There he continued recording music, including the track “I Am an Alien”, with a stylized video featuring famed club diva Amanda Lepore as a nurse performing an autopsy on Duffty. His ongoing fashion work led him to design rock influenced gear with a witty raw style, which became coveted by musicians and shops like Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Fred Segal, and the temple of punk—Trash & Vaudeville. Duffty, a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, designed the clothes for the Sex Pistols 2003 US tour, created a fashion collaboration with David Bowie for Target and did a stint as a design consultant for Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B label. Music though, has always been his passion and Duffty performed at many iconic shows including the Marc Bolan 30th Anniversary at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, alongside Patti Smith, Scissor Sisters and Moby. In 2008 Duffty joined another extraordinary concert line-up of Joan Jett, Slash and Ronnie Spector at the opening of the John Varvatos 315 Bowery (formerly the seminal underground music club CBGB’s). The camaraderie with his fellow musicians is obvious when guitar legend Earl Slick speak of Duffty’s work: “Not only do I wear Keanan’s clothing designs, we have written songs and we have played in a band together. He has the Brit style in music and fashion that I love! He is one of my favorite Brit’s and I have worked with more than a few.”

In 2009 Duffty authored a book Rebel Rebel-Anti Style (Rizzoli) exploring the marriage of street style and music, and he is currently at work as executive producer of the film Malcolm
McLaren: Spectacular Failure, a documentary about the life and work of provocative Sex Pistols manager. After moving to San Francisco in 2012, Duffty released a retrospective album entitled Killers In Glitter, a compilation of his music from the 80’s to his work with Slinky Vagabond. Many of the songs were written by Duffty, with the exception of two covers: the Bowie classic Boys Keep Swinging and the Bauhaus gothic rock anthem Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Duffty’s latest music project, entitled Total Dragon Pop, has been recorded in collaboration with Earl Slick on trips back and forth between the West Coast and The Clubhouse Studio in Upstate New York. The record includes an eclectic mix of old and new cover versions: Joy Division’s “Transmission” to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, Primal Scream’s “Rocks” and Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”. Duffty says: “I love music. It’s my drug of choice. James Brown, Sex Pistols, Adele, Stone Roses, Bowie, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. You name it and I’ll listen without prejudice.”

Text by Nancy Garcia
Photography by Nigel Barker