Lili Haydn was an honorary member of George Clinton's band. He nicknamed her the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin.”
Born in Toronto and now based in L.A., her father was a famous LSD dealer, and she was raised for a time in a cult before he rescued her. Now a well-established rock violinist and vocalist, she has played with Sting, Roger Waters, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
But Haydn got extremely sick after suffering chemical poisoning in 2009. In fact, she suffered brain damage, which is why she's just now getting around to releasing her new record Lililand.
From a pesticide called Chlordane, Haydn suffered from something called “toxic inebriation.” (How she came to be poisoned is a complicated story involving a generator at her house.) “I couldn't think straight,” she says. “You can't process information. At the height of my brain damage…I rear ended somebody in traffic because I misunderstood that red meant go.” She was also forced to get rid of almost all of her belongings.
The ensuing years have “refined me, made me raw, broken me down and fortified me,” she says. “And that journey is represented in this record.” Her sound is a bit hard to place; NPR has called it, “A mix of neo-psychedelic flower child and rock star virtuoso.” “I would say it's playful and soulful classically influenced alternative rock,” she says.
Despite the neurological damage that left her unable to write lyrics, Haydn retained her sense of melody. Fortunately, she'd kept her violins in protective garbage bags, and kept busy playing them. She composed ten film scores in the last six years while making Lililand. In fact, she credits music for restoring her health.
“Music causes neurogenesis and that is why I, miraculously, had a complete recovery from brain damage. My music saved me.”
Haydn began playing violin when she was 7 years old. She was born to Lotus Weinstock, the first female comedian to perform at The Comedy Store, who also happened to be engaged to Lenny Bruce when he died. Her father David Jove was known as “Acid King,” one of the first people to mass produce LSD. Keith Richards said he was the man who ratted out him and Mick Jagger when they were busted for drugs in 1967 at Richards' home. “The truth appears to confirm Richards’s long-held belief that the band was targeted by an Establishment fearful of its influence over the nation’s youth,” wrote The Daily Mail in 2010.
“My position is that he hated cops more than anything and there is no way he'd have done anything to rat anyone out, but he was mentally ill and a drug addict so it's hard to say,” says Haydn now.
She and her mother spent time in the infamous Hollywood Hills commune Brotherhood of the Source (led by Father Yod) until her father showed up and removed the pair from what he perceived to be a cult. Though her parents were married for 18 years, they never lived together.
“All these colorful ridiculous stories have given me a real sense of rock and roll,” she says. “Even though what I do is not rock and roll, the spirit of rock is in there. What I’ve learned from these wild nefarious tales, having had renegade parents, is to take leaps and risks.”
Lili Haydn plays her record release party tomorrow, Sept 30 at The Sayers Club