14 September, 2006

TOYAH ON 
RADIO MERCURY
SURREY/SUSSEX
"OPHELIAS SHADOW"

1991


HOST:
Toyah!


TOYAH: Hello!

HOST: How are you?

TOYAH: I’m very well, thank you!

HOST: You’ve been a naughty girl, haven’t you?

TOYAH: Hahah, yes? Have I?

HOST: I heard that you were on Jonathan Ross’ show a few weeks back and you got into all sorts of trouble?

TOYAH: It really wasn’t trouble, I mean the papers made it out to be an absolute fisty cuff fight because the product that I advertise I preferred to as part of the male anatomy (Toyah used to advertise MUM roll-on deodorant)

HOST: Of course it doesn’t look anything like that at all, does it?

TOYAH: Hah! The thing was, a very well known newspaper comic, I better not say the name in case they jump at me, phoned the advertising company and the product and said “Did you know Toyah said this, you should sack her!” 

So they almost lost me my entire annual income and thank goodness the company I work for said "Go away you horrible little people, we’ve renewed her contract."

HOST: Good for you I say!

TOYAH: So there was no argument, it was all hot air.

HOST: I mean you’re sort of a punk person really, that’s sort of your image to most people. I mean normally things like that roll-on would be advertised by people like Nanette Newman. How does Toyah get involved in that?
 

TOYAH: The thing is, it’s changing though, you’ve just got to watch breakfast TV and virtually every celebrity is earning their living by advertising. For me I was enticed into it because they were going for the environmental approach. I’d agreed with Ark, who are a sort of environmental awareness raising company, that I would do advertising for them and there was Linda McCartney, Peter Gabriel, we all agreed that we would talk about the power of the consumer or power that the consumer had to stop buying products that are poisoning our rivers, etc.

And MUM came along and said we’d take the environmental angle. I can’t tell you the problems we had. IBA (The Institute of Business Advisers) right up until the day we were filming wouldn’t let us release the film on TV, saying that there was no proof that CF gases destroy the ozone layer!
So I mean we were up against incredible kind of aggression.


HOST: That sounds like the IBA we know and love, bless them.

TOYAH:
(laughs) I got involved, as I said in Jonathan Ross, thank goodness I did get involved coz it’s given me complete financial independence to make the kind of music I want to make. I think you’ll find a majority of artists will turn to this way of thinking.

HOST: The Paul McCartney tour last year ... they had a whole big leaflet all about forests and things-

TOYAH:
Yes.

HOST: - that they put down on all the seats in the theatres. How involved are you in other green projects and issues?



 
TOYAH:
I’m involved to a point that celebrity opens doors and celebrity does have a lot power and people do take notice of celebrities lifestyles, say. So I’m involved and feel responsible to that extent. But I don’t go out on pickets or go on marches or stuff like that. Which sometimes y’know I feel quilty about but I do help where I can help. I think putting leaflets on seats is a pretty good thing and when I’m in theatre acting we always do that every night, there’s leaflets on seats.

Basically I think what’s happened over the last five years, people have realised that they have power. If they have money in their hand they have power. And that’s been the kind of most important revelation of the past few years.


HOST: It really has taken off, I mean there’s dolphin friendly tuna now -

TOYAH:
Yes.

HOST: - and stuff like that.

TOYAH:
Terribly important. I mean I’m more involved than perhaps I admit to, I have a lot of political friends and I don’t want to be involved in politics but because my celebrity has put them in their dinner tables or Sunday lunch as a quest I take the opportunity to stress things and talk about things.

HOST: Why not? Good for you.

SONG: "It’s A Mystery"

HOST: Let’s go back a few years, how did you get involved - coz you’ve got these parallel careers, you’ve got music and acting? How did it first start?

TOYAH:
Well I wanted to do both and I never really wanted to make them ... or cross-collateralize, I don’t want to be an “singing actress” as it were. I want to have two separate identities and that’s not really being greedy, I don’t think it’s being greedy. It’s … one keeps me sane and the other keeps me insane, I like both states. I first got involved … I went to drama school straight from school when I was 17-

HOST: Whereabouts was that?

TOYAH:
That was in Birmingham, I’m from Birmingham. When I was 14 I started going to drama school at the weekends and in the evenings having trained to be professional ice skater from the age of seven-

HOST: Don’t we all, yknow!

TOYAH:
Yeah I know! Well Vy Thompson, who was ... she was John Curry's trainer and she was an Olympic champion herself, she spotted me skating one Saturday morning and called my father over and said I have potential. 

Not knowing that I was born with quite a major physical defect in my leg. And she started to train me and that meant I trained every weekend, every evening and at one point every morning, 6.30 till before school. And slowly my kind of physical disability started to get in the way so I had to give up skating -


Toyah at Solihull
ice rink in 1968.


 
HOST: Did that disappoint you a lot?

TOYAH:
Oh, no end! It wasn’t really ... looking back there was no real problem, it was just painful for me to skate and yeah all my dreams and all my visualisation of my life was to do with skating and suddenly that was out the window. And the head of Pebble Mill in Birmigham had seen me singing (laughing) in a bar when I was about 11 and again said to my father, my father was there quite drunk, said “This girl should be in dramas, I’m going to put her in the local drama school” and he phoned up and he said he’d vouch for me that I had something to offer so I started in drama school from the age of 14 but went full time at 17 and within a year was working at the National Theatre.
 

HOST: That’s pretty quick isn’t it?

TOYAH:
It was very quick and in the space of 3 years I made 7 films and 4 stage plays and started to make my first album.

HOST: Was one of those films was “Quadrophenia”?

TOYAH:
Yeah.

HOST: What a good film. What part did you play in that, remind me?

TOYAH:
Monkey. I played a character called Monkey (below) who was the drug pusher (laughs)

HOST: Character acting again! People like Sting were in it, I mean I haven’t seen this for years. I was at school when it came out, I think we’re more or less the same age?


TOYAH:
Yeah.




HOST: I think you might have a couple of years on me?

TOYAH:
I think I do! (laughs)

HOST: But I was in school, and Sting was in that and it was all filmed down in Brighton wasn’t it?

TOYAH:
Oh yeah, it was terrifying, there were so many of us! The day we shot the riot along the waterfront there was 200 of us. I mean we were trampled by horses, I can remember being so overexcited I went and rugby tackled what I thought was an actor dressed as policeman and I think it was a real policeman! And I just ran of, we were all looking for the camera because the riot was becoming very realistic and none of us knew the camera was and we had to be slightly aware of it.

HOST: God, it sounds frightening?

TOYAH:
It was. It was a remarkable experience and also having grown up with adults all my life it was the first time I’d worked with people of my own age. Psychologically I found it very hard coz I was just so used to being the youngest and suddenly I was the oldest and it was a complete lack of identity. It was a very good film to work on: a lot of growing up happened while we were making it.

HOST: We’d like to play one your early songs - why are you blushing?

TOYAH:
Well … it’s just history, it’s old material, I don’t identify with it probably.

HOST: Which is probably why people think it’s strange coz you’re doing MUM now because it’s sort of homely -

TOYAH:
Yeah.

HOST: - and there’s this sort of punk thing - but let’s play it anyway, they were good at the time, we liked them then.

SONG: "I Want To Be Free"

HOST: There’s Toyah and “I Want To Be Free” on Radio Mercury, we’re talking to Toyah today. Well I’ve embarrassed you, you’ll probably get your own back on me in time.

 
TOYAH:
Yeah.

HOST: Why do you dislike this so much, is it just something you’ve left behind now? 


TOYAH: Ah, yeah. I just think that I like change and that the whole of my life and work routine is based on change. There’s very little that I hold onto I suppose. I find it hard being identified with something that I did ten or eleven years ago. Because I’ve changed numerous times since then, I mean someone told me we renew I skeleton every three months so why can’t we renew ourselves that often? (laughs)

HOST: So you’d rather forget about those. But the are engraved in peoples memories y’see?

TOYAH:
Oh yeah, I have this thing about history and I think history should be learned from, it shouldn’t be lived by and I am terribly grateful for the success I had then and I really really enjoyed it but it has very little relevance to what I’m doing now.

HOST: So how did the rest of decade go?

TOYAH:
I found the eighties found really tough actually. I started off doing a form of music that was right and that was my kind of punk days and I was always number one in the alternative charts and then the hits came and I felt commercialism completely diluted what I wanted to do in the first place and I actually felt quite lost lost. I had to find a way of finding what it was that originally sparked me.

HOST: So how did you do that?






TOYAH:
Well it meant kind of dropping everything and letting go of everything and it was really hard process to do. And it’s actually a very boring process to do because you … it’s about internalisation and having been someone who’s always externalised something I’ve ever done it probably meant that I was very hard to be with over a period of years.

I just kind of went way, I forgot about the music and after about 5 years I realised I was still aching to do music so therefor it was the right thing for me to do. And in this period I was still making albums but I wasn’t necessarily very pleased with them and came to the conclusion that life’s too short to be governed by others and you must make decisions for yourself. Therefore as an artist music must be true to you.

I realised I just had to take more control of life my and at a certain point in my fame I was the last person in control of my life. I just had to completely rearrange, umm, re-manage everything. It’s taken about 3 years to get where I am now and for the first time in my career I had perfect year last year. I perfect year is: at least 3 stage plays a year, one film and an album and potentially a tour and I managed to do that last year and it was bliss.


HOST: How do you find the time, I mean most people are either one or the other: they’re actors or they’re musicians and that takes up their whole life?

TOYAH:
Uuuh, if I only did one I’d work an average of 3 months of every year, acting jobs don’t come that easily, they’re far and wide. And music you only really kind of need it if you’re promoting an album or something and people like to take a long time to write. But I still manage to write and do and acting jobs but I just kind of ... I split my day up really.

HOST: So when do you write, when do you take the time?
Is it when it comes to you -
 


TOYAH: Yeah, when it comes to me but I do an average of an hour a day and that’s kind of really focused writing. But I must also say that my kind of recreation and my enjoyment and my kind of holiday in my life is my work. I’m lucky to enjoy it that much, nothing else compares to it.

HOST: You’ve done all sorts of acting, I mean you even appeared in an episode of "Minder"?

TOYAH:
Yeah!

HOST: What was that like, working with George Cole (below with Toyah) and -




TOYAH:
That’s so long ago! I did that 12 years ago. It’s been repeated six times since then and it was OK, it was literally three days work. I did one scene with George, you say “Good morning, how are you?”, run your lines, shoot the scene and go home. I mean it’s kind of very clinical almost.

HOST: "Thank you very much for the money!" So what are you proudest of doing on the acting front?

TOYAH:
I tend to like the project that I’m doing in the moment because that’s always the freshest project and I’m usually … when I start a project I’m so totally committed to it and into it, that’s the one that I really enjoy. But I think looking back I’m eternally grateful for having worked with the people I’ve worked with, especially Katherine Hepburn and George Cukor, who used to direct Marilyn Monroe.

And Lord Olivier, because they are part of a generation that are disappearing very fast. I’m really pleased to have been able to work with them and co-operate with them and because if I would’ve left it a few years longer it would’ve not been impossible.

HOST: Music wise your third album is 4 years, 5 years has just come out?

TOYAH:
Yes.

HOST: “Ophelia’s Shadow”. You’re into Shakespeare aren’t you?


TOYAH:
Ummm, (laughs) not really IN, I’m not really experienced, I’ve only ever done 3 Shakespeare plays-

HOST: Which is 3 more than most people have done!

TOYAH:
Yeah but I think Shakespeare is an art from in itself and I know people who’ve spent a lifetime doing it and they’re still coming to terms with it.

HOST: So what does “Ophelia’s Shadow” mean?

TOYAH:
OK ...

HOST: Tell us about Ophelia ?


TOYAH:
Well, when I write material I try to write from my subconscious mind rather than deliberately thinking about it. So all my writing is instinctive. That for me that makes it very fresh. Everything I wrote for this album project was related to water. I have no idea why but I trusted it and I went with it.

And if you look at the properties of water: water has a spiritual property that it cleanses, I mean people bathe in the Ganges in India thinking that it cleanses their soul … I’m going to really gross here: 800 dead bodies are weighted into that river every day because of the cast system. 

The lower cast can’t afford burials or burnings so it means it’s one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Yet because they believe so strongly that water cleanses physically and spiritually they bathe in it and they drink it.

Now that adds a very dangerous dimension to water. Water takes you on journeys, water is sensual, water in governed by the moon and suddenly all these wonderful images were coming out relating to water. The story of Ophelia and Hamlet, Ophelia falls in love with Hamlet, goes mad and drowns herself .

When I’m in love and I’m in love all the time coz I really adore my husband and I generally love the people I work with but on a different level … I think love is the most dangerous emotion a human being can experience. When I’m kind of really in love I’m aggressive, I’m jealous, I’m possessive, I’m scheming (laughs) and no one ever writes about that in songs.


HOST: Y’know you’re not a Scorpio are you?

TOYAH:
No, I’m a Taurus.

HOST: Oh, you’re not a water sign, I thought you might’ve been a water sign?




 
TOYAH:
No, I’m an earth sign and I wanted to kind of go into those subconscious debts of love which I think I think are quite black and quite dangerous. And I thought well whenever I’ve been in love with men I’ve been totally vulnerable to them and I’ve been utterly destroyed by my own emotions and I started to identify with Ophelia in Hamlet and I thought bugger this! My Ophelia ain’t gonna commit suicide!

There’s this Jungean thing, the shadow. Jung says the shadow is the worst part of us, it’s the part of us that hits other people, argue, shout, it’s our black side. And originally the album was going to be called “Ophelia’s Ghost” and Robert, my husband stressed that that is negative in itself because it means Ophelia’s been defeated and I thought yeah you’re right. He gave me this book with this chapter on the shadow on it and I thought : Yeah, this is it! This is it and went with “Ophelia’s Shadow”.

HOST: So you’ve got sort of the love side of her and the dark?

TOYAH:
Yeah definitely. It’s a dark album. I must admit I work from anger. I mean all my work, everything I’ve ever said in my work, even the hits 10 years ago were based on anger. Anger for me is terribly motivating and why should it be negativity, why can’t you turn it into a positive process? And a creative process? All my work comes from conflict and anger and even though “Ophelia’s Shadow“ is very melodically calming, if you really get into the lyrics it’s dark.

HOST: OK well, let’s listen to some of the calming music and some of the dark lyrics. Select something for us to play?

TOYAH:
Obviously I have favourites. There’s the “Shaman Says”, it’s particularly nice, “Ghost Light” is particularly OK, the title track particularly OK and “Turning Tide” is particularly OK!

HOST: You just love it. Let’s play “Ghost Light”, that sounds interesting?

TOYAH:
OK.

HOST: This is Toyah and “Ghost light”

SONG: "Ghost Light"

HOST: That’s Toyah and “Ghost Light” from Toyah’s latest album “Ophelia’s Shadow” on radio Mercury. How about some other tracks on the album, things like “The Woman Who Had An Affair With Self” - where you start off by reciting bits of Hamlet?

TOYAH:
Yeah! (laughs) I work mainly with American musicians and when I wrote the “The Woman Who Had An Affair With Self” lyrics they said (mock American accent): “But what are you trying to say? We don’t understand, what are you trying to say?Oh just go away and read Shakespeare, he says it all. 

He says everything that’s ever been said” And they were (mock American accent): “Oh we don’t wan to read him” so I kind of got out this page of speech that Hamlet delivers to Ophelia. And it was just such an remarkable piece of writing:

"Get thee to a nunnery, go, farewell, or it thou will't needs marry, marrya fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble and you lisp and nickname God's creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to: I'll no more on't: it hath made me mad. To a nunnery go."


And it so sums up the conflict of men and women. That’s gone on over the hundreds of years. I thought this is perfect, absolutely perfect.


HOST: So you used it to illustrate to the Americans just what you mean?

TOYAH:
(laughs) Well then what I did I thought why don’t you read this and I’ll record it and I gave it to this guy from Texas: (mock accent): “You jig your lisp, you amble” HAH! And he couldn’t understand why I was rolling around on the recording studio floor! I took it off him in the end it really was “blasphemying” giving it to an American to read! (laughs)

HOST: So what else are you going to be doing in the forthcoming year and in 1993?

TOYAH:
Well I’ve got another album out in April with my husband, who is guitar player Robert Fripp, so we’re working on that. Probably ending up in Japan to do some gigs. And then the rest of year I’ve got a four month tour of “Amadeus”, which is play which I’m doing with Tim Piggott Smith for the Compass Theatre Company and I’m playing Mozart's wife in it. We’re touring England and then we’re going to Hong Kong for the new year.




HOST: Looking forward to that?

TOYAH:
Yeah I am, very much so. My priorities are to perform live whether it’s singing or acting and when I’m not on stage every night I really miss it, desperately miss it.

HOST: You have got SO much energy, can you lend me some please coz you just seem boundless?

TOYAH:
I’ll lend it to you but it has an interest rate.

HOST: Hah. You mean I’ve got to give you some back as well? Uhh, I don’t think I can take it. It’s been very nice meeting you, thank you for coming in and good luck with this album and your next album and your tour to Hong Kong.

TOYAH:
Thank you.

______________________________________

You can also listen to the interview HERE

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