“SUNDAY ALL OVER
WITH JOEL KRUTT
“SUNDAY ALL OVER
WITH JOEL KRUTT
JOEL KRUTT: Welcome Toyah Willcox, welcome to WHUS, Storrs, Connecticut, pushing the envelope. What do you think of Connecticut so far?
TOYAH: I’ve been here for half an hour. I was driven here, it’s very pretty and it has lots of trees, thank goodness, having driven from New York, Connecticut is paradise.
JOEL: Compared to it’s a little different. A lot people who are listening may not real familiar of who you are. They may just be starting to hear about who you are.
TOYAH: Yeah, that’s understandable.
JOEL: Your background, way back, late 70’s you starred in- you’ve had two career paths, maybe they were the same career path just-
TOYAH: No, they’re dual. Acting and singing very separate career, whenever I tried to merge I think it’s been pretty catastrophic. (snorts)
JOEL: When did that happen?
TOYAH: I was in the west End in London doing cabaret, playing "Sally Bowles" in Cabaret (below) and even though it was a success I didn’t feel it was what I was suppose to be doing. I prefer to keep both things very separate.
JOEL: So no musical theatre particularly?
TOYAH: If I do musical theatre it will be when I’ve written my own musical projects, put it that way. Rather than this kind of traditional form of musical theatre. Music for me is … well start at the beginning: music to me is the truest language we have on this planet. It’s the purest language.
Therefore it’s very special to me – if I’m doing music it must represent what I am trying to say and I don’t mean that self-centeredly, I mean that more as a woman and talking from the universal body of the woman. So I don’t really want to bugger round with that language - am I allowed to say that?
TOYAH: Oh good. It’s my religion. Music is my religion.
JOEL: It’s funny that was something I picked as I was looking through lyrics and looking through themes, identity as a woman was very clear. In different ways, sometimes self-depreciating almost, sometimes humorous kind of way, sometimes very straight forward.
TOYAH: That’s our roleplay, I think women are brought up to be kind of self –depreciating , stuff like that. What I’m looking for is to find kind a true female voice that isn’t formed on male opinions. I have to stress that that doesn’t come from a woman who wants to alienate men, it comes from a woman who wants to complement a man and wants to be in harmony with men. I truly believe harmony is black and white, it’s left and right, they’re two different worlds, they’re two completely different opinions.
I think a lot of women in rock music are being what the men expect of them. What I’ve done in my life I’ve always done what is NOT expected of me and it causes a lot of friction and a lot of trouble. But I think the glory of being a woman is that you are feminine and that femininity should be cosseted and you should be proud of it. It shouldn’t be roleplay.
JOEL: Do you think that has anything to do with … problems with critics, with not being able to get over here and get your music played in the USA?
TOYAH: No, that’s bad management. I’ve had three managers in my careers. They’ve all worked on certain levels and been pretty disastrous on other levels. That is my mistake coz I chose them, it’s my responsibility. All the time I was suppose to come here, politics got in the way. Let’s face it, I’ve made 13 albums, most of them gold if not platinum, why haven’t I been over here before?
That’s a political problem - I don’t personally think it’s got to do with creativity whatsoever because when people do come across my work they’re open minded and really take to it and understand it and identify with it so I view the reason of me not getting over here as fate perhaps not dealing me the right blow. I now feel as an artist I’m ready to be over here. I’m ready not to compromise. Ten years ago I was compromising everything and being a very unhappy woman so I think fate has actually been kind to me, in a backward sort of way.
JOEL: What was the first album that was released over here?
TOYAH: I’ve got no idea …
JOEL: The only two that I know about are “Prostitute” from a couple years , three years ago …
TOYAH: I think everything I’ve done has been on import …
JOEL: Right, somebody’s been able to get it from someplace.
JOEL: But domestically released?
TOYAH: It must be “Prostitute”. They had a problem with it because of the name alone! (laughs)
JOEL: I was going to say, if politics were a problem and of all the kinds of things they’d want to present you with, first time in the United States, first album- what do you have? Prostitute!
TOYAH: (laughs) Hey, let’s make life hard!
JOEL: It’s so easy to start with, yeah!
TOYAH: Yeah but the big irony there is, take the title away and you’ve got a very pure clean album.
JOEL: It’s a fascinating album, it uses a lot of high tech things in a very human way.
TOYAH: Yeah but let’s look at censorship, the only thing they’re censoring on that album is the title because everything on it - there’s no perverse sexual attitude on it, none of lyrics refer to bad sex to violence or anything. They refer to inner nature, they’re introspective. It’s just such a healthy album. The reason I’ve gave it that title is because historically women are given a tough time, women are second class citizens.
OK, they can raise children, they can raise a family, they can hold a family together but then can be beaten up, they can be murdered, they can represented as sex objects in the media world. But boy, they can’t voice their opinion, can they? (laughs) I think “Prostitute” is that kind of opinion: here we are, let us voice it. We have incredible spiritual depth, let us explore it, let us live in a spiritual world. “Prostitute” is perhaps a little bit angry about those restrictions that been put upon us.
JOEL: Any particular tracks on that you’re particularly akin to as the whole thing?
TOYAH: Another problem with it, especially for radio play it’s an conceptual album.
JOEL: Right, it doesn’t have a straight cuts in it.
TOYAH: It tells a story. But there’s particular moments like the title track which I love. “Ghosts Of The Universe” I love. The way I made it, I got this drummer Steve Sidelnyk and
I said “OK I want 38 bars per four, then I want you to go 6 80” or something really obscure and then I edited it all together and improvised the vocals on top and put lots of kind of sampled music on. I actually play guitar on it but my guitar playing leaves a lot to be desired … Just kind of build a 3D sound picture through experimentation.
JOEL: Originally back in the late 70’s and early 80’s you didn’t write your own music?
TOYAH: Bleurgh, I beg your pardon!?
JOEL: OK, I’m sorry!
TOYAH: What I am basically is a lyricist and I do all the melody lines and the arrangements. But I always work with other musicians. Prostitute was the first time I didn’t work other musicians, I worked with a drummer and did all the writing.
JOEL: Sorry …
TOYAH: No, don’t be sorry! Don’t be sorry.
JOEL: And you have a new album-
TOYAH: “Ophelia’s Shadow” or the “Sunday” project?
JOEL: Let’s do “Ophelia’s Shadow”, we’re talking about your solo work first.
TOYAH: Now “Ophelia’s Shadow” to me … I utterly love, to me it’s the height of commercialism. Everyone is saying it’s part of “Prostitute” which I don’t understand.
JOEL: Doesn’t really sound like that all!
TOYAH: No, it doesn’t to me either. But in England they’re saying “Oh, this is the follow up to “Prostitute”, y’know this is part of a trilogy” What trilogy? I’m not aware of this trilogy. So I think people just have to stick things in compartments.
JOEL: I felt the tone of it sounded probably more like Sunday All Over The World than it did … because some to the guitarists on there, some of the tone …
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s a guitar album, it’s an introspective album again. I’m getting close to the female voice that my instincts are telling me is in me somewhere. As a lyricist it’s a very lyrical, poetic album. And I wanted to work with guitarists, especially stick players because the stick instrument and the voice just go to together brilliantly. The difference between “Ophelia” and Sunday is … Sunday is about 4 equal individuals, “Ophelia” is governed by me. That gives it a very different kind of atmosphere.
JOEL: Do you find on some of the pieces … there’s actually spoken word verses, like “The Woman Who Had An Affair With Herself”, starts out with an actual-
JOEL: - right. Where does your acting background … is that one of those places where -
TOYAH: OK. I think where “Prostitute” comes in relationship here is “Prostitute” is based on the five minutes before I go stage, where you get an announcement: “This is your five minute call, to the stage please everybody” and it’s in that moment that the fear grasps you and you realise you are alive, because you feel you’re just about to be executed. You’re so aware of your body.
With the quotation from Hamlet, on “Ophelia’s Shadow”, Shakespeare’s brilliant irony was that when the plays were written, boys played the women’s roles, women weren’t allowed to play them. And when women were allowed to play them, they were prostitutes, they were social defectives. Makes me so angry! (laughs) British history! I took that quote because it’s Hamlet having wooed Ophelia, he then denies his love and she goes mad and droned herself so it’s :
"Get thee to a nunnery, you make me mad, you listen you amble, God gives you one face you wear another, you create masks.”
Come on , don’t we all create masks, Shakespeare? My Ophelia doesn’t basically drown herself, she uses the medium and metaphor of water to fulfill herself. Where as in Hamlet Ophelia takes her life in the water. So for me that’s the most powerful imagery on the whole album. I think the only cross-over with acting is I do work with imagery rather than from intellect and I use metaphors a lot .
JOEL: That was one thing I had in my notes, which I’m not paying too much attention to (Toyah laughs), there’s no “Ohh - baby baby” songs, there’s not … if people are considering that pop music or, it’s a far throw from what regular radio consumption is.
TOYAH: I don’t know the role of “Oh baby baby” lyrics, I don’t -
JOEL: That’s’ good!
TOYAH: I don’t know their substance or what role they play in peoples lives.
JOEL: I think here they may well mean more than in other places for some reason, it’s a very cultural thing.
TOYAH: Huuuh, for the love is the most dangerous thing you can experience, you’re so vulnerable, your’re dangerous in love, at least I am! I’m so vulnerable I could break, I’m fighting to keep my sanity, I’m fighting to protect myself because love is a dangerous medium. To have “Oh baby baby I love you” is like saying … it’s just banal. You’re looking in the face of sticking a needle in your veins, you’re looking down the barrel of a gun, you’re about to jump in front of that train or out of that building.
That’s what love means to me, it’s potentially the most dangerous thing we have to face. If we don’t face it responsibility, we destroy it or we destroy ourselves. So therefore I approach my lyric writing with that form responsibility and mentality that it must explored and it must be articulated in a way that treats your fellows listeners in a way that they’ve got more than one brain cell, haa (laughs)
JOEL: Good for you! I appreciate that personally. You wrote the lyrics for Sunday All Over The World ("Kneeling At The Shrine", below) album as well.
JOEL: Some of the themes, those same themes show up there as well, it’s interesting to hear Robert Fripp’s music with different kinds of lyrics because the lyrics he’s had in the past have (Toyah laughs) never really approached any of those topics at all and women at all really …
TOYAH: Well, what’s interesting for me is the roles, sexual roles that our generation has programmed into us. Now Robert has been through the 60’s when there was sexual freedom and my time is ten years later where we were starting to clamp down a bit. So Robert’s kind of perception of women as far as I’m conserned is that they give free love.
My perception of women is that we don’t want children and if we do have children, we’re going to go to work and we’re going have a career and we’re not going to be sexually exploited. Robert and I came together and in love instantly but we’re such kind of opposites and we’ve such problems kind of relating to each other.
I think our conflicts have made us very creative together. And the conflicts come out in the lyrics. I won’t do his washing, I will not cook for him. And he won’t tolerate this in me and it makes for fascinating conversations. And yet we’re so utterly in love and we can’t be separated.
JOEL: It’s nice to be able to see past all the little stuff.
TOYAH: Yeah! But the lyrics are the sexual conflict that we experience with each other coz I’m madly possessive and madly angry and he is a bit more kind of free wheeling than that and just thinks I’m an absolute lunatic. Those images for me, the image of the witch being burned in “Strange Girls” - I was watching a program on English TV about the folklore of the werewolf and I thought my husband’s a werewolf, he kind of tempts me in and says “Hey little girl I’ll protect you” when really that is a metaphor for the ball and chain in the mans wrist and ankles.
I kind of thought back to times in history when any woman who stepped out of line was either called a witch or a hag and got burned and the lyrics for “Strange Girls” came very quickly (laughs). Or the emotional intent was inside me.
JOEL: Straight into that “If I were a man” - I though that was interesting balance of the two ideas.
TOYAH: If I were a man was a hard one for me to accept on the album coz I love the song and it’s just a bit too judgmental for me. I’ve learned over the past year that being judgmental is not a way of being creative. So that song represents in me something that is old hat. Yet men seem to like it and it is just saying “If I was a man would you trust me?” Simple as that.
JOEL: You can tribute … how to the songs come together in this project?
TOYAH: We all met up in a rehearsal room and improvised.
JOEL: Just put bits to together that worked … ?
TOYAH: Yep. I would usually would go at the end of the day and write lyrics in the morning and come in the next day and say “Hey, I’ve got this idea for this, let’s try that.” It was a true democracy without a hierarchy. We’ve all got quite extreme experiences in music so we call ourselves instructors rather than “I’ve got more experience in music there you do what I tell you.” We accept each other’s criticism honorably.
JOEL: Going back a few years ago, in the 1987 interview you made a reference to- and this may well be what you’re doing now - of being called FrippFripp. Is that the logical extension?
TOYAH: The original Sunday All Over The World band was called FrippFripp because it was Mr and Mrs Fripp and we were touring Europe and the posters were saying “Robert Fripp” everywhere, they didn’t refer to a band and then some would say “Robert Fripp and Toyah Willcox”, and this just narked us because we really are a band.
If you take one of the members away, one of the vital supports, it’s like a crutch is missing, you fall over. The way the music is structured, it four equal parts. So we thought we had to get ourselves a band name and it became Sunday All Over The World.
TOYAH: Yeah, came from the song. I wanted to call ourselves Strange Girls but they were a bit worried about that (both laugh)
JOEL: What do you call the band for short? Just Sunday?
TOYAH: Usually it’s initials SA …W
JOEL: If you can think of them (both say the initials at the same time and laugh) yeah I can’t do them either!
In terms of you TV, stage work, do we ever get to see any of it over here?
TOYAH: You’ve seen television over here, there was a film I did with Greta Sacchi and Laurence Olivier and Roger Rees called ”The Ebony Tower”. (Below) That was shown over here twice. I did a film with Lorimar productions with Katherine Hepburn and George Cukor
directing, that’s shown over here many times.
But they’re very diverse film projects because I’ve got the art films I’ve done with Derek Jarman like ”The Tempest” and ”Jubilee” so I think unless you really want to see me you don’t notice I’m in these things. I did The Who film ”Quadrophenia”. I intend to do more films, I haven’t closed the door on that, it’s just not … you can’t predict and you can’t plan with films.
JOEL: Whenever opportunity comes that will benefit something that you want to do …
TOYAH: Yeah, what I’ve started to do in England now as a writer I’m writing a one woman show about Janis Joplin which I start this year called “Strangers On Earth” and Doris Lessing, touch wood, has given me permission coz she keeps withdrawing her permission, for me to do “Memoirs Of A Survivor” as a one woman show.
Now both of these will have video and TV rights. And I’m writing a film script which is a BIG project, a very big project and generally artistic reaction in England is this is my main work. That’s a film project for ME to star in. Over the years I’ve realised rather than saying “Oh I’m not happy, I’m not offered the right part” perhaps I should write the parts I want to play so I started doing that.
JOEL: In relationship to the way music is promoted here, any plans to do any videos to throw on MTVor wherever they’re going to show?
TOYAH: OK. We…you’ve probably heard this before from my husband, we’ve made both of these albums, well “Ophelia”, “Prostitute” and Sunday All Over The World, were made with no support whatsoever. They were absolutely positively criticised, people were trying to stop us from working together. It’s all politics that are quite relevant because the fact is we felt so strongly that we should work together, irrelevant the fact that we’re married, these albums would have been made.
We just went ahead and funded them as much as we could ourselves. So as for videos we totally depend on the reaction to these albums so that the next albums we do have a bigger kind of back up. So far the response has been breathtakingly wonderful. We’ve proved ourselves right. Touch wood, again. As for videos we depend of this reaction, for touring we depend on Robert Fripp. I will tour tonight, I will gig in this room if that man will pick his guitar up.
I’m ready to do it, he’s the one who’s hard to tie down. He wants to do King Crimson this year and next year, it has to be done, it’s a big project and he needs to get it done and out of his system and it will do him a lot of good. Perhaps after that he’ll tour Sunday.
JOEL: That was a little problem with, you might know, with King Crimson- is that band picked out already or -
TOYAH: Well with Robert what he tends to do he’ll come to me and say “Do you mind if I go and tour in two months time, I can’t tour without your permission” and I know damn well it’s already booked. This is how he works. He knew who the King Crimson was, the new King Crimson was twelve months ago. We’ll know when the album’s finished, hehe. But that makes him very interesting.
JOEL: Oh yeah, just the way how people like myself, who followed he’s career for God knows how long, being in high school and being able to see that thread and tying it through my own life … that you don’t necessarily see something go away, but the Sunday band is excellent having listened to that many times now in preparation for this interview. Wonderful music and-
TOYAH: Very different attitudes in music. For Robert, if I’m repeating what he said, tell me to shut up, but he has three ongoing projects: The League Of Crafty Guitarists, Sunday all Over The World and King Crimson. And he intends neither of them ever to stop. They will always be ongoing.
JOEL: I’m glad from a personal standpoint that you’re involved with it because … this is something, you would’ve still been in England, your records would’ve still been over there, we would not have much of an opportunity to go and say “Who’s Toyah Willcox?”, granted for you that may not be the best way to have to -
JOEL: Y’know on Robert Fripp’s coat tails which, I don’t mean to be … in saying that but there’s lots of people, you say “Robert Fripp” and they all go … ooohhh … I can appreciate myself so …
TOYAH: It’s hard and also it’s hard for an audience to accept a married couple. There’s something about married couples that perhaps set young people’s teeth on edge. What we had in England was slightly the John Lennon/Yoko Ono syndrome, The Wife, The King, The Baddie and was blamed for all the negativity’s.
But I just don’t believe that is real. I don’t hang to coat tails and I certainly don’t hold him back in anything he does. I’ve got projects of my own to get on with but the irony here is I’ve been aching an itching to work in America for 14 years. I can only think that great big capital G in the sky has thought that time isn’t right but perhaps it’s right now.
JOEL: Well we’re glad to have you here and we’re almost out of tape here so, Toyah Willcox, thank you very much for being with us, this has been fun.
TOYAH: Thank you.
You can also listen to the interview HERE