17 September, 2007

TOYAH ON
BBC RADIO ONE
WITH JANICE LONG
19.11.1983




JANICE LONG: You’ve been listening to everybody else (in the studio while waiting her turn) haven’t you?

TOYAH: Oh, I was listening to Jonathan (Perkins), it’s the first time I’ve met him you see …

JANICE: He’s all right isn’t he?

TOYAH: I was very pleased y’know, he’s great.

JANICE: You’ve had a really busy week because we’ve been seeing you on television, I mean you did the Russel Harty thing the other night -

TOYAH: Been driven around in a bloody hearse all week (laughing)

JANICE: This Morning … Do you get sick to death of doing these things?


TOYAH:
No I love doing them, but this week has been pretty hectic cos I’ve got to get it all done before I go on tour next Friday. I don’t get sick of it at all, it’s really nice to meet people like tonight I met
Phil Lynott for the first night … whoar, I was starstruck, it was great!

JANICE: You say you’re starting a tour next week, do you mind touring or do you find it a bit of drag?

TOYAH: The traveling gets me down, the tedious way you go and get in the coach at nine in the morning and drive all day. I’d much rather be put to sleep and wake up at the venue but I love the actual gigging and once I’m into I’m wild!

JANICE: What do you describe yourself as?

TOYAH: Prat? (both laugh)

JANICE: You do so many things, it’s very difficult to sort of say what you are?

TOYAH: Oh god, I’m just me. I get very bored very quickly and that’s why I keep moving and keep disorientating myself because if I allow myself security of any form then I just stop and I’ll lie back and start sucking my thumb. And the reason I do disorientate myself is to keep myself on my toes.

 
JANICE:
Do you always have a goal?


TOYAH: Yeah. I have to have a challenge, I have to have something that really bothers me. I love the competition within the music industry, at the same time I like peace and the safeness when you’re making a film. And it’s lovely to have those two things to fight against. It’s really good fun.

JANICE: But a lot of people could say “well, you’ve done it all now, you can sit back and” -

TOYAH: Ah I haven’t done anything yet! I don’t consider I’ve done anything yet. I mean musically I’m still discovering myself and I’ve still got a lot I feel I want to prove, and I still have a lot I want to write about. Acting wise, well, God, I’m only up the first rung of the ladder. I’ve got many miles to go yet till I feel that I’ve achieved anything.

JANICE: Now, you’ve survived haven't you, where a lot of people have disappeared, when you first came on the scene it was shock horror “have you seen Toyah, did you see her hair, have you seen this girl blah blah blah”. And you’ve actually come through all of that and it’s a respectable Toyah now, mums and dads and everybody talks about Toyah -


TOYAH:
I must admit that that generation really like me but I don’t think I’m that respectable. I don’t try to offend anyone deliberately, just to get my name noticed or anything like that because human life is number one and I see no point in putting anything or anyone down.

Er, but I’ve got a lot to prove and as far as acting goes or if someone offered me a role that was a shocking role, violent or bloody or horrific, I’d take it. If I felt the role was good enough. I’m not into being the
Des O’Connor or Val Doonican of the acting world or the rock’n’roll world.



 

JANICE: Will it probably be that society’s attitudes have changed?

TOYAH: I’ve become accepted, I mean in a way that’s the reason I got rid of the dyed hair was that people were starting to dye their hair. So I felt right, I’m going to move on now because basically I just don’t want to be like anyone else, I’ve always had a sort of allergy towards looking like my best friends.

Even at school I always had to fight to be different from everyone else. Whether I did it through bad habits or they way I looked I never wanted to be part of the run-of-the-mill crowd.

 
JANICE:
So you were you a trendsetter?


TOYAH: Not so much a trendsetter, just a complete outcast when it came down to schooling. But now that has become a trendsetting issue for me, people think I’m setting a trend.

JANICE: What sort of kid were you, were you very arty?


TOYAH: I became arty, I started off in life as a complete failure, had a really bad limp and a really bad lisp, was in hospital so much within the first ten years of my life that I lost a lot of schooling.

When I went back to school at the age of eleven I became very involved in art, in fact it was the only way I could explain to the teachers what was in my head, was trough drawing pictures and through poetry. And my English teacher was so disturbed by my poetry she wanted me to see a psychiatrist.


JANICE: Really?

TOYAH: I mean it got that bad because ... my mind was full of perversions and monsters, I didn’t understand why they were there. And I was very honest about them and I used to frighten the hell out of people. Especially my parents. With the fact that I felt I saw things and heard things and I wasn’t scared to write about them or draw them.


JANICE: So did anybody nurture that? Or did they say y’know “leave her alone, she’s a bit odd that one”?

TOYAH: No, the only person that wanted to develop it was my art teacher and I got banned from art when I was 14, because I was misbehaving at school so the head mistress thought the only way to get her - to control this one is to ban her from her favourite subject. From then on I just, hah, I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t do a thing except break all the rules.







JANICE: What did you want to do when you were at school, I mean what were your ambitions?

TOYAH: My ambitions from the age of nine were to act and sing. Priority was to sing but I was so scared of singing because the lisp was so bad I couldn’t (laughs) I was scared of talking to people even! So I thought the only way to conquer these nerves was to do it through the acting and I knew I could act cos I told lies every single minute of the day! (Janice laughs)

And I was very confident on that field. And it wasn’t until two years into the existence of the Toyah band or the
Joel Bogen - (above far left) Toyah Willcox partnership that I could actually walk on stage and sing.


JANICE:
Did they let you into school plays?


TOYAH: I ran the school plays. I mean it’s the one thing I became interested in, I used to direct them and play the lead and design all the posters and the programs for.

JANICE: Incredible.

TOYAH: They’d let me do that cos no-one else was interested.

JANICE: Did drama college ever enter your mind, I mean did you go to drama college?

TOYAH: Yeah, I went to drama college for a year, they said I’d never get anywhere because I was so stylised. I started dying my hair when I was 14 and when I was drama school I had pink hair and they said “oh god this woman’s never going to get anywhere looking like that” and then after a year I got a job at the National Theatre, moved down to London and never went back ... really.

JANICE: OK, we shall continue our conversation in a moment but this is “Rebel Run”.


SONG: “Rebel Run”




 

JANICE: Toyah and “Rebel Run”. Were you a bit of a loner then as a kid, I mean you must’ve been?

TOYAH: Yeah, but I wasn’t a forced loner, it was what I wanted. I didn’t want to talk about bra sizes and y’know things like (laughs) Y’know all the birds seem to talk about in my school was bra sizes and boyfriends! I was more interested in - well, I was terribly into ghost hunting and terribly into motorbikes and absolutely obsessed with death.

JANICE: Really?

TOYAH: Oh god, I was really obsessed with it.

JANICE: You were saying before that you had your own language, or your own dictionary?

TOYAH: What I did within the English lessons was I created a language called the “Squelch” language and only I kept the translation for it so all my poetry went into this language at one point. And gave the whole book in to my English teacher for sort of my mock O-level thing and I said “there you go” and she took it away and she was so disturbed that reading a whole book with no English in it whatsoever …

That she really thought I had to be put away at that point. And yeah, I’ve still got it now. And part of that book had a poem about Marc Bolan’s death in, even though I think it’s about six years premature to his death, called the “Bolan Rock”, which Smash Hits have gone and printed a part of in the Smash Hits yearbook.


JANICE: What was that - was that something that you saw?

TOYAH: I called it the “Electric Funeral” because I was madly into Black Sabbath when I was about 12. And madly and passionately in love with Marc Bolan. And Marc Bolan used to go round spreading rumours that he was dying of cancer when I was about 12 so I wrote this poem called the “Electric Funeral”.

So y’know saying that it’s inevitable that we all have to die. He’s going to the great rock’n’roll graveyard in the sky and it’s like really corny but I put in some of my own language so my English mistress just thought I’d flipped man …


JANICE: I wonder when you pop off will they say Toyah was a genius?

TOYAH: I doubt it -




 

JANICE: The way they do with these great composers and great artists?

TOYAH: I’ve kept all my diaries, I used to keep diaries from the age of nine onwards and I occasionally read them and they are quite strange, I definitely was very distorted. My idea of life was incredibly distorted. I used go ghost hunting, I used look for things that frighten me and I was always looking for frights and I’ve written it all down and it’s quite weird really.


JANICE:
What about now though?


TOYAH: Oh, I’m totally different now! I mean I still like my solitude, I still like to be alone. I mean when I go home those doors are locked and no-one comes in. And I’m still into science fiction and the supernatural but not in that sort of directionless way when I was a kid.

JANICE: Do you still know people who knew you when you were a kid?

TOYAH: No, no …

JANICE: I wonder what they think of you now?

TOYAH: A lot of them - I bump into kids in the audience “hey, I was at glass with you” but you can’t really have a discussion with them when they’re in the audience and you’re on stage. And there’s a lot of respect there from them. But I know at the time I wasn’t very likeable, I was deliberately weird and I always kept myself at a distance.


JANICE:
Well, let’s talk about your acting which - I mean you did
Trafford Tanzi and it really took off. I was wondering if you saw the performance, the one and only performance with Debbie Harry in America?

TOYAH: No, but I heard a lot about it and apparently it wasn’t bad. I just think the critics that night were out to kill her! And they did. And that’s really cruel of the theatre critics cos from what I’ve heard from people that were that night she wasn’t bad at all.

The thing the critics were against were her trying to arty and her … she’s so sly and petite, they refused to believe she could wrestle but my God if they thought that of her, what do they think of me? I mean I’m about foot shorter than she is.


JANICE:
But it must’ve been a sort of grueling task for you because you managed to fit in the music side of things as well didn’t you? You were sort of -




 

TOYAH: Yeah, we made the album ("Love Is The Law") at the same time. Joel Bogen, my lead guitarist and Simon Darlow (above with
Toyah), the keyboard player, moved into my house for about a month to write and arrange the album which meant when I came back after the play I could put down rough vocals.
 

And that’s the way I wrote most of the lyrics for the album - was improvising them through the night after doing Tanzi when I was on a natural high after doing the play anyway. And it was a very interesting way to work, very upside down, it was very hard work for five months cos it meant I was doing the play at night and the album after the play so I was working through the night.

JANICE: You do think you work better under pressure? 

TOYAH: Yeah, definitely. I mean God, I was really under pressure, that’s - this year’s been the busiest year ever for me. But I really, I really fed off it. I really benefited from it in some strange way. Physically and mentally.

JANICE: What about your family, are they into what you do, especially -

TOYAH: Yeah -

JANICE: When you work with people like Laurence Olivier?


TOYAH: Oh gosh, yeah. Well my mum and dad are my number one fans and I’d say my brother and sister are very protective towards my mum and dad because they’re getting to the age where they can’t fend for themselves anymore.

And I really appreciate their friendship whereas I was kid I would never talk to them. But I love them dearly now. My sister (Nicola, below with Toyah) I see a lot cos she lives in London but my brother I only see once a year, but he’s a great fan. And I benefit from them, they never criticise me y’know!


JANICE: Aah!

TOYAH: I can’t believe it! I remember going home to my mum thumping me cos of the colour of my hair and now she won’t even criticise me if she wanted to. It’s really nice.






JANICE:
Great. So what are your new goals? Do you have any new plans to perhaps write plays yourself or … ?


TOYAH: In the future I want to write, direct and especially get into lighting and computer techniques.

JANICE: Really?

TOYAH: I believe, even though it’s really sad, that we’ve got a new form of entertainment out of the computer because it is taking over from cinema, theatre and in a way a lot of popular music. And I think if we can form a dimension within the computer language there is some very exciting musical entertainment to gain within computer technology.

And I think the generation of tomorrow are so far advanced age wise than we ever were that they want a form of entertainment that isn’t patronising their mental talents.

I’m thinking in that way. I don’t know how I’m going to do it but it’s a form of 3D music that can be done across the video screen through computer keyboards that kids can link from household to household and perform their own music. But the music is pre-written in the computer banks through one main computer but it’s like scratch records, you can scratch your one tune into another.


JANICE: Yes.

TOYAH: I’m looking into a way that you can type out your own musical phrases from music that’s already well known. It sounds crazy but I can picture it my head and I know a lot of people who are into computers and I just want to muck about and see what comes out of it.

JANICE: It sounds incredible and a conversation I’d like to continue with you. But what about the immediate future? You were mentioning to me earlier about going to America?


TOYAH:
Yeah, well we’re in America, we play a week in New York in the New Year and that will our first time over there, like Jonathan Perkins really, er, I’m quite scared about it but at the same time I don’t think America is the be all and end all of one’s career. It’s a little more special to me because of the acting side as well but I’ll take it or leave, as it comes.


JANICE: OK, now before you go you’ve got to give us a question for a competition.

TOYAH: Well yeah, har har, just to see if people have been listening or … that’s if everyone didn’t turn off when “I Want To Be Free” came on. I’d like … the question is: who’s supporting us on the tour I’m about to start on Friday? And if anyone wants the price will be tickets to the nearest venue that they live at.


JANICE: And that’s to test if you’ve been listening or not … you’ve mentioned it so many times they should know the answer. Who is supporting Toyah on the tour which starts next Friday? And we will give tickets away to your nearest venue. Toyah, it’s been fascinating talking to you.

TOYAH: Thank you.

JANICE: This is your current single “The Vow”

SONG: “The Vow”





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You can also listen to the interview HERE

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