BBC RADIO WEST
THE PAUL FRANKS
BBC RADIO WEST
THE PAUL FRANKS
PAUL FRANKS: Toyah Willcox, born in Kings Heath Birmingham, one of our own is back. Musically with a new band The Humans, obviously singer, actress ...
Toyah’s done a lot of stuff over the years and she’s on the show. Toyah Willcox, how are you?
TOYAH: (on the phone): Hello! I’m good, thank you!
PAUL: The Humans, just explain because it’s a trio really isn’t it?
TOYAH: It’s a trio yes, I’ll try and condense the story! (Paul laughs) Few years ago the president of Estonia asked my husband Robert Fripp to play in Estonia. Robert couldn’t do it so I offered to put a trio together and we went out there. We wrote the album out there, performed it live, we sold out our tour, we were getting standing ovations, so we returned to Seattle, made the album and this is it!
And the members of the band are very very interesting. There’s Bill Rieflin, who’s been drumming with REM for seven years, and made the last two albums with them, there’s myself and there’s MD called Chris Wong and now my husband Robert Fripp guests with us so we’re preparing for our first British tour which starts in, umm, February! Of 2010. We’ll be coming to Birmingham but we have a single out called “These Boots Are Made For Walking”
PAUL: Which we’re going to hear.
TOYAH: Which is a cover version but the concept of The Humans is to deconstruct the pop song and turn it into an emotional experience.
PAUL: Well, few people have flavoured “These Boots Are Made For Walking” but that’s a mighty trio because Chris Wong the guitarist, he’s British, he’s from London isn’t he?
TOYAH: Yes, he is. He’s a multi instrument ... instrumentalist - how ever you say that! So is Bill. So it means that they can literally play anything. But the concept of The Humans was to remove all the sonic interference from my voice i.e when I’m put on a stage in front of a stadium audience I’ve got a bout ten musicians who are much louder than me. The Humans I wanted to create something where the voice sat in an area where nothing competes with the tonal quality of the voice.
PAUL: Which is interesting because I can’t imagine there are too many bands doing that?
TOYAH: Well, no you have got the prime example of Jack White and The White Stripes but I’m very much inspired by the minimalism as having as little musicians around me as possible but having the very best there.
PAUL: Because when you went to Estonia, a lot of people would say well, it’s a strange place but it’s really emerging market and as you said you had -
TOYAH: It’s fabulous! We wrote the whole of this album for Estonia, it’s dedicated to Estonia. Because when you arrive there you can drive across the entire country in five hours and see nothing but fir trees. It’s phenomenal, it has great cultural history. It was taken over by Russia and got it’s independence in 92’. It’s a country that deserves it’s own independence, yet when Russia was there they removed all the signposts so people couldn’t find the next village.
So it has a phenomenal history. And I wanted this sound to be accessible and poppy but at the same time very very dark with an underbelly and the only way I can explain it is Quentin Tarantino meets European art house movie. (Paul laughs)
PAUL: Well, you’re noted for doing stuff that’s … would "off the wall" be the right expression? Different?
TOYAH: Definitely. I like new challenges and also I’ve got 32 years experience so I want to do different things with that experience and The Humans is definitely unusual.
PAUL: In the late 70’s you were in Quadrophenia and Jubilee, had a lot of music success in the 80’s and since that time, Toyah, you’ve done a lot of TV -
TOYAH: Yeah -
PAUL: But now it sounds like you’ve got the sort of musical appetite back?
TOYAH: Oh definitely. Well, in the last ten years there’s been a huge emergence in 80’s music and a culmination of that is a month ago I opened the Rewind festival (above) for 30 000 people. And just to put that in perspective with everyone goes that goes (mockingly) “well 80’s blaah blaah blaah”… when Oasis broke up a month ago in Paris they were playing to 30 000 people. So it just shows that you know, we older rockers we still have our audience.
PAUL: Absolutely. And Robert, your husband Robert Fripp, he’s guesting on the album isn’t he?
TOYAH: He guests on the album, he’s playing on the single “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and guesting with us on tour next year … so that’s going be a challenge to me! (Laughs)
PAUL: Because I presume a lot of the time you’re in different part of the world aren’t you?
TOYAH: Yes, we’re very rarely together and very rarely work together … (Paul laughs)
PAUL: So that’s the main challenge is it?
TOYAH: Yes! Definitely! (Paul laughs)
PAUL: But it must be great to get out - I mean you’re looking forward to really get back on the road again and play some live shows?
TOYAH: Well, I’m on the road the whole time, I’m just in the middle of a 60 day tour with Vampires Rock (below) which comes to Birmingham in November.
PAUL: Which is a theatre show?
TOYAH: It’s a theatre show but it’s basically a rock show, it has a full rock band on stage. And I’m performing with the Toyah band all year round. But what I’m really looking forward to … this is very much a listening experience.
The Humans is about the quality of the sound and it’s about the emotion of the sound and it’s very very still and it’s quite sinister so I’m really really looking forward to this performance because it allows me to be a singer using my full range.
PAUL: And because you’ve done the acting side as well then you can bring that and combine that - you bring that to the stage don’t you, in everything you do really?
TOYAH: Well, I’m very instinctive as a performer and because I am an actress there probably is that element of that drama there. But when people ask me to say what’s the difference between acting and singing and how do I, you know, differentiate … I’m using my instincts the whole time so I’m not actually totally aware of what I’m doing.
But I do know that with The Humans I can use a very full range and I have a very good vocal range. And there’s definitely drama in the lyrics because I’m story telling a lot with The Humans.
PAUL: Yeah. And on TV, am I right - you’ve been on productions with Lawrence Olivier?
PAUL: Katharine Hepburn?
TOYAH: Katharine Hepburn, Sir John Mills … er, Warren Clark, Trevor Rees, I’ve worked with them all! I’m on Casualty (below) on the 10th of October!
PAUL: (Laughs) You are. And you did I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here didn’t you few years ago?
TOYAH: Yes, I did that six years ago and while I remember the Electric Cinema in Birmingham is hosting a premiere for a film I’m starring in called Three To Tango. And I think that premiere is on the 5th of November? So it’s all systems go!
PAUL: It is. Why did you choose “These Boots Are Made For Walking” by the way as a single?
TOYAH: Well. When it originally came out when I was a child - I think I was about 8 when it came out … it was massive and it was charming. And it brought in the fashion of kinky boots. Well, now if you listen to it it’s a woman talking about a man’s infidelities and how she’s going to walk all over him. So it’s really very dominatrix.
And Bill Rieflin, my writing partner, chose it and he arranged it and produced it and I think he’s been very clever with it because he’s brought a quaint song into this Millennium. It’s quite sinister and because he lives is Seattle, he works as a Seattle musician, he’s given it the Seattle sound and I think it’s the coolest thing on earth!
PAUL: The Humans. A tour next year and there will a date in the West Midlands, the album is out now and in fact if you go to Youtube I think you can get - and the Myspace site - you can get all the facts, you can hear them for free but you can download it on Amazon and iTunes and the single “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Toyah Willcox on the show, Toyah, good luck in all you’re doing and great to talk to you!
TOYAH: Thank you very much!
SONG: "These Boots Are Made For Walking"
You can also listen to the interview HERE