DJ CRUEL BRITANNIA
DJ CRUEL BRITANNIA
TOYAH:“Hi I’m Toyah Willcox and you’re listening to
Fadeout with DJ Cruel Britannia”.
CRUEL BRITANNIA: This is what happened when I was cheeky enough to send an email to the personal assistant of one Toyah Willcox who happened to be playing at the Robin 2 in Bilston.
Clip of “I Want To Be Free”
CB: Hello, I’m DJ Cruel Britannia.
TOYAH: Hello, we meet at last!
CB: We meet at last! It’s been a privilege to meet you. Finally.
TOYAH: Great! Well thank you!
CB: Yes, I’m just a crusty old goth and it’s taken 27 years to actually get you in a room here and now that I’m not 13 anymore my reasons are entirely different. (Both laugh)
TOYAH: You don’t look crusty to me, you look well scrubbed.
CB: Thank you! Toyah, what can I say, you’ve … over 30 years so many singles, so many albums and at any one point in time you’re either on stage in a musical or theatre or in a film. Where the hell are you getting the energy from?
TOYAH: Ah-ha! Well that’s an interesting one because I have to work. I just can’t not work.
CB: You can’t not work?
TOYAH: Yeah I just … there’s no other interest in life for me other than work so I’m always kind of looking for things to do. But when did you start discovering me? What album and what music was it?
CB: My favourite album was “The Blue Meaning.”
TOYAH: And you discovered that when it came out or later? The thing is you don’t look old enough to have been following me when -
CB: I’m forty.
TOYAH: Oh, OK (Mock shyly) Right, I believe you now then, OK. (CB laughs) So you started very young?
CB: I sleep in a tupperware box at night. It’s been incredible to come and watch the transition.
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s not been the transition I’ve always wanted it to be. Blue Meaning, I loved making Blue Meaning. It was a difficult album to write but it was such a satisfying one to hear be finished. The title track itself “The Blue Meaning” I just … it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever been involved in. And the whole album kind of had a wholeness about it.
And then we kind of had a lot single success and that pulled the direction in another way but I think we found our feet again just after “The Changeling”, which was a phenomenally difficult album to make. “Anthem” we made blindfolded. It just made itself. But Changeling was difficult and then “Love Is The Law” was wonderful to make.
It’s my favouritest (sic) album because it’s one of the happiest times of my life. We found the songs again. Because Changeling we were trying to follow up an incredibly successful platinum album Anthem. Which was appealing to all age groups and suddenly I’d become an image rather than a person. Which troubled me a lot. And I think “The Changeling” was our frustration coming out.
And then when we wrote “Love Is The Law” people left us alone to write it. We wrote it in my house at that particular time in Barnet in London, ironically. We were just writing songs again and it was a really … happy time.
CB: I got to hear Blue Meaning before I got to hear “Sheep Farming In Barnet” and the weird thing is the album actually gave me nightmares at the time (CB laughs)
TOYAH: Sheep Farming … I hate saying this but if I heard Sheep Farming and didn’t know it was me I’d buy that album! It’s just got some of my favouritest (sic) songs on. “Waiting”. I just … oh, I love “Waiting”! I love singing it but very few bands can pick it up because there’s no form in it.
Clip of “Waiting”
CB: I have to admit ... I have to apologise basically but there was a big gap in my collection between “Prostitute” and the new album-
TOYAH: "(In The Court Of The) The Crimson Queen?"
CB: The Crimson Queen album, yes.
CB: Which is rather good isn’t it?
TOYAH: It’s good. And we’re working on the follow up which is even better!
CB: Working on that already?
TOYAH: Yeah. Well, we’ve got 4 songs down and we’re really really pleased but what’s happening with Crimson Queen - “Lesser God” (below) s being considered for the World Cup. As part of the BBC’s usage of music.
TOYAH: If that happens that will re-launch the Crimson Queen album and probably put “Lesser God” out as a single.
CB: I see.
TOYAH: Now, we’ve come close to this many many times before but we got the call last week. They originally were looking at The Humans version of “Boots” and then they picked up on “Lesser God” so we’re just waiting now.
CB: I’m glad you brought up The Humans because it’s one thing I wanted to ask you about. It’s a band in its own isn’t it?
CB: It’s not a side project it’s not an experiment, this is a band on its own?
TOYAH: It’s a band on its own. It is a bit of an art project. We did the tour using the normal kind of rock set-up to prove a point because we were put in rock venues. Whereas my concept is we’ll only play places of architectural interest. So like Coventry Cathedral, the Gherkin in London, Charing Cross station. Places like that.
That was the idea that we’d only ever play these very unusual places. We’re lining up the Houses Of Parliament at the moment. We’ve been invited to play in the Speakers House in June.
CB: Can’t visualize that! (CB laughs)
TOYAH: Well, if it doesn’t happen in June it’s probably going have to happen in October or something because Bill’s going to be working with REM most of the year. But the idea of The Humans was we would play in unusual places
TOYAH: But they had to try us kind of the normal rock venue route and personally I think it was nice, it was personal and we can always go back to that but it wasn’t quite right for the concept. And the concept is if you take a song and you listen to it for the first time what do you listen to?
You listen to the voice. You listen to the harmonic relationship with the other instruments so that’s what The Humans is. It’s not about drums, it’s not about anything other than what you hear the first time. Which is a subconscious listening.
TOYAH: So that’s why it’s so stripped down and so basic.
CB: Aha. So it’s something … it’s a total departure anyway -
TOYAH: Total departure -
CB: It’s like yes experimental, yes atmospheric -
TOYAH: We’ve written album two which we’re recording in May in Led Zeppelin’s studio in Worcester and it’s … I can’t stop saying it’s good but it works!
CB: It works!
TOYAH: It really works. We’ve found the sound.
CB: OK. So why “Boots”? Why that track?
TOYAH: Bill (Rieflin, the drummer of The Humans and REM, below with Toyah) chose “Boots”. Bill luckily really likes my voice and (CB laughs) … y’know, it’d be awful is he didn’t! (Jokingly) He phoned me up one day and said “there’s this song I want to hear you singing it.” He said “you might not agree with me and hate it but it’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking”.
And I just said yeah, because when I was a child I used to sing it because it was such a fashionable pop tune. But now you look at it and it’s deviant. It’s bizarre. It’s a woman singing about infidelity but she’s also talking about S&M. It’s great! It’s got many levels to it.
CB: I suppose it’s not as in your face as “Venus In Furs” (by The Velvet Undergound) I suppose -
TOYAH: Well I mean “Venus In Furs” you can’t better and some would say you can’t better These Boots but These Boots has never been exploited in this century so I just think it was a nice choice. Bill’s particularly in tune with those kind of choices.
Clip of “These Boots Are Made For Walking” by The Humans plays.
CB: What are we going to be expecting from you tonight?
TOYAH: Tonight? Well tonight is an interesting one because the audience is going to be very very mixed. There’ going to be the diehards there and there’s gonna be new fans there. People who’ve found “Toyah the celebrity”.
So we’ve tried to create an hour and 15’th worth of music that just keeps grabbing people’s attention. So we’ve got songs off Sheep Farming, we’ve got songs of Blue Meaning, we’ve got songs of Crimson Queen and Anthem and we’ve also added in cover versions to just kind of kick in what I call the “feel good factor.”
For people who don’t have a long attention span. (CB laughs). But you know they’re great songs. We’re gonna do “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper), we’re gonna do “Rebel Yell”(Billy Idol), we’re gonna do (She Sells) “Sanctuary”( The Cult), we’re gonna do “Sweet Child” (O' Mine) (Guns N' Roses).
TOYAH: But also I think they really illustrate how I’m influenced as well. And we’re going to do them back to back, there’s not going to be much talking. It’s going to be “Wham Bam Thank You Mam!”
CB: I was lucky enough go and sit in on the soundcheck and you played sort of “Jungles of Jupiter”-
TOYAH: Yeah I know, I could see you singing the words!
CB: Oh God, it was lovely. It was absolutely fantastic to kind of not only to hear that song again but heard live. I was just sat in front of the sound engineer by myself in that room and it was just … perfect.
TOYAH: Oh, that’s good.
CB: Absolutely wonderful and kind of waiting to hear that in a room full of people as well.
CB: What other dates have you got?
TOYAH: I’ve got the next three weeks … I’m not around. But then we start gigging again, we do the Asylum in Birmingham on the 23rd of April. Then I play the Mardi Gras in Blackpool. I’m doing a gay night in Blackpool which I quite often do.
Then I have to go off to Spain to do a lecture and we come back and I do lecture in Glasgow. Because I talk about how rock videos are made. And it’s just purely fun, it’s piss taking and -
CB: I hope so. I hope there’s an awful lot of “Thunder In The Mountains” (below) there because I really needed it to be explained to me … loads of ping pong balls coming down at you - (Laughs)
TOYAH: Well that’s Godley and Creme, they used to do these weird concepts and I wanted to drive a Sherman tank down Oxford Street and they have me showered in ping pong balls. Not my favouritest (sic) image, I must say.
CB: Well, covered in a plastic cutlery in a room –
TOYAH: Oh, I like that one. “I Want To Be Free” I think was brilliant! But also I think “Brave New World” is a particularly good video as well and I talk about how we made that.
Clip of “Brave New World”
CB: It’s really good to actually see you still going strong on the music scene ... approaching it with, you know, such energy.
TOYAH: What’s really nice is that as long as you keep writing and got a publishing deal and suddenly you get a phone call where they say you know the World Cup Series wants to use one of your songs … that is exactly what we need to bring the audience in.
So it’s really important stuff. Before I forget I’m doing all the pick-up shots in April on a film called “The Power Of Three” which I shot exactly a year ago. And they’ve come back to put in extra scenes and they’re using the entire album of Crimson Queen to narrate the film.
TOYAH: It’s a feel good film about three women in their 50’s achieving their dreams. So that will hopefully be out by the end of the year.
CB: Is there any area at all where you just decide “I don’t think that fits for me?”
TOYAH: Oh God all the time! It’s hard to tell you such areas ... I’m very wary of presenting on TV just at the moment because creatively the last two years have been so satisfying. Writing Crimson Queen with Simon Darlow, writing the albums, The Humans …
I don’t want to get stuck in the rut of just reading other people’s words to a camera. So I’m mainly looking at being a creative person at the moment and doing really enjoyable self-indulgent stuff.
CB: Absolutely! When you’ve come … when you’ve been doing narrating for children’s programs or the (The Good) Sex Guides -
TOYAH: I don’t mind doing that but it’s like talking to the camera about buying shoes and babies nappies and fashion I just -
CB: So daytime telly is out? (Laughs)
TOYAH: We-llll … that’s an interesting one because I have been just been asked to develop a chat show for day time which I’m very interested in because as long as it’s inspirational and we don’t talk about fashion, shopping or babies I’ll do it.
CB: I believe that’s covered. More than adequately! (Both laugh) Everywhere else!
TOYAH: Yeah! So I’m getting a bit choosy.
CB: That’s good. That’s a good thing. One of my fellow DJ’s on Phoenix Radio said “ask her about Derek Jarman’s "Jubilee!”(below)
TOYAH: Oh yeah…it’s a film that’s not going to go away. Sham the drummer in my band tonight saw it the first time last week and text me to say “God you were fucking ugly!”. (CB laughs) Sham and I have that kind of relationship. It’s … I think it’s a great film. It caught the era, Jarman is phenomenal but my favouritest (sic) film is “The Tempest.” And that was my favourite period of working with him.
TOYAH: Because he’s certainly focused intensely and became an incredible filmmaker. And he put so much thought and planning into that film and I’m just so pleased he asked me to do it.
CB: One thing this DJ mentioned "you’ve got to ask her about it" because Mad is the only character that turned out to be human in that and I said “what do you mean” and he said “she broke down in tears.”
TOYAH: Oh yeah.
CB: And it was the only sort of emotion that any of the main cast actually expressed -
TOYAH: Yeah. None of them showed emotion.
CB: And you broke down in tears.
TOYAH: That’s the first time anyone’s ever picked up on that.
CB: There you go Tom! Are you happy now mate? (Laughs) OK, I’m going to ask you a really androgynous question now: what are going to be wearing tonight?
TOYAH: This is a question I’ve been asked a lot all week and I’m going wear my trademark PCV black catsuit with a big belt. Just because … it just keeps the male attention. (CB laughs)
CB: Just to prove a point!
TOYAH: It’s a winner! It’s an absolute winner! So I’m just going to wear that. I made a DVD here called “Wild Essence” about 5 years ago and I wore too little. I was in a corset and knickers and thigh boots and I was bouncing around too much. I’ve learned a lot from that. Now I still have the energy but I cover up.
Clip of “Thunder In The Mountains”
CB: A number of years ago I saw you on the “Here And Now” tour.
CB: How does it feel to go ahead and do things which is basically a tribute tour? With a bunch of –
TOYAH: I love them because we’re treated very well. You’ve got to take into account there are some times when we’re not treated well.
TOYAH: As we’re touring round. But on those tours we get respect, we’re looked after and we are 100% out there and the band is fantastic.
TOYAH: What I really enjoy about it - it is an event. OK, it’s a tribute tour but it’s an event and the audiences that come to see us would never come to something like tonight. They’d never come to a venue like the Wolverhampton Robin 2 to see me.
They come to arenas because of the whole event of it. And I love being part of that. It’s incredibly exciting and I’m just performing those songs and utterly enjoying the privilege of being there being with them because it’s the only time I’m ever going to get to play an arena.
CB: Hmm. I love the different angle … as much as I and many other people came away having re-lived their youth it almost felt as if it was sheep herded on act after act, next one -
TOYAH: It was odd to get used to that kind of … almost circus freak show thing. But it’s a format that works brilliantly. It really does work, it draws them in. I mean since that one and I’ve been performing them every year since, we’re now up to performing to 30 000 people.
TOYAH: It’s massive.
CB: You can’t question those -
TOYAH: You can’t question it.
TOYAH: And you can’t knock it. So it’s … I love every minute of it. But I also have the joy of doing this as well.
CB: You want to make sure you appeal across the board, you know -
TOYAH: No, what I do, for instance we played at Pontin’s last night … There’s no point in playing “Neon Womb” and “Obsolete” at Pontin’s.
CB: This is true.
TOYAH: So we just do a set list of classics and they go absolutely wild and we enjoy that as much as we’ll enjoy tonight. So I just try to work in different areas because I’m just not particularly –
CB: You want to understand your audience -
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s about that and also I just don’t to be pigeonholed. I get a bit, er, I get writer’s block if I’m pigeonholed. So I’m always bouncing of different ideas and stuff.
CB: So if I was to theoretically plonk you in up the road the Giffard Arms pub in Wolverhampton, every Saturday night there’s a goth night on, if I was to plonk you there, would you basically go through the first few albums?
TOYAH: Yeah, and learn a bit of Sisters Of Mercy and other stuff so that we could play stuff that people to get up and really put heads down to.
TOYAH: Yeah. I don’t kind of get up the morning and think the world’s kind of come to me … (CB laughs) I’m always kind of out seeking the world so –
CB: You are … you’ve made it quite clear you’re not ready to sit down in your tracksuit bottoms and think “I’m having the day off!”
TOYAH: Not yet! (CB laughs)
CB: Toyah, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.
TOYAH: Thank you.
Clip of “Lesser God”
You can listen to the interview HERE
(Thank you to DJ Cruel Britannia for the link)