FRANK: Toyah Willcox is in the studio and here she is, good morning Toyah.
TOYAH: Good Morning, Frank.
FRANK: Thank you so much for coming in.
TOYAH: It’s a pleasure!
FRANK: But you’ve been here before!
TOYAH: Yeah, about 25 years ago. It could actually be 30 years ago. This used to be Granada TV and I rehearsed in here with Lord Olivier and Greta Scacchi (below with Toyah) and Roger Rees for a film called The Ebony Tower.
FRANK: How marvelous! Lord Olivier!
TOYAH: It was fantastic and rather than rehearse in a rehearsal room we rehearsed in the executive offices of Granada. So that staff could bring food in and Lord Olivier did have a nurse at the time that looked after him but it meant that we were treated like royalty!
FRANK: That sounds - how old would have you been then? Was it towards the end?
TOYAH: It was towards the end, yeah. Yeah. I was about 25, 26 when I made that film.
FRANK: I’m thinking of getting a nurse (All laugh) Just maybe for the shows!
TOYAH: Do you know - I recommended, it fantastic!
FRANK: Yeah! I think it’s sort of fallen off the bandwagon of what rich people do, you know PA’s and all that, but the nurse!
TOYAH: It’s not just about being rich - when you live for a really long time there’s certain things you get really bored of like blowing your nose, doing your own shopping, cleaning your own fingernails. Nurse can do all that for you!
FRANK: Is this Lord Olivier talking now or this your own personal experience? (All laugh)
TOYAH: This is my own personal experience as a middle aged woman.
FRANK: I’ve got to tell you Toyah - many years ago I was in Birmingham city center. This would be … er, long before I did comedy or anything like that and this coach went past and it must’ve been a tourbus and you were on it.
And you were walking - you walked up the aisle and you got your bright orange hair in those days and there was loads of people, this was going on in … I think Corporation Street or somewhere by there. Everyone stopped, all the passers-by stopped and there was Toyah Willcox in a tourbus -
TOYAH: You know what is was? We were going to the Odeon to do a concert because they used to reverse the tourbus down the side of the Odeon on New street.
FRANK: Oh OK.
TOYAH: I can remember –
FRANK: Do you remember me? Do you remember me seeing you? (All laugh)
TOYAH: I seem to remember there was a problem that day with about 500 screaming kids outside Odeon that blocked the street.
FRANK: They were with me (All laugh)
TOYAH: Were you kind of in the middle of it?
FRANK: I was working for Barnardo’s at the time (All laugh)
TOYAH: Oh OK!
FRANK: But really it was like - you know when you see the kids looking through the window at the toyshop, it really was it was show business going past all us normal people. It was very exciting.
TOYAH: I loved all that.
FRANK: Bet you did!
TOYAH: I can remember once, I’m afraid, I was one of the organisers of the Royalty Celebrity It’s A Knockout. And all of us were on a coach going to Alton Towers -
CO-HOST EMILY: That’s very brave!
TOYAH: There was me, Tom Jones, Sheena Easton, Cliff Richard, Christopher Reeve, John Travolta and we were on a coach going through the –
FRANK : If that would’ve crashed, I mean -
TOYAH: Well, gets worse! Going through the country lanes going to Alton Towers and Princess Fergie was at the front of the bus doing the royal wave with her hand shouting down the buss “wave to the subjects everyone!” (All laugh)
FRANK: She didn’t say that!
TOYAH: Yes she did (All laugh) And Sheena Easton was singing (sings) “We’re all going on a summer holiday” C’mon Cliff join in!” and it was one of maddest things I’ve ever been through because we stopped - every village we went though with just -licking the windows to get a look at Tom Jones or Jane Seymour or John Travolta.
TOYAH: So it was another one of those moments –
FRANK: Great! It was celebrity express (All laugh) That’s a fabulous - (All laugh) See Cliff should’ve gone (sings) “My baby gets the morning train …“ He should’ve fought fire with fire. That’s the trouble with Cliff. So The Humans, it’s a very strange genesis to The Humans –
TOYAH: It is, it’s utterly peculiar. It was originally formed because my husband had a call from the president of Estonia three years ago asking him to play solo in Estonia for the president’s birthday.
FRANK: I should point that anyone who doesn’t know your husband is Robert Fripp (below with Toyah).
TOYAH: Robert Fripp of King Crimson –
FRANK: OK, he’s not a painter and decorator (All laugh)
TOYAH: No, he’s worked with all the big guys, Bowie and Gabriel and Robert couldn’t do it so I phoned the Estonian embassy up and said I will put a really small inexpensive band together and we’ll write all the music and perform it for the president. And they said yes!
FRANK: The opportunist! (All laugh)
TOYAH: So The Humans really, it’s Bill Rieflin who’s been drumming in REM for the last 7 years but he plays bass in The Humans. Chris Wong who’s my MD who also plays bass and the vocals. And the reason I created it like that - I have spent 32 years in the music business fighting the volume of keyboard players, lead guitarists, drummers and I just thought get rid of them, I only want my voice to work with bass frequencies.
And it just went from there. And my husband heard it and he said “I really like that, can I come and join you?” And I thought "oh, this is trouble, this is trouble." Coz my husband is A list and really is demanding and he has to have his nurse (All laugh) And all of that so he joined us. He’s on the album, he’s recording the next album with us in May. It is a very weird set-up because we don’t use drums.
TOYAH: And people can’t get their head round it. Coz they’re waiting for the drums to kind of kick into the chorus and stuff like that. But we don’t do choruses.
FRANK: Sounds like there’s a bit of clapping on the album?
TOYAH: That’s Bill.
TOYAH: Yeah. Bill the rhythm man kept slipping in the rhythm, you now, finger clicks, clapping.
FRANK: No drums?
TOYAH: No drums.
FRANK: Well then who’s the idiot in the group? (All laugh) It’s usually so obvious!
TOYAH: It’s the lead singer innit! (All laugh)
FRANK: So do you get on alright? Is it alright working with your husband? I can imagine it can be a bit tense?
TOYAH: OK, we’d been married, it’s our 25th year married this year. My husband and -
FRANK: Do you want one of our anniversary balloons?
TOYAH: Yes I do! I want the long phallic looking one, no sorry it says number one, thought it was something else (All laugh)
TOYAH: I would like, no, Bill is my husbands’ best friend so they get on great and then both Bill and my husband think I’m a cleaner, a nurse, psychiatrist, shopper, erm, anything but a singer so it is a very strange relationship in the rehearsal room.
FRANK: I imagine you’re quite a strong woman now to work with, I can’t see you being walked over.
FRANK: Not unless you really want that?
TOYAH: Well, it depends who it is!
FRANK: So if anyone wants to go see The Humans how can they do that?
TOYAH: Well The Humans are next touring in June and August but before that I have the Toyah band which is going now so come and see me in the Toyah band because –
FRANK: Don’t share the glory!
TOYAH: That has drums so it’s very very loud.
EMILY: I definitely want to see that!
TOYAH: It’s rock’n’roll, it’s all the hits and everything and I’m taking part in a series of concerts called Exposed. Which is happening in the Midlands and putting together established artists with unsigned bands. So basically to encourage audiences to come and see new music by going to see established acts.
So I’m playing The Robin in Wolverhampton on March the 27th and The Asylum in Birmingham on April the 23rd as part of the Exposed brand. With about another five unsigned bands. And the idea is that we have a really good festival type feel evening.
FRANK: It sounds fabulous. And will you be singing (plays a clip of “It’s A Mystery”) (All laugh)
TOYAH: Oh yaa-h (Mockingly).
FRANK: Actually we need to have a bit of a confession here because when we knew you were on the show Emily absolutely lit up!
TOYAH: Did she?
EMILY: I was really excited!
TOYAH: Oh bless you!
FRANK: C’mon - spit it out!
EMILY: When I was younger, Toyah, I was a massive fan of yours and I had special favourite thing ever - it was a make-up kit (below). (Opens a make-up bag) And you could look like Toyah. (Toyah gasps)
EMILY: And I tried to but I got in trouble at school coz I did my eyes all orange!
TOYAH: I loved designing that make-up kit!
EMILY: It was amazing!
TOYAH: Was it called Eyes To The Soul?
EMILY: Yes! (All laugh) It was!
TOYAH: D’you know I’ve still got boxes of it in my attic!
EMILY: I’m going to have to get one of those off you! God, it’s made me so excited!
TOYAH: I tell you I understand why Victoria Beckham loves designing clothes because I was given this opportunity to design this make-up range in 1981. I absolutely loved doing it!
EMILY: Did you actually do it then?
FRANK: You did do it? Some people just put their names to it and don’t do it -
TOYAH: Well, you can do that, you do it like merchandising but I sat down and designed the colour palettes –
EMILY: Oh I feel so happy knowing that, I wasn’t cheated!
TOYAH: The factory was up in the borders in Scotland and I had a lot of involvement and I just absolutely loved it! It appealed to the Hitler in me because I was telling people what to do!
FRANK: This could be good! (All laugh) He loved his make-up, Hitler. Does it include the moustache?
TOYAH: It does now! As you get older (All laugh) The waxing kit!
FRANK: Toyah’s waxed my soul (All laugh) Soul, I said! Carry on! Sorry I’ve spoiled everything! Can I say you have stuff out, you have gear out we can get -
TOYAH: Yeah -
FRANK: Is it Humans album –
TOYAH: The Humans, I sell everything on Remember The 80’s.com, ironically, and I sell more on that than I get through any record company but I also have a fantastic album out, a Toyah album called “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen.” Which is just been signed to Japan via Sony so we’re off to promote that and do a bit of touring and stuff.
But this is me and a guy called Simon Darlow (above in the middle) who wrote “Slave To The Rhythm” for Grace Jones. Now Simon and I are long time collaborators - we wrote this album two years ago and it’s just great and it’s taken off and it’s selling brilliantly so when I do the Toyah shows, that’s the music I include in the Toyah shows and when I do The Humans shows it’s just dead weird and you get The Humans album material.
TOYAH: Have I confused you completely?
FRANK: No, no, I also have a website about my alcoholism called I Don’t Remember The 80’s (All laugh)
TOYAH: That’s fabulous!
FRANK: Which I, please, I encourage you to … tune in to. So what else? Because you strike me as – I read a thing about you in one of your blogs on the internet and you said you don’t like - see, I thought you’d become one of these country recluses, maybe have a trout farm? (All laugh) You’re not really like that, you like doing stuff?
TOYAH: Oh! I really love working. I do about 200 shows a year and then there’s telly on top of that. At the moment I’m ready to do an arena tour next of holograms. There’ll only be 10 performers, real living performers and the rest is all holograms. It’s this brand new concept.
FRANK: Goodness. Are you turning up for it or are just being–
TOYAH: No, I’m turning up for it at the venue.
FRANK: You’re going to be real.
TOYAH: Yeah, we’re real –
FRANK: Is it hard to guess who’s real?
TOYAH: They they … no, these are going to be a bit like the Gorillaz and Arlene Phillips is doing the choreography and all that so I’m hoping … coz haven’t seen any of it yet I’ve just been told I’m doing it. I’m hoping it’s going to be like Gorillaz you know, you’ll be with these really funky kind of cartoon 3D characters.
FRANK: Sounds like - what’s it called that, I’ll look out for that … you don’t even know? You’ve got a lot on your mind Toyah!
TOYAH: It’s just - thanks to the menopause I can’t remember . I can barely remember who I am at the moment!
EMILY: Can I just say Toyah has become a proper friend of the show already!
FRANK: Oh definitely. She’s going to get the dingle if I can find it. Maybe it’s not here anymore…
TOYAH: It’s a bad omen.
FRANK: Just talk amongst yourselves.
EMILY: I was surprised to discover you’re from Birmingham coz you speak beautifully! (All laugh)
FRANK: Hold it, hold, (Plays dingle, sings “End of the shooow!”) Not many people get that, Toyah.
FRANK: It’s been absolutely fabulous having you on!
TOYAH: It’s been lovely, it’s been great fun, thank you.
FRANK: Beyond our expectations. (Toyah laughs)
TOYAH: That sounds loaded to me!
FRANK: I suppose if they’d been very low, but they weren’t they, they were high and you were better still so it’s been great. So go and see Toyah! Where again?
TOYAH: 27th March Robin Wolverhampton, 23rd April the Asylum in Birmingham.
FRANK: So get to that and you get to go up and there might even be in the merchandising some free make-up kits!
FRANK: They won’t free, they’ll be 17 schilling and six pence. (All laugh) Thank you very much Toyah, it’s been joyous!
TOYAH: Thank you.