WITH DJ CARL WARD
WITH DJ CARL WARD
CARL: Right, we are talking to actress and singer Toyah Willcox today. Hey, how are you?
TOYAH: I’m really well, thank you and so looking forward to coming to Guernsey.
CARL: Yeah, yeah, in this fine island next month you’re performing at the Best 80’s Party In The World Ever ... Part 2. Will it be your first time in Guernsey?
TOYAH: No, I was in Guernsey when I was 11 and I came over either on a catamaran or a hovercraft from Jersey and we came into a harbour and I remember it so well because it was first time I ever ate lobster. And I have loved lobster ever since! And I can’t wait to get back to Guernsey!
CARL: Just for the lobster?
TOYAH: Well, for the audience as well! (laughs)
CARL: Yeah, sure. Yeah, you can’t beat Guernsey lobster. But it’s such a lovely port when you’re coming into Guernsey, especially on a summer’s day, it’s absolutely fantastic.
TOYAH: Yeah, I know. I agree.
CARL: So do you get to spend a bit of time here or is it just a sort of fleeting visit?
TOYAH: I arrive the afternoon of the concert and then I leave at 7 in the morning on the Saturday coz I have to get back for another concert. And so regret that.
CARL: So no after show party for you?
TOYAH: Well … there might be actually! I might not - I just won’t bother going to bed!
CARL: Yeah - just go straight through.
CARL: Toyah, what a career you’ve had so far. You originally trained as an actress in your home town of Birmingham. Is that what you always wanted to do?
TOYAH: No, I always wanted to act and sing. When I was about 7 my mother took me to see "The Sound Of Music" and I so loved the idea of an actress singing and I wanted to have both careers. But hold them completely apart. I wanted to be best actress in the world and most famous singer in the world. So to a certain level I’ve managed to maintain two careers separately. But I always wanted to do both.
CARL: With the acting you’ve been in some huge TV shows, massive films including one of my favourite films ever, the ‘79 "Quadrophenia."
TOYAH: Oh yeah!
CARL: Your character was called Monkey. What was the whole sort of experience of a big movie like that being filmed?
TOYAH: I love doing big movies coz they are … like standing on a hill with an avalanche coming behind you and you just running like mad to keep up with everything. I mean "Quoadrophenia" was massive and one of my most enduring memories apart from sitting in Sting’s bedroom learning Roxanne with him, learning the harmonies to Roxanne … er, was that you just couldn’t find food anywhere!
The whole of Brighton was completely overrun with extras and actors and wherever you went no-one believed you were in the film, they all believed you were gatecrashing and I can remember the enduring hunger of never be able to find food. So ... you often hear that the film industry isn’t as glamorous as it looks … well actually it not at all glamorous. But it’s incredibly exciting.
CARL: Yeah, just a mad time I would’ve thought, back in the -
TOYAH: Completely mad!
CARL: Yeah , late 70’s. And then it was the sort of punk scene as far as the music goes. It was the band named after you. Was that kind of your thing, “guys, you know, it’s got to be called Toyah?”
TOYAH: Well, we couldn’t come up with an alternative name and then you had Blondie being very successful which was Debbie Harry’s nickname. And Toyah was considered unusual enough to be a name that could front a band. So we just went with it. Coz Toyah has a meaning: Toyah is a native Red Indian name … from a tribe in Arizona known as the Toyah tribe.
And they were particularly known for the Toyah arrow which was a vicious little arrow that you couldn’t remove from the skin. So it just seemed appropriate to use that name and it was my birth name as well.
CARL: With the hit singles - quite a few singles before you hit the charts. Is that a hard thing to go through when songs don’t become hits straight away, do you sometimes think -
TOYAH: No, because when you release a song you believe in it and I think, you know, I believe just because something isn’t a commercial hit doesn’t mean it’s not great. When you look at certain acts like The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed in the beginning … Lou Reed didn’t have hits before "Walk On The Wild Side", but stuff he wrote before "Walk On The Wild Side" is his most interesting stuff.
So you know commercial success to me has nothing to do with something being powerful. So the singles I had out before "It’s A Mystery" I’m just as fond of as "It’s A Mystery" because … they… they influenced the music scene incredibly.
CARL: You mentioned "It’s A Mystery", I mean that was the big first … well the commercial success if you like in 81’, got to number 4. That must’ve been the time when it all went crazy for you -
TOYAH: Really crazy!
CARL: As far as the band went, I mean breaking the Top 5, it must’ve been an amazing feeling, listening to the charts because of course back then it was harder to get into the Top 5 than it is now?
TOYAH: Well, that’s it. In those days if you were in the Top 40, you had a hit. The Top 40 was so powerful. And if you got into the Top 100 in America, the Top 100 was powerful. Now you have to get to number one or everyone thinks you’re a failure! (both laugh) I’m not saying it was easier back then but you got a lot more respect for being in the Top 40 than you do now.
CARL: Ok. More in just a moment, after that breakthrough single “It’s A Mystery”
SONG: "It’s A Mystery"
CARL: Toyah, once that first hit came in the charts they just kept on coming didn’t they?
TOYAH: Yeah, I had consecutively 15 Top 40 hits. But … it’s kind of … "It’s A Mystery", "I Wanna Be Free", "Thunder In The Mountains" are the ones that are remembered outside my fanbase but my fanbase remember all 15 so that’s good.
CARL: Now, I’m sure a very proud owner, Toyah, of a Brit award (below). You won it in 1982. And it was called the British Rock And Pop Awards, it’s kind of been restyled as The Brits. Is it in pride of place, that Brit Award on your mantlepiece?
TOYAH: Hugely so, absolutely. Best female singer.
CARL: And that’s the one to get isn’t it?
TOYAH: It’s the one to get.
CARL: Reality TV, good memories I’m sure from 2003, almost 7 years ago, series 2 of "I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". I think it was Phil Tufnell who won it but you came sixth, didn’t you? Was that good fun doing the show?
TOYAH: It was really good fun. It was very different to the show you see in recent times because only the top three got to eat the bugs. So I was lucky, I only got put in a cesspit and I was only starved so much that I lost ten pounds. So I kind of came out of there thinking "Wow! What a great way to go on a diet!" But it was fun!
CARL: Yeah and it really is, I’m thinking anyway, they don’t secretly give you a hamburger after they’ve stopped filming or anything … you know you are just relying on rice and beans?
TOYAH: You’re sleeping out in the rain, you’ve got bugs all over you, you’ve got snakes and spiders that bite all around you. They do not take you to a hotel at the end of the day, you go to sleep so hungry you could eat your own fingers. And you smell bad!
Because they don’t let you wash (Carl sniggers) and the only way you can wash is either in a freezing cold stream … Because I thought it would be hot, I thought we’d have this wonderful Australian weather and it rained and it was miserable and it was cold. And you end up you know coming out emaciated and smelling bad!
CARL: Well, most people remember you from the 80’s, the singing days, it was a great look, huge orange hair, lots of colourful make-up but that was the 80’s wasn’t it Toyah?
TOYAH: Yeah, but everyone’s doing it today ...
CARL: Yeah, it’s - it’s … we’ll come to that in a minute, you know the fact that the 80’s are back big time. I always remember watching the Kenny Everett Show, that scene when you were chatting to him and your hair changed colour (below) -
CARL: Clever visual effects, do you remember that?
TOYAH: I remember it so well! I just loved doing the Kenny Everett show and I loved it when we moved on from that and I dressed as him and he dressed as me and he just gave the wackiest performance! (Carl laughs) It was great fun!
CARL: Yeah he was true legend wasn’t he?
TOYAH: He was.
CARL: When you perform now Toyah, obviously you’re in Guernsey next month for "The Best 80’s Party In The World Ever ... Part 2", is that the look you go with now, the big orange hair and everything or have you toned it down a bit -
TOYAH: No - I dress pretty outrageously but I dress outrageously for 2010.
TOYAH: It a very - it is a visual show but no, I’ve moved on from the 80’s. But the nice thing is the audience have just discovered the 80’s so they’re all there in their shoulderpads and dayglo.
CARL: Yeah, and people love dressing up, there’s been various 80’s gigs over here in Guernsey and people just love it -
TOYAH: It’s good fun, it’s really good fun -
CARL: Yeah -
TOYAH: It’s great to look out there and see 12 - year - olds dressed like Madonna in "Like A Virgin", they really go for it!
CARL: Mmm. So why do you think this 80’s revival is so big, I mean it’s always been big but now it’s just massive!
TOYAH: I think it’s because it was beginning of the video age so it’s the first time that music and fashion went in hand in hand. And it’s the first time that fashion season changed from being yearly to four times a year so every season had a new look. And I think young people love fashion and music and the 80’s really was about that.
CARL: And ska legends The Beat are also on the bill, have you worked with them before?
TOYAH: Yeah! I haven’t worked with them before but I’m friends with them so it’s going to be nice evening.
CARL: It will be like a reunion.
TOYAH: It’s a bit of a reunion, definitely.
CARL: And the new material. You did a new album couple years back, was that "In The Court Of The Crimson Queen?"
TOYAH: Yeah, that came out 18 months ago with my co-writer Simon Darlow who wrote Grace Jones’ “Slave To The Rhythm” . Now that went into number 2 in the iTunes in the rock chart but interestingly song off that called "Lesser God" is now being considered for the World Cup. And they’re definitely using the music from it but if they use the whole song it means the album is going to re-launched and Simon and I are going to be on tour for the next 5 years!
CARL: Wow! Well, good luck with that, hope it happens, yeah.
TOYAH: Thank you!
CARL: Well, it’s been lovely talking to you, I look forward to meeting you next month. I’ve still got the posters by the way that I had on my bedroom wall in the 80’s.
TOYAH: Oh, that’s nice!
CARL: I’ve kept them so I’ll bring them along to the gig and you can sign them for me?
CARL: OK! (laughs) We will see you in Guernsey, six weeks today, ten days after your birthday.
TOYAH: (thinks for a second) It is, isn’t it?
TOYAH: I hadn’t thought of it like that!
CARL: There you go, so we can have a birthday celebration for you as well, ten days late!
TOYAH: Thank you very much!
CARL: OK, "Best 80’s Party In The World Ever ... Part 2" on the 28th of May. Toyah, thank you so much for your time!
TOYAH: Big pleasure!
SONG: "I Want To Be Free"
You can also listen to the interview HERE