DJ: Toyah Willcox on the phone. Hello Toyah!
TOYAH: How you doing?
DJ: I’m not too bad. How are you?
TOYAH: I’m really good, thank you!
DJ: Good stuff, good stuff. Now you’ve been a TV, film and stage actress, you’ve worked on radio, you’ve done voiceovers and you’re currently singing as well. Now, when ... or before you left school did you plan to do all these or did you concentrate on one thing and sort of fell in the others?
TOYAH: No, I always wanted to sing and act. I actually started as an actress, moved to London when I was 18, joined the National Theatre and met a film maker called Derek Jarman who made "Jubilee" which was a punk movie.
And when I was doing that Adam Ant and I wrote song called "Nine To Five" which got released as a single. And I formed a band and started making albums while making movies. So I always intended to both act and sing.
DJ: How did you manage to balance the different disciplines of acting, writing, singing etc?
TOYAH: Well, I think acting is about real life so anything you do as a real person can tribute towards you as an actress but I … you never do one thing 100% of the time. There’s always kind of moments where you’ve got time off.
And I’m just not interested in time off, I get phenomenally bored if I have my own time and I like pressure and I like stress and like deadlines. So it’s always suited me to kind of work with both.
DJ: OK. And is … all this stuff you’ve done so far, what would you say has been your biggest achievement?
TOYAH: Erm, I don’t kind of live by that philosophy. I live very much in the present and in the present day and the moment because that’s what you’re living and breathing in your existence so I don’t kind of get up in the morning and think "ooh, wasn’t it fantastic in 1991?"
I just don’t do that, I just don’t look back. For me I’m really enjoying today because I run a record label, my band is out on the road, I’ve got a new album out with a band I have in Seattle called The Humans. It’s really really eclectic and busy and that’s exactly how I want it.
And, you know, I’m independent which is incredibly important to me, I don’t have some big corporation kind of phoning me up every day telling me where I have to be and what I have to do. So I feel very liberated in what I do. I don’t feel trapped by it. So you know if you ask what I’m enjoying in my life so far I just have to say today.
DJ: Alright, brilliant. Now you mentioned the magic word punk a little while ago. Erm, correct me if I’m wrong, punk seems to be a big part of your life? Is this right?
TOYAH: Well, I started through punk. Punk was what made me known to the public so I’m very respectful of it. Funny enough the real punks out there think I’m too middle class to be punk. But punk gave me every opportunity I had and when punk was around it made everyone acceptable.
You didn’t have to be an academic, you didn’t have to be able to play the violin or the keyboard or a guitar. If you had an idea then you had a place in the world of entertainment. And that was the wonderful philosophy about punk. I owe a lot to it.
DJ: Yeah. I had a little argument with my mother-in-law this morning. Because I was saying to her that ... she was saying "oh yeah, I used to listen to her back in the day, she was this big punk star, she’s kind of settled down a bit more now, she’s calmed down a bit more now, she doesn’t do punk anymore", and I was "she does! She does!" "No she doesn’t!" "She does!" Do you still do punk? Are you still a punk rocker?
TOYAH: I probably don’t fit completely into the ethos of punk. But I have a band called The Humans which is just two bass guitars and my voice. And if that’s the closest part of me to punk then that’s punk. It’s very out there with quite strange subject matters so it’s certainly isn’t commercial.
So what I think I am today is I’m a 52 year old woman who performs with the same instincts and the same fire and the same drive as I did when I was 19. I have my toes in the pool of punk.
DJ: Now like you said you’re very busy at the moment and your life keeps you busy. You’re doing personal appearances here and there or you’re in concert. During your personal appearances, this may seem like a really silly question but what do you do? On your website for example it says “Toyah live PA (live vocals to playback). What’s that all about?
TOYAH: Well, if I’m doing gay pride it means you sing to backing tracks.
DJ: It’s acoustic then … no, not acoustic! (gets it) Yeah yeah yeah …
TOYAH: You have your tracks, they go over the PA but they’re on CD so a lot of the festivals, the gay pride festivals can not afford the time to put the band on stage so you just go along and sing to what’s called your backing track.
DJ: Do ever worry about CDs skipping?
TOYAH: No, because you download them.
DJ: Wehey, that’s what I do with all my music, I download it!
TOYAH: Do yours skip?
DJ: No, mine’s all ... it’s all digital.
TOYAH: Well, there you go. I make sure wherever I go if I’m singing to a backing track it’s downloaded first.
DJ: The reason I ask is that every time I see someone on TV miming I always sit there and go: I want to see this skip, I want to see the reaction on the face, and what they actually do -
TOYAH: Well, it doesn’t happen that often does it? When you think about how many times people do mime, it hardly ever happens! (chuckles)
DJ: Like I said you’re also in concert. Is that … coz you’re doing bits here and there and everywhere at the moment … is that with The Humans? Or is that a different band?
TOYAH: No, no , I’m in concert with the Toyah band.
DJ: Ah, the Toyah band?
TOYAH: Yeah, that is kind of ... I play present material and also a retrospective of 32 years of being in the business. There is some cover versions, there is a lot of early punky stuff, and there is new stuff as well. The Humans won’t touring again, I don’t think, until March of next year.
DJ: OK. And if I understand it right your husband occasionally joins you on stage in concerts as well? Is that right?
TOYAH: Only with The Humans -
DJ: Is that just with The Humans is it?
TOYAH: Yeah, coz The Humans is very avant garde, it’s very off the wall and it’s a bit more him.
DJ: And that’s the same band where your … the drummer is the drummer from REM (Bill Rieflin, below with Toyah)? As well, is that right?
TOYAH: Yeah. But he plays bass in The Humans (chuckles)
DJ: (laughs) How do they feel about you nicking him? (with a mock voice) "We’re just going to borrow him for a little while, alright?!"
TOYAH: (with a mock voice) "Oh, OK!" I only get him when REM aren’t touring and I’m incredibly grateful when they’re not touring. In fact you can here a loud cheer coming from where I live in Worcestershire when I hear that they’re not touring coz it means that I have him for my band.
DJ: (laughs) Do they charge a finders fee for him?
DJ: Do you have any rituals you go through before you go up on stage?
TOYAH: Not so much rituals but it’s absolutely imperative that I’m silent before I go on stage. People talk to me too much or you know even chitter chatter, I will just not give a good show. I have to be silent and to focus. And even now today after performing some of these songs for 32 years I have to go on stage after a period of silence.
I couldn’t be in a bar or I couldn’t be in a meet and greet, interestingly REM before they go on stage do a meet and greet session. I don’t know how they do it because I can’t perform if people distract me. And I have such admiration for people who can do that but I can’t do it. So my ritual is silence.
DJ: A-ha. OK. And when you are in concert how long do you spend away from home?
TOYAH: Erm, not huge amounts. Next week I’m away for ten days. That’s about the most I’ll be away because I live in central England which means that I can get back to my base most nights. But no, I don’t go away for huge amounts of time. I’m due to do some work in the States with The Humans but we decided that we’ll only be away from home in three week periods.
DJ: OK. What do you do in your spare time as well because for example according to your website you’ve done a personal appearance on Friday and then you’re in St Albans on Thursday so unless there’s something not added there you’ve got this little bit of a gap now? Before your concert in St Albans? What do you tend to do?
TOYAH: No, there’s no gap. I’m filming for telly, I write and design programs for telly, I run a record company - (laughs)
DJ: Yeah OK, yes! (laughs)
TOYAH: I run a property company, I’m in my office 7 days a week.
DJ: OK. So your relaxing is working basically. Keeping yourself busy?
DJ: So your next gig is in four days time according to -
TOYAH: I forgot: I shot the new Humans video on Thursday and did all the photo sessions for The Humans album so a lot goes on behind the scene.
DJ: OK. You do keep busy don’t you?!
DJ: Now you’re in St Albans in The Horn in four days time, what can people expect to see from you and your band when you’re there?
TOYAH: It’s a lively rock show, we cover material from my first album right through up until present day so it’s a 32 year retrospective. It’s a very good fun show, very high energy, basically rock’n’roll really.
DJ: Superb. So there you go: Toyah Willcox is live, in concert, at The Horn in St Albans this coming Thursday from 8 o’clock. I believe there’s still tickets available. Now unless my colleague has got any questions he wants to ask you we’re going to play a little game.
2nd DJ: Toyah - we really want you to come to Milton Keynes actually!
DJ: Yes! Yes, that would be cool. We actually went to The Stables in Wavendon. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of it.
TOYAH: Yeah, I played The Stables exactly a year ago today!
DJ: Oh did you?! Coz we spoke to Corinne from Swing Out Sister and she was talking about the heydays of the 80’s. Bands in the 80’s. Who inspires you? The most from the 80’s? Alongside your tracks?
TOYAH: Oh …(thinks)
DJ: I suppose Siouxsie and The Banshees where out there, similar to what sort of music you were playing?
TOYAH: Oh, I don’t think she was similar really -
TOYAH: Just because we’re both a bit punky we got classed as similar. I really loved what Tears For Fears did in the mid to late 80’s. Erm, Teardrop Explodes I found phenomenal. And Human League. I really loved the Human League in the early 80’s.
DJ: Mmm. We had a text actually from a listener. Do you believe in ghosts?
Are you are spiritualist kind of person?
TOYAH: I’m not a spiritualist because they believe that the past, the dead people, exist in similar surroundings to what they lived in which I don’t believe in but I do believe in ghosts.
DJ: You’ve done "Most Haunted" (a show on Living TV about haunted properties) haven’t you?
TOYAH: I’ve done a lot of ghost programs. Yes, yes.
DJ: Also as well, going slightly away from that you appeared on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here once? Is that right?
TOYAH: In 2003, I was in the second series.
DJ: Was you (sic)? I tried googling it and I couldn’t see a name on there which is a bit weird because one minute it was saying yeah you were there and the next minute I couldn’t find your name. How did that go ... did you like that did you?
TOYAH: It was fine. What you’ve got to remember about this program it’s one of the most successful programs in TV history. So it’s not a question of liking it, it’s actually an incredibly important show to do! (chuckles)
DJ: Alright, yeah.
TOYAH: And we were getting something like 17 million viewers which is unprecedented nowadays. So it was an experience, certainly a very memorable experience.
DJ: Superb. Absolutely fantastic. Now we’ll play a quick game with you before we let you go. It’s the "Yes/No" game. Basically we’re going to have a conversation for 60 seconds and see how long you last without saying yes or no. Or yay or nay or yeah or nah or anything like that! Are you up for the challenge?
TOYAH: Yeah … YES! (laughs)
DJ: Stuart is going to keep score. He’s going to listen for your yes or no's because I’ve got to try and put you off and … well that’s it really. Try and keep track of what I’m doing because I might miss some of them. Are you ready Toyah?
DJ: Your 60 seconds starts now. You were born in Birmingham, is that right?
TOYAH: That is correct.
DJ: And you’re a Taurus?
TOYAH: That is right.
DJ: You’re married to Robert Fripp?
TOYAH: I certainly am.
DJ: How long have you been married to him?
TOYAH: (thinks) 25 years.
DJ: Really?! 25 years?
TOYAH: I had to think about that ...
DJ: Have you got any tips? For example I’ve been married a year now, have you got any tips to keep it going lively?
TOYAH: Always have patience with each other and don’t expect … don’t expect your partner to be a God! Because we are not.
DJ: What was the worst part of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here above)?
TOYAH: I really enjoyed my own company (laughs) You don’t get your own company in the jungle.
DJ: So it’s not like eating the widgety crubs, do you mind that, is that right?
TOYAH: I was very very lucky because I didn’t have to eat the widgety grubs. They actually starved us. I lost ten pounds in weight. And what’s really really interesting about the program and I’m not going to let you get a word in edgeways now, is that every person on that show has something like 32 cameras on them –
DJ: Your 60 seconds are up! Oh, well done! That’s cheating! I don’t think that’s allowed actually! There was a bit of hesitation there. Just a little bit but ... very good! You got 60 seconds, well done Toyah!
TOYAH: Have I done it?!
BOTH DJ’s: You’ve done it! 60 seconds is up!
TOYAH: Haha! I could’ve just kept talking, I wasn’t even thinking about it!
DJ: I thought you were going to keep going, one minute I was going to cut you down, "no you can’t do that!" You’re a star, we’ll let you do it, OK? Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure talking to you Toyah!
2nd DJ: Yeah, definitely!
TOYAH: Thank you very much!
DJ: And yeah, come to Milton Keynes. We want to see you over here and if you do we’ll come and watch ya! Definitely!
TOYAH: Alright, thank you!
DJ: Thank you! Bye!