AT THE HMV INSTITUTE
AT THE HMV INSTITUTE
SONG: Race Through Space
DAVID DAVIES: You’re going back into the past and playing all the old songs again?
TOYAH: It’s the 3oth anniversary of a platinum album I had called “Anthem” which was just massive worldwide. And rather than just play "Anthem" I wanted play the build-up to it because I was such a different person back then.
And also everything back then tended to be very very weird. I wanted to be weird, I wanted the lyrics to be weird, I’d dress weird, sounded weird. So I just wanted to include all three albums because I think it makes the evening more diverse.
DAVID: How did you get your break back then? We’ve got a young girl who’s come from Germany, 16, who’s playing tonight (Toyah's support act at the gig) and it’s her first chance of playing in front of a crowd -
TOYAH: Back then and we’re talking 33 ... 34 years ago the pub circuit was healthier than this kind of venue circuit. You wouldn’t play a nightclub back then, you’d play a pub. And thousands would turn up! You could do 40 dates in a tour only doing pubs. And you would play to … almost 120 000 people.
It was ridiculous how many people you could play to. Slowly pubs have changed their position in culture. I think that makes it harder for young bands to get established. You know - it makes it necessary tonight to have Vera on - it’s just fabulous. I don’t know how else she could get on in front of an audience without a record deal.
DAVID: This is the test.
TOYAH: This is the test. I think it’s very brave of Pete Newton as a promoter to do that. She’s doing it front of the right audience because my audience love to support the support. They are supportive of the supports. I think they’ll love her. And they will really be listening and support her which is nice.
DAVID: So have you got any advice for Vera or anybody who’s trying to make it in music? What would you say?
TOYAH: Oh God - I don’t want to be pessimistic because it’s such a difficult time. I think the saviour as well as the enemy is the internet. I think it’s so important to put yourself out there on Youtube. Pick a song that you don’t mind people listening to for free, put yourself out there. And then hopefully you’ll get enough interest that you can go to a promoter and say "I’ve had 40 000 hits on this, let me come and play your venue."
DAVID: That just shows how different things are from when you made it?
TOYAH: Ah, totally different! I can’t tell you how different! Everything when I was working was word of mouth. There was no mobiles, no internet, it was purely word of mouth on the street. And that was incredibly powerful.
SONG: Good Morning Universe
DAVID: How’s the internet changed your career since it developed?
TOYAH: It’s given me complete autonomy which I really like. That’s always suited me -
DAVID: You’re in control now rather than the record label?
TOYAH: Yeah. I’m in control and the other side to this is I am in my office 14 hours a day doing contracts and doing licensing but it means that I do mail order through the internet, I can post the video on the internet, I can put things out there that would’ve taken a three week tour 35 years ago.
DAVID: Who would’ve thought that being a musician entails so much sitting down at a computer, do you know what I mean?
TOYAH: Oh God, yeah. And the paperwork is still there. What I am doing today with my albums took a team of 10 people two years to do 35 years ago. I can now do it all in one week.
DAVID: So do you do it all on your own or do you have someone helping out?
TOYAH: I have. It’s really important that once you’ve got any form of success that you’ve got a really good book-keeper, you’ve got to stay on top of it. Because once the taxman whiffs success they’re on top you like a –
DAVID: You can’t get away with -
TOYAH: Well, you can’t hide anything and you’ve just got to show that you can run it.
DAVID: They’re out to get you?
TOYAH: They’re out to get you and you’re in big trouble. But I just have a team. I have a web manager who also acts as my kind of absent PA, and my web draws in a fantastic amount of work. I mean I’m well into quarter of a million on my web alone per year. I have a contact on my website for personal appearances.
So my web manager runs me visibly as a PA and as a web manager and then I have a book-keeper who is like an absolute, I was going to say she’s like a nazi but that’s not the right thing to say … but she’s really strict. I have five agents. Now the agents book me and do contracts but I still have the autonomy and final say. No-one signs anything other than me.
SONG: I Want To Be Free
DAVID: Are you happier with how the music industry is for you now than you were then? Back in the day?
TOYAH: Well, back in the day I needed the industry. I was young, I knew nothing, all I wanted to do was to be famous and to write songs and to perform songs. I couldn’t run with the knowledge that I run the company now, it’s taken all this time to do it. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along and I’m a really keen learner. And I still don’t understand how publishing works, I really don’t understand it at all!
But also being a 52-year-old there is no way I could start in the business now at my age. I work on what I am and what I’ve established through the past. I use that and I use the power that that has. And that’s going to diminish. By the time I’m sixty that’s going to diminish. So I’m making the most of it while I can.
DAVID: That’s why you’re re-visiting the old stuff tonight. Kind of you can’t forget where you come from? Is that what this is all about tonight?
TOYAH: Well, absolutely. I’ve sold hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of albums so I’m performing really to my age group but also there’s a new generation kind of college kids out there that are discovering me thanks to people like Marina and The Diamonds and quite a few others who’ve cited me as an influence. Even the Ting Tings. So those people citing me as an influence - I mean it’s done me so much good. So I’m doing all that material bearing all that in mind.
DAVID: So what artists are you into at the moment? Is there anyone in particular that you really think is going to be the next big thing, that you’re backing up?
TOYAH: I’m not really good with new stuff, I’m crap on new stuff!
DAVID: Yeah - me too!
TOYAH: But I’m a die hard Muse fan. Absolutely die hard. I tend to love most women I hear, I think there’s some fantastic women writers, women performers out there. So interesting. And I can now stand back and look at the dynamics of fame, look at (Lady) Gaga in comparison with Madonna. Gaga is evolved as a voice and a songwriter and a person of image, so evolved. And then you look at Florence and The Machine and you look at The Diamonds, how they’re all evolving so quickly –
DAVID: Do you think this is a lot to do with artists themselves or do you think it’s the record company that’s kind of –
TOYAH: Well, it’s interesting because record companies don’t know their place at the moment. I think when you look at certain artists they’re achieving staggering fame. When you at Adele, it is world wide fame. You get a very few artists nowadays what I call regional, just England or just Europe. The ones that tend to be just UK have come from X-factor. They don’t cross over the Atlantic.
So I think how do regional artists work because I’m a regional artist, I’m mainly UK and Europe – I never crossed to America. So I kind of – I’m aware of my territories. But you were asking about record companies. I think they can only really deal with major major names now. I think the smaller names will -
DAVID: There’s no room for the smaller names. I think you’ve got to be the big fish now otherwise it’s hard to break on there –
TOYAH: The internet I think makes the smaller fish survive, I really do. You can build your fanbase on the internet. I think there is such a thing as the pop-up gig, if you can find a pub that would take you. It could be that music will be saviour of the pubs because pubs are closing ten a week. You know perhaps if we got that as a live music circuit again, it might bring back to the music business what punk did. Punk was so instant. You could do a gig anywhere.
DAVID: It was new at the time as well –
TOYAH: Thousands would turn up. Perhaps we need –
DAVID: We need something new and exciting that will change everything!
TOYAH: Absolutely. Perhaps Pete Newton’s the man!
SONG: Blue Meanings
DAVID: So you’ve worked with Pete before haven’t you?
TOYAH: I did the Asylum last year and I did The Robin.
DAVID: So how is it to work with Pete and (?) ?
TOYAH: They’re very very conscientious, I’m so touched by the fact that they’re putting Vera on tonight. I think their heart is totally in the right place. You come in, everywhere is clean, the rider is there. I can’t tell you! They’re the only people that put the rider out in the dressing room. They’re good and they’re positive and you see them. I mean often I do a gig and you don’t see the promoter.
DAVID: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
TOYAH: Good luck to them because I think they love music and you really need to working with people who love music, who aren’t exploiting you. They definitely love their music.