PHIL: I am so excited about my guest on my show tonight. She is mid way through a very long tour for 2011. It is one of the most vibrant faces from the 80’s still going strong today. It’s Toyah Willcox! Hello Toyah!
TOYAH: (on the phone) Hello! Hello!
PHIL: Thank you for coming back on Gaydar!
TOYAH: How can I not?!
PHIL: Always a joy to chat to you! As ever so much to talk about – not enough time! It’s always the case isn’t it?
TOYAH: Well, there’s just generally not enough time is there? (laughs)
PHIL: I don’t know where you get your energy from coz you’re always doing so much stuff!
TOYAH: You know someone said to me today am I going to retire and it hasn’t even occurred to me …
PHIL: No, that’s a dirty word isn’t it?
TOYAH: A bit of a dirty word. I would just be twiddling my thumbs after two days.
PHIL: (laughs) Well, I’ve got to say I’ve just finished reading your book – I know it’s been out for years, the surgery book, the facial surgery book? (Diary Of A Facelift - below)
TOYAH: Oh, OK!
TOYAH: It’s a funny book isn’t it?
PHIL: Yeah. Loved it. Loved it coz it was written with a sense of humour – I was kind of feeling the pain a lot! I can’t believe I’ve just got round to reading it – it is a few years old isn’t it?
TOYAH: I so enjoyed writing it. It’s about six years old. But I laughed so much writing it it made my face hurt! It is a funny book! Because anecdotally it is quite a ridiculous subject and stories relating to plastic surgery do tend to be ridiculous.
PHIL: And I think you’re honest as well because a lot of people that were thinking of having the same thing probably would avoid it having it done – now they’ve probably done it and got the results! I think you’ve comforted them as well.
TOYAH: The thing is people get drawn to the book mid 40 onwards because they all start thinking about surgery and it’s not just women - it is men as well.
PHIL: Yeah, absolutely. Now - we’ve got to talk about the tour coz this is – I came to see you in St Albans.
TOYAH: Oh, did you?!
PHIL: I’ve been a life long fan of yours and went to see you - well, we’ll talk about this in detail later – you were the first person I saw live at the age of 12 actually at the Hammersmith Odeon.
TOYAH: Oh my goodness! Those were great gigs at that venue.
PHIL: It was amazing. St Albans I felt like I’d done ten hours at the gym! (laughs)
TOYAH: It was good fun! I love the Horn Of Plenty, it is such a brilliant venue. I mean it’s like playing in your living room.
PHIL: Yeah - it was intimate.
TOYAH: And very hot!
PHIL: It was very hot! I felt like I had been kind of exposed to this big gym workout, ten hours or something. But it was brilliant. I don’t think I’ve pogoed since I was very young.
TOYAH: It is unavoidable when you’re in a venue that size.
PHIL: Yeah. Did you enjoy it?
TOYAH: I loved it. I’m enjoying these gigs a lot because they are more intimate than the big 80’s shows. And we are doing stuff that is quite testing on us. And we’re doing it up close to the audience and it’s quite challenging and it’s great.
PHIL: It’s a real joy for the real hard core fans that have been with you from day one really, from the late 70’s coz it’s from the "Sheep Farming" to "Anthem" isn’t it, the tour?
TOYAH: The first three albums and it’s brought all those faces back into the venues. They really are the hard core punks that kind of moved into the New Wave era and they’re coming back and it’s great to see them all again!
PHIL: Do you know what, I loved it Toyah, was the fact that I used to follow you on tour back in the 80’s and there were people that I hadn’t seen for 20-25 years, probably more than that – and I saw them all again in St Albans, it was incredible!
TOYAH: It was quite remarkable because I was looking out and I’d think: "I really know that person - where do I know them from?" And then I realised it was about thirty years ago!
PHIL: It’s quite emotional, isn’t it?
TOYAH: It is amazing and I’m glad they’re still around. Sometimes they bring their own children with them which is … I find quite shocking! But you know all generations are welcome.
PHIL: I think it’s also a reminder that time goes so quickly, you’ve just got to embrace everything, haven’t you? Got to do it.
TOYAH: That’s it. Embrace it. Totally.
PHIL: Now we’ve got a bit of surprise for the London show, Friday the 17th June. One of my favourite theatres actually, you’ve picked the best theatre in London! TOYAH: It’s beautiful.
PHIL: It’s the Leicester Square Theatre. I saw "Taboo" there, the Boy George musical.
TOYAH: Yeah and that’s partly why I really want to play that theatre because it’s established itself as a good music venue and again it’s intimate. It’s only the one floor and everyone gets a really good view. And I want to do something slightly more theatrical which we’ll try and continue through the rest of the tour. So it’s quite an adventurous night.
PHIL: I think that’s suits you very well as well Toyah, because lyrically and I think a lot of your songs are theatrical – quite dramatic?
TOYAH: They’re very. And we’re adding songs off "Anthem" that have never been performed before.
PHIL: Oh, wow! I can’t believe that! That’s amazing!
TOYAH: So we’re really excited!
PHIL: Yeah! Is it quite surreal performing songs some of which you haven’t done for 30 years?
TOYAH: Not only have I not done them – I haven’t listened to them for thirty years!
TOYAH: And to sit down and decide what are going to be the penultimate songs, the songs that are going to make it onto the set list has been really difficult! I’ve chosen them by enjoying listening to them. So I’ve kind of put them on the hi-fi and thought "oh, that’s alright, I like that! I’d like to hear that myself" - so that goes on the set list.
PHIL: Presumably coz obviously we all evolve and as you get older you kind of change and you’re inspired by other things, these songs are going to be quite different? Done in a different way?
TOYAH: They’ll be the same arrangements, they will hopefully be more similar than not, I don’t want to re-invent them - especially "Anthem" because after so many artists in the last two years have been so dedicated to the 80’s sound - new artists - that I don’t want to be away from (that) for Leicester Square so we’re doing all the samples and everything that were in the album. So I want to suddenly surprise people that we’re actually a little bit techno.
PHIL: I read somewhere a few weeks ago that you’re digging out some old costumes. Are these going to be sort of re-made costumes?
TOYAH: No, they’re the originals and I’ve got to be really careful with them because the stitching is just starting to get a little bit kind of frail but I’ll have at least five and I have to wear the black core under garment so that the changes can be really quick. But no, they are original. I’ve been starving for a month!
PHIL: (laughs) Haha! Love it! You’ve been eating raw food haven’t you, I saw on Twitter?
TOYAH: I’m absolutely fine except when you get older your boobs get bigger (Phil laughs) and I can not shift the size of my boobs!
PHIL: Some people like that though!
TOYAH: I don’t! But you know if the boys like it that’s fine by me!
PHIL: I think some of the girls might like it too!
TOYAH: That’s fine by me too! Yeah, I can just get into the originals.
PHIL: Are these going to be the Melissa Caplan outfits?
PHIL: Coz they were the real striking Egyptian stuff weren’t they?
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s the Egyptian stuff.
PHIL: Brilliant. That’s really good to hear. And the tour closes in London - we have to mention that this is a year long tour isn’t it, as well?
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s been added to daily and we’re not only just doing Leicester Square in London, we’re going to be doing the O2 Academy in Islington in November, on the 5th of November.
PHIL: Yeah! Are we to expect fireworks for that?
TOYAH: Well, not inside! (Phil laughs) But hopefully by then we’ve really honed what we’re aiming to do. So that is the end of the tour.
PHIL: Brilliant. Also gay artist Andi Fraggs (on stage with Toyah in July 2012, below) is supporting you in London on that date?
TOYAH: I know! I’m really excited about that because of these costume changes and he is so theatrical –
PHIL: He loves you as well doesn’t he?
TOYAH: He’s perfect.
PHIL: Yeah. I started my own indie night –alternative 80’s night myself in London last Friday and he turned up actually. He’s a lovely guy and he is heavily influenced by you work as well, isn’t he?
TOYAH: Well, that’s perfect. I mean I love it. To have an electro singer and my fans are so supportive of the support acts, they love the support so Andi will have a great night.
PHIL: I think you’ve always had a really massive gay following as well. I remember St Albans just recently I was talking about that - half the crowd were gay I think and anyone would think it was Liza Minelli up on stage! (Phil laughs)
TOYAH: Oh! I mean that’s fabulous! I don’t think it matters and it shouldn’t matter, it shouldn’t be about …
TOYAH: Divide - at all. Because there’s some heavy punks come along and everyone just kind of - they’re involved in the memory of the night. So all generations welcome, all kind of preferences welcome. It’s not an issue and not a statement.
TOYAH: It is about individualism and that means everybody.
PHIL: I think that’s why the gay audience really love you as well because with gigs – gigs of yours - people feel welcome. They feel like even if they do look a bit strange, they’ve got the make-up and they’re very creative, they can feel like they’re not going get picked on because they’re part of the same family – sounds a bit cliched but –
TOYAH: No one will be picked on. My fans just don’t do that. And they’re not snobby and I think what is remarkable about the kind circle of my fans and myself is we tend to have a similar background that we have experienced bullying. We have experienced the feeling of standing outside from the others. Therefore they come to Toyah gigs and it’s family.
PHIL: Absolutely. I’d agree with you on that. Are you filming any of this tour? Because like I said my first concert was your "Warrior Rock" show which I still actually have dreams of, because I want to see it on a film and it wasn’t filmed was it, that Hammersmith Odeon?
TOYAH: No, it wasn’t. But we’re in negotiations to do a DVD probably at the O2.
PHIL: That’s brilliant! Because I know a lot of people who knew I was going to chat to you, they want that DVD in their grubby little paws!
TOYAH: Well, if it’s not the O2 it’s going to be a specialised venue specifically to film it and it will be kind of open to the fans as well.
PHIL: That’s great coz it really needs to be filmed. The St Albans show was just incredible. Do you think back - that 1982 show was – I think it was really a pinnacle wasn’t it of the time?
TOYAH: It was absolutely stunning. And that album, the "Warrior Rock" album, which was a double album – even today music critics resentfully say it’s one of the best live albums ever made. I suffer because I almost work exclusively in England and the reason I suffer is England is so snobby … the critics who get in free to everywhere just can’t bear to mention my name!
It’s fine by me – I make a great living and I have great fans and I’m inspired daily and I love my work. But it’s ironic that I’ve chosen to stay in this country - not leave it, not move away and I pay the price for that. So when it comes down to "Warrior Rock", I know it’s one of the best live albums ever made! And I’m confident about that and two fingers to everyone else about it really!
PHIL: Oh yeah! I think that probably makes you more determined and you know what, I think your band at that time were the tightest ever as well.
TOYAH: Oh wow what can you say? They were extraordinary! And I’m so relieved that Simon Phillips the drummer still tells people today after he’s played with Toto, he’s played with the biggest and the best and the most diverse – he still tells people to go back and listen to that album as a representation of what a live albums should be.
PHIL: I watched an old Youtube clip last night - The Wide Awake Club - I don’t know if you remember doing this - you had to make a candle out of a banana which you rolled in jam and nuts (Toyah sniggers) and then you had to stick it in a pineapple ring and there was this hysterical laughter from the TV crew, you were quite composed. If that was me I would’ve just been on the floor rolling around!
TOYAH: The thing is I don’t remember making it and I watched it about a month ago and I thought I really must’ve known what was going on (Phil laughs) because it is the most phallic …
I mean the cherry on top of the cake would’ve been if I took a bite of it!
PHIL: (laughs) I was king of waiting for that actually coz I remember seeing it at the time as a kid but obviously I’d forgotten about until I watched last night.
TOYAH: But also back then we did have fun and there was never – I mean we didn’t know about inappropriate behaviour with children back then. Because Tiswas and everything was about schoolboy naughtiness so it probably didn’t genuinely occur to me that it was utterly politically wrong.
PHIL: Coz you got flanned didn’t you on Tiswas (below) as well and you look like you were having a great time?
TOYAH: Oh, everyone loved Tiswas. Tiswas was just one great big party.
PHIL: It was a punk party wasn’t it?
TOYAH: It was a punk party. I mean anywhere where Chris Tarrant is is a party. That guy just doesn’t allow the air to be still. He’s fantastic. We’d just turn up and you couldn’t get us out of the building, we were in heaven.
PHIL: I think your face on the Wide Awake Club with the banana was just priceless!
TOYAH: Perhaps I should come on stage at Leicester Square and recreate that recipe?
PHIL: That would be hilarious!
TOYAH: In a little interlude!
PHIL: (laughs) You’re kind of like a schoolgirl who wanted to break free from your classroom?
TOYAH: The outfit I was wearing for that sadly got nicked from my one and only package holiday in Barbados in 1982. My suitcase got opened and that outfit was in there and I don’t have it anymore otherwise I’d put it on and make the banana phallicy thingy.
PHIL: It’s on Ebay somewhere! Oh, what a rotter! (Toyah laughs) Now you’re still doing mad TV. We caught you on "Sing If You Can" (below). How crazy was that show - with Keith Lemon?
TOYAH: Oh God I loved it!
PHIL: You were brilliant on that!
TOYAH: Well, thank you! You know I didn’t stand a hope in hell – I realised as soon as the audience came in and they were all Jedward fans and the audience were voting - I just knew I was dead in the water.
PHIL: (laughs) Well, I was thinking Toyah - are you mad doing this?
TOYAH: But I love things that are dangerous and catch you out and that’s why I did "Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". I just love the concept of it. Also, with "Sing If You Can" it was really important that you actually could sing and I enjoyed that even more.
PHIL: More of a challenge isn’t it I expect?
TOYAH: Oh, yeah! But Jedward never shut up! They just don’t draw breath!
PHIL: I kind of warmed to them because they do get ridiculed and I think they’re quite brave guys aren’t they?
TOYAH: I thought on Eurovision they were absolutely brilliant!
PHIL: They were brilliant - it was kind of Pet Shop Boys as well the whole visual thing going on?
TOYAH: The visual was the best of the whole night. I made my husband watch it. My husband, who is so critical, he’s been in the business for 40 years, if not longer –
PHIL: Robert Fripp.
TOYAH: Robert Fripp. He just said "that was really good."
PHIL: Now must mention gay photographer Dean Stockings. He’s got an exhibition hasn’t he which I think you’re opening?
TOYAH: I’m opening it on Monday the 20th, two days after Leicester Square.
PHIL: He’s pretty incredible isn’t he, he’s a talented guy?
TOYAH: He’s a fabulous guy and I kind of owe my re-invention in the last ten years to him because he’s made all the videos in the last ten years. Sean Chapman who he works with does all my images and make-up and stuff.
So I’ve worked with him very closely for a decade and I just adore his work. So the idea of this exhibition on the 20th is it’s a collective of photographers who are putting on the exhibition and everyone is welcome and I’m officially opening it between 5 and 7.
PHIL: That’s going to be a really good night as well because I think a lot of really creative and important people will be there as well, won’t they?
TOYAH: Oh, they will and that is – can you remind me where it is? Is it on The Strand?
PHIL: Erm, I think it is on The Strand and I think Crissy Darling, who we know on the scene in London, who wears the most incredible head gear as a part of being a hostess of night clubs, she’s ... I say she… he is going to be there as well. I have a tendency to call him she coz of the outfits he wears but -
TOYAH: He/She will forgive you.
PHIL: Yes! I’m sure he will! I was talking to him on the phone this morning when he knew obviously that I was going to be chatting to you. I’ve got a couple of questions if that’s alright Toyah?
TOYAH: Yeah, fire away!
PHIL: From listeners. One from Paul Stevens: What was the inspiration behind the "Anthem" track “I Am”? Of course these are the tracks, "Anthem", "Sheep Farming In Barnet" and "The Blue Meaning" that you’re doing on tour aren’t you?
TOYAH: Yes, “I Am” – the inspiration behind that was – the track arrived to me before the lyrics was written and it was a beautiful fluid track. And I just wanted to write about the fluidity of life and the connection of how everything floats and how time floats and all of that. So it was mainly about creating a lyric of that sense of water and the imagery as well. I think it’s a really beautiful track.
PHIL: I’ve got a little confession actually to make about that track because when I was kid at school – I think I was about 13 or something, 13 or 14 – I took that the lyrics of that track to my art class and the art teacher actually asked me which poet it was? He said it was incredible, so visual coz we had to kind of collect together some words which were really visual and that was the song I used.
TOYAH: Ah. You see back then I did write lyrics as … I did write them as poetry first and then kind of gave them the rhythmic structure they needed to be lyrics. But I think it was also slightly Pagan as well, the approach to it was kind of based in English Paganism.
PHIL: Conjurers up a lot of images.
TOYAH: It does.
PHIL: One from Vin here as well: have you ever considered writing a movie script? I would guess that it would sci-fi or horror?
TOYAH: It would – it would be one of those. No, I haven’t considered it coz scripts are a law onto themselves. When a script arrives on your desk, there is certain mindset you have to be quite apt at to understand how that’s going to made into something solid. And sometimes the best scripts have the least in.
And I wouldn’t know how to do that – I wouldn’t know how to make a script workable. So I would much rather stick to story writing and start delivering the novels that I’ve got piling up on my desk that are half finished.
PHIL: And for someone with dyslexia as well I think that’s a job in itself isn’t it?
TOYAH: But I think most writers are! See, I don’t think dyslexia is about book writing, book writing is about imagination so I do actually think most of the best writers are dyslexic.
PHIL: Ah, interesting. Can we talk about dance music coz obviously we play a lot of dance music here at Gaydar. You released a dance album called “Dreamchild” back in the early 90’s, mid 90’s …?
TOYAH: About '95. It’s been re-released, it’s on Cherry Red Records.
PHIL: And you worked with Tim from Utah Saints – he re-mixed one of the tracks?
PHIL: Do you have the desire to do that kind of thing again – we play obviously dance music here and we want to play your stuff!
TOYAH: Well, I’m writing at the moment with a DJ called Paul Masterson -
PHIL: Oh! Yomanda's Paul? Is that from Yomanda? I think he was massive on the gay scene about 10-15 years ago?
TOYAH: I hope it it’s the same guy -
TOYAH: Because we’ve been working via email and we’ve written a track called “Fallen” which I put the vocal down on at the end of the month and that is a dance track. And I send him the lyric at the weekend and he said this lyric is perfection.
PHIL: Oh, that’s really exciting.
PHIL: That’s really exciting! Maybe that could be a future Gaydar Radio anthem I think!
TOYAH: Oh, it’s definitely got an anthem in it!
PHIL: Stick it on the A-list!
PHIL: Listen Toyah, it’s been an absolute joy to talk to you again. You’re going to have to see us next time!
TOYAH: I will and thank you so much for talking to me and I can’t wait for Leicester Square and it’s going to be quite visual and the theme of the night is “Jungle.”
PHIL: Oh! Jungles Of Jupiter, maybe?
TOYAH: It’s tribal. It’s a tribal night.
PHIL: Brilliant. So that’s Friday 17th of June at the Leicester Square (Theatre) in London and the tour continues right the way through to November?
TOYAH: Yes, it does. The next venue is will be the Oxford Regent (sic, it’s “The Regal”) on the 2nd of July if you can’t get into Leicester Square - if the tickets have gone and you fancy a trip to Oxford. That’s on the Saturday 2nd of July. All the dates are on toyahwillcox.com but please put two L’s in Willcox or you end up in some far away southern American country!
PHIL: That does happen a lot doesn’t it? Obviously your name is spelled – it must drive you mad … people do that with me - that’s why they call me Double R Double T because it’s (mockingly) Marriott, two R’s Two T’s.
TOYAH: OK. I’ll remember that.
PHIL: Toyah, a joy to chat to you as I said and listen, best of luck with the tour and we’ll see you at the Leicester Square Theatre on the 17th.
TOYAH: Thank you! I can’t wait!
PHIL: Have a great show!
PHIL: See you!
SONG: "Latex Messiah"
You can listen to the interview HERE