WFMU 91.1 FM
JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY
DARK NIGHT OF THE
SOUL WITH JULIE
WFMU 91.1 FM
JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY
DARK NIGHT OF THE
SOUL WITH JULIE
JULIE: She’s a New Wave icon, an accomplished actress, an author, a speaker and a reality show star and of course a fabulous musician with 13 Top 40 singles in UK as well as 20 albums in her long career.
She’s getting ready to start a tour called “From Sheep Farming to Anthem” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her album “Anthem”. Please welcome Toyah Willcox. Hello Toyah!
TOYAH: (On the phone) Hello Julie! How are you?
JULIE: I’m fine! How are you today?
TOYAH: I’m really good! Here in England we’re still feeling really good about the Royal wedding. The weather’s been fantastic so it’s quite a feelgood country at the moment.
JULIE: Oh, that’s good! You watched it, didn’t you? It sounds like you really enjoyed it?
TOYAH: I spent seven hours watching! (laughs) I’m not usually a Royal watcher but this was so special.
JULIE: Did you have a gathering or did you watch it by yourself?
TOYAH: No, funnily enough I didn’t have a gathering. It was one the first days off I’ve had this year so I just stayed in bed.
JULIE: Well, that’s the way to do it! Stay in bed and have a little breakfast or whatever …
TOYAH: And watch someone else’s wedding!
JULIE: How did it compare to your own?
TOYAH: It was far grander! My own (below) was quite eccentric because my husband, who’s Robert Fripp, the guitarist - he’s quite reclusive and I’m very well known in England and someone, a member of the press, cottoned on that we were getting married in secret so when we left the church they were there ready to take a photograph of us and my husband did a runner! He disappeared and I didn’t see him again till the reception!
JULIE: So you did your ceremony and he vanished?
TOYAH: He vanished! So the Royal wedding was the perfect romantic - "the Prince saves his young girl" - type of wedding. It was just unbelievable.
JULIE: Yeah, that’s … there are people here that it was like a fairytale to them.
TOYAH: Well, even people here who aren’t pro-Royal and who are pro-marriage really saw it as something quite special and everyone entered into the spirit of it which I think made it even more magical.
JULIE: What did you think of Beatrice’s hat?
TOYAH: You know, I was looking at it this morning and it didn’t bother me at all because everyone in Westminster Abbey had this beautiful kind of English eccentricity about them. They all had quite strange hats on and I thought how wonderful that these new young kind of Royal blooded people are slightly eccentric. And I thought it was glorious and it didn’t bother me at all. I don’t know Fergie - the mum - at all but I know her sister Jane.
I’ve actually worked with Olivia Newton-John and for Jane for a hospital in Australia. And they are an eccentric family! So it didn’t surprise at all and I think hat’s off to Beatrice, excuse the pun! Because she dared to show that to the world and I don’t think she deserves the ridicule. I actually think she deserves a big pat on the back for being individualistic.
JULIA: That’s a good point! Did it remind you of any of the hats you’ve worn over the years?
TOYAH: I didn’t wear hats, I just had big hair!
JULIE: I’ve seen some pictures of you – some newer pictures where you’ve got like a big headdress?
TOYAH: Oh, well yeah, in recent years I’ve had kind of quite big headdresses on but 30 years ago I just had bright pink hair and it was massive! It was bigger than me! (Julie laughs) I’m not a very tall person but my hair would stand up about two feet! So I’m kind of used that kind of expression.
JULIE: You’ve always had fabulous hair. Did you colour it - did you cultivate your look already when you were in school still?
TOYAH: Oh yes! I was your typical rebel in school. Pretty soft by today’s standards but I went to a religious all girl school. It was Church of England, very very strict. We weren’t allowed to talk to boys if we were in school uniform so I started dying my hair when I was about 14.
I had blue hair and then I had yellow and green hair, then I moved onto pink which is far more flattering. But I was doing it at a time when people weren’t really doing that. It was considered so outrageous that taxi’s wouldn’t pick me and take me home, buses wouldn’t let me on the bus. People really had a problem with me.
JULIE: So this is really before the onset of punk rock?
TOYAH: Oh, yes. This was about 1974.
JULIE: Oh, my goodness!
TOYAH: Very early.
JULIE: So you were definitely ahead of your time, ahead of the curve.
TOYAH: I was ahead of my time and I was still in my early teens, I was 14 so people just couldn’t get a handle on it at all.
JULIE: What did your family think about it?
TOYAH: My father kind of, being a rebel himself, and a survivor of World War II, he was away for six years in the Navy so he’d seen anything and everything you could possibly see so he was quite accepting. My mother, who was a dancer who retired to have a family, just couldn’t handle me at all and there was a time when I was sent away to live with a Hindu family who took me under their wing and looked after me while my mother and I tried to sort our relationship out.
And they were fantastic. The mother of that family would lecture me and say I wasn’t to influence her daughters. Well, I mean the daughters were already influenced. There is a sense of freedom in England that no tradition can hold onto. Their daughters who could’ve had arranged marriages were just beyond saving (laughs). They were out there being worse than me! So it was it a very interesting period for me.
JULIE: Were you already pursuing the music thing? Were you writing songs at that point?
TOYAH: I was writing poetry. Most of the poetry that went onto an album called “Anthem”. But I’ve never really been a musician. I’m a lyricist primarily. I can sing melodies, I can sing a melody to someone and it can be a good complex melody but I can’t physically play it. So back then I was writing poetry and learning what I loved about a song. But I wasn’t really a musician.
JULIE: Who do you consider your musical influences?
TOYAH: Well, back then it was Roxy Music, Alice Cooper - who I think is the sexiest man on the planet!
JULIE: Oh, my goodness!
TOYAH: (laughs) I know! Davie Bowie, huge influence! Bowie kept me sane. The kind of middle glass girl in Birmingham in the early 70’s - when really all I was being educated to do was to get married young and have children - was pretty frightening to me.
When Bowie came along and he was so descriptive and so expressive it just gave me a sense of vocabulary I couldn’t find on my own. It gave me a lot of strength to just break away and move to London.
JULIE: That’s terrific. I know he was a big influence on another singer I’m very fond of – Kate Bush has mentioned him as an influence.
TOYAH: Kate comes and visits us here.
JULIE: That’s wonderful! I wish you guys would do a project together. That would be phenomenal!
TOYAH: Well, is she asked (laughs) I’d fall through the floor! The thing with Kate when she works, she works in an insular way with her team. She doesn’t like to be distracted by any other influences. And then we get to hear from her when she’s finished a project because she seeks kind of advice on who the best press are to talk to. Because she’s not a very public person –
JULIE: That’s the impression I get that she has a reputation, at least here, of being one of those people who doesn’t leave the house very much.
TOYAH: That is a true representation but she comes to see me in shows and she likes my husband a lot. And she’s incredibly connected with the arts. She loves film and theatre. But she just doesn’t like being photographed so that’s where the privacy is.
JULIE: Right. Yeah, I can understand that. I don’t like being photographer either! Back to David Bowie, he’s another one who is very much ahead of the curve as far the crazy clothes and the crazy hair so that could’ve also been a big influence on you?
TOYAH: Oh, huge influence. And the thing with Bowie, he never had a bad day- he never did an outfit where he went "oh, mistake!" Everything he did was a revelation and an epiphany. You’d just look at it and go "woohoo!!!" and you just felt so connected to the future. For me he never made mistakes in the 1970’s. It was such a glorious decade for him. And you never had to forgive him anything.
JULIE: Right. His Ziggy Stardust hair is not dissimilar from a lot of the hair you had? Similar colour –
TOYAH: It is similar except I have better hair! (Julie laughs) It’s been around longer and it’s good healthy hair!
JULIE: In addition to your music you’re an amazingly accomplished actress. Unfortunately a lot of your stuff doesn’t make it here as far as the television and movies and stuff. I saw "Quadrophenia" and I saw you in "The Corn Is Green" (above) with Katharine Hepburn.
TOYAH: Oh, my god!
JULIE: Which is fabulous film. Was that a television project?
TOYAH: It was by Lorelai productions in 1978. Katharine Hepburn and Geroge Cukor, the director, came over to England with Lorelai because they wanted to make "The Corn Is Green" (below), which is a Welsh classic play, in Wales. They were looking for two new young stars, a boy and a girl. And I auditioned with about 2000 young girls.
Katharine Hepburn took to me immediately when I did the first audition. I wore a wig because I was working at England’s National Theatre and even though I was a punk rocker with bright red hair having just been in a seminal punk movie with Derek Jarman called “Jubilee” I wore a wig that made me look like a normal everyday person.
So when I went to meet Katharine Hepburn the first time I wore this wig and she just took to me and I was called back the next day and I went back the next day without the wig. And when George Cukor opened the door to me he asked me if I’d like to take my hat off! I said "it’s not my hat, it’s my hair!" (Julie laughs)
He had this kind of look of “oh, what have I done!?” He took me to the lounge where Katharine Hepburn was on the sofa and he said "can you believe this girl’s hair, Katharine?" And Katharine got up and ran her hands and fingers through my hair and she just said "I wish I could’ve done that when I was your age!"
We had these great conversations and when she started out in theatre in Washington DC she had terrible reviews about her manliness and her angular features and her discordant voice. And those reviews came at a time when her mother always used to come and see her in productions and the mother wanted her to leave the business. And it really badly affected Katharine Hepburn (below) so her to meet someone like me, who was just always challenging establishment, we got on like a house on fire!
JULIE: That’s terrific.
TOYAH: I adored her.
JULIE: Did you and Katharine Hepburn become buddies?
TOYAH: I wouldn’t say we became buddies, we were working together every single day for about six weeks. And in that time we did eat together, we talked a lot, she’d always invite me to her dressing room in the morning when my make-up had been done and hers was being done and we’d just sit down and talk about what life was like for me as a young girl being a singer and what it was like for her as a young girl.
I wouldn’t say that we were buddies because she was exactly like Kate Bush – phenomenally private. So once the filming had finished I never met her again. But she very kindly wrote about me rather brilliantly in two of her biographies, her autobiographies. So I kind of made an impression there I suppose.
JULIE: Do you find that a lot of people didn’t take your acting seriously back then?
TOYAH: No, it was the opposite because I was nominated for awards and I was nominated for best newcomer awards –
JULIE: So they didn’t take the music seriously?
TOYAH: They didn’t take the music seriously and then suddenly, it was 1978 when I was working with Katharine Hepburn, and at that point I was the bright new young acting star being nominated for everything. Then four years later, three four later, I suddenly was commanding audiences - well, my largest audience was 12 million!
JULIE: For a concert?
TOYAH: It was a live BBC broadcast concert on Christmas Eve 1981. So even though people always found me kind strange, the only comparison really is Lady Gaga, I commanded such huge audiences it made people kind of take note I suppose.
JULIE: And it wasn’t similar to a lot of the music that was around back then - it was very, except for the punk rock which back then was never really accepted, probably more so in England than over here but it was probably still more fringe over there – certainly that early on so I think a lot of people didn’t quite get what you were doing.
With the wonderful fabulous outfits and the music that wasn’t necessarily always sing along or a dance kind of thing, it was much more artistic than that?
TOYAH: Well, they did get it because I was nominated the best singer in 1982.
JULIE: Oh, that’s terrific!
TOYAH: Oh yeah. I won a lot of awards - I was huge!
JULIE: I know that you are huge, I really don’t have a clear view of that because I grew up in the States.
TOYAH: Well, there you go, yeah.
JULIE: Yeah. Speaking of Lady Gaga – what do you think about her?
TOYAH: I think she’s amazing. Firstly she’s a great songwriter, she has a great voice and it’s so wonderful to see someone who is so fully fledged – the singer songwriter, musician. I’m a huge of fan of people like Tori Amos, and obviously Kate Bush and PJ Harvey and Goldfrapp. But what - for me - is so exceptional about Lady Gaga is you’ve got someone on a par with Elton John, who is just completely beautifully formed in her talent. I really enjoy everything she does.
JULIE: That’s terrific. What do you think of the outfits?
TOYAH: Well, you know this is a really interesting one because as a woman of 53 I can see that she doesn’t need the outfits. That her character is so strong but when I was her age I didn’t believe in myself enough to not have pink hair and not dress outrageously.
So as someone who’s twice her age looking at this remarkable talent I actually slightly prefer it when she dresses down a bit. But that’s purely because I see this exceptional human being. I think her outfits are great when they are those beautiful kind of science fiction moulded plastics - they’re my favourite, I love them.
JULIE: Not so much the meat?
TOYAH: No, I didn’t get the meat one (above) at all to be honest but I don’t think anyone did in England! (they both laugh)
JULIE: She is certainly huge over here, she is that huge in England right now?
TOYAH: Massive! Everyone talks about Lady Gaga every day!
JULIE: Yeah, she’s a spectacle, that’s for sure. What else do you listen to? Well, you said you like Goldfrapp?
TOYAH: Love Goldfrapp. I’ve loved them since … is it "Felt Mountain"? The voice it’s just so extraordinary and again beautiful writing technique. So a big, big fan. I mainly listen to people – women - like Goldfrapp, like Kate Bush – Is Tori Amos a big name in America?
JULIE: Yes, she is. She’s quite a big name. She has a huge excessive following.
TOYAH: I’m pleased because I think she’s great. The critics here give her a really spiteful time. But that gives me strength because they give me spiteful time too!
JULIE: Do you think part of that is because she’s American? An ex-patriot?
TOYAH: That’s just racist, no-one would stand up for that. I don’t know what it is. She just presses men’s buttons over here probably because she speaks out politically about women and has very strong opinions about politics which I think always riles men over here. A woman with a mind, what do you do with that? They prefer their women to be servile and horizontal.
JULIE: She gets kind of a bad rap from the men around here too.
TOYAH: Does she?! Oh my god, I’m so surprised!
JULIE: It’s more women and gay men who love Tori –
TOYAH: Well, they’re the best!
JULIE: Do you have a similar experience there?
TOYAH: Yeah, I’m just writing a lyric now for a guy called Paul Masters who works with Boy George so I’m totally in tune with my gay following!
JULIE: That’s great. Back to the acting thing. I read that you’re a big "Doctor Who" fan?
TOYAH: Huge "Doctor Who" fan! At one point KD Lang and myself were up to play the first female Dr Who. That was the late 1980’s, early 1990’s.
JULIE: I can’t picture KD Lang! (laughs)
TOYAH: I know – it’s an interesting one isn’t it! I think she could do it brilliantly. But it didn’t happen and I remain eternally optimistic that one day I might get to be in this brilliant series. It’s huge over here and it always has been huge. When I was a child I used hide behind the sofa and watch it, extreme feelings of terror running through me. I was so scared of it. But now I just think it’s really magnificent.
JULIE: It would be wonderful to get you a little guest starring shot –
TOYAH: Oh, I don’t want a little guest starring – I want the big job! I want to be the Doctor!
JULIE: That would be fabulous, definitely it’s time for a woman to be Doctor Who. I was also very happy to see you – I’m a “Secret Diary Of A Call Girl” (Toyah with Billie Piper as "Belle", above) fan and it was so lovely to see you appear on that show as her mum. Are there any more “Call Girl” appearances coming up?
TOYAH: I only did – I did the first series and then the second series the family were in the first episode and then it went very “young”. It’s as if the exec said they only want people under 30 in the programme so the family do not appear again. In the second series it’s quite a funny scene, it’s a nightmare scene but they’ve finished filming here now as well.
JULIE: The current series has pretty much just started here and they keep giving her – they gave her a teenage girl to hang around with, it’s like she’s too old now.
TOYAH: Yeah, that’s when the family started to disappear. I was in on the readings for that series. You all sit around a table, the cast and you read through each episode and I was there when the young girl was introduced. You could see the writing on the wall! (laughs) "Right, OK, anyone over 30 can leave the room now." (laughs)
JULIE: (laughs) It’s such a shame. It’s very much that way here in the US too and you always hope that other countries would be a little more accepting.
TOYAH: Well, the BBC here has had a lot of public arguments about the fact that they tend to get rid of women over 40. There’s been a lot of criticism and I think they’re trying to make a huge effort to reinstate women from each decade. They’re more interesting. I don’t watch anything if there is no-one from my age group in it. I’m not interested. I think the BBC is trying to address it.
JULIE: Right. Well, there is an older character, an older female character, I can’t remember her name, on "Dr Who", has a lot of scenes, she’s semi his love interest I think.
TOYAH: It’s not his –
JULIE: No, not his companion, there’s Alex something or other –
TOYAH: Oh, she’s wonderful!
JULIE: Yes, she’s on the show.
TOYAH: She’s extraordinary! She as a person in real life can speak five languages and has diploma in ancient Greece. She’s just remarkable!
JULIE: And you’ve also done a lot of reality television?
TOYAH: Well, in England reality television is all there is to do! (laughs) I mean it’s ludicrous over here! Every other program is a reality program!
JULIE: It’s the same here and unfortunately it’s killing scripted television. You did “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!”?
TOYAH: Yeah, did that in 2003.
JULIE: That’s a while ago. Where did they stick you?
TOYAH: We were in the – we were in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the rain forest.
JULIE: How did you manage that – did you enjoy it?
TOYAH: I can’t say I enjoyed it but it's one hell of a life experience. You were genuinely locked in the jungle. Do you have an American version of this?
JULIE: We did, I don’t think do any more but did for a while.
TOYAH: They genuinely lock you in the jungle and starve you. So it’s quite an phenomenal experience.
JULIE: It’s a "Celebrity Survivor" –
TOYAH: "Celebrity survivor". 17 million viewers in England - in Great Britain so it’s big big show. It was absolutely fine, I have no regrets about doing it and I don’t feel it was life changing but it was exceptional.
JULIE: Do you consider yourself an outdoor girl?
TOYAH: Yes, I am an outdoor girl, definitely. Bearing in mind that I’ve lived for 25 years with an indoor husband!
JULIE: (laughs) Somebody has to go out!
TOYAH: He is really reluctant to go out and if it’s raining he won’t even get out of bed. I love being outdoors.
JULIE: If you hide in bed every time it rains in Britain, you’re not going to be out much! (laughs)
TOYAH: Well, that’s true!
JULIE: You also did something - going back – you mentioned Olivia Newton John, another woman I’ve been listening to my entire life. You did a walk to Beijing with her?
TOYAH: Yeah. That was four years ago. We were flown out of Beijing. There was Olivia Newton-John, the sister of Kylie Minogue - Dannii Minogue and Jane Ferguson,who’s Princess Fergie’s sister - was the main organiser. We were walking to raise money to build a cancer hospital in Australia.
And it was phenomenal, it was a great experience to go into the kind of Mongolian desert where the wall starts and just be walking desert day after day, day after day. And the wall at that point is only mud and straw, it’s not a massive brick wall that you can see from outer space. It was a fabulous experience.
JULIE: So it was basically a walk along the wall?
TOYAH: The idea was a walk along the wall but the wall was so big we only had two weeks to do it in, that we flew, we had five flights along the wall, right into deep China. Right up to old Tibet. As you probably know Olivia Newton-John is a Buddhist so we asked permission to be able to pray in some of the old Buddhist sights.
The Chinese were incredibly friendly and hospitable and they allowed us to pray. They could’ve stopped us – they took and showed us Buddhist caves and things like that. They were fabulous to us.
JULIE: Sounds like such an exciting experience. You never stop, do you? (laughs)
TOYAH: I don’t stop because life is short and as you get older time goes quicker, it speeds up! I’ve no interest in stopping, I don’t feel I’ve arrived anywhere. I have a permanent feeling of "well, that was the journey, I don’t think I’ve arrived! What shall I do next?" It’s quite an odd feeling so it spurs me on.
JULIE: Do you ever go on holiday?
TOYAH: No, I don’t but will next week. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary, it’s my husbands birthday –
JULIE: And your birthday-
TOYAH: And for the last six months we’ve been nursing my mother who has cancer and we’re having a week off. A week of respite. So we – I have a home in France, we’re going there and the telephone will be turned off.
JULIE: That’s wonderful. A little second honey moon action I guess?
TOYAH: Ah! We need it! It’s been a long hard slog so I’m looking forward to it.
JULIE: After 25 years people are still saying it will never last, right?
TOYAH: Yeah, everyone’s still cynical!
JULIE: That’s so funny. It is a very unusual pairing, but why would you say that it’s not going to last. It’s cruel! And obviously it has stood the test of time.
TOYAH: For me, as you say, the test of time is there and if people want to be cynical then that says more about them than it says about my relationship. So I tend to just ignore those kind of people anyway. They’ll move onto someone else to be spiteful to. I just don’t give them much time.
JULIE: Right. I find very interesting that you were very big in England and Robert is very big here. Have you ever played in US at all?
TOYAH: No, I’m playing in September.
JULIE: Is that the House of Blues gig?
TOYAH: Possibly, yes, there is that as well. My band The Humans (below) are about to sign a contract with a record company based in New York.
JULIE: Oh, wonderful!
TOYAH: I’m not allowed to say who it is yet. And we will be touring in September.
JULIE: Through the US?
TOYAH: East and West coast.
JULIE: That’s wonderful! Maybe we can actually have you come in while you’re here?
TOYAH: It would be a pleasure!
JULIE: Awesome. It’s well overdue for you to play here –
TOYAH: Well, it’s about 30 years overdue!
JULIE: Yeah! You don’t have commercial name recognition but you do have huge following here -
TOYAH: Well, if I have only you it’s worth coming over!
JULIE: (laughs) I had mentioned you on Twitter and people I guess were doing searches on your name and found you and started listening to my show so there you are! People here who are very committed and who have been listening nearly as long as I have.
TOYAH: Well, that’s fantastic because hopefully around September/October I’ll come over and do the Toyah concerts which is the first three albums.
JULIE: Oh, wow! That’s wonderful!
TOYAH: And then we’ll do The Humans concerts as well. The Humans is myself, Bill Rieflin (below on the left) who’s been drumming in R.E.M for the last 7 years but he is a multi-instrumentalist so in The Humans he plays bass and keyboards. So basically The Humans is three people, there’s Chris Wong (below on the right) on bass, Bill on everything and me on vocals. We are going to come and tour our new album which is called "Sugar Rush".
JULIE: Right. And Robert is on the new album as well, right?
TOYAH: Robert is on the new album but Robert doesn’t tour anymore.
JULIE: He doesn’t tour – he did play not too long ago in downtown New York, I think just by himself?
TOYAH: Yes, doing “Soundscapes”. That was his last ever live appearance.
JULIE: Really? You don’t think he’s ever going to do it again?
TOYAH: I’ve heard this about every two years (Julie laughs) in the last 25 years –
JULIE: So he’s like The Rolling Stones – he has retired every couple of years?
TOYAH: Well, with The Humans he liked what we were doing so he turned up at the studio and joined in. So as long as you don’t hem him in and corner him and trap him –he gets involved.
JULIE: It needs to be his idea?
TOYAH: Yes. With us playing in America - say we go down a storm, he’ll be there!
JULIE: Right. There was a story - were you in Estonia when you put that band together?
TOYAH: Yes, the President of Estonia phoned up Robert and asked Robert to play at his birthday party four years ago and Robert said no. (Julie laughs) So I phoned up the embassy and said I’ll put a band together and write the music especially for the President and they said yes.
They flew myself, Bill Rieflin, Chris Wong – out to Estonia a week before the actual performances and we wrote 45 minutes of material, ended up touring Estonia to sell out venues and performed a private performance for the President. He loved it so much that we then flew straight to Seattle and recorded it all in Seattle. And released the album dedicated to Estonia.
JULIE: How did you end up recording that in Seattle?
TOYAH: Because Bill lives in Seattle.
JULIE: Oh, I see, OK. You've still quite a following overseas – do the Angels and Demons still hang around outside your shows?
TOYAH: The Angels and Demons have turned up at my last four shows because I’m performing those critical first three albums. So I was playing a venue in Birmingham which is in the middle of
JULIE: And your home, right?
TOYAH: It’s my home town and I looked out over the audience and I recognised virtually 80% of the audience.
JULIE: Wow! That’s fantastic! Are there some new young ones as well?
TOYAH: There’s a lot of new young ones. For some reason Florence and The Machine have named me as an influence and Marina and The Diamonds and quite a few other people recently have named is as an influence and it’s brought in a very very young audience for me.
JULIE: That’s terrific. How do you feel about the old material now?
TOYAH: It’s fun, I can see why it’s not mainstream! But it’s really great to perform live, it gives you something to think about. None of it is predictable. I did learn to sing within a four bar structure - until about ten years ago I used to sing cross bars and just improvise so to relearn this material and to perform as it was is quite demanding in many ways. And the subject matter is quite bleak and gothic so it’s intriguing to perform it now.
JULIE: You’re digging out some of your old outfits – do they still fit?
TOYAH: Yes! They still fit. I’m digging them out for a show in the center of London at the Leicester Square Theatre (below) -
JULIE: Yes, I’m hoping to come out to that one!
TOYAH: For that show I’m going to have full hair, full make up and costume changes -
JULIE: That’s definitely the one I need to see then!
TOYAH: It’s the one to be at.
JULIE: Are there any songs from that time or any albums that make you cringe when you hear them now?
TOYAH: “Bird In Flight”, which is probably one of the most popular songs with all of the fans, makes me completely embarrassed.
JULIE: That was one of the singles, right?
JULIE: Was it one of the "Four From Toyah" ones or –
TOYAH: No, it was single, I think it was a double A-side with “Tribal Look” about 1979. And it’s probably the worst lyric I’ve ever written!
JULIE: (laughs) So you won’t be doing that one?
TOYAH: Oh, we do it and they go mad!
JULIE: Right! That’s the hit and you’ve got to do it?
JULIE: What was the biggest hit you had in England? Was it "Danced"?
TOYAH: It was a song called “It’s A Mystery” –
JULIE: Oh, yes - yes.
TOYAH: Which went gold many times over. That was probably a biggie.
JULIE: Just listening to your records not knowing what charted and what didn’t, I always thought that “I Want To Be Free” could’ve been a fabulous hit. Was it?
TOYAH: It was massive.
JULIE: I do that, that’s the one song of yours I see in
TOYAH: Aha! SingStar have just licensed it off me so it’s going in all the karaoke –
JULIE: I do that on a regular basis and people are like "I don’t know that song! It’s really cool!"
TOYAH: Oh, brilliant! Well, that song was a huge hit virtually everywhere but America.
JULIE: Does it frustrate you to have not really broken here?
TOYAH: Um, yes and no. Because I’ve never gone out and spent time and worked the market. I’ve always been a bit of home bird being mainly based in England. It’s my own fault. Really I would love to be in America acting because I love your drama and I love your films a lot more than I do English stuff.
But that’s because your drama is so broad and its spectrum I really think it’s fabulous. I still have enough energy to bring The Humans out there and make a go of it.
JULIE: That’s going to be so exciting and you may hook up with some film people while you’re here - certainly in LA.
TOYAH: I’m going to try! (Julie laughs)
JULIE: I also know you played, I’m not quite sure how long ago it was, I never notice the dates on the articles I read … you played the Cavern Club?
TOYAH: Yes, about two months ago.
JULIE: That must’ve been so exciting and there’s a brick with your name on it?
TOYAH: I was so honored because a lot of the time I just get ridiculed the whole time in this country. Partly ridiculed because I’m a household name which is always a problem with people here. But I arrived at the Cavern and they said "would you come outside with us." These were the organisers.
They took me to the Beatles museum where there is a wall of fame and they said "we want to present you with a brick in the wall." Next to Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant and Robert Fripp. And I was just so bowled over! It’s the first time I’ve been shown any respect as a musician in about 30 years! It really moved me and the concert itself was just mind blowing! It was a great day.
JULIE: In a place with so much history.
TOYAH: Ah! Just brilliant! Brilliant!
JULIE: You say they give you a hard time over there – do you think that the English are resentful of success?
TOYAH: Success tends to be a problem for people in the long term here. They're just snobby. For instance The Humans played last year in London and Robert was guesting with us. The reviews said that this some of the most exciting stuff they ever heard - Robert’s playing at his best and writing at his best, this is The Humans ... Well, I wrote it!
JULIE: They just overlooked you entirely.
TOYAH: They just overlook you.
JULIE: Oh, my goodness!
TOYAH: And they overlook you deliberately and insult you.
JULIE: Do you think a lot of that, even in this day and age, is sexism as well?
TOYAH: Probably a little bit. I mean I don’t think anyone would put their hands up and say "oh yeah - I’m sexist!" It’s just snobbery.
JULIE: I know it’s really hard for female musicians. When I first got back to Kate Bush again, the “Kick Inside” album, I think she was 19 when that came out and she of course wrote all the songs and I had a friend of mine say "she didn’t write the songs, you know David Gilmore and one of those guys wrote the songs." I was like … how can you say that?!
TOYAH: I know.
JULIE: It’s hard to believe!
TOYAH: But Kate doesn’t get any ridicule, she’s just loved all the time.
JULIE: Well, that’s good. I’m sorry that you don’t get that kind of respect. I certainly have a lot of respect for you.
TOYAH: I do get it from my fans and that’s all that matters.
JULIE: Yeah, it is. I know you’ve got quite a devout presence on Twitter (below with her blog). Are you fan of the social media thing?
TOYAH: I don’t … You’re going to think I’m awful … I send the messages out, I pre-post them but I don’t do any social networking at all because I wouldn’t be able to write lyrics, I wouldn’t be able to write my books - I have to learn a phenomenal amount of music. I’ve just finished a Beatles compilation album with Chris Neil who is Celine Dion’s producer. I’ve just finished that this week.
JULIE: You said you did two songs?
TOYAH: I did two songs solo and guested on another song.
JULIE: With Kim Wilde, right?
TOYAH: Yeah, I’m just doing the backing vocals in the end. It’s a finale song on the album – everyone on the album does the backing vocals in the end. But I couldn't work at the rate I work if I was socially networking. Just can’t do it.
JULIE: And you do the occasional blog as well?
TOYAH: I do the blog, I send out the messages, and I help run the site but I can’t communicate with people 24 hours a day. I’m running an office from six in the morning till about 8 at night so you know, I’ve got to be where I’m needed.
JULIE: Do you feel it’s a good source of visibility these days?
TOYAH: Twitter is vital. If you want to walk up on the night, you need a few hundred people walking up to a venue, you’ve got to be on Twitter and Facebook. That’s where music is happening now.
JULIE: Right. Are you at liberty to say which Beatles songs you recorded?
TOYAH: I’m not allowed to say.
JULIE: Do you know when that’s going to be coming out?
TOYAH: I hope very soon, it’s a fantastic album! It’s mainly well known singers in Europe but I think it will cross the Atlantic.
JULIE: Just the fact that it’s Beatles, really …
JULIE: That gives you an instant market anyway.
JULIE: And Kim Wilde is another fabulous English singer who’s never really – she’s had one hit here, she did “You Keep Me Hanging On”.
TOYAH: Well, she’s had one hit more than me then! (Julie laughs)
JULIE: Well, maybe your time is coming. When does The Humans album come out?
JULIE: September. Oh, my goodness! It’s so far away!
TOYAH: Not that far away in terms of getting a release ready though.
JULIE: Right. You’re getting ready to go to Seattle and work on that, right?
TOYAH: I’m in Seattle in two weeks filming a documentary for the Discovery Channel. That gives me chance to get things done with Bill. But it’s all mastered and finished and all ready to go anyway.
JULIE: Right. Thank you so much for spending a little time with us. Happy anniversary to you and Robert. Happy birthday to both of you. Thank you so much, Toyah!
TOYAH: That’s a pleasure, Julie.
JULIE: Thank you so much.
TOYAH: Okey doke.
You can listen to the interview HERE