THE BBC RADIO MIDLANDS
LATE SHOW WITH
THE BBC RADIO MIDLANDS
LATE SHOW WITH
KEITH MIDDLETON: My next guest went from Punk Princess to High Priestess of TV and is an equally gifted performer. Charismatic, outspoken and impossible to categorise. She’s one of Britain's iconic household names, an award winning rock legend as well as a much loved actress and music composer.
And guess what? She’s coming up our end as she confirms a special six day tour one of them being The Robin 2 in Bilston. It’s called “The Changeling Resurrection 2012 Tour" and it’s my pleasure to welcome back to the show Toyah Willcox! Hello!
TOYAH: (on the phone) Hello! What an introduction!
KEITH: How about that then!
TOYAH: Really excellent!
KEITH: And I’ve still got me teeth in!
TOYAH: I have no idea who you’re talking about! (Keith laughs)
KEITH: How are you, flower?
TOYAH: I’m really good thank you, I’m really good.
KEITH: Lovely. The last time I spoke to you we were talking about the “Sleeping Beauty” in Malvern. Remember that?
TOYAH: Yeah. I remember it well! We were working in minus 20 and finding it impossible to get anywhere!
KEITH: But you did it!
TOYAH: Oh - we did it, we did it!
KEITH: Did you enjoy it?
TOYAH: Yes, of course!
KEITH: Fantastic! “The Changeling Resurrection Tour”, we’ll talk about that in just a sec but we’ve had a chat on numerous occasions over the past however many years. The album – you’re celebrating the 30th anniversary – 30 years!
TOYAH: Yeah, “The Changeling” is an album that came out in 1982 and it was a platinum album, it did really well for me. It did quite well abroad as well. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite and it was the difficult follow up album after “Anthem” which was just massive! That “Anthem” just did so well. And I think it’s always quite hard for artists to kind of follow up that kind of success.
But Changeling, luckily - even though I don’t think it’s a commercial album, it’s quite dark and moody – but people grew to it over a period of time. And it did well - it was platinum, people say it was the beginning of Goth which I’m very happy to go along with. I think that comes from the fact that there’s a lot of story telling on the album. And it’s kind of horror based. It’s about otherworldly things and space travel and gothic monsters. So it’s 30 years on and we’re going to take it out on the road and address it in the present day.
KEITH: Fantastic! With a full band?
TOYAH: Oh yeah!
TOYAH: Yeah, absolutely. My band’s a five piece, I work with them all the time, big sound –
KEITH: (chuckles) Big sound!
TOYAH: We’re quite loud and rocking!
KEITH: That’s nice, we like that don’t we!
KEITH: You’re coming to The Robin 2 on the 28th of April which is not so far away and you’re going to make big noise in Wolverhampton!
TOYAH: Yeah, well we always love playing The Robin, it’s a fantastic venue. It’s big enough and intimate enough that you can really create an atmosphere there and the audience is always fantastic.
KEITH: And as you play at The Robin that allows you to go home to bed! Rather than sleep in a hotel!
TOYAH: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we plan the tour so that we’re not in many hotels which suits us fine.
SONG: Thunder In The Mountains
KEITH: Is your house still haunted?
TOYAH: Yes. It’s very haunted.
KEITH: Tell me about the spook you’ve got because I’m so interested!
TOYAH: I wouldn’t say we’ve got one spook because things go on here – I think we actually live in one of the most haunted towns in England. Absolutely everyone who lives here has a ghost story to tell. But we’ve got lots of things going on. I mean the main thing in a spooked house is things disappear for months on end and then re-appear. We’ve got doors that open and close and lights go on in the attic. But I wouldn’t say any of it is spooky – it’s just supernatural.
KEITH: Yeah. So it doesn’t scare you?
TOYAH: No. No, I’m here alone a lot and I’ve never felt scared.
KEITH: Do you know the history of the presence?
KEITH: Who is it or what is it?
TOYAH: Well, there’s about four and someone claimed that there is also about eight children.
TOYAH: During the plague in the town (Bredonborough) I live in, the children were all shoved in the cellars because it was believed that if they were kept underground the plague couldn’t reach them. And then the adults passed away and the lost children starved to death. That was new on me, I’ve never sensed anything like that but someone claimed that actually happened in our cellar.
The other is a monk - because we live in a property that is built on the food store of a very large monastery. And we live on the river Avon (below) and the food was brought up the river Avon and stored in a building that is now our cellar.
TOYAH: So there is a monk. There’s two sisters who ran a tea house which I came to when I was a three year old and they’re very active. Unbelievably active - you hear them walk around, you can smell their cigarette smoke, their perfume. They open and close doors and the servants stairs down to the tea house is now our bathroom so that’s always very active.
By far the most disturbing one which we’ve had exorcised is a young boy called Simon who was mentally challenged – who was hung in our attic during a town court hearing. And he was hung in the stairwell and he was – his presence caused the most disturbance. But we’ve had him exorcised.
KEITH: And everything is OK in that department there?
TOYAH: Yeah, totally.
KEITH: How interesting, fascinating! Because we do ghost hunts you see, on the programme –
TOYAH: Aaah! (Intrigued)
KEITH: We’re with Mark from the Midland Paranormal Investigations.
TOYAH: Oh, OK.
KEITH: And what we do - we go out to a haunted place and stay overnight and record what’s going on. We do temperatures, we do EMF’s (electromotive force) and changes in electric static and all that. It’s fantastic!
TOYAH: So have you ever been spooked?
KEITH: Just the once. In a hotel in Shropshire near Shrewsbury.
TOYAH: What was the hotel? Are you allowed to say?
KEITH: Yeah, what was the … it was the Prince Rubert. That’s right. The Price Rubert (below, top)
KEITH: Went in there and in this one room it’s reputed that a girl hung herself because she was the mistress of some soldier. And he had his wicked way, didn’t want to know, went back to his whatever and she was that sort of torn apart she went and hung herself in this room.
KEITH: It’s the top room in the hotel and it’s in the roof so therefore you go into the room you have to go down three stairs to the double bed and you have to keep your head to one side because you’re in the roof area. They’ve but windows in the room which is like a seven foot square jut where they’ve put a couple chairs and a table and it’s a very very cosy room but sort of cramped.
And we set up the equipment in this room because we went from room to room you see. And all of sudden it was about 2 o’clock in the morning and Mark from the investigations team was lying across the bed and just generally having a chat and all of sudden I saw a lady in front of him. She was kneeling on the floor with her elbows on the bed looking at me.
KEITH: Now it lasted only for about two and half seconds, the reason I know she was genuine was because she was in front of Mark and all I could see was Mark - the top of him, if you know what I mean, his body and his face. And he was talking away and what he said went into sort of a blur once I saw this lady, very very pretty, dressed in a sort of, I don’t know, Edwardian skirt - you how they puffed out at the bottom?
KEITH: One of those. And she disappeared after about two and half seconds! And I said “Mark shut up! I’ve just seen something!” And I had to record what I saw because otherwise it would’ve been gone you see. And it was fantastic! I assume it was this lady.
TOYAH: A-ha! Did temperatures drop?
KEITH: Very cold. Very very cold. The stories are that people have actually gone into that room and have asked to be moved because they didn’t like the atmosphere in it.
SONG: Brilliant Day
KEITH: Toyah on BBC in the Midlands. Having a very interesting chat – not about punk music but about ghosts!
TOYAH: I’ve experienced that at Margate Theatre (above, bottom) where I was in the theatre all night on a ghost hunt for a TV programme and we were all so spooked that we gave up about two in the morning. It was the most - the atmosphere was bad, the happenings were bad, the electric’s kept going and we were plunged into complete darkness. We actually got footage of a woman dressed in green in the box sitting watching and we got that on video. That’s the only time I’ve ever had to leave I was so spooked.
KEITH: Well, if you ever want to join us and we’ll go on a ghost hunt you’re more than welcome!
TOYAH: Oh, fantastic!
KEITH: You’re more than welcome and we’ll put it on the radio and stuff like that.
KEITH: So, gone of the beaten track there haven’t we?!
KEITH: Anyway! Back to what we were talking about! You come from Birmingham and you are The Queen Of Punk!
TOYAH: Well …
KEITH: How about that?!
TOYAH: One of many.
KEITH: One of many (Toyah laughs) What was the punk era like for you?
TOYAH: Fabulous. I was 17 years old going on 18, 19. It was electrifying. It gave young people a voice. It was a very distinct and well rounded movement that you clearly were a part of. I don’t remember any movement ever being like that since. It was – everyone had a voice and if you had an opinion and you if could play three cords on a guitar you had a career.
It was really exciting and I remember it as a time when everyone supported each other. You didn’t have this kind of celebrity bitching you have now. Or didn’t have women being sexually provocative all the time and having a career out of it. In fact it was completely the opposite, it was highly frowned upon. Even in the punk movement. Everything was to do with the gift of your opinion and everyone’s opinion counted. So it was magical, I really really loved it.
KEITH: Did you get opposition from people who didn’t like the new look because I remember when punks used to walk down the road and they had spiky red hair and leather and piercings and what have you and you’d think – to me that looks a bit intimidating. My first impression was yes, intimidation but when you talk to the people – they were nice people!
TOYAH: Yes. I think you know 99.99% of the punks were nice, they still are nice, and yes of course they were intimidating. But they were trying to move themselves from being compartmentalised, ironically because everything does find itself in a little compartment eventually.
But the whole idea was to stand apart. Yeah, I think people were terrified of punks. I can remember thinking “Oh, I wish people would talk to me I’m really very nice!” (Keith laughs) but you know, there you go, I have no regrets.
SONG: I Want To Be Free
KEITH: You’ve done so many things in your career, not only as a rockstar, punk star, an actor and now you produce music as well. What aspect of your career did you enjoy or do enjoy the most?
TOYAH: I tend to live in the present. I’m so grateful for the past. I had huge success throughout from about 1979 with the release of the Jarman film “Jubilee”, ... “Tempest”, then “Quadrophenia”, then music success and then right through the 90’s TV presenting success. I am so grateful for the successes I’ve had but I do live in the present. And I think that everyone has a right to work whatever age they are and the profession I’ve chosen to work in is entertainment.
So I’m always looking for the next success. I’m 54 this year and I just don’t see any point of stopping. So I live very much in the moment and I enjoy the moment and I’ve felt it anything but a challenge! (Both Keith and Toyah laugh) Because it really is challenging the whole time! Especially - I write really good rock and pop songs, even if I say so myself but no-one wants to hear a 54 year old sing them! So it’s always finding the next challenge.
KEITH: Do you get back to Kings Heath in Birmingham much?
TOYAH: I drive through it most weeks.
KEITH: Oh, right.
TOYAH: I’m not that far from Birmingham so I work the BBC a lot and my friends are in Birmingham.
KEITH: I was going to say – family and friends?
TOYAH: Well, my parents have passed away and I moved them down to Worchester. I got a brother and a sister but lots of friends.
KEITH: You went in the jungle?
TOYAH: I’m glad I did it! (Keith laughs) I can’t say I enjoyed it. Firstly I like to wash twice a day, I’m very finicky about cleanliness and I like to eat four times a day. Those are things you don’t get to do. And I like my quiet time, you don’t get that in the jungle. But I have absolutely no regrets. It’s a show that gets 23 million viewers. No show in the world gets that apart from the Olympics or Madonna at the Super Bowl.
It’s just the most amazing show and I’m really glad I took part in it. But I can’t say I enjoyed it. I’m a bit ironic and contradictory in that I love fame and I love performing and I like a very clear boundary of the job ending and then going and locking myself in a room and being quiet. So that – you know, I did it, I got the T-shirt.
KEITH: What do you do to relax? What do you do on holidays?
TOYAH: I haven’t done holidays lately. I had a honeymoon in January and we went to Seattle to see our best friend who I also have a band with called The Humans. And I went to Las Vegas (above) with my husband and we realised we were in the wrong place, because it wasn’t quiet anywhere! So that was my first holiday in ten years. I like to walk. I love walking in big open spaces.
KEITH: Talking of your husband- he’s in the business, how is he?
TOYAH: Yeah, he’s good. He’s retired so he’s a happy man. He’s retired from live touring. I think he’ll still do some recording, his last was with Nick Cave. But he’s writing two books at the moment so he’s at home and that’s great - I love it!
KEITH: “The Changeling Resurrection Tour 2012”, it’s only a few dates all over the country but the one we’re interested in right now is The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton on Saturday 28th April. If I come along Toyah, what can I hear?
TOYAH: Well, we’re going to do about 8 tracks from “The Changeling” and the rest is going to be Toyah classics so it’s all Toyah music. We do the hits because that’s what people want to hear, it’s very visual. I like to wear costumes, I’m having something made that celebrates the image of “The Changeling”. So it’s lively, my concerts aren’t laid back. It’s loud and lively.
KEITH: Fantastic! It’s been belting to talk to you!
TOYAH: Thank you!
KEITH: Good luck with the tour, say hi to the husband
for me –
TOYAH: I will!
KEITH: And I mean it about the ghost hunting if you ever want to come along. I’ve got your number, just give us a shout at the BBC and we’ll come and see you.
TOYAH: Oh, well thank you and good luck with everything!
KEITH: Toyah, thank you.
SONG: It’s A Mystery