DAVE LLEWELLYN: Following a highly acclaimed run sold out shows, cracking five star reviews Toyah Willcox is resurrecting her platinum album "The Changeling" for the final time with a string of 12 UK dates to celebrate the 30th anniversary of both "The Changeling" and "Warrior Rock"

The tour opens on September 19th in Middlesbrough Theatre. I caught up with her couple of weeks ago for a chat and told her how lovely it was to have her back!

TOYAH: (on the phone) Yeah, it’s good to be back. Mind you I’m there quite often. I did the Gay Pride this year as well. I was a surprise quest, I stood in for someone who’d hurt their back. So I was only up there a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely time

DAVE: It’s not a bad part of the world, is it?

TOYAH: It’s fantastic! I absolutely adore England. I think it has so much to offer. I often go on long weekend breaks to places because I love seeing English cities

DAVE: What’s your favourite?

TOYAH: Well, (laughs) I say I like English cities ... I particularly like Glasgow!

DAVE: You like Glasgow?

TOYAH: (still laughing) But one of my big favourites is the cluster of York, Durham! I absolutely adore!

DAVE: Durham’s beautiful, isn’t it?

TOYAH: Oh, Durham is just amazing! I’ve been there twice this year and it’s so friendly and it just absolutely blows me away! My husband loves it too. And I like Newcastle and I like Middlesbrough!

DAVE: I prefer Durham to Middlesbrough if I’m being totally honest. I think there is something quite magical about Durham. Especially if you go for a walk down by the side of the cathedral.
So ... I saw you back in 1983 at the Town Hall in Middlesbrough –

TOYAH: Alright, OK -

DAVE: Probably touring "The Changeling" at the time I would’ve thought. I think Simon Darlow just started playing keys for you (Ed. 1983 was the "Rebel Run" tour, below)

Then that would’ve been the kind of "Changeling" era, yes

It was cracking! Where have you been since? What have you been doing?

TOYAH: What – since 1983?! (Dave laughs) Are you kidding?! How do I fill that in?! I’ve done about ten feature films, 40 stage plays and God knows how many albums!

DAVE: You don’t sit still, do you, at all?

TOYAH: No. I’m very busy and I seem to be getting busier. I don’t know why. I don’t know whether it’s because the young uns’ don’t do as many live shows as us old ones but the phone just never stops! I’m not complain because it’s fantastic. I’m 54 but it’s really really busy!

My daughter had real problem with that, with your age, by the way


DAVE: Because she’s five. She has no concept of time whatsoever but you’ve reached new and dizzy heights because you’ve made it onto her iPod along with Republica, Ozzy Osbourne, Abba and White Lies. And she loves you!

TOYAH: Aaah!

DAVE: I asked her why and she said "it’s because she makes it sound so exciting, daddy!"

TOYAH: That’s really excellent!

So I got out my copy of "Anthem" out and listened to it again and I just thought yeah, you do make it sound exciting!

How did your daughter discover me then?

DAVE: She heard "I Want To Be Free" on the radio and she went "oh, daddy, have you got any of that?"


DAVE: Which I thought was brilliant!

Well, so do I! I need more of that! (they both laugh) I need a whole nation of that!

DAVE: So she thinks you sound really exciting. Do you still get excited about doing what you do?

Yes I do! I’m still in love with it. It’s what I do and I always want to achieve more. That feeling of wanting to achieve, wanting to develop and do more has never left me. So it’s an ongoing process

As long as I can sing, as long as my voice is still there I can keep doing it. So I’m still very much in love with the whole process

DAVE: When you were sat in the studio 30 odd years ago listening to the final mixes of "The Changeling", did you for one moment think you’d be gigging it 30 years on?

No, I thought I’d go more into acting and certainly more into writing. But there’s a strange journey that’s gone full circle on this. Firstly when made "The Changeling" it wasn’t the happiest time in my life. I was finding life at that level incredibly difficult. It’s a difficult place to be when you have to be creative

The whole of the reality of life has left you. You're just living in this bubble of fame which is completely artificial. So I wasn’t terribly happy when I made that album. At the beginning of this year when we decided to tour it again, because it’s the 30th anniversary, and let’s face it – it’s a platinum album, it was produced by Steve Lillywhite (below with Toyah) who’s produced most of U2’s albums - we had to give it some credence –

It’s big, isn’t it? When you think about it - platinum albums. I don’t know what you have to sell to get a platinum album these days but I know in those days you had to sell a lot of copies. What was it? Was it a million copies?

No, it’s not as many as that but we sold a lot more albums back then than people tend to sell today. I wasn’t hugely happy about going back to doing this album. I relearned the stuff and we did the first show in Brighton and it wasn’t until I got on stage and started singing it that I thought "oh, this really is OK! It’s good!" And we’ve done five dates this year of this album and it’s just been utterly phenomenal

DAVE: Has it really?

It’s gone through the roof! People love this album. They’ve cited it as the beginning of the gothic movement. I think they like it because there’s a narrative that runs through it that people identify with. It's about being slightly out of the normal and not feeling in place. And it’s just been sublime!

Also my voice is now ready to sing it. It’s a complex thing, there’s quite a high octave range, it uses three octaves. I’ve only booked two or three shows in a week so I can keep my notes really pure. I don’t want to go on stage with that tired touring voice

It’s made it much more enjoyable but I’ve had to retrain, had to have singing lessons to get those notes back in my range. So it really is quite a phenomenal tour in that way. People are loving it

DAVE: You were saying you do maximum of two or three shows a week so every audience gets a 110%?

TOYAH: That’s the idea, yeah

DAVE: I’ve got to see it, it’s absolutely wonderful and it doesn’t resonate with the money grabbing side of the industry –

TOYAH: Problem is tours are booked so you don’t loose money on petrol and hotels, it’s as simple as that. And then the singer really suffers because you’ve got five shows in a row and you go and see these shows and the singer is really struggling to get the notes out and it’s not pleasant to watch

So I’ve just bit the bullet and said right, this is the going to be the cost. We go home after the second show because I want to go on stage and really sing the best I have ever sung in my 35 year career. That’s the way I’ve insisted it is and everyone is quite happy about it

DAVE: Where is the drive coming from? Is it to go on stage and be the best you can possibly be?

TOYAH: Absolutely! I’m not acclaimed the way certain singers of my genre are hugely critically acclaimed. I mean look at Kate Bush and even Siouxsie Sioux. What I wrote was slightly off the wall, oddball and humorous. So it’s incredibly important to me to go out there and give a performance that’s equal to Celine Dion!

Well, not quite but I want people to see me and go "wow! I didn’t know she was technically capable of that!" That’s what I’m achieving because I’m not going to sing forever and I want people to remember me having a really good voice. So I’m just planning it that way

DAVE: I think this is amazingly self-effacing. As far as I’m concerned you’ve got nothing to prove at all! I was a big fan back in the day and I look back at the albums but in all fairness I don’t really get involved in all the latest stuff. I shall go back and rediscover it –

TOYAH: Oh, you’ve got to listen to "In The Court Of The Crimson Queen" which I wrote with Simon Darlow. It’s fabulous! 

DAVE: He’s the keyboard player, I like his playing. I like Adrian Lee’s playing as well. I like very keyboard oriented thing, which is why I probably enjoyed "Minx" so much because that was very keyboard

Oh, that’s interesting because I made that for CBS and a new label called Portrait and it really doesn’t sit in with everything else I did

DAVE: Yeah. It had a poppier feeling in places. I don’t know if that was the result of the time. Songs like “Don’t Fall In Love”, “I’ll Serve You Well”

Which I did with Simon Darlow –

DAVE: So I do need to get "In The Court Of The Crimson Queen"?

Oh, you’ll love it! It’s such a good album!

DAVE: You’ve never been shy of a big chorus line ... let’s be honest!

(laughs) No! I am the anthem girl

DAVE: Yeah, absolutely! There’s nothing wrong with that

I like audiences singing along. It's part of the show and part of being out there live is that you share the music with the audience and I absolutely adore the audience singing along. I have another band project called The Humans with Bill Rieflin, who has been drumming with R.E.M for the last ten years

When he did his first concert with me, with The Humans, in the UK, he was in a state of shock afterwards because he’d never realised that the audience would even sing along with the strangest most oddball songs! (laughs) He came off stage and he said "they sang every word!"

DAVE: Enthusiastic! They go for it!

Very enthusiastic! The concept of just sitting there and listening quietly to one my songs doesn’t quite reach my audience!

DAVE: Good! Let’s hope that continues! The Humans have been described as "the musical equivalent of a drive through a part of town you’ve never seen before." What a brilliant way to describe something!

It’s wonderful. The Humans is my passion!

DAVE: How did it come about?

It came about because my husband and I are friends of the president of Estonia. Five years ago he asked my husband, who is Robert Fripp of King Crimson, if he’d play for his birthday in Estonia and Robert said "no". I don’t mean to make him sound rude but he says no to everything and everyone. He just doesn’t go out there and do anything in the live front

So I phoned up the Estonian embassy and I said "I will put a band together, exclusively write the material for an exclusive show for the president for his birthday" and they said "yes!"
I had a budget of 5 p and I had to find the musicians. I adore Bill Rieflin, he’s just the most magnificent human being. I phoned him up. He was in Ireland recording "Accelerate" with R.E.M and I said "Bill, would you come to Estonia with me and play for the president" and he said "oh, yeah"

Then I said "there’s one thing ... we can only afford three musicians and we're going to write all the material in Estonia." He went very quiet and he said "o-kaay" ... So we did it! We went out there, we played for the president and we wrote 45 minutes of music. It went down so well we’ve been working together ever since. And every now and then we go back to Estonia and play for the president

DAVE: As you do! (Toyah laughs) "What are you doing this week? Oh, I’m just doing stuff for the president" –

TOYAH: Well, one of the funniest moments of my life was when we had supper with the president three years ago before going on stage. We were in a place called Tartu, which is the music university of Estonia and no one knew the president was in town. They knew we were playing what’s called a closed concert at midnight only for especially invited guests

So Bill, Robert Fripp - my husband, myself and my MD Chris Wong, we had dinner with the president before the show in this hotel. We were eating and I looked up at the roof, which was like a conservatory roof and I saw all these men in black talking down their kind of wrist bands

They were obviously the presidents protection team and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen! Here we were eating quail and roast vegetables with all these men on the roof protecting the president. We then went over to the hallway where we were playing. We knew as a band the president would come in before we started playing

The audience went mad because they didn’t know he was going to be there and they suddenly realised why they were there as invited guests and it was just phenomenal. We played till one in the morning, perhaps a bit later. We played for the president and these 400 invited people. It’s things like that just make my career so exciting!

DAVE: So random! It’s a far cry from King’s Heath as well, isn’t it?

TOYAH: Very far cry from King’s Heath! (both laugh)

DAVE: Although I understand that something very important happened at King’s Heath quite recently?

Yeah, it was lovely. The businesses of King’s Heath voted to give me a star of fame (above) outside the Ritz Ballroom where the Beatles and Led Zeppelin played so it was really lovely. I got star in a Walk Of Fame somewhere on the planet

DAVE: Also I understand it’s in a town that your grandad put an awful lot of effort into?

My grandfather walked from Lincoln, where he was born, with a wheelbarrow full of tools trying to find work. This was before the First World War. I said to my father "where did he sleep, where did he eat?" and he said he turned up at farmhouses and people just let him sleep at the barn

Eventually he walked all the way to Birmingham, to what was a countryside village called King’s Heath. He met wife, they got married, they had 13 children out of which only 3 survived, my father being the youngest

My grandfather formed a construction company and built Kings Heath. So Kings Heath as it is today, which is a really bustling suburb town of Birmingham, was built by my grandfather

DAVE: You let the audience choose the set list in the concert to celebrate the Walk Of Fame star?

Yeah, we did a concert in a pub called Hare & Hounds, which is a really important music venue in the Birmingham area. We called it the Walk Of Fame Concert and the audience voted for the songs
to make it different and special for this occasion. But of course the audience, knowing songs that I dread doing, chose all the songs I dread doing!

Are those the songs off the first two albums by any chance?

TOYAH: Yeah, it was very funny! "We know she always gets this wrong! Let’s choose this one!" But it was a fantastic evening and we got everything right that night!

Will you be doing something similar on the autumn tour? Will the audience choose?

TOYAH: Yeah, because that (Hare & Hounds) was so popular we’re going to invite the audience beforehand to vote for songs they want to hear. We’ll specify what the albums are because if they go and choose an obscure B-side we’re not going to have time to learn it. But we’re asking the audience to vote for their songs

think it’s brilliant. It’s a interactive thing. You said before that you thought by now you would’ve done more acting and perhaps less music ... The lines are quite blurred between singing and acting. A lot of what you do lends itself as much to acting as it does singing. I guess it’s that whole performance thing?

Yeah, I’m not just a stand-there-and-sing person –


TOYAH: When you watch programmes like The X Factor, where people have just learned to stand there and sing, I think fair enough but I can’t stand still to save my life! So I very much act out a song when I perform it. I think the acting has found its way into my singing effortlessly

DAVE: I got the shock of my life ... I obviously knew that you and Robert have been married –

26 years

DAVE: This is it, you see! I thought you've been married a few years but you got hitched in 1986?

TOYAH: Yeah. We’ve just done a documentary

(“Love And Marriage”) about it which goes out on BBC 4 on the 26th of September. They’re featuring our relationship in this series

DAVE: How do you feel about that?

TOYAH: Funnily enough Robert surpassed expectations! He remembered more about the wedding day than I do and he has more specific beliefs about marriage. I’m not saying I don’t have beliefs about marriage but he was so good in the interview and so definite and refined about what he believes

I was very impressed because you often think that the other half is the less interested party. But he was superb in this. I was organising band contracts and concerts thinking "I can’t remember my wedding day!" But it’s a really nice piece

DAVE: Is music something that binds you and Robert together?

Funnily enough, no. This is because Robert doesn’t enjoy the industry at all and he says he’s retired now. He won’t tour live again. So when we're at home and when we’re together what binds us most of all is friendship. We’re best friends and we’re top of the priority list when there’s something to go out and do. We want to be with each other

But I think we’re bound together by home, food, friendship and love. But music ... no. We’ve always had separate careers. My husband listens to an awful lot of classical music and I tend to listen to contemporary music. So no, that’s probably the one equation in our relationship that isn’t there

DAVE: How strange, two names like Robert Fripp and Toyah Willcox ... for musi
c not to be the thing that got you together and keeps you together!

TOYAH: Robert is a musician, he’s not into singers as such. He loves Whitney Houston and Celine Dion on a romantic level. He adores what they do but he’s a musician, he listens to instruments. So I can understand why he doesn’t quite acquaint or he doesn’t see me as a musician. I am singer therefore I’m a different breed

DAVE: I saw Robert with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani –

TOYAH: Oh, was he being booed?

DAVE: It was a little unfair because the people who were there to see the likes of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai do all the really fast wiggly stuff and they weren’t interested in the textural stuff that Robert does

TOYAH: I was on the road with Robert then and that tour is the reason Robert retired. He affected him really badly. I side both with Robert and the fans. Firstly if my husband decides to go on stage and play in the dark what does he expect? People have paid to see him. And secondly if he goes on a tour where it’s about virtuoso playing and he’s doing sustained notes ... what does he expect?

So throughout that tour I got him to play more because he can burn anyone off the stage. I also got him to have a bit more light on the stage. But it was not right - he should’ve not done "Soundscapes" on that tour. I’m afraid that’s the reason he retired

DAVE: I feel guilty now for even mentioning it!

No, don’t! He’s now at home. I see more of him ... it’s fantastic!

DAVE: (laughs) Have you got a list of jobs for him to do like my wife has for me?

TOYAH: He’s always mending my computer because he’s always blowing it up!

DAVE: Ah, I see! Well, this has been absolutely magnificent, I could literally talk to you for days!

I must say you are fantastic to talk to because you know the business as well!

DAVE: Oh, thank you very much!

TOYAH: I’ve really enjoyed it!

DAVE: I’ve really enjoyed it as well!

TOYAH: Well, thank you!


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