RADIO NE1FM 102.5
WITH JO OLIVER
RADIO NE1FM 102.5
WITH JO OLIVER
JO OLIVER: Quite amazingly on the phone we have got the one and only Toyah Willcox! Are you there Toyah?
TOYAH: How are you – are you alright?
JO: Alright – not bad. Are you all geared up for this tour?
TOYAH: Oh, you bet! Newcastle on Friday night is the first show of the whole tour. So I think I'm going to be a little nervous and very happy it's in Newcastle. I was only up there in June doing gay pride so I'm looking forward to this immensely.
JO: Oh, fantastic. And it's Legends in Newcastle, have you been in there before?
TOYAH: No, I haven't so I'm looking forward to that as well. I'm been looking on the website, I've been seeing what kind of venue it is, it looks perfect for us.
JO: Yeah – I think it's going to take you back I think in a kind of way. It is going to be that sort of feeling - punk feeling ...
TOYAH: It really takes me back because that's the kind of work I do and with this tour we're touring an album that came out in 1983 called “Love Is The Law” and it's fantastic, it's such a happy album and it's very synthesiser based and I'm looking forward to this very much. Because it means like big sounds, big dramatic songs. It's going to be fun.
JO: Oh, it's going to be great. I've noticed the t-shirts and the posters look brilliant as well.
TOYAH: I've always been a bit of a visual person so we thought that it would be fun to do bedroom posters -
TOYAH: Because when started out I can remember the first poster that was ever done of me and I was excited! Almost more excited of having a poster than doing Top Of The Pops! So we thought we'd do posters again for this tour. And we're calling them bedroom posters just to be ironic.
JO: Alright. You're going to play all your Toyah classics aren't you? Sort of cherry pick songs from way back?
TOYAH: Absolutely. The way we tend to structure these shows - because for three years now I've been touring certain albums – is that we start with the album we're featuring and then we kind of work back to the punk era. So by the time we get to the end of the show the energy just builds and builds and builds and it gets more and more punky.
JO: Oh, cool.
TOYAH: I always think that once people have had a few drinks they can handle the punk stuff.
JO: Yeah. And they will. I'm sure they'll be bouncing by the end of it. (Toyah laughs) And it's been a busy time hasn't it for you recently? I've noticed you've been like meeting yourself going back - with all these things that you've been going to, I mean this Victoria & Albert thing?
TOYAH: Oh, yeah! I mean talk about respectability. The Victoria & Albert Museum has featured one of my costumes alongside with Adam Ant, Boy George and Bananarama in an exhibition called “From Club To Catwalk” and then I'll be going back in November to give a talk about the costumes and how they influenced the catwalk and how 80's fashion has influenced today as well because it's just everywhere! Everything that I've got stored in my attic from the 1980's is now high fashion again.
JO: I've noticed you can get into some of it as well, I'm well impressed!
TOYAH: It's interesting because I am a different shape obviously but I'm a smaller size now. I always thought in your 20's you're slimmer but I'm actually shrinking considerably now I'm in the mid-50's and I can get into everything. So some of them might be appearing during the tour.
JO: I've noticed you've got a really nice outfit ready for this show as, well haven't you?
TOYAH: Yeah, I'm still trying to perfect it because most importantly I have to be able to sing and I have to be able to move and this latest outfit is very science fiction. It's a construct of wires which is relatively simple but I really need to be able to get to the microphone - otherwise I'm going to be shouting my head off so we're still tweaking it ready for Friday.
JO: Right. I thought I saw the shoulder pad on your website? You were sort of teasing us with that?
TOYAH: Oh, yeah!
JO: Looks colourful! (Toyah laughs)
TOYAH: It's very metallic this one.
JO: Yeah. Oh cool. Right, you started off way back in, oh, you got part in a – I'm trying to remember his name – Derek Jarman film?
TOYAH: Yeah. “Jubilee”.
JO: I was like wow, where it comes from, she was a skinhead wasn't she "Julie"(?) ?
TOYAH: No, she wasn't a nice character at all. She was pretty messed up.
JO: It's quite scary.
TOYAH: I kind of started my first professional job in 1976 when I was 17 turning 18. But I met Jarman while I was acting at the National Theatre and I did “Jubilee" with him. And I went onto do the “The Tempest” with him which was highly successful and got me a nomination for Best Newcomer. So Jarman for me was quite a mind blowing experience and he's probably one of the favourite people I've ever worked with.
JO: And then you moved into doing all sorts of strange things like “Teletubbies”?
TOYAH: Before “Teletubbies” I did all the voices for a series called “Brum” -
JO: Oh, yes!
TOYAH: And the creator of “Teletubbies” was the creator of “Brum”. So when I doing “Brum” I also worked with Nigel Kennedy, the violinist on “Pod”. When “Teletubbies” was it's final stages of being produced it was quite natural for the creator to say to me could I come along and put a voice down. So I'd already done a hell of a lot of work for her.
JO: You're very versatile, aren't you?
TOYAH: I don't know about that - I just love working and I'm not a snob about what I do and I like to keep working and just be plugged in and be involved. I find things really fascinating.
To do a voice over for a whole series where you've got to be a different character every half hour – I just find it utterly fascinating. You know, that's what it's about for me, it's kind of exploring new things.
JO: Let's talk about your music and the way you sort of move - change the way you do things. There was an album that you did that was quite more expressing some sort of political ideas about women and things. “Prostitute” - and it was about how women - sort of their place in society?
I just find it totally imprisoning and by about 1986-7 I'd had enough. I did this album with Steve Sidelnyk who went on to be the main programmer of Madonna on about ten albums and it was just percussion and my voice.
I've just seen on a website somewhere that it's been voted one of the best indie albums of all time. It was very much something I had to do and to get out of my system. I felt that men were projecting onto me something that I wasn't rather than seeing me for who I was so it probably was one of the most angry albums I've ever made.
JO: Thing about that - what I like about and your image is - mostly you haven't been – had a more sexualised image, more sort of dramatic image, which I like.
TOYAH: I've never had that kind of confidence. When you look at your Miley Cyruses and your Britneys and your Madonnas they do have a physical perfection and I think really I'm very lucky I never had that. I was always too shy to behave like that.
That said in my 40's is probably the first time I started exposing more flesh which I've grown out of now. But I think I was very very lucky in that I never had to go that route.
JO: Good. Glad to hear it. (Toyah chuckles) You're all fired up and ready to go now?
TOYAH: Yeah, I spent the morning singing. This tour uses a very high register as a vocalist. I spent the most of my 40's deliberately singing as a rock singer and lowering the tone of my voice so this year I've had to bring it up at least an octave, possible higher.
So I spend every morning just singing, moving my vocal cords into that position. It's a very melodic album, “Love is The Law”. So I am looking forward to it. It just lifts me every time I hear it. And it's probably one of my most favourite albums.
JO: It must be great to sing things you really love?
TOYAH: Yeah, it is. Makes a difference.
JO: I'm going to let you go now as I know you've got be off somewhere. I'm going to play a song that's been going through in my head, it's been a real earworm this week and it's “Thunder In The Mountains”.
TOYAH: Oh, OK! Yes, we'll be playing that on Friday!
JO: Definitely. Has it got any details or anything about this song – has it got a sort of history?
TOYAH: Yeah, I mean the day I wrote it Princess Diana and Price Charles were getting married and I just remember that I had a stalker at the time who kept phoning I mean the phone just rang and rang and rang and I was trying to get this song written.
And the world just seemed to be partying and there I was trying to write something that was powerful and relevant to my generation and to my fans and I found everything hugely distracting, the phone ringing no end. So I think what came out was again this of expression needing freedom and I think that's what the song is about.
JO: I like the feeling you get from the video as well, it's a bit “Mad Max” isn't it?
TOYAH: Yeah, very “Mad Max”!
JO: I like it. So I hope you have a great tour -
TOYAH: Thank you!
JO: And enjoy your first gig in Legends on Friday.
TOYAH: I look forward to it!
JO: Have a fantastic time and thank you for speaking to us!
TOYAH: Pleasure! Bye for now!
You can listen to the interview HERE