BBC RADIO DEVON
SONG: “Echo Beach”
RICHARD: “Echo Beach”, famous of course by Martha and The Muffins but that time recorded by Toyah, who joins me now. Toyah, hello!
TOYAH: (on the phone) Hello! How are you doing?
RICHARD: I'm very well, thank you! When you hear your cover of the old Martha and The Muffins track there … what do you think? Do you enjoy hearing that all those years -
TOYAH: Well, I perform it virtually every day so it makes absolutely no difference to me. It was a good project to do, Kate Bush's team suggested it and her engineer did the arrangements and organised all the keyboards and everything so it really is quite a pedigree track. And it charted – it went in the Top 20 about ... 1985 I think. So no, I perform it all the time – performed it 24 hours ago so I can perform it my sleep.
RICHARD: And that wasn't the only cover you took on in the 1980's because I remember The Minx album – Alice Cooper's “Schools' Out”, which you've performed as well many times over the years.
TOYAH: Yeah, I toured many shows and a show I toured about five years ago “Vampire's Rock” - “School's Out” was part of that show so it's fine. As an actress I learn other people's writing, as a singer I don't mind learning other people's songs. It's not a problem for me.
RICHARD: Alright. What about your songs then because I was just looking up a little bit the sort of historical facts, or perhaps they weren't facts of the time... I mean I came across an article where you said that in fact in the day, in the height of fame many people would've thought Toyah was making a mint out of her record career but £30 a week and having to die at heart. Was that true?
TOYAH: Yeah. Back then we were all on a retainer. It didn't matter what kind of hits you were having or the fact that you were on the road the whole time. Record companies paid what's called a retainer and that meant that you did nothing else but work for the record company. See, even though I was writing and I was designing and creating shows I was basically on a retainer.
I don't think that's any different from anyone working for an employer. The payments, the large payments tended to come in twice a year and that's either from royalties or performance PRS (license to perform music publicly) so it was always hand to mouth. I was young and it didn't bother me at all. We were having great fun.
RICHARD: It wasn't the age old rock and pop story then of signing up to contracts where you're paid sort of diddly pence per album sale and it just didn't filter through?
TOYAH: Well, one could argue whether the whole amount did filter through or not but I can't be bothered (Richard laughs). I'm far too successful and far too busy today in the moment, in the present and I just really don't waste my time thinking about the past that much. But you know a lot bands are sussed on these things – the bands that are incredibly successful worldwide would probably have account meetings once a month and make sure that nothing’s been filtered away. I don't know, you'd have to ask them. But you know, I think if you're not wise with your pennies then you don't have your pennies. It's as simple as that. I certainly have a lot of pennies. But I work the whole time.
RICHARD: Yes. And you work very hard as well in various forms which we'll come to a little later on. Bearing in mind you said you're very forward thinking – how does it feel then when you have to don the shoes I suppose, the old songs from the 80's -
TOYAH: (annoyed) What do you mean I have to?
RICHARD: Well - want to?
TOYAH: 24 hours ago I performed for 2 hours on stage singing songs I wrote 37 seven years ago. I mean I don't have to – there's a demand. The audience want it. I am absolutely blessed to the hilt with the life I've had. You know I don't get up in the morning and resent my own success. I perform these songs all the time, virtually every day.
RICHARD: So it's a joy?
TOYAH: Yeah, of course it is! I mean it's a fantastic way to earn a living, it's absolutely brilliant!
RICHARD: And when you come down to the Babbacombe Theatre (Torquay) Friday the 5th of June – that's an “Up Close and Personal” event, slightly different when you do it full electric with the band, a bit more intimate and bit more of the stories coming out I guess?
TOYAH: Yeah, yeah. The acoustic show it's - I just love it, it's fantastic. I allows me to tell stories from behind the scenes because everyone knows what happens in front of the camera's, that's plain for everyone to see. But it's behind the scenes where I find my life particularly interesting. I talk about situations, how things are made, how camera's capture what they want the audience to see and then I show what's really going on. So it's intriguing and interesting but I tell stories that people would have not heard or seen in the press.
And then we perform a lot of music as well so obviously it's all the hits, there are some cover versions there because I've done shows that include these cover versions. But every show I perform is related to me and it's a really lovely show. It's sold out across the whole of the UK. And it's … how can I put it? For some reason it makes the songs even more vibrant because it's just me and two acoustic guitarists who are exceptional guitarists. They get standing ovations, they're doing things with the guitar no-one else can do. It's actually quite a high energy show but without drums making your ears ache. I absolutely love every minute of it.
RICHARD: And do the crowds still get up and still really get into it as much even though it's an acoustic gig?
TOYAH: They do because we do the second half as a concert. The first half is story telling with music and I play DVD's and stuff like that of the films I've been in and the second half is a concert. So yeah they do, they have a great time.
SONG: “I Want To Be Free”
RICHARD: BBC Radio Devon – go on, admit it! You were singing along to that one, weren't you? It was Toyah and “I Want To Be Free”. It reached number 8 in 1981. Busy with music but there's a film on the horizon as well. I don't quite know how I'm going to introduce this film but is it “aaarrgghhh” (makes a screaming sound) I didn't give it the full welly there Toyah but … that's the title of it, isn't it?
TOYAH: Yeah. A h h h h h. There's 8 h's. I mean this film isn't for everyone. It's made by pretty ground breaking comedians. You've got Noel Fielding in it, Julian Barrat so it's … the way the producer's put it to me was – they love it. It's their favourite film they've ever worked on but they wouldn't show it to their granny. There's a lot of boundaries being crossed.
RICHARD: Hmm. I've seen the trailer and odd things flash up every now and again during the trailer to the film. Mainly silent.
TOYAH: It's not a silent film -
RICHARD: No, but mainly silent –
TOYAH: Right. So basically Steve Oram the creator of the film, who also stars in it, wanted a film where we were all in normal domestic situations but the one thing that ruled the culture that we live within is the alpha male and the alpha female which meant that when a new alpha arrived – what you mean by “alpha” is the most powerful, the strongest in the room – they kill the one before them.
So there's a lot of murder in the film. It is a comedy but it's a black comedy and really is utterly outrageous in parts. But there is no dialogue. We only speak the way we would imagine apes would speak to each other. But we're dressed normally, we look normal and we're in a normal situation.
Screencaps by Dreamscape
RICHARD: This is where Toyah's professional life must be a bliss really because on the one hand you can do the music, on the other hand you can do the acting, whether it be on film or on stage and then you can do a bit of TV presenting if something is -
TOYAH: Well, yeah in a perfect world. I've always had a problem doing just one thing. I get claustrophobic with it. That's one of my characteristics – I'm always running away from full time commitment and I put my hand up to that. But the joy of what I do is that I get incredible variety. I work with incredible people and I love what I do. I just don't get up in the morning and have a problem with my days work. It's “wow! What am I doing today? Oh, great!” And I can give it a 150%.
RICHARD: That's lovely to hear. So, if there is new music within Toyah -
TOYAH: Well, there is – I've just toured The Humans.
RICHARD: Well, that's what I was just going to say – does it come out via The Humans? As suppose to Toyah solo?
TOYAH: Toyah music – I will always base Toyah the band on music from my back repertoire because that's what the audience wants, that's what the audience identifies with. That particular name and project. But The Humans is all new music and it's quite experimental. And it's a completely different audience. It's an audience that will only buy stuff if they read a review in The Independent or The Financial Times. Toyah audiences don't bother reading reviews, they just go out because they know what they like. And they don't need to be told what they like.
But I do do new Toyah stuff all the time, my co-writer and I – my co-writer is a man called Simon Darlow (below with Toyah) who co-wrote “The Video Killed The Radio Star” as well as Grace Jones' “Slave To The Rhythm” - so we work together and we write all the time. But that writing tends to end up in films and adverts and then occasionally we manage to get a new album out. So writing is a constant in my life.
RICHARD: The point I was making there is really what a wonderfully busy life you have. Whether it be with the solo shows, the electric shows or The Humans shows which are something different altogether. It must be wonderful to have such a busy time?
TOYAH: It's good. As I said before I get up in the morning and I love what I do. I can't moan about what I do – even when I … very very rarely, about twice a year I turn up to a festival and as you walk on stage they say we can't pay you and as frustrating as that is we still go on. Any promoters listening to this – don't think you can get away with that. (Richard laughs) But it's such a privilege.
I'm 57 and I'm still doing this and it's such a privilege. I do not take that for granted on any level. And what I do – I'm an entertainer so I don’t want to just entertain twice a year. The greatest entertainers I've ever known were on stage every night of their lives and I attain to that. I want to keep growing and get better at what I do so it's a joy. I don't have any regrets about it whatsoever.
RICHARD: And there's no preference from what you're saying there – no preference between the electric gig, the acoustic gig, the big festival -
TOYAH: Well, actually there is preference but there is no sense in having preference because demand kind of dictates what you do. I love working as an actress on camera – I love doing films and TV but if the work isn't there I'm not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs. I'll go off and do a gig. So I'm very much dependent on what casting directors see and want me for. And with the music – I love doing the acoustic show because I can really show off my voice. I'm not competing with the volume from other very loud instruments. But people really want the band as well. So there are preferences but they make no sense.
RICHARD: Toyah is performing at the Babbacombe Theatre (Torquay), it's Up Close and Personal. Toyah, it's been lovely to speak to you. Thank you very much!
TOYAH: Thank you!