BBC RADIO 2
SOUNDS OF THE 80's
WITH SARA COX
SARA: Toyah! Toyah's here to chat to us this evening! Original vinyl issues of the album – I love this – came with a colour insert featuring you and the band wrapped in bandages with various exposed body parts sprayed gold.
TOYAH: Well, it was to make it more attractive. The fans always wanted as many configurations of an album or a single as possible and they bought them as collectors. And the whole thing vinyl, that tactility. You look at the artwork the way you looked at a book back then. And people lived with that artwork, it was in their living rooms, it was narrating their lives.
SARA: There you were sprayed gold -
TOYAH: Sprayed gold, my Egyptian make-up.
SARA: There was a picture disc as well, I bet somebody's got a couple of them knocking about in the loft -
TOYAH: I've got a couple of them knocking about.
SARA: Have you got any up on the walls at home?
TOYAH: No, we … I don't hang anything up at home -
SARA: Don't you?!
TOYAH: No, they're in a neat little pile so when TV crews visit, they say "oh, have you got your gold discs, oh, have you got your picture discs?", I can then get them out but otherwise ...
SARA: I kind of always want them to be in pop stars downstairs loos above your award – I mean you did win a few awards. You got your gold disc, you won Best Female Pop Star Smash Hits awards -
TOYAH: Yes, I won so much with Smash Hits. Incredible!
SARA: "Most Fanciable Female" beating Kim Wilde. Was she furious?
TOYAH: I don't know but you know good for me because she's one sexy lady! Also "Best Female Singer" 1982, at the beginning of The Brits. There was a lot of awards back then. I even had acting nominations as well which was fantastic.
SARA: You must've really inspired girls. Were you aware of that? Did it feel like it was a responsibility, you were a role model to be sort of punky and cool?
TOYAH: I realised far later. I didn't realise how much trouble I was causing because girls were going home and dying their hair at the time when you could be expelled from school for doing something like that. So I caused a lot of friction between mothers and daughters because the girls started to rebel. I was just doing what I did naturally.
I didn't feel particularly feminine, I felt a little bit more asexual and I wanted to l live my life with that kind of freedom. What I didn't realise I was causing young girls all over the country to kind of rebel against their upbringing, against their parents and causing a hell of a lot of arguments within many households.
SARA: Which actually takes us quite nicely because we are going to play “I Wanna Be Free” and the lyrics in this track are something -
TOYAH: I wrote these lyrics – they started when I was 14. I went to a really strict all girl school. I was incredibly dyslectic – still am – and I was in a maths class just thinking “why am I here? I want to be an actress, I want to sing, I just don't want to be anything to do with academia” because I just wasn't academic so I was writing “I don't want to go to school, I don't want to be nobody's fool, I wanna be free!”
And later when I got to London and started recording “Anthem” and had the record deal and everything I found that lyric! And I though "oh this is great, I'm going to use it!"
SARA: And the video really reflects that as well doesn't it, because you're smashing stuff up -
TOYAH: Smashing wedding cakes!
SARA: Yeah, so the wedding cake! Tell us a little bit about that? That was all part of it, was it, just wanted not to be tied down or somebody else's fool as you smash the wedding cake?
TOYAH: Absolutely and the two parents looking on. Well, I had a meeting with Godley & Creme of 10cc and they directed the movie and conceptualised it.
SARA: The video?
TOYAH: The video. And they said to me "what's this about?” And I said it's just about breaking away from the traditions of the household and domesticity and all of that. So they created the black box and the wedding cake and all the knives and forks on me and then I was wrapped up in tin foil and the parents looking down disapprovingly of this wild woman!
SARA: It's a fantastic video. Did you enjoy making it?
TOYAH: I loved it!
SARA: It looks like you're really having a ball -
TOYAH: I was in the middle of a major tour and my life was just a riot and I'd just played Southampton, a car came for me, I had 24 hours to make “I Want To Be Free” before I turned up at the Ipswich Gaumont to do a show. And it was just all so exciting and I was the centre of attention and people were doing things I wanted to do. Lovely!
SARA: I felt like a creative kind of force in there?
TOYAH: And to make a video where you are kind of crawling around and you're very animalistic and you're smashing things up – back then was a really a unusual and nice thing to do -
SARA: It's really cool because you were like a pouty kind of sweet girl, you were kind a sort of swirling dervish, really – I hate the word feisty – but you were just kind of this strong little thing … just furiously running around the studio -
TOYAH: No-one was discouraging it which was fantastic. It was fun!
SARA: Let's play it now.
VIDEO: "I Want To Be Free"
SARA: So with the album, with the costume, is it a sort of like a raggedy wedding dress, like a bandagy vibe going on there? Did you have hand in the designing of these costumes?
TOYAH: Well, with “Anthem” and “I Want To Be Free” the designer was Helen Scott and she was at St Martin's (College of Arts and Design, London) I think at the time learning about design. We always tried to use students, up and coming students that everyone was going to have a buzz about. I wanted myself and the band all to be in the same gear on stage so in the video it made sense that I wore my tour costume and it's just this vagabond look except it's pristine white
and all tassels and -
SARA: Yeah. Did the guys always go with it or sometimes -
TOYAH: They were OK!
SARA: “Can I just wear me jeans, Toyah?” “Look, I've got his number for you!”
TOYAH: They were absolutely fine with this one and it was brave for them to wear all white but with the video we were bang in that era where men started wearing make-up again since Bowie, Roxy Music were wearing it tens years ago and it was just a exciting time to create images.
And I wanted a new image with every song because I felt that you had to wear on the outside what you were feeling on the inside. So we spent a lot of time looking through coffee table books about the Masai, about Kabuki theatre, about Papa New Guinea. We literally were stealing cultural influences.
SARA: Lovely! Being inspired, it's great!
SARA: You obviously must've spent a lot of time sitting at hairdressers chairs as well -
TOYAH: Hours a day!
SARA: There's orange – the fabulous tangerine shades and cerise. How did your hair just not break off and fall out?
TOYAH: My hair was just OK, it was alright. We used to bleach it white and then put the colour on but a lot of with was hair pieces – the big fans were hairpieces but they took about 14 hours to make. And my make-up took 12 hours to do sometimes. With the song “Brave New World” in 1982 we got in a proper water colour artist and she just painted my face with birds and clouds and that took all day. And the actual photo shoot took about an hour so a lot of time was given up to it.
SARA: Would you arrive at a shoot like here's little Toyah arriving with a big wagon like “beep beep” with all your wigs and all your make-up?
TOYAH: Slap it on!
SARA: Incredible! You obviously love all that side things, you love all the design side – have you kept any iconic outfits?
TOYAH: I've got them all!
SARA: Have you? (intrigued)
TOYAH: I have absolutely everything, even everything I've worn in movies. I did a movie with Katherine Hepburn in 1978 ("The Corn Is Green", below) and she gave me a part of her costume -
SARA: Was that one of your first roles?
TOYAH: Mmm, yeah.
SARA: And what's the costume?
TOYAH: It's just a beautiful little Edwardian blouse, it's absolutely gorgeous.
SARA: Do you ever rock it with a pair of skinny jeans?
TOYAH: No, I don't because it's so precious. It's wrapped up in clingfilm and vacuum packed and it's literally worth thousand's of pounds.
SARA: And all packed away at home?
TOYAH: Yeah, I have a costume archive.
SARA: Oh, lovely. Is there a lot of music, there should be a Toyah museum -
TOYAH: Well, the V&A (the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) is going to take it all.
SARA: Oh, that would be just so gorgeous to look round.
TOYAH: Because a lot of my costumes – well, all of them, were handmade, hand painted, one off designs.
SARA: And you know at the V&A they will just light it beautifully. It would be quite emotional to see it all out there, be a little like sort of "This Is Your Life", but in fabric.
TOYAH: They've already exhibited a few of the costumes last year ("Club To Catwalk" 10.7.2013 – 16.2.2014, below) which was so exciting!
SARA: Did you visit?
TOYAH: Oh yeah! I was twittering, me next to my costume, "I'm in the V&A, I've arrived!"
SARA: So you've chosen a song for us to play and you've chosen Blancmange, is that right?
TOYAH: Yeah, “Living On The Ceiling”. Blancmange are one of those bands that everything they did – well, I mean it was a synth band, I think two people mainly but everything Neil Arthur, the singer, did, I just found utterly inspiring. They were so cool, their music was always … they moved genres into a new phase every time they did something. And great videos and like the band Talk Talk you always wanted know what they were going to do next because you knew it would be so cool.
SARA: And have you played with these bands, or toured -
TOYAH: No, I don't think they'd actually want to work with me, I don't think I'm cool enough!
SARA: Oh, Toyah!
TOYAH: They are fantastic and this is “Living On The Ceiling”, which is just the best song ever. I have a band in America called The Humans with the drummer from R.E.M, we wanna cover this ...
SARA: Oh, fab! Do it! We'll play the video, they'll be well up for that. They might want to do a little collab as well, I'm sure Neil Arthur's sitting at home now going “oh no, Toyah's too cool for me! I couldn't play with that” …
TOYAH: If you are, give us a call!
SARA: (mock American accent) Yeah, call us now at this number at the bottom of the screen!
TOYAH: (mock American accent) Heeey!
SARA: Toyah, it's been so lovely chatting to you, thank you so much. And thank you for being our first female guest on the visualised “Sounds of the 80's” -
SARA: Yes! Still breaking barriers. Lovely to chat to you and we'll finish now with your choice. Blancmange and “Living On The Ceiling.”
You can watch the interview HERE
Screenshots by toyah.net (Thank you)