THE IAN RICHES SHOW
IAN: A woman who's career has spanned over 30 years not only with the music but also as an actress on stage and screen, as a presenter on both TV and radio with 8 Top 40 singles, released over 20 albums, the writer of two books, appeared in over 40 stage plays and 10 feature films. The one and only Toyah Willcox! Hello Toyah!
TOYAH: Hello! How are you doing?
IAN: I'm very good, how are you?
TOYAH: I'm really good. I have to say that list has gone up considerably -
IAN: Has it?
TOYAH: - From whenever it was written. It's probably my fault it's not been updated. I think I'm on my 33rd album -
IAN: Are you?
TOYAH: - And I'm on my 15th feature film, possibly a few more than that.
IAN: Oh dear. See that's my … whatchamacallit it -
TOYAH: No, don't worry -
TOYAH: - There's so much written about me you can't keep up with it! It's just like chasing a tail sometimes, trying to keep everything updated.
IAN: OK. So the first lot of questions I'm going to ask you I'd like to do in the style of the old Smash Hits magazine -
TOYAH: Oh lovely!
IAN: - Cos I know that a lady of the 80's, boy of the 80's, used to love Smash Hits so these questions – the first answer that comes into your head. What time did you get up this morning?
TOYAH: Potatoes. (They both laugh)
IAN: What time did you go to bed last night?
IAN: What was the last thing you watched on TV?
TOYAH: I am absolutely transfixed by Big Brother at the moment, I hate to say it – Celebrity Big Brother -
IAN: Oh, I like that too, it's good. What's your favourite meal to cook?
TOYAH: My husband and I we only eat fresh vegetables and fish - I mean it's predictable so that's it. That's what I cook.
IAN: So your ... I won't bother asking -
TOYAH: Go on, ask!
IAN: Cooked breakfast or cereal?
IAN: Favourite animal?
TOYAH: I have a very beautiful white rabbit (below with husband Robert Fripp and Toyah) that's nine years old who lives with us in the house -
IAN: And his name is?
TOYAH: After the drummer in my band The Humans who is William Frederick – better known as Bill. WillFred the rabbit is probably going to be joining people in heaven soon because he is three years older than he should be! (laughs) I mean the only reason I laugh is because he just keeps going! He's the eternal rabbit! (they both laugh)
IAN: Newspaper or book?
IAN: Coronation Street or Eastenders?
IAN: Rice or pasta? We know the answer to that.
IAN: Favourite film?
TOYAH: Oh God you're going to have me here all day! That's a really difficult one because I love really great acting and I like films that make me talk a lot the next day. So where do you want me to start!? I'm a film buff.
IAN: OK. We'll say that's the answer. There's too many.
TOYAH: Yeah, I just love film.
IAN: OK. Shower or bath?
IAN: Morning person or night owl?
IAN: And finally on my radio show we do a thing called “The Great British Cake Scoff” where basically I eat cake. So do you have a favourite cake to scoff?
TOYAH: I do have a favourite cake but I'm sugar free for life now but my favourite cake would be carrot cake with oodles of cream cheese and honey topping.
IAN: But you'll be depriving your rabbit of the carrots?
TOYAH: The rabbit is not deprived of anything. He's like an emperor.
IAN: He's like an emperor?
IAN: I have seen a picture of him actually, you put it in your blog just before Xmas I think -
TOYAH: Yeah. He gets more hits than I do.
IAN: Now some more serious questions. Your singing career and your acting career have developed hand in hand but what do your prefer?
TOYAH: Well, it's a question that goes with your age I suppose. When I was in my twenties I could only sing. It's what I wanted to do and I wanted to be established at. As I get older singing for me isn't about showing off anymore and it isn't about gleaning attention in that way when you're in your twenties. Singing is something I'm born to do and it's much more of a kind of meditative experience. You know it's got to come out – whether I have an audience or not.
I'm 58 this year and I would have to say that I'm thinking more about acting but I still write music and I still write songs but increasingly for other projects. I'm a performer and I always will be a performer but with each decade as you get older you have to be realistic of what you do. And I certainly do not want to sing every day of the week because I protect my vocals cords with a passion.
So I try to sing only 3 to 4 times a week. After that I have to tell my agents really … you know, don't destroy a good thing. And my notation is still really good, my tone is OK so at the moment I'm very much acting and singing but I think … give it another ten years it will be acting.
IAN: So as a younger Toyah who inspired you to act?
TOYAH: That's a very good question. My inspirations were quite bizarre. My mother took me to see "The Sound of Music" seven times in a row and I actually fell in love with the camera. It's the way the camera had the freedom to capture emotion and peoples movement like Julie Andrews running up the hill in the opening sequence. I fell in love with that. I fell in love with the emotion of that. So everything I do is connected to conveying an emotion. So my inspirations were probably great camera men.
IAN: OK. When was in your eyes the defining moment when you thought to yourself “you know, I can make a living out of doing what I'm doing”?
TOYAH: OK. It's another good question but I never cared about making a living. And I think when you're younger you would do anything and sign any contract to get yourself out there. And I certainly didn't make a living until I started managing myself in the 1990's. But I was very very famous up until that point.
So I probably thought I could make a living out of this very early on. I joined the National Theatre when I was 18 years old and that's when I formed the band so that was 1970 … 76-77. And I was making enough money to rent a flat and eat so I thought I was making a living.
IAN: Fair enough. Nowadays you have the Toyah band and also The Humans. Is this something completely to separate yourself from the Toyah image?
IAN: Or do they run hand in hand?
TOYAH: Well, they don't hand in hand. The Humans (below with Bill Rieflin and Chris Wong) is very much art rock and it's got a very limited audience even though we believe it could have a world wide audience. The Humans is based on two bass players and me and it's very vocal and bass heavy as you can guess. But each album we keep developing with more instrumentation. So strings have been added, sax has been added.
The next album will be very vocal based as a homage to the creative abilities of Brian Wilson. So it's going to morph even more into a very different kind of sound. And we've done three albums so far and each album is radically different from the other. But there's three key members.
IAN: When you're writing your songs – do you always have the idea in your head what you want a song to be or do you need an inspirational moment for you to write a song about that certain -
TOYAH: Inspiration is very very fluid. There's artists who give me inspiration but not plagiarism - thank goodness. But also voices come into my head and I have to write down what they're doing. They're lyrics – lyrics just fly into my head. I construct my ideas on a very simple programme called Garage Band and then I take it to the band members and they kind of laugh it off and completely re-write it.
But if I didn't do that process would be so slow because we're working sonically with two bass players and it's not the ideal way to create a song. So we create the song through what I do on Garage Band and strip it right down and build the the harmonics and sonic structure round the two bases. Which is why it's such a weird thing to be doing.
IAN: I read on your blog that you're planning on doing a lot of travelling this year?
TOYAH: I'm in a different country … every week.
IAN: Where are looking forward to going most?
TOYAH: I always love going to Seattle. So I'm in Seattle in March now and then the whole of December. Next week I'm in France and then after that Antigua. So I'm doing a lot of writing. There's a project that I'm embarking on which I'm not telling anyone about at the moment -
IAN: Oooh! Go on - could be scoop for SkyHigh Radio!
TOYAH: Actually I will let the reviewers expose what it is -
IAN: OK -
TOYAH: In the summer.
IAN: OK, fair enough. If a film was to be made of your life, who would you like to play you?
TOYAH: I often think about this because my life is so fractured and it's so disjointed by the fact that I do so many different things. I think I would like an actress who understood why I've done that. And I'm not very tall in stature and I'm not aware of many actresses who are as small as me. The great Hollywood actresses tend to be always teetering above 5'11. So who could play me?
IAN: Don't know. Don't know small actresses …
TOYAH: Bette Midler is probably older than me so that's not quite right. Er, there's a wonderful actress called Amanda Root but I don't know if she can sing. She's my same height. My favourite actress ...er, Judi Dench would just never get a chance to play me. Perhaps she could be the older me looking back. No idea!
IAN: Fair enough. Looking back what advice would you give to a young Toyah Willcox just starting out in the entertainment business?
TOYAH: Oh, there's so much advice I would give me. Is do your learning when you're young. Because while you're young it sticks. And I wasn't fortunate enough at school to be given instrument lessons but I was given voice lessons. Very good voice lessons – I studied opera and I also studied ballet. But if someone taught me keyboards and guitar back then I'd be a very different artist today.
IAN: Very good. What can't you leave your house without?
TOYAH: My clothes (Ian laughs).
IAN: You're the second person to say that! I think Paul Daniels said the same so there we go.
TOYAH: I don't know what to think about that!
IAN: (laughs) Which three people would you invite round to your house for dinner?
TOYAH: Er, can they alive or can they be dead?
IAN: Which ever you like.
TOYAH: Davie Bowie, Joan of Arc and Alice Cooper.
IAN: Why Joan of Arc?
TOYAH: I've always thought of any woman that can her life for a cause is a very special woman.
IAN: Good point well put. Any plans for new CD's or tours in the near future?
TOYAH: Yeah, we've got quite a lot going on. I'm in the studio with another co-writer Simon Darlow (below with Toyah) and our album's going to be launched in the PR Rest tent in Glastonbury this year so we're finishing that and The Humans start Humans 4 so it's a busy year and I'm also writing another project for a venue in London in the summer.
IAN: Oh, very good. And finally – if you could be anybody else, who would it be and why?
TOYAH: Oh my God!
IAN: That's my deep question.
TOYAH: It's a very difficult question because whoever I say critics will accuse me of trying to be and I'm very happy being myself. I would just like not to be dyslexic at times and be able to get my ideas into the world in a simpler way than the long way round that dyslexics have to take. So I'm happy being me. I could never say I want to be someone else. I think that denies me by credibility.
IAN: See, I think that's a good answer. It's a trick question really because I like people to say "I don't want to be anybody else!" and you just said that.
IAN: So there we go. I'd like to thank you very much for joining us on SkyHigh Radio and I wish you all the best for your plans for 2016!
TOYAH: Thank you and the same to you!
IAN: Thank you very much!
You can watch the interview on Youtube (below)
Toyah also performed three songs during the interview
Thunder In The Mountains
It's A Mystery