BBC RADIO OXFORD
WITH NICK PIERCEY
BBC RADIO OXFORD
WITH NICK PIERCEY
NICK: There we are, that's Toyah and “It's A Mystery” - delighted to say that Toyah joins me now. Good afternoon, Ms Willcox!
TOYAH: Hello! How are you doing?
NICK: I'm alright, thank you! You know with you I don't know where to start because it seems – you've accomplished so much in your life. Could you imagine this success when, as a young girl, you dreamt of your future?
TOYAH: No, I didn't because I didn't have that kind of confidence and I wish I had some inkling of what was to come because I would've settled in and enjoyed it a bit more (Nick laughs). I think very much, you know, girls of my generation, we had to push kind of a little bit harder to get that glass ceiling up.
And certainly when I started working in the music business girls were a rarity and especially kind of punky girls. But I never knew that here I am 58, about to turn 59 - that I would be playing to larger and larger audiences every decade. And for that I'm just incredibly grateful.
NICK: Why was it, that lack of confidence? It seems you had quite a tough childhood to me?
TOYAH: I think it's geographic, I think it's generational, I was just not brought up the way my husband was brought up. I'm married to a guitarist called Robert Fripp and he was brought up to rule the world. I think sometimes when I do motivational speaking I say “don't forget to tell your daughters how beautiful they are”.
And beauty is not about physicality, beauty is about how you live your life and how you are with people and I was never told anything positive until I started having hit singles. And you know that wasn't because I was brought up by bad people, it was the culture of how I was brought up.
NICK: Is this motivational speaking – is that an antidote to your early life do you reckon?
TOYAH: I have had a lot of life experience, I've done a lot, I'm also a successful business woman and I think, you know, some people go away and do endless charity work, I actually feel better when I tell people about how to make something work, how to re-evaluate something, about how to see everything in a positive light. One of my biggest rules is, and it's the same with my husband, we don't tolerate negativity and we don't tolerate – I'm afraid to say – negative people.
For us the glass is half full and also there is something in the glass (Nick laughs) I approach every day with gratitude and acknowledge how wonderful it is to be who and what we are in this country. So when I do motivational speaking I like to just, you know, remind people that we've lived through an incredible time in history.
NICK: Yeah, of course. Absolutely. You mentioned there that you didn't get the recognition you deserved until your first single was a big hit. There must've been some determination before that though, to make the success of that single and the acting? Where did that come from, Toyah?
TOYAH: I think recognition and determination have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I knew that if I was going to be successful I would have to have determination and I would have to just keep pecking away at everything. And it was just recognition that people don't instinctively or don't stop to listen to anyone unless you have something unique to say or something to do.
So I am very driven and I'm also very aware of my competitors and the amount of competition out there. And the one thing that was drummed into me at school and even at home is that say, acting, it's a very competitive industry with many people falling by the wayside. No-one once said to me that “yes, you will make it”.
I made that possible. And then when I started to get recognition then everyone claims to be a part of what you've achieved but what I'm saying is that for women I think there's an expectation that women will go so far and then kind of back away, get married and have children.
Why can't women have children and have a career if that's what they want? And why can't children have children if that's what they want? And why can't women be successful? I think we are seen in a very different light but that has nothing to do with the 80's Invasion Tour which I am talking about to you today!
NICK: Fear not, we've got plenty of time to talk about that and we will. But I'm just interested because you're obviously known for your music, you're known for your acting. Which came first – acting or music?
TOYAH: Acting came first. I was spotted on TV by an actress called Kate Nelligan and a director called Maximillian Schell, who's a German film star. And they asked me to come join them at The National Theatre in play called “Tales From The Vienna Woods” (above) and I was 18 years at that time and I moved to London and was at the National Theatre for nine months in this ground breaking play on the Olivier stage.
When I was there I met musicians and I met my long term writing partner Joel Bogen and we put a band together and started playing pubs around the UK. So while I was acting and making movies with Katherine Hepburn, "Quadrophenia", and making movies with Derek Jarman, I was also on the road with my band doing exactly the same work pattern I have today …
NICK: Wow! Why are you not totally worn out Toyah Willcox?
TOYAH: Well, I haven't had international success. If I had international success I would be burned out.
NICK: Right … (laughs)
TOYAH: Because that success is full-on 20 hours a day -
NICK: Oh, I bet, yeah -
TOYAH: - And I've been very lucky that I haven't had international success because I've had a lot of freedom in my creativity. And therefore I still have a real passion about what I do.
NICK: Yes. Shall we talk about the 80's Invasion Tour now?
TOYAH: Yeah!!!!!! (Nick laughs)
NICK: We'll get back onto other things in just a moment. Is there a big old camaraderie – do you know Paul Young (below with Toyah and Martika) and China Crisis from the olden days?
TOYAH: Yeah, absolutely! I did two shows at Xmas with Paul. I know Paul's children, they're a wonderful wonderful family. China Crisis I know incredibly well because their guitarist tours with me in my one woman show - “Up Close And Personal” -
NICK: Yeah, OK -
TOYAH: Martika I met for the first time today – she's absolutely delightful -
NICK: She's a sweetie, isn't she?
TOYAH: I think her set is going to be amazing! So yeah, we do really know each other and have done for a long long time.
NICK: Do you kind of chew the fat about the old times or do you always look forward to when you get together with your 80's mates?
TOYAH: We do chew the fat but we also have recent experiences that we have a big laugh about as well because Paul Young, myself and China Crisis have been doing these big 80's shows since about 2001 so there's a lot of talk about ... When we played Wembley or when we played a field in Aylesbury – you know, there's a lot of experiences. And they do tend to kind of re-surface … (chuckles)
NICK: (laugh) Yeah, I bet! Well, it all happens on the 15th of March in Aylesbury at The Waterside. When you do research for somebody like Toyah Willcox, obviously back in the day we didn't have the internet -
TOYAH: I know! How did we cope?
NICK: I don't know! Can I just run a few things past you? Is that alright?
TOYAH: To see if they're true?
NICK: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
NICK: Because I really hope all these things are true.
TOYAH: I want to know because I don't know who I am any more so I hope you're going to remind me! (Nick laughs)
NICK: OK. Toyah Willcox – you apparently, at school, set off alarm clocks during a speech by Margaret Thatcher?
TOYAH: Yeah. That's true. It was 1972, she was the Minister of Education. She came to my very posh exclusive all girl private school to give a talk to the parents and I set alarm clocks off under the stage during her speech.
NICK: (chuckles) OK! One for one. This is good, I like this. OK! During your appearance at The National Theatre, to which you alluded to earlier on, the great John Gielgud nicknamed you “The Animal” because you had backwards wheelchair races with a friend and wheeled yourself into the great Sir John Gielgud. Is that true or false, Toyah Willcox?
TOYAH: That's so true (they both laugh) He hated me!
NICK: I can't believe this story! Tell me the story!
TOYAH: Well, I was doing “The Tales From The Vienna Woods” and I was a punk rocker and there's a lot of time in a theatre when you're not doing something and The National Theatre is all corridors and there were wheelchairs in the corridors so all us chorus girls, which we were playing in “Tales From The Vienna Woods” - we all shared dressing rooms, get in the wheelchairs and race them round the corridors.
And on this particular time we decided to have a backwards race. And John Gielgud was … I think he was getting ready to do “Valponia” or something like that and we were making a lot of noise and he'd come out of his room and shout at us to shut up and bang! Kind of banged into him by mistake. I think he found punk rock very unamusing.
NICK: OK … Surely he was a punk rocker of his day, wasn't he?
TOYAH: Well, the thing is, these are the actors of the golden age of Hollywood, these were rebels in their time. And I think whenever he shouted at us there was a recognition, that you know, he was the same ... (Nick chuckles)
NICK: Brilliant! And this is the final one – you've worked with Laurence Olivier (above with Toyah) as well in a film called “The Ebony Tower”?
TOYAH: Oh yeah! I mean a wonderful wonderful man! And to get to work with this man! The man that created The National Theatre! He was just extraordinary and we all adored him. And to be acting with someone who has worked with Marilyn Monroe, and worked with all the greats, been to Hollywood, been through the system and that knowledge and experience just oozed from every pore.
NICK: Yeah! Fantastic! I love those stories, I think they're great! You mentioned that you work as hard now as you did back in the day. What future projects are there after the 80's Invasion Tour, after it's come to Aylesbury?
TOYAH: I'm on the road all year. So we don't have time for me to list every show but if you want to go to toyahwillcox.com you can find everything. I'm off to Spain to perform -
NICK: Are these all pop music tours rather than acting and things like that, yeah?
TOYAH: This is my solo Toyah concerts –
NICK: I got you, yeah yeah -
TOYAH: Yeah, I've got feature films coming up as well so it's very busy. With feature films there's confidentiality clauses so I can't -
NICK: You can't tell me! (laughs)
TOYAH: Of course not. It's a competitive industry! (Nick laughs)
NICK: OK. Let me ask you this question then. What to you do – and I'm sure there's not much time – what do you do, Toyah Willcox, when you're not working? How do you kind of chill out?
TOYAH: Walking. I like to find a big empty hillside or a beautiful empty woodland area. I just love walking and walking to me is how I get my ideas. It's a kind of moving meditation so it just allows me to kind of focus in on goals and things that I intended to do that I've been distracted from. So anywhere away from technology where I can use my feet is very very welcome.
NICK: Never, ever lose your rebellious streak, will you? And good luck with Paul Young, China Crisis, Martika on the 80's Invasion Tour that comes to Aylesbury at The Waterside on the 15th (of March). Toyah, thank you so much. Shall we play one of your other hits as well?
TOYAH: Oh go for it! Let's hear it! (“I Want To Be Free” starts to play in the background)
NICK: What's the first line of this song then? C'mon?
TOYAH: “I don't want to be told what to wear!”
NICK: Thank you Toyah!
TOYAH: And in the intro “I'm bored!”
NICK: (laughs) Thanks a lot!
TOYAH: Thank you!