15 April, 2019

TOYAH ON BBC RADIO WALES
WITH ELERI SION
29.3.2019


ELERI SION: The Punk Princess is celebrating over 40 years in the business with a new studio album called “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” and I'm delighted to say that Toyah Willcox joins us now

TOYAH: Yay! What an introduction! Than you so much!

ELERI: It's all you, it's all you Toyah! How are you?

TOYAH: I'm really good, I'm very happy, thank you

ELERI: Lovely to have you back on BBC Radio Wales. So let's talk about the release of this new album, which isn't exactly a new album, it's a re-working of your 15th original album from 2008

TOYAH: For many people it is a new album. For my dedicated fans - they know it. The writing for this started in 2007 and the first single from this album “Sensational” was the Weight Watchers campaign song on TV -

ELERI: I knew I'd seen it! You know when I was listening to it I thought I recognise this song! OK - right! Carry on!

TOYAH: Then my writing parter and I – I write with a man called Simon Darlow, who I first met when I was 19 and he was 17 and we've been writing together now close to 42 years. So Simon wrote “SlaveTo The Rhythm” for Grace Jones so a very accomplished songwriter. We work together all the time, we've written for film, we've written for stage. Every song on “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” has been used in a London stage musical “Crime And Punishment” four years ago -

ELERI: Right ...

TOYAH: My fans – this is quite complex but my fans know this story. Last year on May the 18th I was 60 years old and they downloaded me to number 1 in the charts

ELERI: Aww!

TOYAH: And I was unsigned so a record label called Demon Music came to us and said this album has to come out. The only way we can get you on the radio is if you are signed. So we said we want to re-imagine the entire album which only our fans know about and we want to add five new songs. We went away, we put down live drums, re-mixed, wrote the five songs and this is the album that's coming out on the 12th of April 




ELERI: And what a joy it is

TOYAH: The fans have already taken the world by surprise because in the pre-order charts, which was three weeks ago, they've put me at number 1 in every pre-order chart (Eleri laughs) So I feel as I've walked backwards into success this way. The audience have made this possible

ELERI: Isn't that fantastic! That's the love the people have for you. You know, 42 years in the business it must be lovely to know that. But this also is fully endorsed by your husband, the King Crimson himself Robert Fripp!

TOYAH: Yes?

ELERI: So tell us -

TOYAH: Can I just add it wasn't endorsed by him. It would still be called “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” (Eleri laughs) We're two highly independent people! (Toyah laughs)

ELERI: So you don't do anything – you keep everything separate?

TOYAH: Everything is separate except -

ELERI: Even your bank balance?

TOYAH: Yes!

ELERI: Ooooh!

TOYAH: There is no way we'd still be together if he shared my bank balance. That man shops more than I do (Eleri laughs)

ELERI: The first song of the album “Dance In The Hurricane” is a note to walking your own path through life -

TOYAH: And it's introduced by Robert. That is Robert.

ELERI: You know what – it describes you perfectly

TOYAH: Well, I wrote it (laughs)

ELERI: (laughs) Well, you know yourself! How much of this song is – so it's all purely about you and your path in life?

TOYAH: I think it's about all our paths and this song “Dance In The Hurricane” can only be written from the perspective of my age. The whole album I wanted to be age appropriate but I'm still a punk rocker. I think we're the generation that forgot to grow old. We still want to dance, we still want joy in our life, we still want to party and we still want love and we all want to feel safe.

So “Dance In The Hurricane” is written from the perspective that - the days my parents passed away and we're all going to go through that – I became an adult. But I still feel they are influential in my life and “Dance In The Hurricane” is learning to trust love again




ELERI: And do you know, that's not the only track I presume is from your heart because there is a track on the album which is about self-empowerment -

TOYAH: Well, “Sensational” is about all our empowerment and that's the present single. “Sensational” is – if we do not empower our children how can we expect the future to survive?

ELERI: How much of a struggle has that been for you during your own life? To be accepted the way you are? 

TOYAH: Well, standing here about to turn 61 it's not a struggle at all because you get to this wonderful age and you don't give a damn! And that is absolutely true, I've never enjoyed myself more than in the last year and it's a privilege to reach this age. I think we deliberately go through decades because we need to grow. I found my thirties very hard. Biologically, mentally, everything was hard

ELERI: Like what? Tell us more about that?

TOYAH: As an artist the only question I was ever asked was when was I going to have children? I found that incredibly offensive. Just because I was born a woman doesn't mean I decided to have children. It was a very difficult decade trying to be an artist because women are under huge problems to conform to everything to do with femininity. It wasn't the place I was in. 

I found that my forties were a joy! I think in her forties a woman is in her prime. You're sexually powerful, you've got much energy still. Fifties were good fun but so far sixties have been the best!

ELERI: Oh, you're making me cry, I'm 47 and I'm still waiting -

TOYAH: You've got all this to look forward! (Eleri laughs) No one will tell you you've got it to look forward to and you have

ELERI: OK. I'll take Toyah's word for it! The album cover sees you all in crimson as well with an elaborate neck adornment. Your style, Toyah, has always been iconic, so have you always been in total control of your look?

TOYAH: I have a very good team. The team have been with me for a good 20 years. I have a wonderful photographer Dean Stockings, who created all the computer graphics around the album cover as well as the “Sensational” video, which is just stunning. And my make-up artist Sean Chapman, who I also paint with, he created that wonderful piece that rests on my shoulders, which I've called The Fallen Crown. 

It's like silver twigs coming out of my shoulders. The idea behind this imagery is if you are permanently on a pedestal you can never grow. You need t come off the pedestal and live a real life and then you grow




ELERI: Oh Toyah ... I think it's time for us to hear that brand new track of yours.

“Sensational” plays

ELERI: That was “Sensational”. Literally sensational, it's the brand new track from Toyah from her new album that she has re-worked. It's “In The Curt Of The Crimson Queen”. What a great track! Absolutely beautiful

TOYAH: Thank you

ELERI: So I'm thinking … Do you fancy going back and tinkering with any of your other albums? I'm thinking “Anthem” now, from 1981 … Yeah?

TOYAH: We'll get to “Anthem” … I actually think one of the most ground breaking albums that I've made and I've heard and I'm talking generally across the board as an artist here is “Sheep Farming In Barnet”. It's phenomenal. It's my first album, it breaks all the rules, it's so fresh today – I love performing it live. 

I would like to go back and really add a lot of technology to it, a lot of synthesisers, a lot of sequencing because I think it's still a mega album. “Anthem” was my first platinum album, it's a beautiful album. I think it's complete. Doesn't need touching.

ELERI: Well, it gave us “I Want To Be Free” and “It's A Mystery” although “It's A Mystery” was on an earlier EP but how do you look back at that particular song?

TOYAH: When I was first approached about it it was written by a friend of mine called Keith Hale. It was originally a kind of 12 minute vocal intro an something like a 28 minute instrumental that followed. My record company asked both Keith and I to turn it into a pop song format. 

I was very worried about it because up until that point I was championing being a really strong strident Boadicea type woman and I felt “It's A Mystery” it's just too vulnerable. But I compromised and we worked on it, I wrote the 2nd verse lyric. When it came out I was treading it, I really was treading the reaction. It went through the roof!

ELERI: Yeah!

TOYAH: Absolutely through the roof! I mean there were even days when we were waiting for the Sunday chart placing when the shops ran out of vinyl. The factories had no vinyl in store to get the record into the shops. We had to physically hire men in white vans to go round all the record stores collecting broken vinyl and take it into the factories so that we could get that chart placing

ELERI: You're kidding me? So you were totally involved in all of that? Personally?

TOYAH: Yeah of course! I'm always involved

ELERI: But back in the 80's when you talked to people you see, they weren't involved. So you were quite a feisty – well, I can tell you still are – feisty woman. I would say that you don't accept no as an answer




TOYAH: I'm tenacious is probably a better way of saying it.

ELERI: I apologise! (laughs)

TOYAH: Sometimes I have to accept no. You know if you go and phone up someone like “Killing Eve” and tell them I should be the lead in that series they're going to say no (Eleri laughs) So you know you have to just accept that. I self manage and it's hard work because it's very busy (laughs) – being the star and the manager are two full time jobs. 

I'm always willing to try new things and that has opened many doors for me. I've never been a snob about what I do. I've never been queasy about what I do. I'm always open and willing to try new things and I think that's just led to very exciting work

ELERI: Well, you're career hasn't been just about music of course. You're acting, your CV in that department is pretty impressive. And also you've been involved in many social activities. Where does your social conscience stem from?

TOYAH: That is such a good question because I have a devil on my left shoulder and an angel on my right and they are constantly arguing (Eleri laughs) I do sit on the fence

ELERI: Do you?

TOYAH: When it comes to politics. I don't want to be a political artist. But I play in front of an audience four times a week and you look out and I feel such compassion for everyone and everything I see. I know the angel is winning. I think jobs like dealing with the big B, the Brexit ... can only be done by people who are qualified to do that job and I only interfere when I think I can add an perspective that I think is valuable

ELERI: Another spectrum - “I'm A Celebrity” ("I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here"). You said yes to that back in 2003. What was that experience like for you?

TOYAH: I feel lucky because when I did it it was the second series and people didn't have to jump out of helicopters and only the last remaining contestants had to eat whitchetty grubs. I went out 5th on the Friday. By Saturday those three contestants were eating whitchetty grubs. I feel really lucky – I got off lightly there

ELERI: (laughs) Well, listen, you are going to be touring throughout this year, performing songs from the new album and 50 confirmed dates and festivals. Dublin, Bali, Belgium and Wales!

TOYAH: Switzerland has gone in since as well – it's just adding and adding and adding! The whole year has gone crazy!




ELERI: Well, you're going to be at the Let's Rock Wales on the 1st of June at Tredegar Park and then you're coming to the Acapella Studios in Cardiff with an acoustic “Up Close And Personal” gig 

TOYAH: On the 28th of June. We love that venue

ELERI: So how much time have you spent in Wales over the years then?

TOYAH: Gigging - a lot ... seeing it - not at all

ELERI: Oh, well try and find some time then, especially in June, it's going to be beautiful weather hopefully

TOYAH: I know, it's going to be gorgeous

ELERI: (laughs) You have no time, have you?

TOYAH: No (laughs)

ELERI: Listen, it's been lovely speaking to you, Toyah. You are still The High Priestess Of Punk or Punk Princess, which ever you prefer (Toyah laughs) All the very best and as usual it's been a pleasure!

TOYAH: Fabulous to talk to you, thank you so much!

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