11/03/2020

TOYAH ON
BBC RADIO NORTHAMPTON
WITH BERNIE KEITH
10.3.2020


KEITH: This time last year we were gearing up for her Record Store Day release, a magnificent coloured vinyl edition of Crimson Queen, the year previous we had clear vinyl of Desire. She loves this day! This year, last Friday we had a box set of 7 CD's of her solo work. Fabulous! And in the spring touring with Hazel O'Connor. Busy busy busy for Toyah Willcox. Morning Toyah!

TOYAH: Hello Bernie! Lovely to be here with you

BERNIE: You're very supportive of Record Store Day. Anything this year?

TOYAH: There's so much going on (laughs) It's so exciting! MINX is coming out vinyl (below) and I believe it's coloured vinyl, Desire re-released on white vinyl. I've got to think about this … My two really critically acclaimed solo albums Prostitute, Ophelia's Shadow, Take The Leap! All on vinyl. And there's a very big announcement in the summer as well which I'm not allowed to tell you because that's obviously waiting for July

BERNIE: You were with a great label, with the Demon group, Edsel and those kind of people. They seem to care about the product. Do records mean a lot to you? Do you have an umbilical connection from your childhood to them?



TOYAH: Oh yes! As a purchaser of singles and albums – I still have everything I've ever bought. I never got rid of it even when record players no longer existed. I have beautiful first editions of Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones one with the banana on. I've got all of that. Tyrannosaurus Rex. It means a lot to me. As much as owing a beautiful book

BERNIE: If you throw them out you're throwing out your photo album, that's the thing. Because you put on that Tyrannosaurus Rex album and you remember how you were as a girl when you got it, won't you? That's the magic of what you do 
 
TOYAH: Absolutely. And the shows I went to see. I went to see T-Rex at Birmingham Odeon when I was about 13, I saw Ziggy Stardust at Coventry live when I was about 14. I can absolutely map my life through my vinyl collection and I think that's why when punk happened it was such a powerful medium of getting to know someone by looking at their collection. 

Because you knew – they weren't only punks, we all had guilty pleasures and mine was Fleetwood Mac. So we'd find these things kind of deposited away behind The Clash albums. We got to know each other through our collections

BERNIE: You wrote for this box set that's out, the solo work, you wrote the sleeve notes for each album, didn't you? 



TOYAH: Yeah. I think it was very important to do that because I wanted to be able to put my perspective on the albums. Not only why they were made at the time they were made but what they mean to me now. There was stories back then that I wasn't allowed to tell back then. Desire, Prostitute and Ophelia had non-disclosure documents -

BERNIE: Did they?!

TOYAH: Yeah, because I wasn't getting on with my management

BERNIE: Oh, OK

TOYAH: So I can now talk about them. On one of the discs I'm being interviewed for 45 minutes, my husband comes in and talks on my behalf to go into what the non-disclosure was about because I'm still not (allowed) to talk about certain areas (Bernie laughs) And the beauty of today is we now know if a woman has had a non-disclose document it's usually to cover up a crime against her and that is what is featured on the box set

BERNIE: What's it like re-visiting the music? Because I guess you don't listen to your music all the time and now when you're putting these things together you have to go back to them, don't you?



TOYAH: You know what - when I listen to the tracks that the record company would not allow on Desire - because Desire when I wrote it in 87-88 was a very coherent experimental piece of music that by today's standards would be highly commercial. Two tracks were removed to put cover versions on. Echo Beach and Love's Unkind, which I never agreed to or agreed with and when I heard the two tracks that were discarded and I thought had been destroyed - we found them - I burst into tears

BERNIE: Yeah 

TOYAH: Because they are the most beautiful pieces of writing. They are so astonishingly ahead of their time. When I listened to Ophelia's Shadow again I mean tears just flooded down my face

BERNIE: It takes you back to the battle doesn't it, that's the thing, it takes you back to what you were going through at the time

TOYAH: Yeah! They were truly pieces of Toyah the creative artist and I'm so proud of them. Even Prostitute - which became my biggest critically acclaimed album, my biggest seller - because I never knew about because I never saw a penny for any of those three albums. To listen to them and you think I was right, I wasn't going off my head down the wrong alley as a creative artist. I was right and it's hugely emotional



BERNIE: And Solo, it's a solo box set and a lot of people may think you've always been solo, that's what you've been but prior to '85 Toyah was a group too, wasn't it?

TOYAH: Yeah. Thank for bringing that up. Sheep Farming Barnet, Blue Meaning, Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!, Anthem, Changeling, Love Is The Law, huge huge albums, all went gold platinum – was actually a band and my key writer of that music was my guitarist Joel Bogen (above with Toyah) 

When I signed to CBS to do MINX I became a solo artist and the thing about Toyah solo, these are all albums I now own and have the copyright on which may sound kind of wel,l what does that mean? Well, it means everything to the artist to own their albums

BERNIE: The art work is amazing. Last year's Crimson Queen was off the charts, it's beautiful and it's for this box set too but then the visual is always a part of your work. Where does that come from? Did you go to art college or was that in the mosh pit watching Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velvet Underground thinking that's what I want to do. Where does that come from?

TOYAH: I grew up with male artists really cross-dressing and found it incredibly powerful and liberating to walk away from the restraints of gender law. So I'm talking about Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Mark Bolan, even Twisted Sister – they all kind of played with gender and I love that so much and I was exactly the same when I became an artist. 

The image took me away from the constraints of gender control so I was very much into make-up, clothes, having things made that were one-offs, incredibly proud of wearing clothes that no one else had (Below, Melissa Caplan who designed most of Toyah's clothes in the 80's)


BERNIE: And this tour The Electric Ladies of the 80's – it seems so obvious (laughs) ... You and Hazel

TOYAH: I know! (laughs)

BERNIE: You've known each other for 40 years, haven't you?

TOYAH: Yes. Hazel, myself and Kate Bush were all in the same room together to audition for Breaking Glass. That's the first time I met Hazel so I'm talking about 1978 and I've always said this that the right person got the job. Hazel is the only actress, composer who could've starred in Breaking Glass. Kate Bush is the only singer-songwriter who could've written Hounds Of Love. 

I'm the only actress that could've gone onto to do Quadrophenia, could've worked with Laurence Olivier, Katherine Hepburn, who could've written Anthem, Changeling, Love Is The Law and move onto the stuff I did. Our places were set in stone I think the moment we were born and we just honoured and fought for our roles in a creative world. And suddenly - 40 years on - Hazel and I are working together (laughs) 

BERNIE: Great

TOYAH: Why didn't it happen sooner?

BERNIE: It's great. Were you rivals? Did you feel you were competing?

TOYAH: The press made us rivals, the record companies made us rivals. On that level we were competing. And I think it's an awful place to be as an artist where you're made to be threatened by other artist's work - especially the artists who you love as artists. I have always loved Kate Bush, always loved Hazel but I've loved Siouxsie, I've loved Pauline Murray, I've loved X Ray Specs, The Slits, I mean I've loved them all but we were made to be rivals. 

We were made to compete on Top Of The Pops but I think once we hit the kind of new millennium all that fell by the by and we all stuck together as sisters and loved each others work and honoured each others work

BERNIE: So what form will the shows take on this tour? Are you going to do separate sets, are you going come together as well? (below, rehearsals, November 2019)



TOYAH: We have to do separate sets. Both Hazel and I – I've had 13 Top 40 singles, Hazel's probably had the same

BERNIE: As Prince said you've got too many hits. Prince used to say on stage "I've got too many hits, man. I've got too many hits!" and that's the problem, isn't it?

TOYAH: I don't know how he did it. He'd get off stage and go to a night club and do another four hours every night (Bernie laughs) So Hazel and I will be working together. Hazel has asked to go on first because she's working with Claire and Sarah, her keyboard player and saxophonist and Hazel wants that to very much stand alone. Then my band will come on and do Hazel's hits electronically. 

Then I come on and I do a set and Hazel comes and joins my set where we're going to do this rather mammoth encore set of shared music. Everyone from Iggy Pop right through to Bob Marley that we're going to share with the audience and we want everyone up on their feet -

BERNIE: I love it

TOYAH: - Just crying and having a wonderful time

BERNIE: Well, it's going to sell out so check for availability. Hazel cut David Bowie's hair once – (have) you got any famous hairdressing stories you can share Toyah? (laughs) You got any?



TOYAH: Do you know I didn't know about that – I'm going to ask her about that (laughs) My hairdresser, a wonderful man called Keith, who owns the legendary hair salon Smile, was Bowie's hair dresser as well. And I only found that out recently because if I had known I would've been … I mean I would just be at their doors going "what was he like? What was he like!?" (Bernie laughs) And of course I met Bowie because my husband was his guitarist. I never got to know Bowie but I met him quite a few times 

BERNIE: Well now, I'm going to let you go because you're (going) down the gym, you want muscles, you look fantastic, Toyah, but you want muscles, don't you?

TOYAH: Yeah, I'm in training (Bernie laughs) I'm always in some kind of training, I'm always doing physio but for this tour I want to be really physically strong. I don't get a day off for three weeks on this tour so yeah. I am in training

BERNIE: Very good. Electric Ladies of The 80's, The Stables, Milton Keynes, April 17th, Solo box set is out now and on April 18th for an embarrasment of riches on Record Store Day from the fabulous Toyah Willcox! Thank you Toyah!

TOYAH: Thank you, so pleased to talk to you Bernie! Have
a great day!


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