CARL: Right, we are talking to actress and singer Toyah Willcox today. Hey, how are you?

TOYAH: I’m really well, thank you and so looking forward to coming to Guernsey

CARL: Yeah, in this fine island next month you’re performing at the "Best 80's Party In The World Ever . . . Part 2". Will it be your first time in Guernsey?

TOYAH: No, I was in Guernsey when I was 11 and I came over either on a catamaran or a hovercraft from Jersey. We came into a harbour and I remember it so well because it was first time I ever ate lobster. And I have loved lobster ever since! I can’t wait to get back to Guernsey!

CARL: Just for the lobster?

TOYAH: Well, for the audience as well! (laughs)

CARL: Yeah, sure. You can’t beat Guernsey lobster. But it’s such a lovely port when you’re coming into Guernsey - especially on a summer’s day, it’s absolutely fantastic

TOYAH: Yeah, I know. I agree

CARL: So do you get to spend a bit of time here or is it just a sort of fleeting visit?

TOYAH: I arrive the afternoon of the concert and then I leave at 7 in the morning on the Saturday because I have to get back for another concert. And so regret that

CARL: So no after show party for you?

TOYAH: Well … there might be actually! I might not - I just won’t bother going to bed!

CARL: Yeah - just go straight through

TOYAH: Yeah!


CARL: Toyah, what a career you’ve had so far. You originally trained as an actress in your home town of Birmingham. Is that what you always wanted to do?

TOYAH: No, I always wanted to act and sing. When I was about 7 my mother took me to see "The Sound Of Music" and I so loved the idea of an actress singing. I wanted to have both careers but hold them completely apart

I wanted to be best actress in the world and most famous singer in the world. So to a certain level I’ve managed to maintain two careers separately. But I always wanted to do both

CARL: With the acting you’ve been in some huge TV shows and massive films including one of my favourite films ever, the ‘79 "Quadrophenia"

TOYAH: Oh, yeah!

CARL: Your character was called "Monkey". What was the whole experience of a big movie like that being filmed?

TOYAH: I love doing big movies because they are like standing on a hill with an avalanche coming behind you and you're just running like mad to keep up with everything. I mean "Quadrophenia" was massive

One of my most enduring memories, apart from sitting in Sting’s bedroom learning learning the harmonies to "Roxanne" with him, was that you just couldn’t find food anywhere!

The whole of Brighton was completely overrun with extras and actors and wherever you went no one believed you were in the film. They all believed you were gatecrashing. I can remember the enduring hunger of never be able to find food. So you often hear that the film industry isn’t as glamorous as it looks … well, actually, it's not at all glamorous. But it’s incredibly exciting

CARL: Yeah, just a mad time I would’ve thought, back in the -

TOYAH: Completely mad!

CARL: Yeah , late 70s. And then it was the punk scene as far as the music goes. It was the band named after you. Was that your thing? “Guys, you know, it’s got to be called Toyah?”

TOYAH: Well, we couldn’t come up with an alternative name and then you had Blondie being very successful, which was Debbie Harry’s nickname. Toyah was considered unusual enough to be a name that could front a band. So we just went with it. Because Toyah has a meaning - Toyah is a native Red Indian name from a tribe in Arizona known as the Toyah tribe

They were particularly known for the Toyah arrow, which was a vicious little arrow that you couldn’t remove from the skin. So it just seemed appropriate to use that name and it was my birth name as well


CARL: With the hit singles - quite a few singles before you hit the charts. Is that a hard thing to go through when songs don’t become hits straight away? Do you sometimes think -

TOYAH: No, because when you release a song you believe in it. I believe just because something isn’t a commercial hit doesn’t mean it’s not great. When you look at certain acts like The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed in the beginning … Lou Reed didn’t have hits before "Walk On The Wild Side", but stuff he wrote before that is his most interesting stuff

So commercial success to me has nothing to do with something being powerful. The singles I had out before "It’s A Mystery" I’m just as fond of as "It’s A Mystery" because they influenced the music scene incredibly

CARL: You mentioned "It’s A Mystery". That was the big first commercial success if you like in 81’. It got to number 4. That must’ve been the time when it all went crazy for you -

TOYAH: Really crazy!

CARL: As far as the band went, breaking the Top 5. It must’ve been an amazing feeling, listening to the charts because of course back then it was harder to get into the Top 5 than it is now?

TOYAH: Well, that’s it. In those days if you were in the Top 40, you had a hit. The Top 40 was so powerful. If you got into the Top 100 in America - it was powerful

Now you have to get to number one or everyone thinks you’re a failure! (both laugh) I’m not saying it was easier back then but you got a lot more respect for being in the Top 40 than you do now

CARL: More in just a moment, after that breakthrough single “It’s A Mystery”

SONG: It’s A Mystery

CARL: Toyah, once that first hit went into the charts they just kept on coming, didn’t they?

TOYAH: Yeah, I had consecutively 15 Top 40 hits. "It’s A Mystery", "I Wanna Be Free", "Thunder In The Mountains" are the ones that are remembered outside my fanbase but my fanbase remember all 15 so that’s good

CARL: I’m sure a very proud owner, Toyah, of a Brit award. You won it in 1982. It was called the British Rock And Pop Awards, it’s been restyled as The Brits. Is it in pride of place, that Brit Award, on your mantlepiece?

TOYAH: Hugely so, absolutely. Best female singer (below, accepting the award from Dave Lee Travis (behind Toyah) and Leo Sayer, The Lyceum, London 8.2.1982)


CARL: And that’s the one to get isn’t it?

TOYAH: It’s the one to get

CARL: Reality TV, good memories I’m sure from 2003, almost 7 years ago. Series 2 of "I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". I think it was Phil Tufnell who won it but you came sixth, didn’t you? Was that good fun doing the show?

TOYAH: It was really good fun. It was very different to the show you see in recent times because only the top three got to eat the bugs. So I was lucky

I only got put in a cesspit and I was only starved so much that I lost ten pounds. So I came out of there thinking "wow! What a great way to go on a diet!
" But it was fun!

CARL: Yeah, it really is -  they don’t secretly give you a hamburger after they’ve stopped filming or anything? You are just relying on rice and beans?

TOYAH: You’re sleeping out in the rain, you’ve got bugs all over you, you’ve got snakes and spiders that bite, all around you. They do not take you to a hotel at the end of the day. You go to sleep so hungry you could eat your own fingers. And you smell bad!

Because they don’t let you wash (Carl sniggers) and the only way you can wash is in a freezing cold stream. I thought it would be hot. I thought we’d have this wonderful Australian weather and it rained and it was miserable and it was cold. You end up coming out emaciated and smelling bad!

CARL: Most people remember you from the 80s, the singing days. It was a great look. Huge orange hair, lots of colourful make-up but that was the 80s, wasn’t it, Toyah?

TOYAH: Yeah, but everyone’s doing it today ...

CARL: Yeah, the 80s are back big time. I always remember watching the "Kenny Everett Show", that scene when you were chatting to him and your hair changed colour  -


CARL: Clever visual effects. Do you remember that?

TOYAH: I remember it so well! I just loved doing the "Kenny Everett Show". I loved it when we moved on from that and I dressed as him and he dressed as me (below) He just gave the wackiest performance! (Carl laughs) It was great fun!


CARL: Yeah, he was true legend, wasn’t he?

TOYAH: He was

CARL: When you perform now, Toyah - obviously you’re in Guernsey next month for "The Best 80s Party In The World Ever ... Part 2" - is that the look you go with now? The big orange hair and everything or have you toned it down a bit -

TOYAH: No - I dress pretty outrageously but I dress outrageously for 2010. It's a visual show but no, I’ve moved on from the 80s. The nice thing is the audience have just discovered the 80s so they’re all there in their shoulderpads and DayGlo

CARL: Yeah, and people love dressing up. There’s been various 80s gigs over here in Guernsey and people just love it -

TOYAH: It’s really good fun. It’s great to look out there and see 12 year olds dressed like Madonna in "Like A Virgin". They really go for it!

CARL: So why do you think this 80s revival is so big? It’s always been big but now it’s just massive!

TOYAH: I think it’s because it was the beginning of the video age so it’s the first time that music and fashion went in hand in hand. It’s the first time that fashion season changed from being yearly to four times a year so every season had a new look. I think young people love fashion and music and the 80s really was about that

CARL: Ska legends The Beat are also on the bill. Have you worked with them before?

TOYAH: Yeah! I haven’t worked with them before but I’m friends with them so it’s going to be nice evening

CARL: It will be like a reunion

TOYAH: It’s a bit of a reunion, definitely

CARL: And the new material. You did a new album couple years back. Was that "In The Court Of The Crimson Queen?"

TOYAH: Yeah, that came out 18 months ago with my co-writer Simon Darlow who wrote Grace Jones’ “Slave To The Rhythm”. That went into number 2 in the iTunes rock chart but interestingly song off that called "Lesser God" is now being considered for the World Cup

They’re definitely using the music from it. If they use the whole song it means the album is going to be re-launched and Simon and I are going to be on tour for the next 5 years!

CARL: Wow! Well, good luck with that, hope it happens

TOYAH: Thank you!

CARL: It’s been lovely talking to you. I look forward to meeting you next month. I’ve still got the posters, by the way, that I had on my bedroom wall in the 80s

TOYAH: Oh, that’s nice!

CARL: I’ve kept them so I’ll bring them along to the gig and you can sign them for me?

TOYAH: Absolutely!

CARL: OK! (laughs) We will see you in Guernsey, six weeks from today, ten days after your birthday

TOYAH: (thinks for a second) It is, isn’t it?

CARL: Yeah!

TOYAH: I hadn’t thought of it like that!

CARL: There you go. We can have a birthday celebration for you as well, ten days late!

TOYAH: Thank you very much!

CARL: "Best 80s Party In The World Ever ... Part 2" on the 28th of May. Toyah, thank you so much for your time!

TOYAH: Big pleasure!

CARL: Cheers!


SONG: I Want To Be Free


Post a Comment

<< Home