28 April, 2019

TOYAH ON
PHIL MARRIOTT MEETS
3.4.2019



PHIL MARRIOTT: Toyah Willcox! Fantastic to see you!

TOYAH: Hey! Good to see you too!

PHIL: How are you?

TOYAH: I'm really good, thank you

PHIL: Now, we've got the album which you've just put on the table. I have to say gorgeous because of the colours of this …

TOYAH: It's very crimson. It's “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen”. We started writing it ten years ago and we slowly drip-fed it to the fas as we toured constantly. So what happened – the only way I can explain is because if people know nothing about me … I was 60 on May the 18th last year and the fans downloaded me to number one in the charts and it was really quite extraordinary because I'm an unsigned artist. 

So this meant that people suddenly pricked up their ears and went oh! And we got offered a recording contract and we said we want to make this “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” how we originally wanted it to be but with a bit of a budget. 

So we added drums, we added bass, remixed and remastered and we added five new tracks. So this album has already had an extraordinary life. It was only available to the fans but virtually every track on the album has been in the musical version of “Crime And Punishment” -

PHIL: Yeah, I saw that -

TOYAH: Did you?

PHIL: It was great -

TOYAH: Oh, thank you. At the Scoop Theatre four years ago. And some of the tracks have been in movies so we've now had the chance thanks to a record deal to group it together, repackage it, so I'd say to anyone out there who knows nothing about me this is actually a sparkly new album

PHIL: Yeah, because you've got a lot of new tracks on there as well

TOYAH: Five new tracks -

PHIL: Yeah. What I love about it though, particularly, it seems really current still even though it was recorded the first time around over ten years ago but there's some tracks on there which seem almost like a reaction to what's going on politically in the UK and the US. I just want to read through some of these titles. There's “Hyperventilate”, there's “Heal Ourselves”, “Bad Man” -



TOYAH: Well, we sat down to relisten to the album about six months ago and we thought this is not a bad album. It still, like you said, feels very current. Simon Darlow, my co-writer and I - and by the way Simon plays everything on the album – we thought this deserves a worldwide commercial release. Let's go with it, let's add some fairy dust and the new tracks and just treat it as a new release. 

So because of the history of time to write and complete it it is commenting on things that have been going on for many many years. When we started writing this there was plenty of unrest in the world, there's was plenty of things going on far away in other countries that none of us want to have happening. 

So “Heal Ourselves” was about community, sisterhood, brotherhood, sticking together, not allowing the media to make enemies of ourselves. And ironically “Bad Man” is about the fact we are so quick to label someone with the label of "bad man" rather than see why they behave in such a way or their circumstance or how they feel they have to act when they're in public and it actually says "I see though you, I see through you like glass. I see your heart"

PHIL: You mentioned Simon Darlow, who your loyal fans will of course know from back in the 80's. You worked together with him on “Love Is The Law” 1983 and then again on "Minx" in '85 -

TOYAH: He said to me the other day – and I have no memory of this – I was the first person to sing “Slave To The Rhythm”. I was with him when he wrote it -

PHIL: Oh yes, because he co-wrote it -

TOYAH: Yeah, for Grace Jones. I have no memory of that at all that I was actually the singer that he tested it out on-

PHIL: Amazing! Do you find that a lot of that is a blur - your career in the 80's -

TOYAH: Everything's a blur now!

PHIL: It's kind of whizzed on so quickly -

TOYAH: The thing is I try to make today relevant. I think it's really important to be present and accept who and what you are in the present. So I think the reason the past is a blur I'm always focusing on what I do today and seizing opportunities to do with the future so the past doesn't really get a look in that much -

PHIL: You're not one to look back, you just want to concentrate on what's coming up?

TOYAH: Yeah, even when I do the big 80's festivals I try to give that in the moment. So if I'm doing “I Want To Be Free”, “Thunder In The Mountains”, “It's A Mystery”, “Good Morning Universe”, all those hits – I try to give them in a relevant way today

PHIL: Because we know you've touched on the anniversaries of your previous albums - “The Changeling”, you did the anniversaries for those, you've got the 35th anniversary of "Minx" (below) coming up -

TOYAH: Oh, really? Thank you

PHIL: In like two years, what is it – it was ' 85 -

TOYAH: We're asking the record company to give that back to me at the moment. A lot record companies own stuff that they're not active with and we believe as artists it's our human right to ask for it back -



PHIL: Yeah, it's you work isn't it?

TOYAH: It's my work, it's my identity so we are actually focusing on "Minx" and trying to get it back which means I could do an awful lot with it

PHIL: Oh my God, yeah. Because you've had a lot of problems with Safari Records – that was the label you were signed to right back in the 70's -

TOYAH: Yeah … When you say problems I think basically at the moment I'm being ghosted by them because I won't go away. Yes … It's just one of those things. It's a phenomenally successful back catalogue so I want to nurture it and mother it

PHIL: It's really your roots, isn't it?

TOYAH: It's my roots and I think “Sheep Farming In Barnet” is such an important album. “Blue Meaning” - really important album. They're so original, they're so quirky and they still sound fresh. They really deserve their place with the younger generations. 

The beauty of Youtube and performing to such young people – to me anyone under 30 is really young – is that they're yet to discover this music and I think they're really going to like it. So I'm very active with all of that

PHIL: And a lot of those songs are quite dark as well – I think a lot of young people would resonate -

TOYAH: They're wonderfully dark -

PHIL: How does it feel when you perform those old songs?

TOYAH: I love it!

PHIL: Do you get kind of taken back when you were singing them the first time around?

TOYAH: Some of them are prophetic so when I'm singing “Neon Womb” my mother was still alive but when I wrote it I was aware of the future so there's little things like that. The same with “Race Through Space”. 

They're all about the grief before the grief actually was there in the world and it's a common theme in “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen”. It's how grief makes us better people. It makes us stronger, it makes our love stronger, makes our hearts stronger because you have to reach out further to find those you love. So for me that's a very powerful message

PHIL: And proving again that you always want to look forward as well

TOYAH: Oh, yeah

PHIL: Seeing the future – with your songs, with your songwriting -

TOYAH: I find that quite a romantic thing to do. For me the future is a bed of roses

PHIL: Because you've always written songs in the past maybe inspired your dreams. Is that still the case now or do you get your songs inspired by what's going on in the real life? 



TOYAH: Yeah, sometimes I have really amazing dreams that are so tangible that I think that was not a dream, that was something else – that was a lesson. So I always take those particularly seriously. At the moment I'm dreaming a lot about tidal waves -

PHIL: Ooh …

TOYAH: And they're in the most bizarre places. I live on the river Avon and I keep dreaming about tidal waves coming down the river Avon -

PHIL: Terrifying …

TOYAH: Well, my husband says that it's actually being wrapped up in a spiritual experience, that water is our connected spirituality as mankind and I think that's a nice way to look at it. We do flood a lot there and when we flood its very cold water so I'm kind of keeping the positive and the negative on equal balance -

PHIL: The Yin and Yang -

TOYAH: But to answer your question – I take dreams quite seriously because I've learned that sometimes they're telling you something that you need to be aware of

PHIL: Well, that's it, dreams are I suppose a link to reality - it's bouncing back off reality …

TOYAH: In some cultures dreams are believed to be the real work we do. I often wonder why on earth do we sleep so much of our lives … Well, go and ask some native Aboriginal in Australia – they'll tell you that's when you do your real work

PHIL: Ooh sleep, I love sleep, I could go to sleep right now

TOYAH: I hate sleep! I would do anything to pop a pill and never sleep again

PHIL: Do you still suffer from insomnia -

TOYAH: It's terrible! And people get so annoyed with me because I'm pinging out emails all hours of the night. I only achieve deep sleep between seven and ten in the morning

PHIL: It's something that I've experienced more so recently that I've not been able to sleep. Is it the creative brain because you just want to keep producing?

TOYAH: I think those people that can use it creatively are very very lucky. Kate Bush I think does most of her creative writing through the night. I can't be that creative, I can be very functional. I can do all the mundane in the office but to sit down and write a song at 2 in the morning, that's not going to happen with me

PHIL: It's a very small world, Toyah, because the video for “Sensational”, one of the tracks on the album, is directed by Dean Stockings -

TOYAH: Yeah!

PHIL: Your photographer as well. He also works with Boy George and Boy George I seem to remember was in your documentary -

TOYAH: Yes, at Mayhem -



PHIL: Yeah, at Battersea -

TOYAH: Yeah, Boy George very kindly tweeted the link to the video so he's been very supportive

PHIL: Do you see him much now?

TOYAH: We talk more than we see each other because Dean now works for Boy George full time so I get to hear a lot about what both of them are up to. I know Boy George wants to do an album with me – I'm not sure when we can fit it in -

PHIL: Wow!

TOYAH: Boy George wants to write and produce it which would be interesting from my point of view as a writer but I never say never and I think let's see what happens

PHIL: The reason I asked you that question was because I was at Battersea Dog's Home just the other day and that is very close to where you used to live -

TOYAH: I was across the road. They've knocked it down now -

PHIL: Oh, have they?

TOYAH: Yeah, Mayhem's gone -

PHIL: What a shame!

TOYAH: There was a petition to save it and give it a heritage plaque. But no, it's gone, I think it's flats now

PHIL: Because that features in the documentary. Is that something you've seen recently – that documentary?

TOYAH: I love that documentary. I'd love to own it, I could do a lot with that. It was shot and directed by Graham Moore. I am so grateful because that turned everything around for me. To have an hour long documentary on ITV on a Thursday night, 9 o'clock, prime time. It was phenomenal! Really all he angels were looking after me that day because it was all the music – and this was before “It's A Mystery” -

PHIL: I was going to say this was before you really became successful. I mean you were successful then because you had a loyal fan base -

TOYAH: I was very cult. I was hugely successful as an actress and as a touring artists but I hadn't had nationwide hits. So that documentary – wow! Mind-blowing. You ask if I like it? I love it! (Phil laughs)

PHIL: It was fascinating to watch as well and also I presume that new fans of yours that didn't know you back then or didn't have an insight as to how you started -

TOYAH: They should watch it

PHIL: Yeah!

TOYAH: Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! (Watch the documentary here (My googledrive)

PHIL: Have their minds blown how – well, different in some ways but not in others – still the same artist -

TOYAH: It was a really good time. That was a good time for everyone. Everything was possible. I think life was easier for us young 'uns back then and I think that documentary just caught me brilliantly 



PHIL: You are what I think is safe to call a juggernaut in so many ways because I've always thought from the late 70's to now you have this endless energy, a kind of effervescence that you can't control it -

TOYAH: I can't control it -

PHIL: You're bouncing all the over the place. How do you do it?

TOYAH: Yeah. I'd like to control it. I often think if I could just stand still on stage I might be a better artist. I just don't know where it comes from

PHIL: Because you're doing 30 shows this year. Over 30 -

TOYAH: No, I think it's about 58 -

PHIL: Well, there we go -

TOYAH: And it's going up and up and up because we've been doing lots of radio and even last week a promoter contacted me during a live radio show and offered me a festival. The numbers – it's just tick, tick, tick, tick – going up. The energy – when I'm on stage I don't know where it comes from. I don't think I've ever gone on stage without that surge of something coming into me that I can't hold back

PHIL: Do you know what it is? Can you identify what that surge is?

TOYAH: I like to think it's something outside of me rather than a brain condition (laughs)

PHIL: An other-worldly force -

TOYAH: Yeah! I don't know whether it's my pituitary glands or what, I like to think it's an  other-worldly force

PHIL: I wanted to ask about identity because when you were young you resented femininity -

TOYAH: I still do -

PHIL: Being put in a box?

TOYAH: I'm really uncomfortable with being identified as feminine. I always have been. I'm very tomboy, I definitely have a masculine soul. I believe in reincarnation and I'm absolutely certain that I was Attila The Hun or something like that in a past life. I'm so masculine and it's nothing to do with sexuality. It's just to do with attitude. I think we have - all of us - the right to be our individual selves. 

I was very aware from a very young age that I was being made to identify as something for the convenience of others. It's all to do with ticking boxes and filling forms and listing in bureaucracy – on your passport, male or female. I think we're all individuals. 

We have a right to clarify what we need to excel and be our best and I personally believe that we are all here with nothing but potential in our bodies. Part of that potential is identifying, honing down, clarifying who and what you are. I'm so profoundly uncomfortable having to be feminine that it effects me -

PHIL: I know that you worked with some amazing people in “Jubilee”, the theatre show (below) obviously based on the movie that you were in -

TOYAH: Oh my God - I loved it!

PHIL: This is the really exciting thing – the fact that you were playing Queen Elizabeth. You obviously didn't play that role the first time round, you played "Mad" in the movie. I found that a really good connection because it really freshened things up, it made the production really exiting -



TOYAH: It was very clever. Well, Chris Goode was asked by the Manchester Royal Exchange "what would you like to do as a writer/director?" And he said "I want to bring the film “Jubilee” to the stage." The first script I read - and I don't think we veered far away from what I read first - was one of the most outrageous funniest things I have ever had in my hand. It was just so gloriously naughty. 

Chris came to see me to ask me to give advice to the cast. Gender fluid, some were gender neutral, some were transitioning and he said could I give them advice about what it was like to be a punk rocker back then, which was very much gender orientated. I said yeah I'd happily do it and I said "can I be in it?" And he said "I wanted you to ask that!" (Phil laughs) So I just jumped on that. And what a glorious cast!

PHIL: These are people that have such rich life experience, it was perfect for the role, wasn't it?

TOYAH: It was brilliantly cast. Every single person in that play had a message – have a message. They're all activists, they're all sexual politics activists, they're all gender activists, they're political activists and for me being good 40 years older than most of them … I had to learn a new language. 

I had to stop saying "C'mon guys, let's go for lunch." They were they, them, us, it. Words that I would've considered rude 40 years ago to address someone by. So I was continually having to learn to respect what they wanted and I was very happy to do that and at the same time I was going against 60 years of programming

PHIL: So that was a challenge for you as well -

TOYAH: Huge challenge! But one that I loved. I'm very grateful to have met these wonderful people who work very hard. They earn a lot less than I used to earn when I was their age and I really appreciated how they struggled and still had huge hearts and huge ambitions but they were still living in a world that was less just than the world I was in at that age. And I feel very passionately for them and their talent and that they get what they deserve in life and they deserve everything

PHIL: And they've got Derek Jarman's outlook as well

TOYAH: Yeah. And that was very important because Derek - like most men of his persuasion back then ... because he suffered a lot. He suffered a lot of physical violence and verbal violence and he had a really horrible death. And luckily people aren't dying quite like that from the AIDS virus now. 

But for Derek it was so frightening. When he had HIV and then it developed into AIDS … he was getting death threats, he was getting people wanting to violently take his life as if AIDS wasn't violent enough. So it was a remarkable experience to be with these young people and to be able to share my story with them and them being able to share their present day story with me

PHIL: You mentioned Kate Bush -

TOYAH: Yes -

PHIL: You've always been a fan as have I. You were the first artist I ever saw live in 1982 -

TOYAH: Wow!

PHIL: It was the “Warrior Rock” show (below)

TOYAH: Yeah

PHIL: At the Hammersmith – as it was then – The Odeon. Now The Apollo. Kate Bush played there a few years ago -

TOYAH: How long ago was it?

PHIL: I think it was 2014 -

TOYAH: OK

PHIL: Doesn't feel like -



TOYAH: I know I went on the 11th of September. She invited me to come and see it 

PHIL: What an incredible show

TOYAH: Yeah. One of the best things I've ever seen

PHIL: Yeah, yeah

TOYAH: What I loved about it was you really felt nothing but love in the room

PHIL: Yeah

TOYAH: That was extraordinary. When she walked on in that really almost – I think the word is sardonic pace it was - she was just so relaxed! I mean I would run on! But she had everyone follow behind her. It was beautiful, the sound was incredible

PHIL: I've got the hairs on the back of my neck up just remembering it. I was lucky enough to see it twice –

TOYAH: Yeah, her voice was incredible

PHIL: The second time I was upstairs and I kind of saw the whole stage but the first time I was right by the stage and I couldn't walk afterwards. It was a really bizarre thing -

TOYAH: Oh, wow!

PHIL: I couldn't speak, I couldn't walk – I was just dumbfounded

TOYAH: I was just very happy for her. I went backstage after to speak to her and to be with her for a bit. It's funny … she - the success of it didn't seemed to have touched her. She was just Kate and -

PHIL: Very humble -

TOYAH: Incredibly humble. I don't know if you know she used to bring Bertie (Kate's son) to my house before anyone knew Bertie existed. My father used to take them both out on his boat on the river Avon 

PHIL: Oh wow … I loved him in the show as well

TOYAH: He was great. He's a remarkable man, very very intelligent as you'd expect. I'm always blown away about how humble Kate is because she's a goddess!

PHIL: That's what makes her more appealing as an artist I think. There's no ego. Or I suppose you've got to have a certain amount of ego to -

TOYAH: I don't think there is ego. I think she's incredibly clever like that. There's incredible knowledge, very hard work, but I don't think there's ego. But she is very protective of her work

PHIL: Yeah. I know you're a big horror fan as well -

TOYAH: Oh, huge horror fan!

PHIL: I've just seen “Us” - which was quite disturbing

TOYAH: I haven't seen that yet

PHIL: Because a lot of modern films aren't as disturbing as they used to be I don't think

TOYAH: Oh well, you must see “The House That Jack Built” ... Piers Von …

PHIL: Oh, I haven't seen – Lars Von ...

TOYAH: I always get the name wrong. It is genuinely shocking. Matt Dillon is mind-blowing, everyone is mind-blowing in it and what I love about it it's one of the first films I've seen other than “It” - which was enjoyably shocking – this, “The House That Jack Built” is breathtakingly disturbing 



PHIL: More psychological -

TOYAH: It's very real

PHIL: I seem to remember you came on (stage) as part of your tour to the music of "Suspiria"?

TOYAH: Oh yeah, the goblins

PHIL: The goblins yeah and that obviously got remade recently too. Did you see the remake?

TOYAH: It's a parody?

PHIL: It's quite different, it's a lot longer

TOYAH: OK. Well, I think "Suspiria" is a classic. It works, it wasn't broken, don't mend it

PHIL: So what was the last horror you saw? Was it “It”? Or “The House That Jack Built”?

TOYAH: Oh no, I watch horror all the time. "Piewit" (?) or something is on my desk at the moment to watch. You really got me there … Oh, I think the remake “Halloween” was the last one -

PHIL: Oh yeah, that was great, I was so buzzing about that because it's my favourite all time film -

TOYAH: But again it didn't want to offend -

PHIL: I think it was quite sanitized -

TOYAH: Remake was very sanitized

PHIL: Yeah. Are you still scared by stuff now when you watch -

TOYAH: Yes. Anything to do with demonic possession I can't really watch. It's too suggestive for me

PHIL: Yeah. I taps in, doesn't it?

TOYAH: It taps in -

PHIL: The psyche. Listen Toyah, it's been fantastic to see you. I wish you all the best with the album “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” -

TOYAH: Thank you

PHIL: Gorgeous packaging. I mean it's gatefold – 2 CD

TOYAH: 2 CD 


 
PHIL: Something for the fans

TOYAH: And the vinyl is bright cerise pink

PHIL: For Record Store Day. I think it brings back the excitement of buying music, doesn't it?

TOYAH: Well, vinyl I think is saving the music business at the moment. It's the biggest seller. When we announced the vinyl I went straight to number one in the pre-order charts across the board so it just shows how popular vinyl is

PHIL: There is air punching going on there ...

TOYAH: Yeah

PHIL: Good to see you Toyah, all the best

TOYAH: Thank you so much, thank you

PHIL: See you soon

You can watch this interview on Youtube here 
 

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