13 April, 2019

TOYAH ON BBC RADIO KENT
WITH DOMINIC KING
27.3.2019


DOMINIC KING: Some musicians only need to be known by one name. Toyah is one such person. As a pioneer of punk music in Britain, the sixty year old singer, songwriter, actress, producer and author goes back out on tour this autumn and has re-worked her “Crimson Queen” album and she's been telling me why

TOYAH: (on the phone) When we released it in 2008 it was literally like a fan release. Very limited edition, only available to the fans who knew my work, who came to see the band. Last year on May the 18th I turned 60 and unbeknownst to me my fans downloaded me to number one in the charts and there was a slight problem with this good news. Because I was not signed to a record label we couldn't ask for radio play even though I was number one. 

So luckily the whole project got picked up by a label called Demon Music and that allowed us to re-imagine it. We've added live drums, we've re-mixed it and we've added five brand new tracks. So for many people who aren't familiar with my work this is actually a completely new album.

DOMINIC: One of those new tracks, “Dance In The Hurricane” - I know a lot of people are talking about it. Act one and act two of this new listing?

TOYAH: Anthemic. These are songs about the listener. “Dance In The Hurricane” is about finding faith in life again. One of the glorious things you have as an older person is you have many ups and downs. “Dance In The Hurricane” is about surviving the downs and living on an up. It's as simple as that. It's a joyous song about time giving you that strength and it certainly does. I'm still a rebel – my generation is the punk generation – we forgot to grow old. 

But we still, I think, are able to rebel and I'm discovering as I play more and more live as an artist that people of all ages want live music. They want to lose their inhibition to music. And my songs are very much about losing inhibition and being empowered and believing in your own individuality. I very much address the listener when I'm writing a song



DOMINIC: Storytelling. Narrative work is absolutely at the heart of what you do. The ability to kind of tell us tales. Is that coming from, do you think, that punk background, the zeitgeist of looking at what was around and saying “I've got a message, I've got something to say”?

TOYAH: Oh absolutely! Punk was probably more political back then than I am today but I think the 80's genre was definitely storytelling. We all wrote songs for the arenas and for people to put bookmarks in their life, their life experiences. I'm very aware when I sing songs like “I Want To Be Free” that I'm actually taking people back to very strong memories in their past. And I respect that. 

Again with the album I'm pinpointing things experienced as a woman who's been through six decades. I'm about to turn 61 and I don't want to write about young love, I want to write about mature love. I want to write about perceptions of losing confidence and waking up one day and just feeling absolutely fabulous. We are still human beings with an incredible range of emotions. And I want those songs to be inclusive of life experiences and rich experiences as well and that brings it into the storytelling element

DOMINIC: Working closely with collaborator Simon Darlow?

TOYAH: Simon played everything. We were allowed to re-imagine the album. We sampled another drummer and we then mixed that into the album. But it is extraordinary when you have a writing relationship with someone who you first started working with at the age of 19. Simon was 17, I was 19 when we first wrote our first song together. People will know Simon because he wrote “Slave To The Rhythm” for Grace Jones, so he has an incredible track record. 

We've worked on four albums together and we're virtually neighbours where we live just outside the Cotswolds, which means we can get together all the time and we now write a lot. We've written for film, every song on this album “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” has been used in a London musical called “Crime And Punishment” four years ago and five of the new songs have appeared in movies. So we are kind of in demand as songwriters but what's lovely is to put it all together on an album again and be an album artist



DOMINIC: The movie and film world has exploded under Netflix, Amazon and now Apple TV generation ...

TOYAH: The music industry is in flux. It doesn't really know what it is and what purpose it serves at the moment. The one thing that is constant is live performance. It's stronger than ever. But mentioning Netflix – there are artists who are unsigned artists who are playing Wembley because their music is being placed in a drama. So Netflicks is having a phenomenal effect on songwriters. 

I dream of my songs being in something like “Killing Eve” or “The Missing” or even “Game Of Thrones”. That will launch me into arenas around the world. And that is a phenomena. An absolute phenomena. The power of music within a drama genre is just never heard of and it's happening today.

DOMINIC: How do you feel you've been able to sustain that place? Do you think that the collective of people who absolutely loved you in the beginning, you know, wore the make-up too, continue to share that love?

TOYAH: It's a yes to everything you've just said but also taking into account Youtube has introduced people like me to under 25 years olds. So my audiences now range from age 12 to 80. I played a fabulous venue in Leeds last month and the average age of the audience was 25 and they were all students. So … the audience is broadening and that is quite remarkable in itself. 

As for longevity, as hard as I have worked to have longevity my success has happened by accident and the fans are so fond of this particular body of work “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” that they made the release possible today by downloading me and putting me at the top of the charts. 

I have the fans to thank for that because there was no management behind that, there were no radio pluggers behind that, there was virtually no radio station behind that. The fans did that alone. 

And if this album is to thank anyone it is to thank the fans because they realise the amount of work I do. I do four concerts a week throughout the year and I play small venues right through to arenas. I think the fans wanted their loyalty to be recognised and my loyalty to be recognised. And I think I've kind of walked backwards into success with this one



DOMINIC: Is there ever a moment where you just look at all of this time and think how did that all happen? What a strange thing this is?

TOYAH: I think about that absolutely daily, I think about that in everyday life. Our world, our culture is like nothing I have experienced in my 61 years. Everything is so fluid and so changing. We are learning a new language, we are learning new attitudes and it of course affects absolutely everything and everyone around us. 

The fans have grown up with me, they've brought their children and their grandchildren to the shows but also there are young people coming to my shows I know nothing about. 

And I can absolutely say that life has never stopped being a learning curve and I'm finding that I'm having to learn faster  than ever before because the internet is broadening our perceptions of what we like and what we don't like and what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable. 

So I'm constantly kind of checking what I say. Firstly not to offend but also because things move on so quickly. I believe a lifetime is a lifetime of learning so I don't want to stop. I love being creative. But it's always a mystery – you think you have solution, you think you have a formula and you haven't. You just go with the flow. 


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