12 April, 2019

TOYAH ON BBC RADIO ULSTER
THE ARTS SHOW
WITH MARIE-LOUISE MUIR
26.3.2019


MARIE-LOUISE MUIR: It is no mystery that Toyah Willcox has had her fingers in many pies. The English singer and actress has been the face and voice of 80's post-punk pop to Derek Jarman's muse in the film “Jubilee”, stage musicals, writing and even The Teletubbies. 

This year marks her 40th year in music and next month she is re-releasing a new version of her album “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen” proving that Toyah still reigns.

TOYAH: I believe my generation will always be punk. We were born to rebel and I think that is the generation that is forgetting to grow old. When I do my concerts I'm looking over to all ages from 12 to 80 – all having equally a good time and all dancing as much as each other. 

I like to think that my generation are breaking down the barriers of age. Age is something that is almost a construct. Physically we grow old but we're still the same person as when we were twenty.

MARIE-LOUISE: Is it different though – to be punk today? I mean one of your songs is “21st Century Super Sister”. Is it different to be punk in 2019 than it was in the 1970's?

TOYAH: Absolutely! It's hugely different. We had such different things to fight against. When I was a punk 42 years ago – people like myself, Siouxsie Sioux, Polystyrene – we were working in a male world and it was different to what young people have today. 

Young people today have not only crazy world politics to deal with, they have the internet exposing them to everything in a fast moving world that I think it must make them feel very unsettled. 

They have sexual politics to deal with, religious politics to deal with. I didn't have all that to deal with when I was a teenager. Punk was almost a simple and a very beautiful thing and we rebelled mainly against three political parties and our parents. Now you've got the whole world to deal with. And I think young people need our support.



MARIE-LOUISE: What about your look? Looking at the cover of Smash Hits that you were on – you just knew it was you, even if it was a silhouette you'd still know it was Toyah -

TOYAH: I knew that when I started out I wasn't special enough as my natural self to get a foot in the door of show business. I'm not tall, I'm slightly pudgey and back in 1977 you needed to look like Farrah Fawcett-Majors or Cher and I hadn't a hope in hell of looking like either of those so I realised that I was going to do it purely through individuality wearing my soul on my sleeve. 

I wanted to look different, I wanted brightly coloured hair. And at this time very few women were doing this. And the stinging of 60 vol peroxide I'll never forget! It just burned your skin!

MARIE-LOUISE: With the album ... it's not so much a new album – it's a re-imagined … how would I described it? A re-imagined … I'm going to have to work out how to say this!

TOYAH: Well, I'll say for you -

MARIE-LOUISE: OK, please do! I don't even know how to describe it! (laughs) It came out in 2008?

TOYAH: Yes. To most people this is actually a new album. To my fans it came out in 2008, as a thank you to my fans. It never had a commercial release. It was only available to my fans - who are very dedicated followers. And over the years we've added and added and we've got this full album. 

The album has had quite an extraordinary life without the majority knowing about it. Every song on the album has been used in a London stage musical called “Crime And Punishment” (2016) (below, Toyah with Alec Porter who played the lead as Raskolnikov) 



The five new songs that have been added in the last year have been used in film and TV. What happened on my birthday last year when I turned sixty on May the 18th, the fans downloaded me to number 1 and the extraordinary thing about this is that at that time I was an unsigned artist and it meant that I couldn't get radio play out of this success because radio stations need you to be a signed artist. So I was immediately signed by Demon Music. We now have the commercial release and it's gone from one extraordinary step to the other. 

When the album was announced three weeks ago it went to number 1 in all the pre-order charts across the board and I suddenly got a call an hour after it was announced from a very astonished record label saying "you're number one". So the album's physical release is happening in a couple of weeks so it's just been – for me – a beautiful story of my fans doing what fans do best and that's holding the artist up. 

MARIE-LOUISE: I have really enjoyed listening to it and one of the tracks “Dance In The Hurricane” -

TOYAH: Ahh!

MARIE-LOUISE: - really stood out for me. You say “my father lives in my dreams” -

TOYAH: Yeah -

MARIE-LOUISE: I love that idea of people that you've lost or who have died come back and tell you stuff -

TOYAH: They're always with you. We can only say this from the perspective of where we are as adults that everyone who is not in our life any more is still with us. It's the nature of a human being, it's the nature of our ancestors. Everything is still with us and that's what that song is a about.

MARIE-LOUISE: And you say “live your life out loud” and I underlined that because to me Toyah lives her life out loud!

TOYAH: And also it's – there's a lot of references, back references to please my fans … Live Out Loud (sic, it's "Living Out Loud") is the name of my very first autobiography. "Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard" was single in 1984 (sic, it was released 1982) so there's a lot of little snippets within the album that are a nod to the fans -



MARIE-LOUISE: And what about the fans that would've been sitting watching you probably in their nappies. Watching Teletubbies?

TOYAH: (laughs) I've never thought of that!

MARIE-LOUISE: Are the growing with you now?

TOYAH: I think Teletubbies has been a remarkably powerful experience. I only said two lines on it : “Over the hills and far away, Teletubbies come out to play” and then I closed it with “The sun is setting in the sky, Teletubbies say goodbye”. I've had more fame from those two lines than the 28 albums I've written in my 42 years in show business. It's been a remarkable experience being part of Teletubbies-

MARIE-LOUISE: I just think they've all grown up now because they must be at least in their twenties -

TOYAH: Well, you hope they've grown up (Marie-Louise laughs) I mean they might be like me and they'll never grow up!

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