TOYAH: How are you?

NIGEL: Great, thank you. How are you?

TOYAH: Oh really good, really good. You're not dressed for a heatwave. Where are you?

NIGEL: Well, I'm sitting in a cool shed, a lodge in my garden so it's out of the sun first thing in the morning. Progressively hotter as we go through the day so I'm OK with that. If it gets hot I'll just take my top off. So how are you? You have had a busy few days, haven't you?

TOYAH: Oh, I don't mind the gigs. I really love performing but the travel is a nightmare. Heathrow Airport on Saturday, all of us - Wet Wet Wet, me, Carol Decker, Chesney Hawkes, quite few others - were supposed to be on an 11 o'clock flight that got withheld by an hour

So by the time we landed in Belfast I literally had to get changed in the car, run out the car onto the stage, do the show, run back into the car and get the plane back. I mean, it's just … I get so wound up by these things. The only time that you think aaah is when you're actually on stage!

NIGEL: You can relax almost!

TOYAH: I can relax (they both laugh) People always say to me "you're so energetic" and I was just so fucking happy to be here

NIGEL: Well, I saw some of the photographs over the weekend. You had Rebellion Festival. Thursday, wasn't it?

TOYAH: Oh! Friday, it was amazing!

NIGEL: I did Friday and Saturday but I was working on Friday. So I was at the gig and I apologise so … and then you had Durham yesterday?

TOYAH: Yeah, Stone Valley (below) It’s been three amazing shows. R-Fest was breathtaking. My sound man didn't realise there was a sound limit. So for my first three numbers it was so loud it was breathtaking. And then someone came with a sound monitor and said could you turn it down, please?

NIGEL: Were you in the Empress Ballroom?

TOYAH: I was on the Promenade. It was huge. I loved it

NIGEL: I've got the setlist and everything and it looks like a really sort of fun show

TOYAH: For me to be on the Promenade - I'm not a great performer at midnight, and when I've done that at Rebellion before, and you go on at midnight, I really feel it - it's quite hard for me to deliver my energy at that time. For me to be on in sunlight and it was very bright on Friday - with the Tower literally yards away and people were on the glass floor watching the show. I looked up and you could see people watching the show

It was full, absolutely rammed and I loved it. It was perfect for me to do an alternate festival. Going back to my punk roots at four in the afternoon for me was absolutely perfect. And I love the audience and you could hear the waves, which for me was just orgasmic. You're just hearing them hit the shore while you're singing. It's just something that I want to experience again. I really enjoyed it every minute of it. And the audience was great

NIGEL: What a colourful audience. Have you ever seen it? The spiky hair, the studs, the leather jackets

TOYAH: What I really loved is you have the people who really look like that. And then you have the Blackpool holidaymakers who were wearing funny hats with mohicans. You just thought should the twain ever meet like that? It was so hard because the real punks and the real mohicans are very protective of the how they live and what they represent, standing side by side with someone with a stick-on mohican. It was fascinating

NIGEL: It really was and I was walking around the venue as well around the Winter Gardens and you could see all of the hotels and the punks were sitting in deck chairs out the front

TOYAH: I loved it!

NIGEL: It was just incredible. I've never seen such a colourful festival and I've been to Leeds and lots of different festivals, but where do you get such a concentration of just one mind, not one way of dressing yourself but a whole genre just represented so wholly in one place? It was incredible

TOYAH: And for me, it made sense of Blackpool (Toyah on stage at Rebellion, below) because it is a hit and miss sometimes. The sun was out. You have these wonderful, diverse human beings who are always friendly. And they were everywhere. And it was the most perfect day and the most perfect world for me on that day

Because when you look back to 45 years ago, that would have been a very different story. You'd have had riots, there would be chairs being thrown. But this was harmonious. It was beautiful. And I just thought this makes sense of Blackpool. It was the perfect place to have the festival

NIGEL: Oh, absolutely right. And I was thrilled to see the mix of audiences. You talk about the locals and the punks, but I was looking down from the balcony at Cockney Rejects and the mix of people down there. It wasn't just people in the 50s and 60s who remember punk the first time and actually if they did fall over they were helping each other up - not smacking the hell out of each other. There were kids there as well, 20 year olds

TOYAH: Very good disabled platforms as well. I can't bear it when people in wheelchairs are put right close to those speakers and they suffer for that. I looked out and I saw two fantastic platforms where they could really get the best view and they were safe. I thought it was very well designed

NIGEL: Absolutely, I did as well. I thought it was fantastic. I just love the fact that when there was a skirmish in the mosh pit, there weren't people being knocked over

TOYAH: They were holding each other up (both laugh)

NIGEL: And another thing I noticed, and you'll know what I mean, is that there were people crowd surfing and they'd crowd surf to the front. And then like a kid with a sugar rush on a helter skelter they'd run round and do it again

TOYAH: Yeah, it was great. It was perfect

NIGEL: I absolutely loved it. So we're going to talk about predominantly  - you've got the tour with Billy Idol coming up, which is a fantastic event for you. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came together and how you got the -

TOYAH: A bolt out of the blue. I'm slowly learning the history of this tour, that it had to be postponed because of Covid and that The Go Go's were originally opening and ... just a bolt out of the blue. I got a phone call saying can I fit these arenas in while I'm doing my Anthem tour? Because my album Anthem is being rereleased on the 9th of September so I'm out touring that and by some really strange coincidence I can fit every one of the arena shows in. I'm wildly excited - not only about Billy Idol and I've been performing “Rebel Yell” for 20 years now -

NIGEL: I noticed that on your setlist and I was going to ask you when you were going to be included -

TOYAH: God no!

NIGEL: Can you imagine doing “Rebel Yell” and then Billy comes on and does it

TOYAH: The whole of my set - “Mony Mony”, “Rebel Yell”, “White Wedding.” “Enjoy Billy Idol!” (Nigel laughs)

NIGEL: It’s like telling the best joke at a wedding, isn’t it?

TOYAH: Yeah! Shouting out the answer. But another thing that's really exciting me about this tour is Television and (their album) “Marquee Moon”

NIGEL: Absolutely fantastic. I loved that when it came out in ‘79. I devoured it. I think it was amazing to see that

TOYAH: And I think it's so clever of Billy and his management to do that. Because everyone is going to hear “White Wedding”, “Mony Mony” and “Rebel Yell”, and Billy has quite an extended repertoire. And I think for him to add Television and to add me with my punk history it allows people to go into the genre that Rebellion festival goes into

I can play the pop, I've got “Slave To The Rhythm” coming out as a single. So we can deliver the hits, we can deliver the pop, but what I loved about Rebellion and Stone Valley this weekend - I was able to do my very first songs, which are completely out there. And this is what I'm going to try and do with the Billy Idol tour - just do the whole 45 year journey in half an hour

NIGEL: Yeah, so you're going to be playing “It’s A Mystery”, “Thunder In The mountains” and that's a really clever thing, as you were saying, that Billy has done because you've got that New York cool going on one side and you've got the pop on your side

And then you've got Mr. Arena himself Billy Idol in the middle, which, honestly, when I saw the venues I thought my God Billy Idol is huge still! The thing that hit me that he was playing all of those … the AO Arena (in Manchester) and all that sort of thing. That was a huge venue. So you've got 3000 - 4000, no, actually, on the front of the promenade sort of 10 000 people -

TOYAH: It was at least 10 000

NIGEL: I think we sold 15 000 ticket tickets, but even in the Empress Ballroom for people like Cockney Rejects, The Blockheads - there were 3000 or 4000 people in that ballroom. That was incredible. But moving up to the arenas, you're going to be talking 15-20,000 people, easily

TOYAH: Yeah. Billy is a classic name now. Like Alex Cooper, like Ozzy Osbourne

NIGEL: Yeah, they fill these big arenas

TOYAH: And I think it helps that Billy is a very visual artist. He's great looking. His videos are fucking amazing. When you've got all of those qualities about your historic work I think you can easily fill an arena

NIGEL: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, he's got such a rich history going right the way back to Generation X of course. So I believe that Robert’s appearing with you which I'm thrilled to hear. Is he going to punctuate it with some prog edge? How's it going to work?

Robert and I start touring together October 2023 with "Sunday Lunch" but you have preempted something because we are doing a premiere to it with Trevor Horn at Fairport's Cropredy Convention this Thursday (below)

NIGEL: Oh wow!

TOYAH: We're in the Trevor Horn band and no one knows yet

NIGEL: Can we say that?

Yeah! Well, my work with Robert – he is now part of the “Posh Pop” brand. Myself and Simon Darlow - we created that in lockdown with the “Posh Pop” album, which went to number one in about 36 charts. And 22 in the main chart. Robert is now part of the lineup, and we start writing “Posh Pop 2” in November. It's going to be quite a rocky album. So Robert and I are officially working together, but that's really coming in 2023

NIGEL: I'll talk about the videos later on, because I've got a few more things to go through. I just love the synergy of you two in the kitchen. It's just amazing, but I'll talk about that in a minute

I just want to ask you a few questions to fill in a few holes and make the connection from the late 70s to now - so just indulge me for a second. You've always been a trailblazing woman in a man's world and an inspiration for so many

Who did you take inspiration from in the late 70s - because you were a woman working in a very, very difficult industry, acting and then you jumped into singing through “Quadrophenia” and “Glitter”. So how did that come about and what gave you the inspiration and the guts and guile to push yourself forward?

I always intended to come to London and be a musician. My kind of rather stupid intention was using acting as a stepping stone. I got spotted on the streets of Birmingham because I was dressing like a punk when no one knew what punk was - including me

I was a hair model, I made my own clothes and I was a hair model for Wella so my hair was pretty strange in 1975. I got spotted and I ended up starring in a half hour TV drama on BBC2 about a young girl who breaks into the Top Of The Pop studios to sing two songs

NIGEL: That was “Glitter”

“Glitter” and I had to write those songs. I'd had no experience of being in a band or of singing at a microphone until that studio experience. And then when that was seen, I was invited to join the National Theatre by which time I was 18 and that put me in an environment of musicians

And I started to learn about the London punk movement and performers like Polystyrene and performers that weren't your conventional Farrah Fawcett - Majors model type looking women. They really inspired me because I'm barely five foot tall and at that time I was three stone heavier

I didn't know how I was going to fit into the music world but punk opened the doors for everyone - all diversity, all body types. And it made it possible for me and I put a band together and started to do gigs when I wasn't onstage at the National Theatre, mainly to help me get over my stage nerves which I had until about 1990. I just pushed and pushed and pushed to get gigs

Back then (there was a) hugely healthy pub circuit. And eventually towards the end of the pub circuit time in my career we had 2000 people turning up every night blocking the roads. I still wasn't signed and Safari Records wanted to sign a “punk” act. So they signed me. No other label would touch me

NIGEL: You were on Safari, but I didn't know any other bands on Safari. It wasn't a well known label at the time

TOYAH: At the time you had Wayne County who's now Jane County. So historically, all of that catalogue with Safari but they also had Deep Purple

NIGEL: Wow! And so that was the springboard into it

TOYAH: Very much

NIGEL: But must have been tough. So you were spotted, but it still must have been some sort of fight to get yourself out there

TOYAH: It's always been a bit tough. I think if I was 6'2" and looked like Elle Macpherson, life would have been much easier. But it's always been tough. I'm relentless. I don't go away. I got “Monkey” in “Quadrophenia” because I helped Franc Roddam out by putting John Lydon through the screen tests for “Quadrophenia”

I didn't get a role and Lydon was absolutely astonishing on that screen test. He's a great actor and waiting to be discovered and I didn't get a job out of it and I just turned up at the production offices at Wembley Lee Electrics banging on the window of Franc Roddam’s office … “Give me a fucking job!!!”

He called me in and he had Phil Daniels in the office with him and he said “well, if you can do the party scene with Phil now, you've got the job”. Well, Phil was in “Glitter” with me, I knew Phil. So we improvised the party scene there and then and I got the job but I think with Franc Roddam I was not the ideal person to play “Monkey”. But he knew I just wasn't going to go away and I was up and coming. I was an award winning actress. And I was a big name within London

But it's still tough, mainly because virtually every scene I've done in a movie I've had to be on a box to do a two shot (two people in a shot together) because I'm so tiny. And that does affect you, especially in the world of Hollywood where the average actor is six foot. So I’ve really need to push and persuade people that I am the woman for the job

NIGEL: Yeah, but it's really about the ability. It's about the skill. It's about the delivery. It's not really about being five foot one or whatever, it's in there, it’s in you

TOYAH: Yeah, it is but a lot of British actresses are small. Judi Dench didn't break big time into movies until about the mid 80s. Up until that point she's the world's leading stage actress, leading comic TV actress and then whoomp! Straight into Hollywood and she made it possible for smaller actresses - Imogen Stubbs, myself - to be a movies because suddenly people said the talent comes first

NIGEL: Absolutely. Tom Cruise is reportedly quite short, but I believe he's 5'9"or something. In a man's world 5'9" is short

TOYAH: In my world it's bloody tall! (they both laugh)

NIGEL: It's way up here! (points up)

TOYAH: (looks up) Wow!

NIGEL: I noted you've had 96 roles, it says on IMDb. I think they include TV as well. That's a lot and it begs the question what do you prefer to do? Do you prefer the sort of kudos, maybe it's more cerebral? Having to learn the lines and being in front of a camera or getting up on stage and wowing 15 000 people. Where does the heart lie?

TOYAH: They both have such a quality about them. I love performing on camera, and that's probably the only acting I'll do now. I don't think I'm going to do stage again. Unless it's like the National Theatre where you only do four shows a week

I saw you in Manchester (the stage play of Derek Jarman's “Jubilee”, below)

TOYAH: It's backbreaking doing eight shows a week and I don't feel my body can take that anymore. But as a performer to be in a state of performance, whether I'm singing or acting, is absolute nirvana for me. It's my commune with God, it's unbeatable and there is no choice between the two. I love going into an area of that life, that supernatural, and for me performance is supernatural. I could never give it up. I would go cold turkey and die. It's such a remarkably rewarding thing to do

NIGEL: The part itself - the learning the lines, that immersing yourself into a character … is that what you're talking about? Or the people and crew around you, the support that you get. Is that what it is?

TOYAH: What support? (Toyah cackles)

NIGEL: (laughs) Well ... you know I mean

TOYAH: I just won Best Critics Award at the Richard Harris Festival for “Give Them Wings” as Best Actress, which premiered in Leicester Square last week. I was working in five degrees in a silk slip in bare feet on the street in Durham in winter in 2019 when we shot that! The reward is for me the kind of schizophrenic escape

So when I’m learning lines and when I'm unravelling what the character is words give you every bit of information you need. It's like taking the best holiday to the Bahamas you can take because you don't know what the hotel's going to be like. You don't know what the weather's going to be like

It's all about discovering something that is governed by words and I just adore it. When I'm on stage singing - the words and how you deliver those words and the breathing techniques you use to deliver those words just take you into a higher consciousness. And I just couldn't live without doing that

NIGEL: Yeah. So actually, there's a lot to be taken from both. You can immerse yourself into acting, you can immerse yourself into the singing. I suppose with the singing you are singing more of your own words, your own creations and I guess that must give you extra. I can't imagine the feeling of writing something, a tune and words and having those people jumping around to it

TOYAH: And the word is immersion. It's total immersion when you're singing. It's not just about the breathing and the delivery. It's about listening. And you're having to listen to every member of the band and come back into timing, because once you get expressive, you move out of timing. I've only really learned in recent years to use a motion on the downbeat. So to finish a word quicker rather than hold the note because it has more impact

And another thing is learning about impact - music doesn't always come from having the bass end revved up. It comes from the harmonic interaction between the guitar, the keys, and the voice and all of that. So you've got your foot right down on the accelerator when you're doing a gig and you never take your foot off it. With acting most of the time you're working to a camera with an ensemble of actors but the other side of the camera, you've got people scratching their asses, yawning, eating, texting on their mobiles, reading the newspaper and that is terrifying

Especially if you've got to cry on cue, and you've got someone who's just got their finger up their nose in your eyeline. It is extraordinary and when you hear stories of the A-listers losing it on set, because someone is distracting them in their eyeline, it's quietly terrifying when you are carrying a whole day shoot that costs sometimes over 1 million pounds to run the film on that day. And you're dealing with someone in your eyeline who's texting or looking at porn on their phone. The responsibilities are huge, but at the same time the rewards are bigger

NIGEL: Yeah. You often go to the screenings and when you get to that it must be an amazing feeling to see how it’s put together

TOYAH: I never go to the screenings. With “Give Them Wings” (above, Toyah as Alice Hodgson with Daniel Watson as Paul Hodgson) I've got all these awards for it and its started to be available for streaming now. I will look at it now. But I have to say the context of the awards and the good reviews and for me the reviews have been phenomenal, makes it possible for me to watch it

Absolutely. There's been a huge renaissance in punk and post - punk and all of that type of music. It's like your time has come again, isn't it? That everything sort of converged in this perfect storm and I follow a lot of bands and a lot of bands that have burst out of Manchester and they've helped bring back this post - punk wave

I'm listening to “IEYA”, one of your core tracks and I love it and it sits slightly out of the “It’s A Mystery” “Thunder In The Mountains”. It's more sort of post - punk. It's more Siouxsie and the Banshees than anything else. It’s an amazing thing that this wave has almost hit perfectly for you

Yeah. I think the thing about “IEYA” and all my early stuff ... there were slight influences of prog rock in there - which was purely by mistake. I grew up in Birmingham. I was 11 when I saw Hawkwind and Black Sabbath, I grew up with Led Zeppelin. So all those influences were with me and when I discovered punk, what I discovered as a dyslexic was a form of music I could fit into but I still had in my memory the music I saw live for the first time

“IEYA” started its life as an improvisation because we needed to do so many encores on our shows. In ‘77,’78,‘79,1980 ... We were that large. We’d do 10 encores. So we just came up with “IEYA” and we’d play it for 36 minutes like a kind of tribal trance

NIGEL: It goes to your bowels and it can just go on forever

TOYAH: Just goes on and on and on until people just pass out. I can remember one performance we did the band was so hot they were down to their underpants and Phil Spalding was vomiting in a bucket. It just was going on and on and on and we couldn't stop it. So “IEYA” started as a live improvisation in front of screaming punks

NIGEL: That's amazing. And just going back to the very early days - because I do a radio show and in anticipation of this interview I played “Victims Of The Riddle” and it's almost avant - garde in its construction and in the way that it's delivered. There's a big difference between “Victims Of The Riddle” to “It’s A Mystery”. That was a massive jump. How did that happen?

“Victims Of The Riddle” was an improvisation at two in the morning. So Steve James, wonderful producer, two in the morning. I said "just play three notes". Keith Hale played three notes. We looped those notes because everyone was into looping then, it was the beginning of synthesisers

I said "give me a microphone" and I did a 20 minute improvisation, which is on the re-release of “Sheep Farming In Barnet”. So everything about the single is in that improvisation. And then Steve James and Keith Hale edited it into that single so it is avant - garde. Totally avant - garde

NIGEL: It really is

TOYAH: It is the most extraordinary vocal and a 20 minute improvisation. I have to say is fucking amazing!

NIGEL: Yeah, it is. It's an amazing track. And I like I said I played it in the middle of the show in anticipation of this, I absolutely love it. But there's a big jump from that to “It’s A Mystery”

TOYAH: Yeah. Keith Hale wrote “It’s A Mystery”. I contributed the second verse, but I was never, ever credited as that and I certainly don't earn royalties off it. But Keith Hale had a band called Blood Donor who I regularly sang with and I did a lot of demos for them

Keith had written this long song called “It's A Mystery”. It had a 12 minute vocal at the top and a 20 minute instrumental and Safari felt that that was going to be a hit song for me. So Keith and I went into the studio with (the producer) Nick Tauber and arranged the into the single that everyone knows. So the record label Safari were desperate to iron out my avant - garde approach to everything

NIGEL: Make it more pop

TOYAH: Make it more pop. I was complicit. I wanted success. Absolutely every other punk rocker around me was having major success so I was complicit in how that journey happened

NIGEL: You immersed yourself in it and allowed yourself to be transformed into, well … they call you the Punk Priestess, don’t they? (laughs)


NIGEL: With the big hair - who styled all the hair and everything? Was that from the hair styling days?

TOYAH: The big hair started with “Thunder In The Mountains” (below) when I was in a shoot with the very famous fashion photographer John Swannell, and he brought in Robert Lobetta, who is a hair designer and Lobetta had spent a week making these amazing peacock fans that they attached to my head and then we had to find a way of making that work live

So live I would just back comb my very thick hair and have big sunflower hair, but I kind of adopted that with the makeup artist Richard Sharah on “Thunder In The Mountains” art work and never looked back. That really caught on

NIGEL: It’s an iconic look. Like a huge peacock. It was just absolutely amazing

TOYAH: And very, very satisfying at that time because it made look a foot taller

NIGEL: Yes, of course! Absolutely. Now, I have to ask you about "Sunday Lunch" because I watched some of the early ones and they were quite modest and then they got more flamboyant (laughs)

TOYAH: We were learning as we went along

NIGEL: You’ve got 430 000 people watching one video. It's incredible!

TOYAH: Yeah. And we've now had 111 million hits. We discovered as we went on that heavy rock, and the more extreme the rock, like Rammstein and all those wonderful bands - the more views we'd get and we think it's the simplicity of the kitchen

There's no production values. We do one take. Sometimes, like Alice Cooper's “Poison” we did 21 takes, but most of the time we do one take, and we just go with that. And some people prefer to listen with the sound off because they can’t bear the sound (Nigel laughs)

But we discovered … when we did Metallica's “Enter Sandman” and I didn't wear a bra and I was on the exercise bike we hit 10 million very, very quickly. And we thought we're onto something here

NIGEL: A bit saucy

TOYAH: We say it’s our “Carry On”. It’s rock’n’roll “Carry On”. I am the Barbara Windsor of rock and roll

NIGEL: What I love is the way Robert sort of looks into your bosom and goes (shakes his head)

TOYAH: Yeah. For Robert … he just likes having a hot wife. The way Robert sees it is “look, I'm Robert Fripp, I've got a hot wife”. He's not possessive or jealous at all. But he really does like me to look his ideal of hot which is very 1970s Benny Hill

NIGEL: He comes across as such a lovely man. I remember when you came out of the jungle (on “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here”) and think Robert was waiting for you and he was almost in tears. You have this very special relationship that really comes across, not just in the media, but on those videos as well. You can tell there's true love between you. It's lovely to see

TOYAH: We are that cliche that we are soulmates and best friends and I think it helps that we are like chalk and cheese and we don't hold each other back. If he wants to go to the States for two months he goes, if I want to go off and make a movie for two months I go. There's never compromise and I think that helps us a lot

NIGEL: What do you attribute that to, that relationship? I read somewhere that you lived in separate houses. I’ve read a lot for this interview!

TOYAH: For the first 20 years we lived in separate houses and then for the last 10 years we lived in the same house. And as of three years ago, we now have separate houses again. I just let him be what he needs to be. It's as simple as that. And he needs a hell of a lot of time alone. And funnily enough, I do too. And we we both give each other that space

NIGEL: It's fabulous. I love watching your videos. I think they're absolutely amazing. And I look forward to the next one coming out and I wish you well with them. You said you were going to do some sort of extra stuff on those videos or a film or something. What did you say?

TOYAH: In October 2023 we're touring “Sunlay Lunch”

NIGEL: Oh, I see. You're going to do “Back In Black” and you're doing maybe “Poison”, all of those live on stage?


NIGEL: You have some special costumes coming for that tour then, have you? (laughs)

Yeah. Basically it's going to be an absolutely stonking rock show, but it's all based around “Sunday Lunch”

NIGEL: Look, Toyah, it's been an absolute joy talking to you

TOYAH: Thank you

NIGEL: We are running out of time and I don't want to take up more of your time. I've loved talking to you and I really wish you well for the tour with Billy, I think it's going to be amazing

TOYAH: I’m so excited! I love arenas!

NIGEL: Bet you are! It will be absolutely great and it's an opportunity for all of those people to see, 1000s and 1000s of people in those arenas. You must be so excited!

TOYAH: It's thrilling, absolutely thrilling. I think I excel, I'm better Toyah in that environment than I am at home. So I'm very excited

NIGEL: Fabulous. Thank you so much, Toyah. Thanks for talking to me. A joy talking to you

TOYAH: Thanks, Nigel. See you out there

NIGEL: Take care!

OK! Bye!


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