Interview by D. Fischar, A. Brannan, C. Nightingale

DF: What made you decide to star a group after acting on stage and films?

TOYAH: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the guts to actually get up and do it. I lived in Birmingham until I was eighteen and one night at a New Year's party I met some musicians and I said “look, I can write music, would you help me out? We started rehearsing for a year and the chance came to become professional so I did

DF: Did the punk explosion play an important part in deciding to start a group?

TOYAH: It was important to me because it was a form of recognition of my strange taste of clothes. I used to like wearing weird things. I started off about two years pre-Sex Pistols. I had pink hair and used to wear great big Andy Pandy outfits

Punk came along and it sort of justified my taste because everyone thought I should be put away in a mental home. It sort of saved my life. It did help, it gave me a lot of encouragement. I used to doubt my own sanity. I came along and helped me

DF: Did you attract a following straight away?

TOYAH: More thanks to "Jubilee" (film) than our actual music. The band has always had a following and it’s always been a strong punk following but we don’t consider ourselves a punk band. When we started off I used to be really outrageous. I used to be permanently drunk and I wouldn’t be able to stand up or say anything

I just used to stand up and fall over throughout the set and I slowly got myself together because I was just so nervous of singing. The following became a much stronger one. It was much more musically influenced rather than people just coming to see us out of interest

AB: You said you don’t call yourselves a punk band. Why not?

TOYAH: Because what is punk? I’ve never really known what is punk. A lot of bands, which call themselves punk, seem to be into just making a noise or a kind of music to move to, whereas we don't class ourselves as anything because we don’t really know what we’re aiming for yet. We don’t know the sort of music we categorise ourselves under so we like to remain free of categoratisation

We are thought of as heavy punk because I look like it. I’ve got the hair for it but it’s just out of personal taste. I hate black hair, which is my natural colour. If you’re going to dye it why not go the whole way

DF: How did you get the part in "Jubilee"?

TOYAH: I was at the National Theatre and at that time I was causing quite a stir because no one could understand what the fuck I was about. (The director) Derek Jarman happened to appear at the company and he wanted to make a punk movie to kill all other punk movies. I went to tea with him and he offered me the part. It was as simple as that

DF: In your interview with "Sounds" in ‘79 the band said they didn’t like that. Why not?

TOYAH: We signed to Safari in February last year and we had to get an album out and the band as yet wasn’t ready. We weren’t happy with the drummer and we weren’t happy with the bassist so we sacked them both. Due to contractual problems we had to borrow a bass player and a drummer and we weren’t really a band. We were not happy and to us the music sounded terrible

And me personally - I couldn’t sing, not as well as I can now. It was lack of experience. It was also overproduced. Too many ideas were coming from outside of the band. It wasn’t a band creation at all, really

This album we’ve just done, which will be out in May, is going to be called "Blue Meanings" and it's just fucking super against the quality of the A.P (Alternative Play, the EP "Sheep Farming In Barnet") because of the energy there. We’ve managed to put onto vinyl what we are like live rather than trying to be visual on vinyl. I mean there’s no one to look at

DF: Did Safari contact you or did you go to Safari?

TOYAH: Safari came to us after a review of a gig we did at the ICA
(Institute of Contemporary Arts, London), which appeared in "Record Mirror". Safari flew over from Germany to see us at rehearsals and we signed that day

We didn’t want to go to a bigger company. We had offers from bigger companies like Virgin and we just didn’t want to go because we were such naive little bunch of kids at that time

DF: What do you think about having your voice compared with Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush?

TOYAH: I think it’s a load of shit. I mean my voice is nothing like theirs

DF: You said you hated hearing your own voice. Why?

TOYAH: Because when I sing I sound different. When I listened to it, it destroyed the illusion I had of myself. To me my voice sounds so much like a little girl and I always think of myself as being big and strong. It just breaks down what I think of myself

DF: I think your voice plays an important part in the music, like at the beginning of "Danced"

TOYAH: Oh, right. I mean I’m not just a vocalist stuck in a booth. Another thing about the A.P. is that my vocals are too overindulgent and they block certain aspects of the music. On this present album my voice is more restraint with the band rather than just a vocal stuck on top

AB: You said you didn’t want to sign to Virgin. Do you believe in all this stuff about selling out?

TOYAH: Oh, no - I didn’t want to sign to Virgin then. We are going to be moving hopefully within a few years to a bigger record company because you can outgrow a small record company so easily and therefore you are blocking out your own career in other countries

AB: So you think it’s more a stage of growing?

TOYAH: Oh, yeah. If we went to Virgin I think they would have killed us completely. They would have been too heavy for us because we didn’t understand how dirty the record business could be. Virgin would have wiped us out completely. I don’t think Virgin would have been patient with us like Safari have been

DF: Don’t you think they’ll make you change your music or style?

TOYAH: No, they can’t. Record companies aren’t allowed to do that now

DF: Will some … (?) big labels because they might be pressurised

TOYAH: Only if that band is not able to get a deal together. It’s a general myth. Record companies do like choosing your producer and the artist to do the cover but if you really objected to do it then you can say “no, I refuse to do that” and you can make the choice. It’s only bands who really don’t know what they want to do that get fiddled about with

DF: I know you admire David Bowie. Does his music influence yours?

TOYAH: He influences my imagination but I don’t go "Bowie did this so I’ll have a got at it". He is the one person that can trigger my imagination when I’m feeling really down and uninspired. David Bowie’s the main influence but I’m really into beat music. Not the reincarnation of Mod but the real beat, musically

DF: I heard somewhere that the album tells a story. Is this true?

No, it doesn’t but the forthcoming album will do. The album from Germany was an even bigger embarrassment than the A.P because it is the A.P plus something like three other tracks. A lot of kids were buying the album thinking it’s going to be totally new material, which is a bit of an embarrassment to us

I mean OK, the album sold really well considering. It’s better quality than the A.P but it wasn’t advertised enough that it was the A.P and some tracks

DF: How come it was pressed in Germany?

TOYAH: Because Safari is a German based company and the album was purely for Germany but it was requested to come over as an import so to make it cheaper we had it moved over here so that it wouldn’t go up to £7 or something

DF: What’s all this about Nostradamus on the back of the German LP?

TOYAH: It’s all related to WW3. Everything on the back of the album is just things that could possibly happen. It’s just things that make you think. It’s nothing that I'm preaching and saying will come true

DF: Has it got anything to do with the music?

TOYAH: No, it’s just an avid vision

DF: Where do you get your ideas for songs from?

Very bad nightmares, usually. I have a fabulous time in my sleep, it’s really bizarre. It’s only a matter of remembering them. Usually a good argument starts off the best in me. It’s usually my life in general. If I have a bad day then I’ll write something really horrible

There’s a number on this new album called “She”, which I wrote when I had a really big fight with this old slag who I really hated. It’s the nastiest piece of music I could have done. I ? on because it was so perverse

In the "Sounds" interviews you contradict yourself. In the first interview you said that you help write the songs and in the second you said that you’re there just to sing and the band can do without you at rehearsals

TOYAH: I didn’t say that. The band said that and they’ve been severely talked to for saying that. The trouble with the band is that they are very paranoid that I get all the publicity and when they are included in interviews they just keep blowing it

I wrote “Victims Of The Riddle” and since then the band hasn’t forgiven me for how popular it has been and it’s just a band problem. The band said that, I didn’t. We have two rehearsals. A rehearsal where the band can jam for hours on end and a rehearsal where I come in and we get down to some self-controlled work

DF: How did you get the band together? Were you all friends?

No, Joel Bogen (lead guitar) and me are the original members. We formed it about three and a half years ago and then we advertised for a keyboard player. That’s when Pete Bush came along. We completed the rhythm section when Steve Bray (drums) came along

Do you prefer singing in front of a live audience or acting in front of a camera?

I like both. The reason why I do both is because I like them. I only do what I like doing and I’m not doing it for any other reason really. But I prefer singing to a live audience than in a studio

DF: In the "Sounds" interviews from ‘79 you said acting was your first love and the band was something you did just for fun

TOYAH: Yeah, that’s when we didn’t really have a band together. Now I can equally appreciate the band because it is a band now and not a bunch of arguing musicians - which we were then

DF: Do you still think that (about acting) after considering the band’s recent success?

Acting is my first love because it’s so much easier for me. It’s more natural for me whereas in the band I really have to work my fucking guts out because I’m having to keep up with four other men who are so much stronger than me in a way

They’re physically stronger and they can really take more than me but I enjoy the challenge. It’s the challenges that keep me going. I love challenges

DF: When you’re on stage you’ve been described as provocative and blatantly sexist. Do you think this is necessary to sell records?

TOYAH: No. It’s because I’m not a paranoid feminist that has to go “ooh, you’re a man, I hate men so fuck off!” I hate feminists because a real feminist, when she sees a man, freaks out on the spot. That isn’t what it’s about. Women are too intelligent, women are the superior race and women do not have to be so paranoid at the presence of a man

On stage I just take the piss out of men's sexuality by showing them I have no inhibitions. If they want to grab my tit they can but they’ll get a good kick in the bollocks for it. So I just provoke them and teach them that sexuality is nothing. It’s all up there (points to her head)

You said you want to change that now because of people who come to see you just because of that

Oh, it’s great. They shout “get your knickers off!” and just ignore them and let them get frustrated. I like to think I’ve ripped those people off because they’ve come to see me take my clothes off and they won’t (see that)

DF: Given the chance would you play in big places like Hammersmith Odeon, because most of the gigs are in small places?

TOYAH: We’re not that big. We’re not such a big band really. We haven’t had a top twenty hit, which is what really puts you in Hammersmith Odeon. I’ve never really thought about it

The thought of being that popular really does appeal to me. If we did play the Hammersmith Odeon I’d like to have a big budget. I’d want to put films on as well and really make it a big show

I’ve only ever seen one band at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Pat Travers Band and I just happened to be there at the right time. They were playing and I thought they were fucking awful. I just didn’t like the set-up because I was right at the back and you couldn’t see a thing. I prefer playing colleges to clubs

DF: Because of the atmosphere?

TOYAH: The audiences are so much better. The audience are all on one level and they can all see you because colleges have better facilities whereas in clubs you can jump and knock yourself out on the ceiling. Especially here in London

DF: You said you like your stage show to be full of lights and effects. How come you didn’t do this on your recent tour? I saw you at the Harrow Tech (8.2.1980)

TOYAH: Do you know what happened at the Harrow Tech. They had two plug sockets and I spent £200 getting a generator for the night and it could only just power the PA. The lights at the front weren’t allowed because there weren't any bouncers to make sure the audience didn't steal them

We had lot of problems at Harrow and apart from all that I had gastroenteritis. I was running to be sick everywhere. It was a bad gig

DF: How come your show at Harrow was so short because people were complaining at the end?

It was cut short. I collapsed after that gig. I was in hospital so that I could do the Music Machine (in Camden the next day). I was very ill. We cut out about four numbers because I just couldn’t go on. I was in fucking agony

AB: At the gigs you get some Mods because of "Quadrophenia" and you get a lot of skinheads who go round beating people up

TOYAH: I don't know why we get skinheads but we do. In London there’s a thing where you get a certain gang of skinheads who latch on to you (the band) to try to recruit people to the British Movement. It’s quite a big thing. They’ll go round using bands to recruit people. There’s nothing you can do about it because they’re so fucking good at it. It’s a real drag

DF: At the end of the Harrow gig all the black people were getting beaten up. How do you feel about violence at your gigs?

TOYAH: I can’t stand it but you can’t do anything about it. Especially us because we're not a big band. If I had had heavies (bodyguards) - we normally do - then they would have been stopping it. I do fucking hate it

I’d preach about it on stage if we saw it happening. We’re not a political band and we’re not going to get up there before any trouble has started and start preaching that it shouldn’t happen. That’s putting it into people's minds

CN: Did you enjoy making "Quadrophenia"?

TOYAH: No. I hated it but I got this feeling of having to do it. It was another challenge for me. It was the first time I worked with people of my own age. I was physically fucking exhausted throughout the whole thing because we’d been up at five and for doing a lot of riot scenes in Brighton. We’d have to run on average ten miles a day to shoot those particular scenes

We were ordered to run across the street (above, Toyah in the middle) and there was no one blocking the cars. A few people got run over and trampled by horses. I did enjoy it but at the same time it was fucking agony. It was at a time when the Mod movement hadn’t started off, which made it so much nicer and so much better because it wasn’t cashing in on a fashion

It was creating something that happened, like creating history rather than saying “oh look, Mods. Let’s cash in on it” sort of thing, which is what it turned out to be

CN: How did you get the part in it?

TOYAH: Thanks to "Jubilee". The director Franc Roddam saw "Jubilee" the night before he had a casting session and he asked me to to do it

CN: Did you find after "Shoestring" (TV series, Toyah played a singer called "Toola" in an episode called "Find The Lady" that aired 2.12.1979) that your success was boosted?

TOYAH: Oh yeah, it was really incredible because I didn’t think anybody would watch it because of the Gala performance (
Royal Variety Performance) on the other side. Instant success came for the band more than anything else

The audience capacity just tripled. The audience liked us before we went on and we had to prove ourselves not realising how interested the audience was in us because of "Shoestring"

CN: Did you enjoy doing it because it was a mixture of singing and acting?

TOYAH: Oh yeah, it was fab being able to combine the two because it’s so rare being able to do it. I really enjoyed doing it. Our bass player had pneumonia so we had to have a stand-in bass player

DF: You do remember the songs you played in "Shoestring"?

TOYAH: We started off with “Neon Womb”, then “Waiting” and it ended up with “Danced”

DF: Do you play a big part in the BBC production of "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"? (1980) (Toyah played a servant girl called "Janet", above with David Hemmings as "Dr Jekyll")

TOYAH: It’s not a massive part at all. It’s about the same as "Quadrophenia" but more important

AB: Would you like to make a film with the band?

TOYAH: Yes, we are going to (do that) in September. It was a film that was scheduled to be made in America and has now been brought over here. I’ve been offered the lead part in it

I’ll actually be doing all the music to it with a producer called Steve James, who has done the A.P. and the album which is about to come out and the band will be appearing in it. They might even get acting parts

DF: What’s the film going to be about?

TOYAH: The film is not supposed to be a musical, it’s a psychopathic murder thriller in which there’s a sort of rapist going round and it turns out to be me. It’s a really fucking good horror story and that’s why we’re doing it. The music just happens to be in it. But I haven’t signed anything yet! It might all fall through!

DF: Will you be putting new songs into it?

TOYAH: Totally new. We won’t use any of the old stuff. When we re-release singles I hate to release singles from the album and the B-side will be something totally new. So for the film we’ll be doing totally new stuff, which you’ll be able to get separately as a single track

DF: How did you get on to the Old Grey Whistle Test? (Aired 4.3.1980)

TOYAH: That was thanks to the album “Sheep Farming In Barnet”. You have to have an album to be on that and then you’re invited to it

DF: What did you think of your performance on it?

Awful. I think it was bad. My voice was terrible on it and also we had the greatest bad luck to do it in Glasgow. It was the second ever Whistle Test done in Glasgow and you got all the Glaswegians going “what do we have here? What knob do we twiddle?”

They just didn’t know what to do. And the lighting - we were saying "no, take it down. Let’s have moving lighting and coloured lighting" so it was an incredible battle against these Glaswegians but it was good fun

DF: Do you think being a woman had hindered your success in any way?

Well, put it this way if I could start all over again I would come back as man. I’d really prefer it because I hate people saying “oh, you’re a woman” and sitting back and waiting for you to fail

DF: You are obviously succeeding so aren’t you triumphing over them?

TOYAH: I’m triumphing over them but I’d still like to be a man. I always think of myself as a man and when people grab me around the tit I think "oh, God! I’m a woman". That’s how I am on stage - ignoring my sexuality

DF: What’s all this about a death wish?

TOYAH: I’ve got this death wish. I like teasing Dr Death and getting away with it. Put me in a car and I’ll crash it and if I survive I survive but if I die it doesn't matter because I have to go sometime anyway. It’s that sort of attitude. I like daring myself and if I fail I’m determined to do it again the next day to succeed

CN: You you dare yourself in the record business?

TOYAH: Oh, totally. They way I keep progressing is by dare that I don’t think I’ll achieve and it’s because of the fact that I’m so frightened of falling I manage to do it and I like that. It’s the permanent adrenaline that keeps you going. You don’t need drugs 


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