BBC RADIO DEVON
WITH RICHARD GREEN
SONG “Brave New World”
RICHARD GREEN: Now that's a bit of “classic Toyah” from back in the day - from 1982 and classic Toyah is with me now! Hello! How are you?
TOYAH (on the phone): I'm really good – how are you doing?
RICHARD: I'm really good. How do you feel if I say “classic Toyah”? Is that sort of – do you think "oh hang on, that was way back when – I've moved on!"
TOYAH: Well, no because I still sing all the classic Toyah and when I play my largest market - which is the UK - I want to play the songs people know me for. And I think that's the whole point of doing a concert really.
If I was going to never do those songs again I would probably choose much smaller venues and just warn people that you're not going to hear anything you've ever heard before so come along with fresh ears – but that isn't the case with me most of the time – I like to mix it all up. I've been in music now – I think for 34 years and I've done over 22 albums. I don't want to ignore any of it, I want to include it all.
RICHARD: So when you do go on tour here in the UK and you've got to do a mix of old and new – how do you decide what to put in?
TOYAH: I like energy – I'm not interested in slow self indulgent stuff. I like everything to be very positive and even if it's not hectic and if it's not boisterous I want it to give an energy to the audience so I choose stuff that I think captures people's imagination and hopefully brings them joy.
Also I'm pretty aware of songs that have narrated people's lives. With the stuff from “Anthem” - I'm so aware of the age group that bought that album and you know, narrated them getting detention in school, getting engaged, getting married, some people getting divorced to that album.
So I'm just aware of that and I like to bring those memories back. And with the new stuff my die hard fans have kept up with me and the new stuff is out there anyway. I've been used on quite a lot of advertising campaigns so there is a familiarity to the new stuff already although people might not know it was me that had written it and sang it.
RICHARD: Mind you - I've seen you live and I can vouch for the fact that you do like to have songs with energy in and you put a bit of your own energy in. I mean . . . is that – listen, I'm not going to upset you by mentioning that you've been in the business for all these years but is it more difficult to have that cut and thrust now or does it just make you feel young getting out there?
TOYAH: It's a different cut and thrust. My body doesn't do what I tell it anymore -
RICHARD: Neither does mine Toyah!
TOYAH: Well, there you go and I'm 56 this year and I have to say I feel physically 56. But it doesn't mean that you stop. It's … you re-interpret and I think there is energy there – if anything I think it's a bit more controlled which is a good thing. I think I'm much more of master of my own technique.
So I actually feel very positive about it. Luckily my voice is still really strong, I've got a great range. And we've slightly altered the volume the we work at because I can't sing like a rock chick for two hours without damaging my most precious asset which is my vocal chords. So I mean we all address this as a band. Luckily my band are only slightly younger than me so neither us want to kind of beat ourselves up. But we do have fun.
RICHARD: Sure. Now, you've got some gigs coming up here in Devon. You've got an “Up Close And Personal” acoustic gig and then you're doing an electric gig.
TOYAH: They're both very different …
RICHARD: Yeah - I was going to say . . . I mean clearly just by the very titles they are different. Is that going to what you just alluded to there that you have to just sort of alter the way you do your busy year of gigging?
TOYAH: Yeah, I'm touring three shows this year, in England it's the “Up Close And Personal” and the Toyah electric band. “Up Close And Personal” - I really love it and so does my MD. Basically I have a cinema screen behind me and we show pictures through my life and some DVD clips. Very short clips which I talk through – how scenes from certain movies were done. When I was 20 I made film with Katharine Hepburn and talk about that, I mention how we did the riot scenes in “Quadrophenia”, how rock videos were made.
But I have on stage with me two guitarists who - I do about ten songs per Act 1, Act 2 so it's still very music driven and there's still a lot of energy but it's anecdotal and it's very funny and it's very irreverent. But it's beautiful. You hear the harmonic tones of the songs. You hear the intention of why the songs were written and you get to hear the stories behind the songs. I don't talk too much because I want people to be engaged with the music. But it's lovely.
We opened it three weeks ago and people are really flogging to it because it's a different approach and we had quite a big producer in three weeks ago and he said through seeing the acoustic show he realised that I am actually a good songwriter and for me that's great.
And then with the electric band, the whole idea of the electric band is - you know, we want people up and boogieing and having a good time. And whether they're a new audience or an older audience we just want them to go away having had the time of their life. It's live and it's boisterous.
RICHARD: Can't wait to see either of those two shows – they sound absolutely fascinating to me. Can I just ask about the latest project which you've put out there digitally in terms of music – The Humans. Third album just released. Just for people who do not know about The Humans, just explain what it is?
TOYAH: I'll try to be brief in this. We've been together for 7 years and it started – I'm married to a guitarist called Robert Fripp (above with Toyah) and he is hugely admired around the world -
RICHARD: King Crimson etc. Yeah?
TOYAH: Yeah. And the president of Estonia phoned him 7 years ago and asked him to play personally in Estonia at the president's birthday party and my husband is renowned for not being available and he said he couldn't do it.
So I phoned the Estonian embassy up and I said "look – I will put together myself, Bill Rieflin who's been in R.E.M for the last 7 years and my MD. We will come over to Estonia, we will write the music in Estonia and perform it for the president on his birthday." And they said yes and we did it and we ended up touring Estonia.
It was an absolute sell-out, it was a huge hit and the president - we gave him a private concert. We've made three albums since that we always go back to Estonia and play to the president. The latest album “Strange Tales” actually went in straight in the iTunes Rock chart at number 26 ten days ago.
We recorded it just over a year ago in Seattle (in the studio, below) and it's just lovely. It's one of my best pieces of work. It's radio friendly. It still has the oddness that I like to be associated with. It's a hard project to get on the road because my co-writer lives in Seattle and the rest of us live in England. It's a huge passion of mine and in two weeks I go out to tour the West Coast of America with it.
RICHARD: Wow! I going to play now “Get In Your Car” -
TOYAH: Enjoy it!
RICHARD: Is there a story behind it – apart from get in my car?
TOYAH: Yes, there is a story. When we were recording - Pearl Jam, the band, lent us their private recording studio, which is on a very busy road in Fremont in Seattle. And what I love about Seattle - you have all mixes of people, you don't get just one class system – you get everything. All on one street. I'm a great people watcher and this song is about the lost generation who never grew up and it's just called “Get In Your Car And Drive”
SONG "Get In Your Car"
RICHARD: What a project though, interesting the way it came about and interesting you've managed to keep it going, Toyah?
TOYAH: Well, we all love it. It probably does better in America than over here because over here promoters just want Toyah and they want the Toyah brand but it's all available on iTunes and if people fell in love with the track they've only got to go to toyahwillcox.com and they've got all the links to get it off iTunes. But it's a growing passion. Our audience is growing and growing and growing and that's very satisfying.
RICHARD: So where does it fit then because it appears to me – you're saying there will be a fourth The Humans album at some point?
TOYAH: Yeah -
RICHARD: Obviously Toyah likes to have Toyah music out there every now and again, you like to do your stage, you like to do your writing, you like to do your live performance where you go back to the 80's etc. How do you work it all out?!
TOYAH: I think it's a question of inspiration and time. Bill, (above with Toyah) my co-writer in The Humans is in the new King Crimson so I'm going to loose him for 6 months anyway -
RICHARD: Well - I blame Robert for that!
TOYAH: I blame Robert for that as well! Bill is very in demand – he's a very popular man as a friend and as a musician. So where I lucked out Robert will not rehearse King Crimson in the US, he will only do it England so I get Bill in England . . . what - once a month - which means I can say “Right! We're doing this, we're doing that!” It's a bit of a mishmash but I can't see why creativity can't be a bit of mishmash.
For decades now I've had to work to the formulaic of the record companies demands and now I own my own record label and run my own band. The internet is an absolute godsend to me and if the muse strikes then we're creative, if it doesn't strike then we go out and play live until we feel it so we're very fluid in how we work.
RICHARD: Is it more joyful now working in the music business than it was back in the 80's?
TOYAH: Oh yeah! I don't even have to think about that to answer it. Firstly I'm more settled in my own skin. Secondly I respect technique now. I never did when I was young - everything with me was instinct and reaction. And now I respect technique and I've slowed down enough to think about things a bit more. But it's so much easier for me now.
I think one of the – we often talk about the fact that women over 30 get ignored but there's huge benefits in being ignored. I haven't got record company executives trying to rule my life and telling me what I want. I'm a free agent and I love that!
RICHARD: And what about TV and stage and film and all that sort of thing?
TOYAH: Well, I'm … this is where it gets very schizophrenic. I start this week on Steve Oram's (above with Toyah) next movie. Steve Oram is a comedic actor who writes and directs. His last film was called “Sightseers” and his new film is called “Aahhh” - how you spell a scream and he kind of specialises in English comedy horror. So I started that already and I'll be working on that till mid-July taking all the weekends off to go and do concerts so … it's busy.
RICHARD: I can't believe you've got such a busy diary! It's just amazing to think you've got all these string to your bow and you manage to juggle it all perfectly seemingly in 2014. Sounds like you're just having the best time of your life?!
TOYAH: I'm having a good time. But the thing is what really pulls focus for you when you hit 50 is you know you are over the top of the rest of it (both laugh), you know the time you've got left and I'm just not going to waste any of it. So I am having a good time but I'm having a good time while I can.
RICHARD: Well, Toyah, it's been a pleasure speaking to you. Thank you for joining us!
TOYAH: Thank you!
SONG "It's A Mystery"