BBC RADIO BRISTOL
WITH CLAIRE CAVANAGH
CLAIRE CAVANAGH: Now's the chance to see Toyah Willcox performing an acoustic set and revealing a few stories about her life as well at the gig in Frome. But she also has a local connection. It turns out her mum and dad met in Weston-super-Mare.
TOYAH: (on the phone) My mother was a professional dancer in dance troupe from the age of 12 – in fact her first ever stage review was when she was 12 years old. And my father saw my mother dancing on stage when was 17 at the theatre. I think it was the end of the pier theatre in Weston-super-Mare and he waited outside the stage door to meet her. And he was actually with a woman he was already engaged with but he carved his initials in the stage door. And spent I think the next 18 months following my mother who was on tour with Max Wall round the country.
CLAIRE: That is quite a story!
TOYAH: I suppose it is really but that's when there was no social media, there was no mobile phones, it was the only thing to do if you wanted to meet someone.
CLAIRE: Yeah. An idea for Valentine's day perhaps (they both laugh)
TOYAH: I'm not even going there! I've been married for 30 years so if someone wants to do that – good on them! I'll be doing other things.
CLAIRE: Now, Toyah you're coming to Frome. What can your fans expect, what are you going to give them?
TOYAH: This is an acoustic show and it's very very lively, surprisingly lively. I think that's why the show is such a hit. We first did it a year ago and I really expected it to do it twice and never do it again and it's been selling out round the country. So I'm now doing quite a lot of this particular type of performance. I have two acoustic guitarists on stage, three of us are singing. It's very lively and we've found that my songs in particular work incredibly well in the acoustic genre.
It turns them into a very dance experience and I have a screen behind me and I tell stories and I show behind the scenes pictures. My stories are very funny and kind of reverent and things that people don't know about me. But it's lively. So at Frome I'm not sure whether we're doing one complete set or we do a first half and a second half because we're very pliable. But the first half is story telling with music and the second half is like a concert so people can really have a good boogie.
CLAIRE: That sounds like masses of fun. And the fact that you're doing stories as well. Can you give us an idea of a story?
TOYAH: Well, I always tell people that Toyah is my real name and in most cultures it means “dear” or “expensive”. It German it means dear and in Japanese it means expensive. Also where my mother felt that she found the name, even though she was never really clear about it - it's a name of a tribe in Arizona of native American Indians and it means water. But it wasn't until I started touring in Italy 1979 (I found out) that also in Italian it means your mother is a “bitch pig”. So my career in Italy was very short lived!
CLAIRE: You don't need that in Italy! You were talking about Japan and I read that you're going to Japan later this year -
TOYAH: Yes, I'm there in December.
CLAIRE: Is that one of your favourite countries because you seem quite giddy about it?
TOYAH: I've never been. I've always kind of mimicked the Geisha girls in photo sessions and stuff like that and this will be my first time there. I'm actually going with my husband (Robert Fripp, below with Toyah) who's touring with his band King Crimson. But I'm wildly excited. It's actually one of those countries that it's so far away it takes a lot of effort to get to. I know I've got agents trying to book me as a singer while I'm out there but I've actually never been.
CLAIRE: I think you'll absolutely love it!
TOYAH: I can't wait!
CLAIRE: I flew to the other side of the world and went to New Zealand and on the way we spent a weekend in Tokyo and it was just like -
TOYAH: Was it crazy?
CLAIRE: Yeah! It's pretty mad, yeah.
TOYAH: That's what I've been warned.
CLAIRE: You will love it! All the fashion and the hair, all that sort of stuff and young people are just into everything.
TOYAH: Well, that's what I love. I love freedom of expression and I think in Japan they don't seem to have a lack of self confidence when it comes to fashion. When I'm London and you see Japanese tourists and especially the young people, they're just so incredible, I just think wow!
CLAIRE: I was thinking as well because you've done loads of reality stuff, TV stuff … "Celebrity Big Brother" came to an end on Friday – would you ever consider doing that?
TOYAH: Ah! I watched that. I was horrified. I think when you do telly, when I went into the jungle ("I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!") ten years ago I said to my friends, my parents, my agents – I will not make a spectacle of myself. I'm going in for the challenge and to physically improve myself. And what horrified me about "Big Brother" this time was it was existing on nastiness. People in there were electing themselves as the voices of people outside and none of us have the right to do that. We live in a democracy.
I found myself getting quite angry that people were justifying their spite, which is nothing more than kinder garden spite, because they thought they were the voices of Britain. I could've just thrown bricks at the TV. It was entertaining but I had no admiration for the fact they didn't like people sitting on the fence. Telly is there for entertainment - "Big Brother" is not a political statement and I think it was a very brilliant series but for me having seen what they did to those people in the house this time I would never go in.
CLAIRE: So you just feel it's become so hugely negative?
TOYAH: I don't believe in negative. I don't believe it serves any purpose at all. I believe in creative speech and I believe in us educating ourselves throughout our lives and having opinions. But being nasty? Nasty is too easy. Nasty is what trolls and bullies do in the school room. For me I just felt they should've intervened and Katie Price for instance was not well and she sat it out and she was being attacked for being "vanilla".
I was just getting so angry, you could tell the woman was late into the house because she has a medical problem and she has a medical problem throughout and I just thought wow, this is … It's not mentally good for people. I was willing to Keith Chegwin to actually hit someone. I was completely divided by the experience. I just felt it was festival for trolls.
CLAIRE: Is it what happens though when people will do anything for money?
TOYAH: I don't know why it got so bad. Like you said I've done reality shows – I've never worked with anyone who is so obnoxious you can't be in the room with them. Everyone I've worked with are intelligent hard working people but for some reason this was venomous and poisonous. That's not the show business I know.
SONG: “Good Morning Universe” (Acoustic)
CLAIRE: How much hairspray did you have to use to make your hair go “punk” in the 1980's?
TOYAH: I had a hairdresser, I couldn't do that on my own. It took about a large canister of the largest hairspray you could buy from the hairdresser.
CLAIRE: A whole one?
TOYAH: Yeah, a whole one - per photo session and it sometimes used to take a week to get out because back then you couldn't comb hairspray out. It was like varnish! So a lot.
CLAIRE: I know these days Toyah, you're really big on eating well. What's your top tip?
TOYAH: Oh! (laughs) You've hit the nail on the head there.
CLAIRE: Why – have you been stuffing your face with chocolate this morning?
TOYAH: No, it's exactly the opposite. In fact – OK, I'll tell you my eating habits. I know my body and everybody's physical needs are completely individual but I know if I eat more than 1500 calories a day I'm going to put weight on. I eat 80% raw which means a lot of raw carrots, a lot of salad based stuff but I do love raw broccoli, raw cabbage and then I'll have a piece of fish twice and day.
I have a very sweet tooth – I have completely eradicated processed white sugar from my diet. I don't think it's good for anybody. I think it encourages cravings so I've replaced that with honey because at least if you eat local honey you're taking in a natural sugar that also helps your immune system because local honey, in theory, has local pollen in it and that helps you deal with allergies.
CLAIRE: Was getting rid of all sugar-
TOYAH: It was hell!
CLAIRE: I was going to say – that's pretty tough!
TOYAH: It's taken me about two years. Because every afternoon between three and four I would either eat chocolate or a piece of cake and I hated myself for it. I'm not very tall and I'm three years off sixty and I just didn't want to go into my middle to old age questioning why I didn't do something about my waistline. I can still fit into clothes that I wore when I was 12 and believe me I've still got them but I don't believe in this "you put on a stone and a half when you get older" – you don't have to.
I want to be as active and as creative and as engaged in life as I was when I was 20 in the next ten twenty years as well. So it's never too late to address something. It's absolutely never too late to address an ambition or something that you wish you had the willpower to do. It's taken me forever to get off sugar! I wake up in the morning just wanting marshmallows. Wanting Victoria sponge! What really made so angry that made me do something about it was that I was eating a very healthy off-the-shelf yoghurt which I believed was healthy.
It has bifidus in it which is good for your digestive system and then I found out it has six tea spoons of sugar in it! That was my hubby and I said even something I've been told is healthy has sugar in. I said "get rid of it!" It was difficult! Trying to buy things that didn't have sugar in was the hardest thing!
CLAIRE: Yeah, it is. Does that mean you can't watch (The Great Bristish) "Bake Off”?
TOYAH: Oh, I love “Bake Off”! I love cookery programs! I love weight loss programs. I watch them now trying to make myself feel repulsed. I trying imagine they're mixing up cyanide. (Claire laughs) Which is very very helpful. Whenever I see people putting cake in their mouth I imagine it's got cyanide in it! (laughs)
CLAIRE: Yeah, I think somebody brought one of those into our office once! (they both laugh) On the cake run on Friday …
TOYAH: The only way I can deal with it is myself make feel repulsed at the thought of something I really really want …
CLAIRE: Do you have any unfilled ambitions?
Photo by Alyson Evans
TOYAH: Oh, hundreds! Hundreds! I'm your typical frustrated performer. I want to write a script. I want to write a novel. I want to be in this move. I want to be in this stage play. I feel so unfilled but I live in the moment rather than past so I've got tons of ambition.
CLAIRE: It's been great talking to you Toyah and best of luck with those gigs as well. They sound fab!
TOYAH: They're going to be a lot of fun.
CLAIRE: Brilliant to talk to Toyah Willcox there, still going after more than 30 years in the business so pretty impressive record as well.