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TOYAH INTERVIEW [1998]

HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL TO KNOW THAT 'ANTHEM' AND 'THE CHANGELING' ARE COMING OUT AGAIN ON CD AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?

I'm relieved they've come out because for years people have been asking me to put them out and nothing's been done about it, so I'm hugely relieved that they've been put out because there's a demand. There's a massive demand in the commercial world to use songs such as 'It's A Mystery' and 'Thunder In The Mountains' on films and adverts which from a writers point of view I would really like to see happen as it gives the music a new audience.

What's even better for me is that it's 'The Changeling', which has been the most positively received... when we first released 'The Changeling' it was such a huge departure from 'Anthem' that it actually got slated in the press, it sold well, but not as well as 'Anthem' and it's actually a better album. I mean it's now getting better star-ratings in the reviews and that's bloody brilliant, I'm really chuffed about that!

'ANTHEM' WAS RELEASED AT A TIME WHEN YOU WERE AT YOUR MOST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL, WAS THERE PRESSURE ON YOU TO MAKE A 'HIT' ALBUM?

Well it just happened! It was a fantastic time, I mean there was just such a buzz... we did a tour in, I think, early March 1981 when we knew 'It's A Mystery' was coming out on the '4 From Toyah' EP and I was almost embarrassed about 'It's A Mystery', I just hated it, but it was so well received on tour! Then I went off to do 'Tales of The Unexpected' and the new band was put together by Nick Tauber (the producer) - I wasn't even around because I was away filming - and it consisted of Adrian Lee, Nigel Glockler, Phil Spalding and Joel who went into the studio and recorded the backing tracks without me even meeting them all, and it was just fucking brilliant!

When the tracks arrived in Norwich, where I was filming, my jaw hit the floor. I thought they were great and I just went home and wrote a lyric every day... got up at 7am, wrote 'til about 1pm, a car would pick me up, went into the studio for 2pm and it was recorded by 6pm, and that's how 'Anthem' happened. But we were all on such a buzz; we were so fucking happy because everything was just falling into place...

ARE THERE ANY STANDOUT TRACKS ON THE ALBUM FOR YOU?

Yes, 'Popstar', 'Masai Boy', and I think 'Demolition Men'.

THE EXTRA TRACK 'FOR YOU' HAS ALSO BEEN INCLUDED ON THE 'ANTHEM' REISSUE AND IT SEEMS TO BE AN INCREDIBLY POPULAR CHOICE WITH THE FANS...

I don't know it!

UNTIL NOW IT'S ONLY EVER BEEN ON A FLEXI-DISC, FROM FLEXI-POP MAGAZINE IN 1981 - APPARENTLY IT'S A TRACK FROM THE 'ANTHEM' SESSIONS...

Oooooh, I must go and listen to it! But I'd forgotten about 'Stand Proud' too, and 'Sphinx' and all of those... I'm going to go back and listen to it!

WHEN YOU WENT BACK INTO THE STUDIO TO MAKE 'THE CHANGELING' WERE YOU SCARED THAT YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO MATCH THE SUCCESS OF 'ANTHEM'?

Well, I was quite depressed at the time. We did 'Anthem', we toured the whole year and we finished the year by doing the 'Old Grey Whistle Test' live which played to 12 million people. That was such a pinnacle of a night and I never really got over it. But I was expected to write an album over the winter which is the worst time of year with me, and I was finding it incredibly difficult and the pressures were incredible because I was doing anything from 4 to 14 interviews a day and then being expected to write.

It's not very inspiring just to do interviews all day long... you're kind of left drained, and I found that by the time I settled down to write it I was so angry and so anxious to get away from everything that 'The Changeling' came out as quite a dark piece.

We were working with Steve Lillywhite who I got in because I loved what he did with Peter Gabriel, but as soon as we got in the studio I realised that it's still the artist who has to do all the work, and I so needed someone to push me into the next dimension, to take the next step, and it wasn't happening. It was a desperately sad time for me... Joel and I weren't getting on that well, and Joel became very buddy-ish with Lillywhite and I found that I was just treated like the 'little woman' which doesn't go down with me at all well... so I was coming into the studio in very dark moods and incredibly emotional and I cried my way through that album, but in retrospect I think that it's quite a remarkable record.

WERE YOU PUSHED BY THE RECORD COMPANY TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO MATCH THE COMMERCIAL SUCCESS OF 'ANTHEM'?

No, Safari were actually the only people who would listen to me and again that had a detrimental effect because I was going through a time when I shouldn't have been listened to. I needed someone... I needed a bit of a guru or a mentor, to tone me down because the potential was infinite... that's what really baffled me because I could have gone in at any direction and I didn't really know which choices to make. I was just writing and writing and writing all day long, every day, and coming up with tons of ideas but not able to formulate them because there wasn't enough time.

I needed someone to sit down with me and say 'that's a great idea, we'll take that idea' and I actually, for the first time in my life, needed a bit of guidance. During that time I also sacked my manager because he was just playing silly buggers and he was moving in one direction and I was really working against the grain. It was a very disruptive time...

IN VIEW OF ALL THE TURMOIL YOU WERE GOING THROUGH WHILE YOU WERE MAKING THE RECORD, WAS IT A RELIEF WHEN IT DIDN'T PERFORM IN THE SAME STRATOSPHERIC WAY THAT 'ANTHEM' DID?

No, it was terrible! 'Creepy Room' - which I think is about the best song I've ever written - 'Run Wild, Run Free', and 'Castaways' are among the most exploratory writing that we'd ever done and you can hear their influence... like someone wrote to me and said did I realise that the intro to one of U2's songs was exactly the same as 'Brave New World', and 'The Packt' as well, they were all copied in little ways and I'm incredibly proud about it because for me, OK it may not have been a huge commercial success, but people did listen to it!

IF 'THE CHANGELING' WAS WRITTEN TO BE PERFORMED, WAS 'WARRIOR ROCK' (double live-album which was the next Toyah album to be released) A DELIBERATE FOLLOW UP?

We were really one of the best live acts around at the time and we wanted to concentrate all our work on live work, and therefore 'The Changeling' had to have a certain live feel. Interestingly 'Warrior Rock' was reviewed at the greatest live album ever, it got better reviews than 'The Changeling' and it was as if the music had to be played in... Because what we had with our first few albums was we had tours playing the music before we recorded, and 'Anthem' and 'The Changeling' were the first albums we ever recorded that we'd never played the music live, and that is terrifying because you really grow into a record when you play it live.

SO DO YOU FEEL THOSE SONGS HAVE GROWN THROUGH TO NOW, BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THERE'S A FEW OF THOSE SONGS THAT YOU STILL PLAY TODAY?

Yes, I'm a lot more relaxed with them, my range is much more relaxed with them... it just makes a huge difference; a song should have a longevity.

YOU INFLUENCED A GENERATION OF GIRLS, AND BOYS AS WELL, TO EXPERIMENT WITH THEIR IMAGE... MANY PEOPLE HAVE CONFESSED TO ME OF HAVING PAINSTAKINGLY PAINTED BIRDS ON THEIR FACES - BUT WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE LOOK?

The birds. Because it's so delicate, and I was very thin at the time and the cheekbones look great and everything was right.

HOW MUCH OF THOSE IMAGES CAME FROM YOU?

Well we used to have meetings and with 'Brave New World' we had a meeting about what I wanted to portray and I'd seen Caroline Cohen's paintings, her artwork, so I asked if she could do anything like that on my face, something more literal and delicate and she said yes so we just let her get on with it.

HOW STRONGLY DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH YOUR PAST LOOKS?

Well, they are history and I like them and I'm proud of them but I don't really identify with it, it's history. But obviously when you see certain things you can see your own influences, in a way I'm more proud of that.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IMAGE TO YOU NOW?

It's important to look vital. I would loathe, and have always loathed the thought of hitting 40 and still having pink hair, because I want to act more predominantly I don't want to tie myself down by image and that's why in a way I'm almost... in fact I am almost conventional in my look now, I don't think I am in my behaviour but my look is conventional because if it isn't then casting directors won't even bother booking an appointment with you...

YOU'VE ALWAYS HAD A VERY STRONG WORK ETHIC, AND HAVE BEEN VERY VOCAL ABOUT MAKING THE MOST OF WHAT YOU'VE GOT WHICH RUNS RIGHT THROUGH YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY 'LIVING OUT LOUD'...

Well it's all about understanding the concept of time and how long we're on the planet. We're bought up and brainwashed that we're educated until we're 18, we work and then we retire and it's not going to work anymore, the whole life experience is an education experience and that goes hand in hand with spiritual growth, if you talk to any guru whether they're Hindu, Buddhist or anything it's about the journey of life, it's not about retirement! I think it's all got to change, and that's why I feel kind of happy to come clean about what I feel.

SO WOULD YOU SAY IT'S MORE OF A SPIRITUAL BOOK USING YOUR LIFE AS AN ILLUSTRATION, OR IS IT MORE OF AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL BOOK?

It's a biography, but it's the truth about feelings and it's the truth about decisions I made and I think there are some decisions that I made that people would have been scared of doing, like literally in '91 I just stopped everything and sold everything and started again. A lot of people would like to do that and can't face it, and that's motivational and hopefully the book will be slightly motivational but without preaching, because you can't preach, you can only be there as living proof of something...

ONTO SOMETHING A BIT LIGHTER - THERE IS NOW A CHARACTER IN CORONATION STREET (long standing British soap opera) CALLED TOYAH. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

I don't like it, although they did warn me. My name is a big part of my uniqueness and I really loathe it and I wondered if I should take legal proceedings. I did try to register my name as a trademark about 18 years ago, and funnily enough there was already a factory in Manchester called Toyah Textiles and so I couldn't do it, but I'm not happy about it... it's trivial. She's called Toyah because that was a name that people called their daughters who were born in 1981, and that's why she's called that but I don't like it in a soap.

SO, YOU'RE NOT A FAN OF CORONATION STREET THEN?

Well I am! The one thing is that she is a great character; I just wish she wasn't called Toyah!

YOU'VE BEEN ON TV RECENTLY PRESENTING 'SONGS OF PRAISE' (highly respectable British religious programme), WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THAT?

I believe that there's lots of people out there who are spiritually motivated and for me it's the dogmatists and the literalists that have destroyed religion.

For me the word of Christ was the word of rebellion and I think as soon as Christianity was adopted as the religion of the Roman army in AD 240 by King Constantine it became corrupt. The remarkable thing about Christianity is it's about ecological spirituality, and not many people know this because we have been taught from a bible that has been adapted, anyway... everyone who works on 'Songs of Praise' feels exactly the same as I do. With 'Songs Of Praise' you have a cultural background where the majority of the age group is over the age of sixty and obviously there's many generations below the age of sixty that I think would like to find some sort of spiritual footing in the world, but are so put off by people telling them that they are unclean, that they're sinners, or they're second rate.

The truth of Christianity has never judged people on that level, it's about loving the earth, tending the earth, and it's about being creative, it also believes that God has lightness and darkness and so the devil doesn't exist.

SO THIS IS OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING YOU'RE VERY INTERESTED IN?

Oh, it's my passion. I don't go to church. The most Christian thing I do is I wear a cross and I have a dialogue with God as such, but my God is all creativity, it's everything that exists.

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF SPECULATION AMONGST YOUR FANS AS TO HOW AND WHY YOU HAVE CROSSED FROM A PLACE WHERE THE NECRONOMICON (ancient black magic writings) WAS A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON YOUR WRITING AND THINKING, TO PRESENTING A SHOW WHICH IS PROBABLY THE BASTION OF CHRISTIAN RESPECTABILITY...

But I think we have to address both sides and I think that the truth involves both sides and that you can't live by one alone. I mean, even if a nun or a monk goes into retreat, they are dealing with a dark side although they probably never really talk about it. It’s that whole thing...'Ieya' is about the egotism of man, dealing with the kind of hierarchy of God as it were and which wouldn't exist without either the light or the dark. And look at 'Danced', that's the most religious song I've ever written, so it is a kind of yin and yang.

1998

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