The Arms Of The Law
The increasingly extraordinary Adam Sweeting tackles
the several personalities of the small but determined Toyah.
I'd never met Toyah before, and I was wondering
which one I might find. Would it be Miranda from "The Tempest", the fierce
female wrestler from "Trafford Tanzi", the lisping TV presenter, or the
aggressively padded pugilist from the sleeve of her new "Love Is The law"
I was marched into a glacial conference room at
her manager's office and didn't notice her for a moment. "And this is Toyah
..."Ah, there she was, lurking in the far corner with a shy smile. Good
Lord, she is tiny isn't she? Just returned from two months in the wilds
of France where she'd been filming "The Ebony Tower" alongside Sir Laurence
Olivier, Toyah has not yet readjusted to the noisy pressures of London.
"God, it is noisy isn't it?" she said, as a flock of police cars whizzed
past down the King's Road, banshee-sirens wailing. "I was in France for
two months of complete solitude, and it was wonderful." She giggled throatily.
"I can't speak French -well, I can a bit now - so I was very alone and
it was very nice," Funny, the lisp is now almost undetectable.
I can't pretend to be much of a fan of Toyah's
records, either her lyrics or her kind of futurist/Heavy Metal music, which
always remind me somehow of Ultravox without the moustache. Hoping to skirt
round the subject, I told Toyah I thought her music now seemed to be very
much in second place to her acting career. A forthright 25-year old, Toyah
was having none of this."No, not at all", she said firmly. "Where have
you got that from?" Well, you know Toyah, "Trafford Tanzi", TV appearances...
"The reason I do TV is to promote the music, and also I enjoy doing TV",
she insisted."I like the medium, I prefer to be in front of a camera rather
than being on a stage the whole time. When you're on a stage in front of
an audience it's a rare electricity, it's a rare inspiration you get from
your audience, but at the same time I feel I need different media to channel
myself through. I get bored very easily, and boredom is very destructive.
The reason I do TV is that more people can get to see you without having
to pay phenomenal ticket prices. I'd say music and acting are 50-50.
But after appearing in "The Tempest" and "Trafford
Tanzi" and working on a new film based on a John Fowles novel, which are
all fairly sophisticated projects, can you still take pop music seriously?
Toyah didn't agree with this line of questioning at all. "I keep both careers
very separate from each other. I keep them apart so that they in fact inspire
each other. After I did 'Trafford Tanzi', it was like a holiday to go and
make a film, because it got me away from a certain type of people. The
only thing I will never take seriously is the people in the pop world,
because they're all voyeurs and they're all pretentious in their own way".
Hmm. Tell me about working with Sir Larry, then.
Toyah chortled. "He was great, very impressive. He's just a lovely person.
He's very intelligent, very entertaining, just a nice human being and very
talented." Let's not be too hard on the old boy.Had he heard any of your
records? "He hasn't", revealed Toyah, "but one of his daughters has. He
has a great interest in computer systems and stuff, I spent a lot of time
talking to him about Fairlights and the Jupiter programming system, and
he really is into all that. He loves technology".
I don't remember any of this being in Peter Hall's
diaries. Anyway... "When we started the movie, he completely disbelieved
what I was telling him about certain techniques but towards the end of
the movie he was starting to buy things, like he had his own word-processor
and a computer typewriter", Lawks! "Olivier Joins Depeche Mode", Had he
seen your performance in Derek Jarman's movie of "The Tempest", Toyah?"No",
she said. "I never tried to get any form of judgement from him, and I didn't
try to study his acting at all. Because of his senior age I had a lot of
respect for him, because I just like people of that age. He had a lot to
say about his past career, and he had more to say about his technique of
directing than he did about his technique of acting, and I just found him
"I'd tell him about my techniques within the pop
world, and he'd then give me information about how he directs. We learned
from each other in that way, but once we were on the set. We didn't communicate
as personal people, we communicated as characters, because we had to hate
each other in the film".
In "The Ebony Tower" (directed by Robert Knight.
who was responsible for the BBC2 series "The History Man"), Toyah was called
upon to play a character called The Freak. "On the surface she looks like
a freak but deep down inside she is the sanest of the four main characters",
Toyah explained. "The most intriguing thing about the part is that I could
relate to it because for ten years I had red hair, and people instantly
judge your character and your personality by your outward appearance, while
inside you can be completely the opposite. That is what The Freak is about."
Since finishing the movie, Toyah has dyed her
hair black so she can go shopping and drop in to the Pizza Express without
having people recognising her all the time. "Having red hair you're living
in a false reality, you can't go out because you're instantly
so you're permanently being treated like a star "
But surely you set yourself up for that by being
who you are?
"I did by having red hair," Toyah qualified. "Now,
only the people who buy my records and follow my career know who I am.
I used to get very annoyed with people who'd come up in restaurants and
slobber all over you when they'd never even bought one of your records
or supported you, They're just all over you because you're a pop star to
"If I see someone famous in the street I generally
walk the other way, because the reason they're walking down the street
is that they've got something to do. It's very nice, I like being recognised,
but just for a few months while I'm getting ready to write the next album
I've decided to be a little incognito".
I quoted a couple of lines from her new album
at her. "Everything and everyone I ever loved has been taken from me" ("Remember").
Are you in love, Toyah? Toyah shrieked and clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Oh dear! No one's ever asked me that. I'm glad you've asked that! The
whole of that album is inspired by punters I met while I was doing 'Trafford
Tanzi' When I arrived at the theatre I'd talk to the punters outside, and
I'd talk to them in the intervals and I'd talk to them at the end. For
the first time in four years I travelled alone without any security which
meant I could talk to the audience without people going "come on you've
got to go in now" and ordering my life about. I really got to know these
kids and I got to like them a lot, and I got to see little groups of them
fall in love with each other and their relationships grow and then fall
apart, because they were all young teenagers. I was an observer, and I
learned so much from them that I'd forgotten."
"I'd go home after 'Trafford Tanzi' feeling either
very happy or very angry - they could make you very angry some days because
a lot of them were there every day for five months, so we got to a point
in our relationship where they could really annoy me or make me very happy."
Meanwhile, Toyah was working on the "Love Is The
law" LP. Guitarist Joel Bogen and keyboards man Simon Darlow had moved
into Toyah's house so she wouldn't have to go tramping off to a studio
after a hard night's wrestling, and during the day
"They'd work on arrangements and backing tracks.
The way I worked on the lyrics was I'd get home at about 11 and start drinking",
Toyah confessed. "I've stopped drinking now but I'd deliberately drink
heavily to relax me a lot. Then Simon would set up a microphone and stuff
and we'd sit down and I would improvise a lot of the lyrics as the backing
track ran through the headphones. "'Remember' came about after a particular
argument with one of the punters who got so drunk she tried to hit me,
and so I was sort of pent up, and 'Remember' came out of that. The album
is all experiences like that, and a lot of it was improvised. 'Rebel Of
Love' was really totally off the top of my head, it really has no song
structure at all. It's more like a poem. Rather than pre write songs and
let them go stale, I did them on the spur of the moment."
Did you find it easy to work that way? "It was
at the time, because 'Trafford Tanzi' left me on such a natural high and
a natural power-emotion ...doing that play and winning an enormous fight
every night really does make you feel very good, so it was a natural way
to come down, to let my mind run riot to the backing tracks. It was very
Your lyrics do seem very constructed though, Toyah,
rather than coming from inside yourself. I get the impression you find
it hard to talk about yourself on an intimate level in your lyrics.
"For the first time on this album I've tried to
be more intimate than I've ever been before", she pondered. "I've tried
to avoid diversities and go for raw emotions, so in a way allowing the
punters to get very close to me and trigger my emotions was a very important
source of inspiration for that album. It was a one-off, I'll never do it
again because it was exhausting. I don't willingly talk about myself that
openly because you're laying yourself open to be knocked down."
Well anyway, are you in love? You never answered
that one. "Oh God ...well, I have a permanent companion who I've lived
with for four years, and I can't foresee any parting happening there and
I love him very much. But I have what I call three different loves. "There's
a love which is a great friendship where I feel great bonds with people,
I think that's still a form of love. There's the love I feel for my old
man where nothing can step in, because I don't believe in promiscuity of
any type, I think it's a weakness. So there's unsexual love and there's
sexual love, and I believe you can only have sexual love for one person.
I feel great love for people around me at the same time, but I wouldn't
want to have an affair with them. I think that's sordid, it's horrible,
I hate people who do that."
That's very moral.
"Um... I don't think it's so much moral, I really
think if you go round having affairs left right and centre you're damned
weak and you don't understand who you are. You're searching for something
you'll never find. And it's not so much moral, I think it's sensible, and
with all the new plagues going about..." She laughed. "I think it's the
only way people will survive."
How about heroes or idols? Got any?
"Oh God, yes. My idol of all time is James Dean
but he's gone and snuffed it. I love Marilyn Monroe because she just shone.
I love people with that charisma. I love Bowie. He's my biggest hero ever,
I got into him when I was about 12 and I've never thought differently of
him, whereas Marc Bolan I liked when I was 12 and didn't like when I was
17 and then started liking him again just before he died." What's so special
"It's a persona. I've never met him and I never
want to meet him, because he means too much to me. If he goes and blows
everything I think he is, then I'll have no more heroes left. I think you've
gotta have a hero, you've got to have someone you really admire. I think
once you get to know someone too well you can't admire them any more, because
you naturally see weaknesses and I don't like seeing that."
Aha! What weaknesses will you admit to then, Toyah?"I've
got hundreds. I overeat, I'm lazy if I don't push myself, I'm stubborn,
I'm a terribly jealous and possessive person. But all those things keep
you going. I think my ambition is fed through jealousy and possessiveness,
'I want, I want, I want'. I'm a megalomaniac, mentally and physically.
"But it's controlling those feelings that strengthens
you in a way. I believe you can channel different energies, like when I'm
angry, if I keep that anger in me I'll have a burst of energy and be able
to do lots of things. But if I blow it by throwing things about and having
a screaming tantrum I'll exhaust myself. One thing I've learned to do over
the last five years is channel energies. Before I go onstage I deliberately
won't move, I'll stay in the same spot for two hours. Then suddenly I'll
explode when I come onstage. It's like you've gotta destroy to create sometimes.
When I'm nervous I naturally want to move about, so I keep it inside me."
What's the worst thing you've ever done to somebody?
"Oh, I don't think I've ever done anything bad to people," said Toyah,
aghast. "I could never hurt anyone. I've been in fights but I've managed
to control that now. I've been in real punch-ups, but that's because I
get too drunk and I enjoy a good punch up. Ha! The only thing that gets
hurt through jealousy is yourself, you can't hurt other people through
your own jealousy because it's a paranoia that goes on inside your own
head. That's why I've tried to channel it into something more positive."
It will probably come as no great surprise to
you to learn, then, that Toyah doesn't like other women much and even forgets
she is one sometimes. "I don't like yer typical woman," she asserted .
"I think it's a waste of life. By that I mean women who need a man to lean
on or aren't emotionally strong enough to survive independently. I just
get on better with men. They're more physical , they're more strenuous
in what they do, and that's how I like it to be."
"There's women I really like, but because I want
to keep liking them I stay away from them. I can't talk about women's things.
I really try, but I just can't - my head turns off after about an hour."
What about feminism then? Is it irrelevant?
"I think it's a bit dated now," said Toyah. "The
kids I've met who will be the future, they just have no paranoias like
that, they're just not insecure in that way. They know that the only way
that they're gonna get on is through their individuality and care of appearance,
but not through being extra-masculine or extra-feminine. It's with their
own intelligence and hard work, they know that they're trying to get somewhere,
and if they're weak it's their own fault. It doesn't matter if you're a
man or a woman - I know men who can't get jobs because they're pathetic.
It's the same as women who can't get jobs because they're feeble."
"Feminism has its extremes -I just don't understand
women who hate men so much. It's very strange. It's as bad as gays who
want to beat up women. There's a balance to everything, and feminism is
a little too far over, for me anyway."
Crikey .You lay down the law about people and
things a lot, Toyah, but do you have a romantic side? "Oh I'm very romantic
but I keep that in my head. My fantasies are where my lyrics come from.
The people I work with aren't romantic at all, but my fans are romantic
- I get flowers and romantic letters from my fans. I have my romantic ideals,
but I have to keep them in my head because I think it takes two to be romantic.
Within my career all of us are fighting really hard to keep the ball rolling,
we're really tense and hyper-active. To survive you have to let your idealisms
go in your head and nowhere else. I'm romantic when I'm alone, I suppose."
But in public, it's full steam ahead and damn
the torpedoes. "What really counts is the people who still want to see
you," asserted Toyah defiantly. "I think if you listen to people who are
trying to be destructive towards you then you're stupid. You really are
The publicist was beginning to flap by now, so
we wrapped it up. Toyah went off to continue fasting on cottage cheese
and black coffee, and I lurched off in search of a typewriter.
5th November 1983