Ro Newton Meets The Woman Who Clobbers Men

"I'm only just becoming a singer." insists Toyah, with a defiant look in her eye. "Up until now, I've just been a fashionable object. I may be working in the theatre, but I don't want the respectability of Elaine Paige. I always want to be going against the grain." 

Toyah Willcox is fizzing with enthusiasm. For eight years she has portrayed herself as a flame-haired fireball, ready to erupt at any moment, and it's a wonder she has managed to keep it going for so long. But with 15 albums under her belt and more image changes than most of us have had hot dinners, she still craves more. 

Today, Toyah. resplendent under orange mane with blatant black roots exudes a carefully controlled excitement. At first, she seems raring to launch into intense, descriptive answers, but before long her tolerance level plummets and she becomes easily irritated. "I'm terribly moody," she reveals, confirming my suspicions. "One minute I'm grumpy and the next I'm very pleasant. I had plenty of tantrums doing the single. Because the album I had written wasn't commercial, my management wanted me to do a cover version. I felt  quite repulsed by the thought. We eventually decided on Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, as well as Love's Unkind by Donna  Summer, which I despise. They're both good versions, but I don't think my singings particularly brilliant on either." 

Toyah no longer associates herself with the chart system and refuses to be pressurized into writing hit singles. Her new album, Desire, documents a time in her life when she was at her most confused and vulnerable. "I'd just split up with my ex- boyfriend and got married. It was the shakiest time of my life, so I wanted the album to reflect my feelings. I'm very unpredictable in that one minute I'm displaying the nice, loving side of the female form and the next, the murderous side. I had quite a lot of fun doing the photos. We got this male model lying naked in a bed with me fully dressed in front of him. I end up in his arms and then he lies on top of me, but they wouldn't allow it for the cover of the album - unfortunately."

Toyah's marriage to guitarist Robert Fripp hasn't been without its complications, mainly due to them being separated by the Atlantic Ocean for months on end. 

"It's been so difficult. I only ever see him on a Sunday, which hardly makes for the ideal marriage. I'm totally committed to him, but we've both got our own lives to lead. His work is in America and mine is here. I see us as two individuals who make a pair. I don't want to lose my identity, running around after him scooping up the debris. Sometimes, we can both be at home at the same time, doing the same thing, like reading, but in seperate rooms. Although I have no real personal life at the moment, I find work is so rewarding. I never tire of it, except every now and again when I've got PMT and am missing hubby, then it's absolute hell. Still, neither of us want children and I don't plan to get trapped by the kitchen sink." 

Although Toyah's career seems to have taken a dramatic leap for the better this year (despite the recent closedown of the stage production Cabaret), she still struggles to retain her sanity. "It's so hard to fight depression at times. Yesterday, I went to buy a yoghurt in a supermarket and a man came up to me and said, 'I really hate you.' I was in a good mood until that point, then I hit rock bottom. When you're working all the hours God sends, you can do without arseholes like that. I so wanted to hit him, and it took every ounce of my energy to restrain myself. Once I came home to find my windows smashed and my flat being robbed. I went for the carving knife and started shouting obscenities, but the bloke got away. This year on three occasions men forced themselves upon me when I was walking home from the theatre, so each time I hit them. They ask for it. One was a fan, but he isn't anymore. I think women have got the right to walk anywhere and at any time they please without being harassed. No man is going to stand in my way." 

At 28, it seems no-one can stop Toyah Willcox because, as she says, 

"I don't feel old - I still feel 16 inside and I'm not ready to give up the fight, yet."

Just Seventeen Magazine, 1987