Born To Be A Vampire

Toyah Willcox talks to Viv Hardwick about her Vampire Rocks role and why she doesn’t believe a word she reads about herself in newspapers. 

If you were going to select anyone to be a Vampire Queen then Toyah Willcox was always likely to be top of the list. “I was born to play this role,” she laughs and says that the impression of her isn’t a worry. “I really like the idea that eventually I get to play a devil queen. It’s the baddie role, the roles where you can really go out there and not be logical with your behaviour and I really like what we’ve done with this particular character. She’s completely off her rocker and has to become quite human and feminine to win her husband back. 

So it’s quite hysterical,” she says. 

The 50-year-old has agreed to take on the role in the show, Vampires Rock, for 44 dates, which includes York next month and Sunderland in October, 2009. 

“It’s interesting the majority of the dates are nice intimate theatres, but at Christmas we’re doing Liverpool Arena and then Belfast, so it’s a lovely mix of venues. It’s actually a big show with a lot of us on stage and there’s a full rock band who are on the stage all night, plus dancers, actors, a full lighting rig and pyrotechnics. It must be the biggest touring one-night show in the country. 

It’s massive,” Toyah adds. 

Vampires Rock has been building a cult following for the past five years and shamelessly appeals to the fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

“People go along because they feel part of the show. When Steve Steinman, the creator, contacted me I was both intrigued and very interested,” says the singer/actor who came to the showman’s attention after spending the last 12 months creating Toyah TV on MySpace. 

“There’s been lots of bizarre videos, and energies and brand new music. He said ‘we can actually take that and slot it into the show’. My new album came out and it charted at No 11 in the itunes rock chart. So this is one of the first symbiotic relationships to happen between new music and a show which puts rock classics on a pedestal,” she explains. Her opening number is her creation, Lesser God, but she also gets to perform Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, as the songs provide a background to the script. 

“There a lot of people out there who love their rock and roll but they want to see something that is a little more than a band and singers. So this is Spinal Tap with teeth,” she explains, adding that you can argue that the script shouldn’t get in the way of the music. 

Here, the ultra-thin plot is Baron Von Rockular wanting to trade in his 2,000- year-old wife for a younger model. “It’s a fast-moving show with a lot of comedy, so it’s not a musical in the sense of a disgruntled teenager looking for fame,” Toyah adds. 

Her route to Vampires Rock has been a year on the road touring with the Here And Now arena shows, which has proved a huge hit with fans, plus festivals. 

Seeing her workload, which included filming a new series of BBC’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl with Billie Piper, she says: “I actually don’t enjoy sleeping. It’s something I have to make myself do. 

I’m economical with my time. For example, two hours before curtain up I shut the dressing room door and don’t speak and that’s phenomenonly restful. I don’t party and I don’t like drinking and you’d have to pay me a million pounds to go into a nightclub. I just don’t live like that.” She does admit that she was more of a party animal in her younger days but dismisses a lot of the media reporting on ‘drug-addicted’ young pop stars as “to be taken with a pinch of salt”. 

“Every day I read weird things about myself and it’s just staggering. There was a headline on the Daily Telegraph on-line recently: ‘Toyah says Madonna’s ashamed of doing old songs’. I don’t know Madonna and haven’t seen her in concert for three years, but when you saw the article you believed I was there on her opening night. There was another headline ‘Toyah Wants Her Breasts Removed’ which makes me think people sit around a table thinking up the oddest things to say about the oddest people. 

That’s why I don’t believe what I read about anyone else,” she says. 

Toyah has tried to put the record straight with her autobiography, Living Out Loud in 2000, and done her own piece of journalistic research with a book on plastic surgery from the inside – Diary Of A Facelift in 2005. 

“Everyone does it, absolutely everyone and denies it and I have a problem with that. I think it’s wrong to have surgery and then go and tell people that you’ve lost weight because you’re dieting or you look 20 years younger because you’ve got good genes. It doesn’t help people get on with their lives that kind of dishonesty. 

So that’s why I wrote about it,” says Toyah, who found that many of the people having the surgery were men. “There are just as many men who have the good old botox as women,” says the performer who claims she has no complaints about the results on herself. 

“I do what I do for me. In the end everything is down to personal choice,” she adds. Interestingly, when I ask if her intention was to look younger to further her own career, Toyah asks if the interview can move in another direction. 

With a new album, Latex Messiah, and a Greatest Hits compilation on sale, Toyah says of her music career: “I surprised myself because I had retired as a recording artist. I never expected to do it again. I started 12 months ago writing for other artists and then people said ‘your voice is sounding great, you should do an album’ and that’s why I started releasing a new video to a song every few months on Toyah TV. So when the album came out on itunes it charted immediately. Radiohead have proved that sometimes itunes sell more than mail order and CD sales,” she adds. 

When I mention that fans downloading her tracks straight to their ever-present MP3 players are more likely to listen to her music than CD buyers she acknowledges the point. 

“It’s about visibility and I’m lucky that I have a music history and I get to play live, but it does seem that everything is condensing and speeding up.” 

PNorthern Echo/7 Days
October 2008