Toyah gets her teeth
into a new band
IEYA! The vampires are swarming, rocking
their way towards Edinburgh and The Humans are
hot on their heels.
Which can mean just one thing, Toyah Willcox is
heading to town with a show to star in and an
album to launch.
The latter sees the diminutive star - just 4ft
10ins in her stockinged feet - teamed up with
REM's Bill Rieflin and guitarist Chris Wong,
deconstructing pop as The Humans, while the
former brings her to the Playhouse on Monday, to
rock out as the Vampire Queen in Steve Steinman's
"Steve had been asking me to do Vampire's
Rock for a couple of years," says Willcox,
who makes a number of special guest appearances
on each tour.
"Eventually I decided to give it a try
because I like the music and I must admit, I have
a lot of fun doing it."
Featuring rock anthems from the likes of AC/DC,
Guns 'N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Meat
Loaf, Joan Jett and Queen, Vampires Rock is a
musical comedy. Set in New York in 2030, Steinman
is the charismatic but evil Baron Von Rockula,
owner of the Live and Let Die Club.
A vampire in search of a new bride, the Baron
must convince his chosen one to agree to eternal
life as his new queen. Willcox is his less than
happy current queen.
"Everyone on the stage has an amazing voice
and the band is just staggering," adds the
actress, singer, TV presenter and author, who has
become a regular visitor to the Capital.
She first toured here in 1979 as a flame-haired
punk rock star, appearing with her eponymous band
at the legendary Tiffany's. As her star continued
to rise she graduated to the larger Odeon in
1981, before selling-out the 3000-seat Playhouse
less than 12 months later.
More than a decade on she returned, this time to
wow audiences at the Festival Theatre in the 1993
national tour of Peter Pan. Another seven years
passed before she was back again, this time to
star in Picasso's Women on the 2000 Fringe. A
tour of Calamity Jane in the noughties as well as
a Best Of The 80's gig five years ago, followed.
And talking of concerts, Willcox's latest venture
in the world of music is one that she says has
been "brewing for a while".
The Humans were formed in 2007 after Willcox's
husband, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp,
declined an invitation to play for the President
"When my husband said no I phoned the
Embassy and said, 'I'll do it. I'll put a
threepiece band together, you'll be able to get
us out there for tuppence, and we'll do the show
and write it specially for the President',"
she reveals, adding, "We did, and it just
Three sold-out concerts across Estonia later, The
Humans regrouped on Rieflin's home turf, Seattle,
where the single, These Boots Are Made For
Walkin', and the album, We Are The Humans, began
to take shape.
"When I formed the band I wanted to
deconstruct the pop song. I'd always heard the
people who master albums complain that radio and
ipods can never recreate the quality of the
"I realised that the main reason for this
was the drums, so, basically, we are a band
without a drummer. Considering that we are using
REM's drummer, Bill, that was a huge risk,"
"Bill however, is a multiinstrumentalist and
also plays the bass. I love the bass because of
the spectrum it gives my voice.
"About ten years ago I did an acoustic tour
and everyone said, 'We didn't realise your voice
was that rich'. Having the acoustic band meant I
wasn't being blasted by masses of volume and
battling with the same frequencies as the
"I had a conversation with Bill about this
and said, 'If I were to put the perfect band
together it would only have a bass in it'.
"I asked, 'Do you think we could do this
with just two bass players and a voice?'. Bill
totally got that the whole point of The Humans
was to have the voice out front and then build
the foundation underneath the voice."
The concept of deconstructing 'pop' is fully
explored on the band's first single, a cover of
the Nancy Sinatra classic These Boots Are Made
For Walkin', which is now available on digital
download. It's a radical departure for Willcox
who already has 20 albums and 13 Top 40 singles
to her credit.
"I just love the older material. It means a
lot to people of my age, however, with The Humans
it's intensely personal. These Boots Are Made For
Walkin' is one of the darkest pop songs. I mean,
it's about a dominatrix.
The lyrics tackle openly unfaithful sexuality and
when Nancy Sinatra first sang it, it was
"I studied her when we decided we wanted to
do this track and all the footage of her is
'kinky boots' footage.
"In those days that was a totally hidden
message which is why I think it's such a
brilliant song. All the camerawork focuses on her
feet and is totally fetishistic - we just loved
If Willcox loved that track because of its
darkness, it was her sense of irony that led her
to name her new project The Humans.
"As humans we always put ourselves before
everything else - even before 'our God' - when
really, we are part of the food chain. We aren't
perfect, so for me there is an incredibly irony
in using the name The Humans, it is both
threatening, humorous and it is romantic. It is a
A word that has a lot in common with another,
Vampires, which can are also be threatening,
romantic and, in the context of Vampires Rock,
more than a bit humorous too, as you'll discover
at the Playhouse on Monday.
Vampires Rock, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside
Place, Monday, 7.30pm, GBP 22, 0844-847 1661
These Boots Are Made For Walkin' is available
for download from major digital music sites, as
is We Are The Humans, which is also available on
CD at www.remembertheeighties.com
TOYAH STORY ARRIVAL: Toyah was
born Toyah Ann Willcox on 18 May 1958 in Kings
No1: Toyah first hit the pop
charts in 1981 with the anthemic It's a Mystery
and a year later was voted Best Female Singer at
the British Rock and Pop Awards.
SILVER SCREEN: Toyah's film
credits include Miranda in Derek Jarman's The
Tempest, Monkey in Quadrophenia and George
Cukor's The Corn is Green with Katharine Hepburn.
TV: Most recently seen as Billie
Piper's mother in Secret Diary of a Call Girl,
Toyah's other TV credits include Barmy Aunt
Boomerang, Shoestring, Teletubbies, Minder, Tales
of the Unexpected and The Ebony Tower with Sir
LOVE: In 1986 Toyah married
Robert Fripp, of prog rockers King Crimson.
ONLY HUMAN: Toyah Willcox and her latest
band The Humans.
Liam Rudden: Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh Evening News: The Guide
Friday 2nd October 2009