Teeth Into Vampire Tale
the stage in the guise of "The Queen of
Hell" is hardly the expected behaviour of a
former "Songs of Praise" presenter
surely Dame Thora Hird would never have
done anything like this?
Yet Toyah Willcox, who returns to Eden Court as
the infernal monarch next Thursday in the
horror-musical "Vampires Rock", has
always prided herself on the diversity of her
career which has taken her from early starring
roles with independent film-maker Derek Jarman,
to mainstream pop success as a solo performer in
the late 1970s and '80s, to becoming a regular
face on our television screens as both actress
and presenter, ranging from "The
Teletubbies" to "The Good Sex
Guide" and "Secret Diary of a Call
She has also lodged herself in the bestseller
charts with her autobiography "Living Out
Loud" and a book about her experiences of
cosmetic surgery, "Diary Of A
If pressed to define herself, Willcox opts for
seeing herself as a singer and writer and an
"That's a very wide umbrella and I don't
narrow it down to any one thing and I never have
done," she said.
"I've always been interested in diversity
and I also like to shock in my choices, so I'm
not snobby in what I do."
As if to emphasise her varied career, the
"Vampires Rock" tour, on which she is
"just an employee", coincides with the
release of the new album by her latest band The
Humans, while in a couple of weeks time she will
also be seen on screen in BBC 1's
"The whole point of calling the band The
Humans, is that humans are contrary and that sums
up my work ethic as well," Willcox
"I really love having variety and 'Vampires'
is a lot of fun. I think where it works is that
everyone in it is very good at what they do
great singers, great dancers and
absolutely stunning musicians which means
we can have a lot of fun with it. One of the
reasons it works so well is that we do deliver
great music and there's a lot of fun in
"Vampires Rock" is the creation of
Steve Steinman, who has been a professional
musician since appearing as "Meat Loaf"
on ITV's "Stars in Their Eyes", and
combines classic rock tracks from the likes of
Queen, AC/DC, Meat Loaf and Guns 'n' Roses with a
story about vampires in near future New York.
The show came to Inverness last year and proved
so successful it is now making a return visit.
"I remember the venue is perfect for the
show because people are nicely spread out in a
fan in front of you. It went down very
well," Willcox recalled.
"It's taken anthemic songs that rock lovers
just want to hear and very loosely uses the
lyrics of them to tell the story. I really enjoy
every song that I get to sing. They're all really
great belters! And I enjoy that the audience
enjoy it too. Especially in part two it turns
into a bit of a concert, when the audience gets
lubricated and well up for joining in."
Willcox's musical career has seen her progress
from new-wave punk through more mainstream pop to
more experimental music, sometimes written in
collaboration with her husband, former King
Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, but she adds that
she has always had a foot in the rock camp. She
even features covers from the likes of Guns 'n'
Roses in her solo shows as well as "Vampires
The Humans is a rather more personal project and
though the first single released by the band is a
cover of the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots
are Made For Walking", it gives her a chance
to express her own talents as a songwriter
and her thoughts on pop music in collaboration
with musical partners Chris Wong and Bill
Rieflin, now best known as drummer with REM
following Bill Berry's decision to retire from
the band two years after suffering a brain
"I formed The Humans to deconstruct the pop
song having been in the pop industry for 32
years," Willcox explained.
"When I asked Bill to do this project, I
said: 'I don't want you to play drums. I want you
to play bass. I want two electric basses so there
is nothing sonically interfering with the voice.'
We gave it a try an we just loved it because we
had to strip the music right down and go for what
the ear hears first. The reason The Humans works
so well is that when you hear a song on the
radio, you rarely hear the drums and with an
iPod, you really hear the lower end of the mix.
"Twenty years ago, you'd spend £50,000 to
mix one song to be played on the radio and half
of it can't be heard because you don't have the
whole spectrum of sound on the radio. Now kids
are listening to iPods and they are downloading
things that are nowhere near the quality of what
they were on vinyl. So even though on one level
The Humans sounds very basic and stripped down,
there's an awful lot of thought in there."
The Humans, who actually made their debut in
Estonia after an invite from the president and
have recorded all the material for the album in
Rieflin's hometown of Seattle, will be making
their UK tour debut in February next year. But in
typical Toyah form, she has also recently
completed a low budget British film in which she
was the lead and "enjoyed every minute"
of film production.
"I love every different thing," Willcox
"It never feels like a job, so I'm very
happy bouncing from one thing to another. It is a
very diverse career though I must say the
one thing I never expected to get was 'Songs of