Fine Whines And Spirits

Robin Smith gets a taste of vintage Toyah 

Down in Toyah's recording studio something evil stirs. 

The place is haunted by a man who sits in the corner and Toyah says that he's even punched her. People in the studio often feel something brushing against them and the ghost leaves tapes scattered all over the place. 

"This studio is on the site of a plague pit," says Toyah, "after the London plague they dug mass graves because there were so many victims. But I don't think the young man is from those times, his dress is too modern. Perhaps he's a dead musician." 

Toyah's no stranger to the supernatural. Throughout her life she's dabbled with the spirit world and she has a collection of old manuscripts on black magic at home. A session with a ouija board brought disastrous consequences. 

"I told the Devil to go and stuff himself," she says. "The glass we were using leapt into the air and shattered. It scarred my face." 

"A palm reader told me that I'm going to die when I'm 73, but I'm determined to live until I'm 90." 

Just as well too, because Toyah likes to pack as much into her life as she possibly can. This week she's been working 20 hours a day in the studio on the tapes of her live album Warrior Rock and she's beginning promotion work on her single Be Proud Be Loud (Be Heard). On top of all that, she's planning to conquer America and write material for a new studio album which she should start in January. 

"Sometimes I cry because the pressure is so great," says Toyah, "I also scream if I can't get the things I want. 

"The Changeling album was very depressing, because although I was doing very well, my life was very traumatic. I had to tell my old manager to push off, because he was trying to come between my boyfriend Tom and me. 

"The album was very autobiographical and in years to come I think it will become quite a landmark in my career. The next album will have less fantasy and more sound experiments. I hope every album I  do pisses over the last one. I'm digging solid foundations. 

"My current single is a cry against manipulation. People who try to get hold of you and sit on you and change you. That's something I hate. 

"It's also about motivation. I know a lot of unemployed kids are fans of mine and when they come to see me, I tell them to be proud and take life in both hands." 

Toyah's quick to point out that although she has a bit of brass to rub together today, she's had more than her fair share of troubles. 

"People didn't use to allow me on buses or in shops because of the colour of my hair," she says, "During the punk era I was so desperate that I used to go into film companies and offer to show them all the good places in London where they could take interesting shots. I didn't want to sit in front of a television set all day. I'm a champion of the fight against boredom." 

Toyah's doing her bit to ease unemployment, by recruiting young fashion designers to work on a range 
of clothes she's promoting. Toyah hopes to open a shop in London's Covent Garden, she might also do some deals with department stores. 

"It's a hobby really," she says, " I often think that off-the-peg clothes look good but they're really shoddy quality when you come to wear them. My clothes won't be like that. I want to sell outrageous day clothes of good quality. But I don't want to give too much away, other people might steal my ideas." 

How about Toyah dolls where you pull a string and they sing It's A Mystery or something like that? 

"Well, yes. I'm working on unusual things. I want to do interesting and unusual jewellery as well with decent jewellery kits for children." 

All this has resulted in Toyah being labelled as a pretty hard nosed business woman, willing to sell her 
soul for commercial gain. 

"A lot of people who write bad things about me are people who don't know me atall," she says, "All I can say is that at the end of the day I listen to my fans. That's where my heart is. 

"We actually put microphones in the audience when we recorded the live album at Hammersmith so that they could really be heard. What's the point of doing a live album if you don't get the atmosphere created by the fans?

nd as a further tribute to the people who made her what she is today. Toyah plans to bring out a book of fan letters. 

"Some of the fans are really crazy," she says, "One fan writes me 50 page letters." 

More serious, are the requests Toyah receives from the parents of incurably ill kids for momentoes and messages. 

"There was a 14 year old boy and he had two weeks to live," she says, "I try to help but the emotion of going into a hospital ward is too much for me. 

"When it's my turn I want to be like one of those old people who know that the time is right to die. 

"I don't believe it all ends when you die. I've been here before but I've never been a woman. I've always been re-incarnated as an artistic man. My boyfriend's family are all clairvoyants and we can sit down and discuss this sensibly. 

"I would like to be a man again. I feel I could achieve so much more if I was a man. Men are allowed to be alone so much more than women." 

Toyah's ideal people are the Masai warriors who live on the plains of Africa and she's fascinated by various forms of tribal life. 

"Their society isn't boring like ours," she says, "The boys all go out and kill a wild boar to prove they're men. Throughout their lives the Masai have a sense of purpose and a sense of unity with their world." 

Toyah likes the Masai so much that she'd like to use a group of them in the video for her single. 

"Something like having a group of tribesmen dancing in a shopping centre to contrast the two cultures." she says. 

"But all those beautiful black bodies would really show me up. I'm not physically perfect and my legs are put together in a funny way." 

Oh I don't know, Toyah's looking pretty trim today and she's lost a bit of weight. 

"Put it down to overwork," she says, "Not only am I constantly working in the studio but I'm decorating my house as well. I don't want decorators in, I'm too artistic for that. I like doing it myself with Tom. 

"No, I don't think I'm ready for marriage and settling down with two kids by the fireside at the moment. But if I ever did get married, I'd never break it's laws which are sacred. I don't like promiscuity, I've always thrown groupies out of the dressing room." 

A national newspaper offered Toyah a handsome sum to tell her life story, but she turned the offer down. 

"The money would have kept me going for a few years, but they were after scandalous sex stuff and I didn't want to write my story that way." she says. 

"I've also been approached to do shots for porn magazines and films but I've turned them down. I did one shot revealing my breast. I honestly did that as a joke but the photographer sold it everywhere. I've never used him again. 

"I think that if I did anything more like that, it would betray my boyfriend. I don't want to hurt anybody. 

"I think I'll write my life story down when I'm 60, when I've done a lot more and I'm more fulfilled. I think I'm definitely one of those people who improves with age."

Record Mirror, 1982