|When you were a teenage
David Bowie fan, did you ever imagine that one day you
would become a similarly iconic figure to a generation of
This is a very kind comparison but
I don't feel like a similar icon to a generation of
Listening back to my old material
to learn for the new shows this year I don't identify my
material with anything that influenced me as a teenager.
In fact the early stuff stands outside of every box I
know, it is quite without definition. I shrug when I hear
the same words in lyrics from albums released a year
apart, like 'Elusive Stranger' and 'Victims' using death
as a theme. Now thanks to computers and computer filing I
am totally aware if I have repeated a theme or word.
Computerisation of writing and creative writing has
totally reinvented me as a creative person because I work
with about four files open at a time and that was
impossible 30 years ago.
I put this down to being dyslexic and slightly ADHD, I
need multiple images and inspirations in front of me.
But as for being in any way like David Bowie or having a
similar path... no. I think I was an icon to a totally
different type of human being because I was of a
generation who had evolved very differently to Bowie's
generation. My generation had a hardship to deal with,
unemployment, the Cold War, a dire need for political
change, and it all happened between 1976 and 1985.
What did it
feel like when you first saw a Toyah record
in the shops?
This was fabulous. It felt a long
time coming. Many punk artists were getting signed very
quickly but for me it took a couple of years. I felt as
if I was accepted by the music industry as a viable
artist with a tangible audience. It's all very well
daydreaming of these things happening, having it actually
happen takes a lot of people being committed to you, both
from the industry and the audience.
will forever refer to Madonna as "the Material
Girl" and for you it is "the Princess of
Punk", how do you feel about that title?
This is not something I dwell on.
The media needs these to pin their readers down, I
certainly don't need the title to exist.
Everyone seems to need some form of title in the press
and "Punk Princess" certainly isn't as bad as
some I've read about others. It's certainly better than
"Kainer", "Slag" and
"LaLa". My media nickname is wildly misleading
because any hardcore Punk would not see me as their
voice has really evolved over the last 30 years. What do
you think when you hear vocals you recorded 30, or even
20 years ago?
30 years ago... Not good. Not
enough experience and practice. 20 years ago... Really
fucking wonderful. A lot of power in the voice and range.
10 years ago... My voice sits more in the song, I feel
wiser when singing.
"From Sheep Farming To Anthem" dates did you
listen to the albums a lot? And how has revisiting those
albums been after all these years?
I've listened to the albums a lot
to try and cherry pick the songs, and also cherry pick
which vocal style to use. For example with 'Victims Of
The Riddle', this really translates beautifully into
subtle jazz, which means I can put the vocal in the
rhythmic pocket and make it sound more anchored. Subject
wise it's still just as off the wall and interesting.
I don't want to use my voice in those high swoops ever
again. Culturally this is not the time for that and also
I'd damage my vocal chords doing it, but I can now make
the vocal sit in the groove and make the pitching more
As for revisiting the albums, it depends what mood I am
in. It's hard considering some of the songs now that my
mother is very ill. In the past we didn't get along and a
lot of the songs reflect that, but I choose to ignore
this and see the songs as part of the time period they
were written in and not part of who I am now.
were some quite experimental tracks on 'Sheep Farming In
Barnet' and 'The Blue Meaning', 'Victims of the Riddle'
being one, which would be a very brave single choice now,
especially as a debut. Was that your or Safaris
choice for your first single?
'Victims Of The Riddle' was mainly
my choice because I wanted to be as weird and far away
from the mainstream as possible. In fact, being weird was
my priority. If I was to go back in time I'd have made
the first single 'Neon Womb'.
unusual recording was Spaced Walking,
otherwise known as 'Helium Song' on 'The Blue Meaning'.
It must have been fun to record - how did that come
Steve James, Keith Hale, Gem Howard
and I were messing around in the Marquee Studio at about
2am and Gem ordered a large cylinder of helium gas
because he thought it would be fun. So Gem and I were in
the vocal booth with Steve and Keith in the mixing studio
and we were just messing about. It was improvised, Keith
was on keyboards, I remember Gem having a spanner to open
and close the gas valve every time I needed to fill me
those early recordings, you must be particularly proud of
'Bird in Flight'?
Actually, no! I find the lyric
excruciatingly wrong. But that might be because I'm older
and wiser and prefer what I write today. That said, the
Toyah band play it beautifully and they have given it a
light, optimistic feel that really lifts the whole set.
It dances into the venue and tickles your ears. I just
need to ignore the lyric... it's so bloody wrong.
been 30 odd years since composing these songs - when you
sing songs like Blue Meanings or Pop
Star now, is it a case of just remembering the
lyrics or do you remember the feelings and reason behind
these songs when you are playing them now?
Of all the songs, 'Blue Meanings'
and 'Pop Star' are the most exciting to sing because they
are both stunning and haven't aged, so when I sing them
today I experience them today. I really enjoy them and
they make my hair stand on end. 'Pop Star' is hard to
sing because I need complete silence to perform it and
that isn't going to happen, but practice on stage will
help my confidence with the timing.
When I sing them I don't really reflect back to why or
how they were recorded. Yes, of course, I can remember
the feelings and reasons behind the songs.
From the studio in Battle we wrote and recorded 'The Blue
Meaning', and the same with 'Anthem', which was a
rollercoaster joy to write and record, but I tend not to
hark back on that level.
It is thrilling that a 30 year old song can hold me
spellbound and I can be very proud of it. If I was to use
an example of a timeless song, Bowie's 'Life on Mars' has
as much relevance to me today as it did when I first
heard it 39 years ago, but for reasons today not for the
reasons in 1972.
a Mystery' was a huge chart hit and extremely memorable,
but do you think if youd stuck with the
indie sound and not recorded 'Mystery',
youd have had the same musical success eventually
and been treated more with more street cred
by the critics?
The b-sides were always more
popular with the press, and 'It's A Mystery' was never a
favourite of mine but it has given me 30 years in the
business, on many levels, as a singer, actress and
If I'd just stuck with the indie sound I'd probably never
have surfaced above cult popularity. Street cred always
sounds nice but in practice it doesn't open the doors my
name opens today, and has done for the past 30 years.
seemed to deal with the transition of going from cult
figure to high profile pop star with ease. Its easy
to forget that in the 80s you had as much exposure
in the press as someone like Katie Price does today, did
you enjoy the publicity at the time or did it ever feel
The press back then wasn't as
intrusive as it is today. I never had Paps following me
on a daily basis. It was more glamorous and respectful,
even though it was never accurate. Virtually everything
was inflated or blatantly wrong. Personally, I'd hate
that level of attention today, I'd prefer attention
because of my work and not because of my private life.
was, and still is, something of a phenomenon, do you have
a favourite song from that album, and if yes, has it
changed over the years?
Probably 'Pop Star'. I'm not sure
what you mean by "changed". On stage this year
we treat it literally as the original. I think it
reflects perfectly the technical world we live in today,
the distance of fame with Twitter and Facebook. You can
be famous and very lonely at the same time. You can be
overexposed yet not truthfully known. You can be stranded
on a planet called fame, beam messages everywhere but
unable to move and change your situation.
said that 'Anthem' almost "wrote itself", that
the songs came easily and many of the lyrics were from
your teenage years, but 'The Changeling' was difficult, a
lot darker and the songs were a struggle to write?
Despite that, 'The Changeling' has remained a firm
favourite with many of your fans. Is it difficult for you
to look back at that time or consider performing those
I've only listened to 'Sheep
Farming', 'Blue Meaning', Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!' and
'Anthem' for this tour. I haven't heard 'The Changeling'
in about 20 years. I don't reflect unless I have to,
there's just too much happening in the present day.
'Changeling' wasn't easy to make, in fact it was the
unhappiest of all the album experiences, but that doesn't
mean it isn't a good album. Not everything has to come
effortlessly for it to be right.
and yourself were a formidable songwriting partnership
and together you wrote many great songs. What are your
memories of him and is there any possibility that you
will ever work together again?
I don't think we will work together
again because I have found my writing partnerships in
Simon Darlow and Bill Rieflin.
My memories of Joel are very happy, he was a true friend
and soul mate, we laughed a huge amount. But the whole
experience in those years was like being put on a bonfire
and told to sparkle. It was frightening at times, and
soul destroying. Now I am my own boss, I work within my
Both Simon Phillips and Phil
Spalding quote their time with the Toyah band as being a
turning point for them as musicians, and both went onto
hugely successful music careers. Are you proud that they
recall their time with you as important to that success?
We were a great band. We had a kind
of ESP on stage. For many musicians, they are told what
they can and can't play and above all must never shine
above the lead singer. With me I want a solid team where
all the members are unique and I think this is why Phil
and Simon enjoyed the experience. They were the best in
their field and it showed. Simon Phillips joining the
band certainly changed me and Joel, he was so totally
bloody awesome. He raised the bar and gave the band huge
Are', 'Obsolete', 'Street Creature', 'Castaways',
'Dreamscape' and 'Time is Ours' would all have made great
singles. Do you wish youd released more singles
from the Safari albums?
I wish we had released 'We Are'. I
think history would have been re-written and we would
have played Wembley in 1982 instead of Hammersmith for
This was discussed between Safari
and the promoters, that I could have been the first
female artist to play Wembley Arena, but everyone played
Back then there would have been an audience backlash if
we released three songs off the same album, we'd have
been accused of ripping the fans off, it just wasn't
I love 'Time is Ours', in fact 'Love Is The Law' is one
of my favourite albums.
Rock' has been described as one of the greatest live
albums, and the band were certainly on top form at that
time, what do you remember of those Hammersmith Odeon
gigs that were recorded?
I do remember them but I don't give
them much thought. I tend not to go over stressful
things. There were so many people backstage, all partying
and all I wanted to do was focus! The shows were great,
really huge, and very satisfying. But I'm happier today.
discovered Mayhem by accident in 1985 and
many fans love the material on there. Have you listened
to it more recently and were any of those tracks
considered for "From Sheep Farming to Anthem"?
Of all the albums I wish had not
been released 'Mayhem' is the one. It's sub standard,
with songs not intended for release. In fact it makes my
blood boil when I think of the plain exploitation of this
album, but hopefully it never sold many copies. The songs
on it were rehearsal demos, never intended for anything
other than workshopping ideas.
Judging by the positive reaction to
the announcement of the "From Sheep Farming to
Anthem" gigs, its something both long term and
newer fans have been longing for. The last few years have
seen mainly 80s classics themed gigs, what took you
so long to decide to revisit the album material?
It's the 30th anniversary, it feels
appropriate this year. I did do a few similar shows in
2009 but no one came, and if people don't buy tickets
this time around it will be the last chance to hear this
material. I can't afford to play to thin air and neither
can the promoters.
goes without saying that your old following have wanted
to hear album tracks and b-sides in the setlist again,
but has it surprised you that the new fans have been
catching up on your back catalogue and want to hear the
more "obscure" tracks too?
The new fans are astounding me.
There appears to be a college audience who know all the
words to the back catalogue. I never expected that and
because they are a new generation they throw a new light
and meaning into the songs. It is as if they have found
another unintended meaning to them from the perspective
of their generation. It changes the whole perspective,
singing a song to someone who wasn't born when you wrote
it, because you are hearing it through their experiences.
Bush is just about to release a Directors Cut
album of songs from 'Sensual World' and 'The Red Shoes'.
If you could go back and revise one of your albums which
one would you like to go back to?
I'd probably go back to 'Desire'
and remix it, and put the tracks on that were intended to
be... there's about four that didn't make it onto the
final album. But don't hold your breath... this isn't
going to happen. I'd rather work on new material.
said in a pre-internet interview that you were
"proud" of the 80's visual imagery you created
but that you "didn't identify" with it. Now
that all those images are just a mouse click away and so
easy to access again, has this viewpoint altered at all?
I'm still proud of everything I
have done and have no regrets, but today I'm mainly
concerned with being a woman in her 50's. I've lived
through my teens, 20's, 30's, 40's and now have a right
to be in my 50's.
Please, please, please believe me! I give no time to
looking back. Even when I sing 'It's A
Mystery' for the 100th time in a year I'm not singing it
from the perspective of looking back. That said, I have a
healthy respect for nostalgia, it is a beautiful emotion
but I don't live by it.
I never look at myself on the internet, never read
anyone's comments, never connect to anything other than
great artists over recent years, Florence & The
Machine, Marina & The Diamonds, Andi Fraggs, the Yeah
Yeah Yeahs, among others have cited you as an influence
or been favourably compared to you. How does that make
you feel? Is it important to you as an artist that you
career has inspired other musicians?
I'm not aware any of these
performers have mentioned me as an influence. I'm damn
chuffed if they have because I like them a lot. The music
business is a difficult business to work in, it operates
from a level of spite so I choose to ignore virtually
everything, and everyone, to do with it and carry on
I'm in this to have a creative life, when a song connects
with someone that is fantastic, when a song doesn't
connect with someone that is still cool because I will
always write other songs.
Today, because of internet culture, the music industry as
it used to be practically doesn't exist. Album sales are
dropping daily for everyone and we are in a situation
similar to when movies started to have sound and the
talkies came in. No one knows where the industry is
going, but live venues continue to thrive and the live
artist continue to do well.
I'm toying with the thought of only releasing vinyl in
the future as far as The Humans are concerned, and
perhaps the same for Toyah, because actually buying an
album will become a rare event for every music buyer.
I please ask a few quick questions that I know many Toyah
fans are curious about:
There are fans who would love to see you live in the US
and even Australia, is there any possibility there could
be gigs there?
I'm sorry, but if there was an audience for me in these
places then promoters would book me.
Court Of The Crimson Queen' is much loved by fans, will
there be another solo Toyah album?
Which studio Toyah album are you proudest of?
In The Court Of The Crimson Queen
Love Is The Law
We Are The Humans
If Toyah in 2011 owned a TARDIS and could go back in
time, and give Toyah in 1981 one piece of advice, what
would it be?
Don't put up with people who make
you doubt yourself.