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 teenagers?

This is a very kind comparison but I don't feel like a similar icon to a generation of teenagers.

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.

Journalists 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 Princess!

Your 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.

For the "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 effective.

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.

There 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 Safari’s 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'.

Another 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 about?

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 lungs.

From 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.

It’s 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.

'It’s a Mystery' was a huge chart hit and extremely memorable, but do you think if you’d stuck with the ‘indie’ sound and not recorded 'Mystery', you’d 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 writer.

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.

You seemed to deal with the transition of going from cult figure to high profile pop star with ease. It’s easy to forget that in the 80’s 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 intrusive?

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.

'Anthem' 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.

You've 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 songs?

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.

Joel Bogen 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 own autonomy.

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 credibility.

'We Are', 'Obsolete', 'Street Creature', 'Castaways', 'Dreamscape' and 'Time is Ours' would all have made great singles. Do you wish you’d 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 two nights.

This was discussed between Safari and the promoters, that I could have been the first female artist to play Wembley Arena, but everyone played safe.

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 done.

I love 'Time is Ours', in fact 'Love Is The Law' is one of my favourite albums.

'Warrior 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.

You 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, it’s something both long term and newer fans have been longing for. The last few years have seen mainly 80’s 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.

It 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.

Kate 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.

You 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 the present.

Many 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 being creative.

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.

Can 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.

'In The 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
Sugar Rush


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.

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