Toyah Looks Forward to Getting Up Close & Personal at St George’s Hall

Posted on 23 March 2016
By Chris High
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There are very few musicians and singers around who are instantly recognisable by their first names alone. Adele, Kylie, Madonna and, also, Toyah spring immediately to mind, with the latter set to appear at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall Small Concert Room venue on March 24th.

Known for her outlandish costumes, punk hairstyles, outspoken views and full on gig experiences, Toyah’s Acoustic, Up Close & Personal show, however, will be a completely different occurrence altogether. “I can’t tell you how well it works because it is all about the songs and all about the harmonies,” the It’s A Mystery singer explained.

“I have the two most amazing guitarists and backing vocalists with me, Colin Hinds from China Crisis and my permanent guitarist Chris Wong, and the sound we create is just so dancey and happy it makes for a really, really enjoyable show. I also use a lot of personal photographs and tell the stories behind the songs. Not too many, because it is still a music driven show, but it is very funny and incredibly irreverent.”

Most fans will know that Toyah is rarely still, with many recording, stage, TV and film credits to her name that ranges from Calamity Jane through to Vampire Rocks on stage, Casualty on TV and Extremis on film. What might not be so well known is the formation of a more recent musical recording collaboration with The Humans, a band which has recorded three albums since 2011 and also features Chris Wong. The story of how the band were formed perfectly sums up Toyah’s ‘Go Get ‘em’ attitude.

“My husband, Robert Fripp, received a call from the Estonian Embassy in 2007 asking if he could play a solo concert for The President of Estonia’s birthday. Robert wasn’t playing at the time so I phoned them back and said that I could get the musicians together, come out to Estonia, write the material in Estonia specifically to celebrate The President’s birthday and then perform it for all for him. Surprisingly, they said ‘yes’. I then contacted Chris Wong and Bill Rieflin – who was the drummer with REM at the time, but with The Humans plays Bass and Keyboards – and we went out to Tallinn, wrote 45 minutes of music and did a private concert in a forest, in the middle of nowhere, for The President of Estonia. The whole experience was just phenomenal and I really never expected it to take off but it did.”

Toyah’s acting life – alongside that of her recording and touring schedule – has also been pretty hectic of late, with roles in Steve Stone’s Horror-Thriller, Extremis, and Chris Ward’s movie of his play surrounding the work of poet Francis Thompson which, on the face of it, are two pretty diverse appearances. How does Toyah go about selecting which project to work on? “I’m doing a lot of movies this year, yes, but I’m not playing any lead roles so that makes it possible. I really love British film and Art House film and a lot of it is being made now which is great. I’m not very good at playing ‘normal’ roles, so I like those with a bit of unpredictability – a bit of quirkiness – about the character, because that is naturally what I am.”

There is also the upcoming movie set in around the Mod movement of the 1960s which starts shooting in the summer. Familiar ground, it might be assumed, for one of the mainstays of the 1979 classic, Quadrophenia. “There is no link with this film and Quadrophenia and it isn’t in any way a follow up to or on from Quadrophenia, it just happens to be based around a Mod movement. That’s about as much as I am allowed to say about it at the moment.

“I did attend Quadrophenia Immersive at The Hammersmith Apollo recently though, which was absolutely stunning and joyful. That film just means so much to people that you can’t imagine that thirty-odd years’ later people are still going crazy about it. Actually, just last night, I was in a night shoot and someone from LA was telling me he was a Mod when the film came out … in Los Angeles. It really has had an incredible life and doesn’t seem to be losing its influence at all.”

With all of the filming and touring and writing and everything else that goes with her job, relaxation is something Toyah doesn’t really have time to fit in to the schedule. “I just don’t do it at the moment. I’m finding it quite odd that the older I’m getting the busier I’m becoming, which I thought might have been something that happened the other way around, but for which I am very happy about.

“We seem to live in a world today where everybody wants everything quicker and quicker, so if you are willing to work and put the hours in like I am, then you’ll find that more work and opportunities come your way as a result. It is pretty endless at the moment though and, right now, I’m learning four scripts this month before starting rehearsals for the next film I’m in. Just trying to find the time is crazy right now, but great fun.”

With Toyah’s song writing ability, ground breaking stage presence and all round theatre and storytelling experience, it is a little surprising that she hasn’t penned either a novel or a script of her own. “I’ve thought of it and I’m pretty good at conceiving stories, but when it comes down to actually transferring those ideas across it sort of stops. Novelists and Script writers are such artists and, although I am really good at lifting something off a page, to actually write that character and story requires a completely different mindset altogether. I do write all the time and I have a big book of scribbled out ideas, so maybe one day, who knows, but not in the immediate future that’s for sure. Perhaps I need to create the space in which to do it properly and at the moment that’s just not possible.”

The last time Toyah appeared in concert was at The New Eric’s Club on Mathew Street in January, 2014. Tomorrow night’s venue of The St. George’s Hall Small Concert Room offers a slightly different environment in which to perform. “I really remember that gig. That street is bizarre, it’s like another world. I absolutely loved that venue and it is such an iconic place in which to sing when you think of all the great bands who’ve started out there.

“Tomorrow night’s acoustic has the same energy as that gig but it sort of on different level because of the story elements involved in the lyrics. I’ve only seen St. George’s Hall online so far, but it looks absolutely stunning. Colin has played it before and we’re all really looking forward to the show in a venue that looks genuinely special.”

Toyah: Acoustic, Up Close & Personal is at The St. George’s Hall Small Concert Room on March 24th. For Tickets: https://www.ticketquarter.co.uk/online/toyah or call 0844 800 0410


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