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Former ‘high priestess of punk’ Toyah Willcox may have mellowed with age but she still loves donning the dramatic costumes to become her on-stage musical alter-ego, as she tells Jo Roberts
“In my youth, I was happy standing out but I love that now I can be anonymous in the street. I’d rather just turn it on for the stage,” says Toyah, whose current conventionally blonde tresses and subtle chic contrast with the flame-haired punk appearance she sported in the 1980s.
The prolific singer has released more than 20 albums in the past 35 years. Her biggest chart hits came in 1981 with the EP Four from Toyah and the single Thunder in the Mountains.
Toyah forged a three-pronged career as an actress and media personality too but she will be returning to her first love when she hits the stage at Deal’s Astor Theatre this weekend with her Crimson Queen Greatest Hits show.
“It’s definitely a different part of me,” she says of her musical alter ego, known for a signature dramatic look which manages to combine a futuristic vibe with retro 1980s stylings.
“The majority of the time I’m a businesswoman, but I can’t wait to get out of the office and become my on-stage persona, I love that freedom.
“I love the futuristic thing and the music is often quite ‘out there,’ so I try to address that when I’m dressing. I do come out of the punk and new wave movement but I try to be age-appropriate. I’m now 56.”
While Toyah admits she probably would have loved the idea of reality TV in her earlier days, with hindsight she is relieved the paparazzi wasn’t what it has become when she was at the height of public interest.
“They were mainly after royalty like Princess Di, or the likes of Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger,” remembers Toyah, who is married to Robert Fripp of the band King Crimson.
“Today, I look at what fame is and find it quite unbearable, it seems oppressive and is shocking how much is revealed about the individual.”
Throughout her career, she has consistently continued to record music as Toyah and within the bands Sunday All Over the World and The Humans, has appeared in surprising venues such as Ronnie Scott’s and has also performed as part of the Best of the ‘80s tour.
“Some of my audience is surprisingly young, people in their 20s and later teens, because Florence and the Machine and Marina and the Diamonds have cited me as influences. They know all the lyrics and are well-informed.”
There’s still a large section of the crowd who have been on the musical journey with Toyah over the decades, too.
She adds: “It’s a retrospective of my music over 35 years. It’s a lively show, we focus on energy rock rather than ballads. People dance and it’s a feel-good atmopshere.”
Toyah is at Deal’s Astor Theatre with her Crimson Queen Greatest Hits show on Saturday, June 21, at 8pm. Tickets cost £23. Call 01304 370220.
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