With their signature blend of chanson, opera, and Gypsy music, London-based experimental rock trio the Tiger Lillies are difficult to define in one sentence. The group began its revels in the bawdy vaudeville traditions of prostitution, opium dens, and the seedy life of the eternal street musician in 1989, when singer Martyn Jacques placed an ad for a drummer and bass player. His only responses were from Adrian Huge and Phil Butcher, respectively, who completed the band's original lineup. This version of the Tiger Lillies issued their first recordings on cassettes (which were later gathered on the compilation Bouquet of Vegetables: The Early Years) and 1994's Births, Marriages and Deaths before bassist Adrian Stout replaced Butcher in 1995.
The band was prolific during the '90s, issuing albums including Spit Bucket (1995), The Brothel to the Cemetery (1996), and Farmyard Filth (1997) before contributing music to Shockheaded Peter, a gleefully macabre musical theater adaptation of a 19th century German book of cautionary tales for children, in 1998. The production spawned a Tiger Lillies album of the same name that year and won two Olivier Awards in 2002. In 2003, the trio worked with the Kronos Quartet and illustrator/writer Edward Gorey on another career highlight, The Gorey End. Inspired by a box of unpublished stories and drawings that Gorey sent the band, the album was released shortly after his death and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album. Over the years, the Tiger Lillies interpreted well-known works including Punch and Judy (2004), The Little Matchgirl (2006), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Hamlet (both 2012), and collaborated with artists ranging from the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlandsoperan (on 2007's Urine Palace) to photographer Nan Goldin (on 2011's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency).
Huge left the group in 2012, with touring drummer Mike Pickering taking his place until 2015, when Jonas Golland joined the fold. As the 2010s continued, the group's range of influences expanded. Along with more expected fare like 2014's Lulu: A Murder Ballad, which took inspiration from 19th German playwright Frank Wedekind's daring series of plays about his ill-fated heroine Lulu, the trio also tackled subjects such as World War I (A Dream Turns Sour) and the work of Søren Kierkegaard (Either Or). Later in the decade, the trio explored more modern sources of inspiration. In 2016, they released the Cole Porter homage Love for Sale and Goosebumps Alive, which celebrated R.L. Stine's cult favorite books in song. Early in 2017, A Cold Night in Soho took a gritty, poignant look back at Jacques' time in '80s Soho. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi
AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
Olivier Award 2002 winners
Shockheaded Peter - Winner Best Entertainment
Shockheaded Peter - Winner Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Martyn Jacques)
Grammy Nomination 2003 The Gorey End - Best Classical Crossover Album - Tiger Lillies/Kronos Quartet
Die Weberischen - Dir. Stephanie Mohr - Winner Nestroy-Theaterpreises 2007 Spezialpreis
The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet nominated for a 2012 Reumert Award
Argus Angel Award - Winner 2013 Rime of the Ancinet Mariner
"Bigger, prouder and fleshily engorged with the pustule throb of the garishly gaudy and gloriously obscene." - Ross Fortune, Time Out
"Brilliantly twisted" - The Guardian
"It's not surprising that their cult following is worldwide - a Tiger Lillies gig is a journey into wild emotion which passes right through melodrama and out the other side into bizarre beauty" - Evening Standard
All these bands are my favourites, but here is a favourite, favourite. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Tiger Lillies - Matt Groeningintroduction at ATP Minehead, UK May 05, 2010
There is nothing else like them. Any description of them is an injustice – they are completely peerless. - Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand
Viva La Tiger Lillies from your fan Mark Mothersbaugh/Devo
Just brilliant and utterly fantastic!! You'll never hear more perverse and twisted as well as haunting and sorrowful songs. Just get a ticket by hook or by crook, if there's any left (which I doubt) and catch them while you can. - Marc Almond
You & the boys are maximum & solid gold!! You've grown more complex + secure than ever! I am SO proud to be working w you! - Nan Goldin
THE GODFATHERS OF ALTERNATIVE CABARET
The Tiger Lillies were formed in 1989 and as the decades go by their sound remains one of the most unique and original things one could come across. Martyn Jacques, the band's front man, songwriter and founder, spent most of his twenties in a flat above a brothel in London's Soho, peeping through his window at the buzz of Soho’s lowlife. It took him a good ten years to turn that strange world into art, while training as a singer and songwriter. In 1989 he got his first accordion and The Tiger Lillies were formed shortly after.
Back in the early 90's the avant garde trio stood out immediately for its distinct sound and style and the band quickly worked its way up from London pubs to the Piccadilly Theatre and buskers’ benches to the Sydney Opera House. Soon the The Tiger Lillies were touring the world giving concerts and participating in various art and theatre projects. A couple of the many highlights in their career were the 2 Olivier Awards they won for the cult hit musical Shockheaded Peter and the Grammy nomination for their album The Gorey End. Within the last two decades The Tiger Lillies have been doing an average of over 200 gigs a year and despite spending so much time on the road they have managed to also release more than one album a year (total number is somewhere around 35, but who is counting?). They have participated in numerous shows all over the world, collaborating with artists of all disciplines: from circus performers to Shakespearean actors, experimental dancers to avant garde photographers and burlesque puppeteers to classical music ensembles.
The world of The Tiger Lillies is dark, peculiar and varied, with moments of deep sadness, cruel black humour and immense beauty. This unique "anarchic Brechtian street opera trio" tours the world playing songs about “anything that doesn’t involve beautiful blonde girls and boys running at the meadow” to quote their founder Martyn Jacques. Hence, their songs cover all the dark aspects of life, from prostitution and drug addiction to violence and despair. Always with a touch of twisted humor and sharp irony The Tiger Lillies “point an implicit accusing finger back at us: what on Earth are we doing, laughing at this stuff?”. Their music is a mixture of pre-war Berlin cabaret, anarchic opera and gypsy music, echoing the voices of Bertolt Brecht and Jacques Brel. The Tiger Lillies shock, amuse and entertain in a postmodern vaudeville way, with their inimitable in-yer-face shows, where no limit should be taken for granted.
By Mina Courtauld 17/5/96
The Criminal Castrati's Anarchic Brechtian Blues Trio
The Tiger Lillies are an extraordinary three piece band with a large cult following in London. They are fronted by singer Martyn Jacques who trained himself as an opera singer with a castrati style voice of heartbreaking beauty, whilst living alone above a strip joint in Soho for seven years. Accompanied by drummer Adrian Huge, whose appearance was described by David Byrne as James Joyce on drums, and double bass player Adrian Stout, Jacques plays accordion and sings savage and passionate songs about prostitutes, drug addicts and losers, his voice soaring and growling like a man possessed. Ken Campbell has described him as "the criminal castrati", and with his dickensian style of dress, long pigtail and bowler hat, his corrosive lyrics and his astonishing voice, all the while singing with his eyes closed, he makes an indelible impression. Jacques sings about life at the bottom of contemporary Britain with the voice of an angel.
The music is a startling mixture of opera, gypsy song and left bank Paris, but what really marks out this band from any other is the emotional charge and raw passion of the delivery. Because they are impossible to pigeonhole, the band has not yet had a wide commercial success, despite being picked up by David Byrne, with performances at the South Bank, as well as festivals and foreign tours, but this cannot last for much longer as their reputation is spreading very fast in the art culture underworld.
Recently they returned from a tour of the Czech Republic, with wild stories about driving around in their moss covered old car to venues that ranged from roofless shacks in caravan parks to baroque theatres. At one place Jacques was accosted by a gypsy woman who accused him of seducing her daughter, only to discover it was just a ruse to steal his wallet.
Fungus the Bogeyman : Dir. Ken Campbell, 1995
Shockheaded Peter : Dir. Pheleim McDermott and Julian Crouch, 1998 Winner of 2 Olivier Awards 2002
Tiger Lillies Variete : Dir. Sebastiano Toma/Tiger Lillies, 1998
Circa : Holy Body Tattoo 2000
Punch and Judy : Dir. Tiger Lillies and Karen Bayerlyn, 2004
The Little Match Girl : Dir. Dan Jemmett, 2005
Mountains of Madness : Dir. Alexander Hacke, Danielle de Picciotto and The Tiger Lillies, 2006
Die Weberischen : Dir. Stephanie Mohr, 2006
7 Deadly Sins : Dir. Nathen Evens, Tiger Lillies, 2007
Sinderella : Dir. Tiger Lillies/Justin Bond 2008
Tiger Lillies FreakShow : Dir. Sebastiano Toma/Tiger Lillies, 2008
Cockatoo Prison : Dir Tiger Lillies/Steve Toulmin, 2010
Here I Am Human : Dir Jocelyn Clarke, Jiří Havelka, 2010
The Ballad of Sexual Dependancy :Dir Nan Goldin, 2010
Woyzeck & the Tiger Lillies : Dir Stephanie Mohr, 2011
Rime of the Ancient Mariner : Dir Mark Holthusen, 2012
The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet : Dir Martin Tulnis, 2012
The Either/Or Cabaret : Dir Anders Nyborg, 2013
Lulu - A Murder Ballad : Dir Mark Holthusen, 2014
A Dream Turns Sour : Dir Mark Holthusen, 2014
FILM / TV CREDITS
The Swords - Dir. Tony Scott -1997- Songs - Whore
Plunket and Macleane - Dir. Jake Scott - 1999 - Songs - Whore, Hell, Heroin and Cocaine, Sailors
Tiger Lillies in Concert - 2000 - NVC Arts/Ovation
The Quickie - Dir. Sergej Bodrov Snr. - 2001 - Songs - Alone with the Moon, Same Old Story, Sailors,
Drunken Sailor - Dir. Sergej Bodrov Snr. 2002 - Documentary
Country Wedding aka Sveitabrúðkaup - Dir. Valdís Óskarsdóttir 2008 - Original score
The Early Years DVD - Dir. Richard Coldman 2009
Tiger Lillies in Prague DVD - Dir David Čálek 2011
The Simpsons, Ep 497 - The D'oh-cial Network - 2012
Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol. I & II - Dir Lloyd Kaufman - 2013
Swimwear Advert - 'Crack', 1997
PAL Dogfood - 'Jesus', 1999
Cravendale - Barry Biscuit Boy, 2014