A Brecht of fresh air
Of all the events scheduled by Jonathan Mills....it could be argued none was more tantalising than to see ...Brechtian punk cabaret combo The Tiger Lillies
By ALAN CHADWICK - Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Of all the events scheduled by Jonathan Mills in his first year as
director of the International Festival, it could be argued none was
more tantalising and eyebrow-raising than to see cult castrato Martyn
Jacques and his accordion-driven Brechtian punk cabaret combo The Tiger
Lillies invited to take part in the music programme. In what will no
doubt be one of the talking points of the year, for one night only the
Fringe faves will be on hand to offer up their own weird and wonderful
take on Monteverdi.
'Jonathan approached us and asked if we'd be interested in doing
something on Monteverdi and I was like, who? Mantovani. My dad has all
his records,' says Jacques mischievously down the line from Stockholm,
where the band are touring prior to flying to Edinburgh.
'I didn't have a clue who Monteverdi was but Jonathan said he was a
very subversive and bad man who used to sing obscene lyrics to the Pope
and he reckoned we were the 21st century equivalent. I didn't believe a
word of it, of course, but he asked if we'd like to perform and I just
thought, why not.'
Given The Tiger Lillies' penchant for making baroque'n'roll that
features prostitutes, pimps, mental illness and all sorts of bad
language, Mills' recruitment of them is undoubtedly an audacious move
aimed at shaking up the programme. It will either convert the
traditionally staid elderly concert-going Festival public to the
theatrical merry pranksters' cause, or have them running for the exits
in fear and loathing at being subjected to the sight of such a
devilishly unique force.
As a band, The Tiger Lillies are pitched somewhere between Kurt Weill,
Tom Waits and the circus coming to town (if the town you live in
happens to be Twin Peaks). Their theatre work includes international
hit Shockheaded Peter and they are as capable of the most beautiful
poetry as they are shocking brutality: two sides of their punk cabaret
coin that should serve them well as they set out to deliver their loose
interpretation of Monteverdi's Love And War, accompanied by Concerto
And when I say loose interpretation, I mean just that.
'I got sent a copy of Love And War and listened to it for about 10
minutes and thought there's no way I'm going to be able to do this,'
'So I just wrote a bunch of Tiger Lillies songs loosely based on those
themes. I've beefed up the lyrics ? ?rifle butts up the arse? ? that
sort of thing, and made it quite punchy and unpleasant with, I have to
say, enthusiastic encouragement from Jonathan.' Other members of The
Tiger Lillies fanclub include such diverse individuals as Marilyn
Manson and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Curiously, their biggest
market is Greece. 'They love us there. They have us on daytime TV a
lot; sort of The Tiger Lillies do Greek Tiswas.'
They recorded Love And War in a small basement studio in Soho, and CDs will be available on the night.
'We've added some harpsichord flourishes, which I guess makes it
vaguely Monteverdi-ish,' he says. 'Though you should have seen the look
on the bloke's face who was hiring the harpsichord out as we lowered it
into the studio through this tiny hatch.'
One of the biggest pluses about taking part in the International
Festival for Jacques and co is that they're sure to get paid. 'We
played the Fringe a few years ago and the venue went bust. We ended up
20 grand out of pocket.'
One drawback this year, however, is the fact that neo-burlesque is all
the rage and that Jacques will no longer stand out from the crowd.
'I first used the expression ?Brechtian punk cabaret? 19 years ago and
now the Spiegeltent is full of Brechtian punk cabaret bands. They're
kind of our children in a way, and children never like their parents
very much, so maybe it's for the best if we keep away from them and
play the International Festival!'
A Tribute (Of Sorts) To Monteverdi, Sat, Usher Hall, 8pm. www.eif.co.uk