Edinburgh Festival article

When Marilyn Manson says Tiger Lillies make ideal music to get married to, you know one thing - happy, clappy popsters they ain't

EIF magazine 2007

Words:  Fiona Shepherd

The Tiger Lillies stand out like a putrefying corpse in the perfumed garden of the International Festival, and one suspects that they - and Festival director Jonathan Mills - like it that way. This bowler-batted Brechtian cabaret trio have been peddling their provocative, gutter-trawling, vaudeville grotesquerie around the subterranean clubs and distinguished concert halls of the globe for twenty years, bringing an open-minded enthusiasm to their projects, whether it be the Olivier Award-winning musical Shockheaded Peter or soundtracking an advert for dog food.

Group founder and frontman Martin Jacques, who taught himself to sing in an operatic style while living above a brothel in Soho, is looking forward to gatecrashing the establishment once again.

"I think its so much more of a pleasure because I'm not meant to be there, and 1 am," he says. David Byrne and Simpsons creator Matt Groening are already sworn fans of the group, while Marilyn Manson - no establishment figure himself - suggested last year that The Tiger Lillies made ideal music to get married to.

The Manson wedding engagement may not have been forthcoming but the Festival commission to produce a tribute to opera pioneer Monteverdi was received with alacrity, even though Jacques says he knew nothing about Monteverdi at the time.

"He's so remote, its like science fiction almost, listening to someone
from another planet. I'm much more of a Brechtian musician I suppose but its curious listening to how the show seems to have some echo of Monteverdi in the music, The ghost of Monteverdi appears to be sitting on my shoulder."

"It's fascinating how morbid virtually all these old composers are," Jacques continues. "They tend to sing about death and the horrors of the human condition, and I try to do that in my work, whether it's inspired by myth or Shakespeare or whatever. It?s not Kylie Minogue."

Jacques amassed plenty of his own X-rated material from his days in Soho, which he has poured into songs about rape, murder, bestiality, all the usual decadence, really, with the enduring capacity to produce a knee-jerk reaction in audiences.

"There's some very hardcore stuff on television these days, but we still seem to be called offensive and confrontational," ponders Jacques. "Because there's an ambiguity in my performance, I think people get the impression that I condone the offensive nature of what singing The irony seems to be lost on some people."

However, the real contentious issue surrounding Jacques' androgynous' performance is how a man in his 40s manages to sing in a castrato style without actually, ahem, sacrificing his manhood. Or is there something Jacques is not telling us?

'You don't know, do you?" he teases. "I think I should keep that one quiet - the accident I had with the combine harvester while asleep in a field,.."

The Tiger Lillies A Tribute (Of Sorts) To Monteverdi
Usher Hall    Sat, 25 Aug    8:00pm    All ?17    Buy Tickets