Living on alienation
Local audiences have embraced the Tiger Lillies' unique brand of high weirdness. The Tiger Lillies return for more deviant fun. Prague Post article by Will Tizard
|Local audiences have embraced the Tiger Lillies' unique brand of high weirdness.|
The Tiger Lillies return for more deviant fun
By Will Tizard
For The Prague Post The Prague Post -->
(July 29, 2004)
The Tiger Lillies, known for their absurdist performances, rude lyrics
and "castrato caberet" style, mix the theatrical tradition of Brecht
with foot-tapping bar songs about sodomy, crucifixions and the lives of
street people: whores, predators and alcoholics. Somehow they
invariably bring down the house in the process, with singer Martyn
Jacques performing in falsetto while playing accordion and piano,
Adrian Huge on drums, toys and kitchen utensils, and Adrian Stout more
or less playing the straight man on standup bass.
When: Sunday, August 1 at 9
Where: Divadlo Archa
Tickets: 290 and 350 Kc at the venue; 320 Kc through Ticketpro
Their newest album, The Gorey End, was a joint project with the grimly absurdist writer and cartoonist Edward Gorey. And their cabaret opera, Shockheaded Peter, has been playing in major halls around Europe and the United States. Jacques spoke to The Prague Post from Paris, where he was taking a rare break from The Tiger Lillies' grueling road schedule.
The Prague Post: Will you be bringing some new music to Prague for this concert?
I tend to sort of just go on stage and play; I don't have too much idea
what I'm going to play beforehand. Sometimes I play old songs; I've got
quite a large catalogue. When people shout for things, I quite often
play [them] if I can remember the words. I try to keep it quite
TPP: You're now performing all over the world in different incarnations. How do you handle the demands on time and energy?
crazy, really, we're probably up there with those old blues musicians
who play 300 times a year. We do ridiculous numbers of shows.
reason is, although we play all over the world, we don't actually sell
a very large number of records. If we want to make a living we have to
play. It's not like these bands that can sit around and collect
TPP: Your show in Singapore
was characterized as a breakthrough in an otherwise conservative,
state-controlled culture. What's been the response in the rest of Asia,
which is also not known for wild and irreverent concept performances?
usually all right. What we do tends to be looked on as art; because
it's art, you kind of get away with it. In America, we've become a
Halloween band. They wouldn't have us any other time of the year. In
Germany we get away with a lot, because they don't understand what I'm
singing. You can get away with pretty hard-core things.
TPP: You had a huge following in the Czech Republic well into the early '90s, before the rest of the world caught on, didn't you?
The Czech Republic was one of the first places we played outside the
UK. It was fantastic. We traveled all around little bars, it was great.
I wouldn't want to actually go back to [the bars], but I have a lot of
TPP: Why do you think The Tiger Lillies appealed so immediately to Czechs?
I think they like accordions. People in the West, if they see someone
with an accordion it's automatically looked upon as not very cool. With
Russians or Czechs or Eastern European people, it's not such a square
instrument. And also the drinking, it's drinking music.
The question of whether you are essentially normal or as weird as your
stage persona seems to invariably come up in interviews.
MJ: I went through a stage of trying to pretend that I'm normal. I'm not normal.
TPP: What do you do when you're not performing?
I don't do a lot, really. I tend to collapse quite a lot, just trying
to recover. At this point, I think it would be hard for us to ever not
play. That would be quite a shock.
TPP: What do you read and listen to for inspiration?
Christie, Evelyn Waugh, Sherlock Holmes, very English stuff. P.G.
Wodehouse. And I like old English films, where people used to have
manners and bow and dress up.
I'm not a big fan of
contemporary society, really. I'm quite contemptuous of contemporary
culture. I don't really like the way people are today. I liked when
there was a lot more restraint. Women wear T-shirts now. There was a
time when women used to wear corsets with bones in them. I actually
rather like that.
TPP: And for musical inspiration?
I don't really listen to any contemporary musicians. Robert Smith of
The Cure seems to be quite an artist, but basically I really like old
music: Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday.
TPP: Did you always have these anachronistic tendencies?
MJ: Already at 20 I was listening to the Threepenny Opera.
It was the same with the sort of clown thing. I used to look like that.
I've always been a clown. I've always been interested in old, archaic
things. In school and college, I was always the weirdo. When I was 15,
when everyone was listening to Genesis, they all considered me a freak
and a weirdo. I've never really liked contemporary people. The people
who always liked that stuff were never really nice to me.
TPP: Was this perhaps the inspiration for the freakish whiteface makeup you've been wearing in your recent performances?
MJ: Clowns -- they never quite fit. They're not part of a movement; they're not even part of the alternative culture.
TPP: I read that you're from Leeds. Is that correct?
TPP: Of course! "Drop a Bomb on Slough"!
Huge amounts of alienation. It's quite painful. I look at people that
fit into the world and sometimes I've almost felt jealous. I've managed
to fit in in a way, through my music. I make a living from my
Will Tizard can be reached at [email protected]