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.
Living on alienation

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.

Tiger Lillies

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?

Martyn Jacques:

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?

MJ: It's

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?

MJ: We're

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

great memories.

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?

MJ: Agatha

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?

MJ: Slough.

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]