Somebody's Main Squeeze
Adelaide Festival 1998 article
By Myfanwy Warhurst
This year at the Adelaide Festival
there's been a strange resurgence of an instrument not known for its
glamour. That instrument is the piano accordion, or as it's more
affectionately termed, the squeezebox, and there's one venue at the
festival that's completely devoted to evenings of celebration of this
One act from England, The Tiger
Lillies, feature a piano accordion, and will be performing at this
venue known as The Squeezebox. And if they're anything like they are in
person, you can be guaranteed that it's going to be a very strange,
bizarrely enlightening musical journey into their very eccentric
Making their inspiration from the world of Brecht and
Weill and creating music that is a combination of opera, gypsy song and
left bank Paris this group, consisting of Martyn Jacques (squeezebox)
Patrick McHuge (percussion) and Adrian Stout (double bass) are
difficult to pigeonhole. Perhaps we should take a look at the lyrics to
one of their tunes which ore usually sung by Martyn in a falsetto
"In Polynesia the weather is fine,
The French experiment all of the time
We're all full of shit we know this is true
When you ain't got a bumhole, life can be blue."
"It's about nuclear testing," bass player Adrian says seriously.
"Babies are born sometimes without bumholes and they have to be taken
over to Paris where they bore a hole in their cheeks to give them a
bumhole. It's all true, I've seen the Green Peace dossier ."
Hmmm? Political and interesting but just a tad warped perhaps? Such is
the world inhabited by The Tiger Lillies. The group have been touring
the world performing at various European festivals and it was in a tent
in Dresden that Adelaide Festival director Robyn Archer discovered The
Tiger Lilllies. "She saw me screaming playing an accordion" Martyn
explains. The rest as they say is history. On their first visit to
Australia this cult group will be performing on various nights
throughout the festival at The Squeezebox.
"We don't sing
about happy things very much," drummer Patrick explains. Martyn
elaborates: "Yeah we sing about death and bestiality and disease, the
things people tend to wash over. We get very carried away but we re not
self indulgent though. Unless of course you don't like it," he laughs.
Initially discovered by Talking Head David Byrne the lads have
developed a sturdy reputation for freaking audiences out all over the
world. "Audiences are usually a bit shocked when they first see us,"
Martyn explains. "Well it s all a bit strange because I'm singing in a
very high voice operatic and we usually start very slowly as well. The
normal reaction for the first five songs is that they don't like it and
then after five songs they start to like it. It's a bit difficult
to switch straight onto it because it's different ."
Different yes and prolific given the fact that the band have no
problems coming up with inspiration by singing songs about anything
sordid. The world it seems is full of ideas; seven albums worth
of ideas in fact. "There's so many songs we play, literally
hundreds of songs. Martyn's very prolific." Adrian continues "He
writes songs at an alarming rate and we record songs at an
alarming rate. We could have nine CDs out by the end of next year
if we wanted to. We'lI have seven out at the end of this one.
Most have fifteen to twenty songs on them but we're being a bit more
choosy now. We could play for hours because all the songs ore really
When asked about their musical inspirations the bond
initially say nothing claiming that nothing or no one really
inspires them, they simply walk their own path.
Martyn's not a great fan of anything with guitars in it," Adrian states.
"I'm not a great fan of anything really," Martyn agrees. "I don't really like music very much."
"As long as they're dead he likes them," Patrick concludes.
"Dead people are very popular with us. Funny people as well. Funny
dead people are really popular with us. Spike Jones is
funny and dead, Bertolt Brecht, Louis Armstrong, Edith
Piaf Billy Holliday, Janet Jackson - although she
just seems like she should be dead She should be dead and she's not
Touring together would be a fairly intimate
experience for this group given the fact that they're all fairly
intense individuals, so how then do they remain friends while on tour ?
Their theory on happiness is based on not being successful at all
and they're quite happy with that. "We get on better than
probably Fleetwood Mac got along. We get on very well and are very
harmonious. We don't get caught up in the perils that other bands
get caught up in like drugs and success because we don't have
any. Because we're so unsuccessful no one offers us any drugs so we
don't have anything to argue about, you know. We don't argue
about who's going in that limo because we're all in the same car . We
actually have fun ."