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

underestimated instrument.

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

very funny."

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 ."