The crime of singing the truth

Like it or not, The Tiger Lillies only sings unpleasant aspects of the human psyche, says MICHAEL HU

Article from Singapore 2004

Published June 12, 2004

The crime of singing the truth
Like it or not, The Tiger Lillies only sings unpleasant aspects of the human psyche, says MICHAEL HU

MARTYN Jacques, frontman of British cabaret trio The Tiger Lillies,

spends his time in two different worlds. By day, the pony-tailed Briton

is a perfectly normal, harmless man who wouldn't hurt a fly. By night,

Jacques transforms himself into his on-stage persona: a sneering,

unpleasant accordion player who sings about the darker side of life.

Mixing well: There is an element of humour in the trio's performance despite the seriousness of Jacques' songs

Together with drummer Adrian Huge and double bassist Adrian Stout,

Jacques uses The Tiger Lillies as a way to show people the side of life

they don't normally see, but one that is still equally real.

'We try to be challenging,' Jacques says. 'I sing about dark,

unpleasant aspects of the human psyche. I sing honestly about the human

condition. I have no barriers when writing songs.' Yet there is an

element of humour in Jacques' songs, and in the whole performance.

Former critics of The Tiger Lillies have since been won over by their

performances, and are now faithful followers.

'On one level

it's very serious, but on another level there's a lot of comedy in it,'

Jacques says. 'We have a small but enthusiastic cult following.' Their

music is a startling mixture of opera, gypsy music and Left Bank Paris.

Some people, however, don't take too kindly to the music and the

message of The Tiger Lillies. Several people have left in

mid-performance, demanding their money back. But Jacques remains


'I want to disturb and intimidate the audience.

I'm a monster on-stage,' he says. 'But I also want the audience to be

intelligent enough to understand that when I'm on-stage, it's just a

persona. It's not who I really am.' Jacques also feels the

objectionable subject material in his songs is justified. 'People

torture each other every day. Look at what they did to Jesus. I'm just

singing about things the way they are.' Even Jacques' own band members

were initially uncomfortable with his songs when the group first got

together over 15 years ago. 'They got a little worried sometimes,'

Jacques said. 'But they were quite supportive on the whole.'

Because of Asia's reputation for being conservative, Jacques has no

guarantees on what sort of reception The Tiger Lillies will get from

their audiences when they perform tonight. 'Performing is like having a

conversation with someone,' Jacques says. 'Sometimes some are really

noisy, and some are a little odd. We're an acquired taste. People

should come with an open mind. My crime is that I sing the truth.'


Tiger Lillies, 10 pm today, at Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets: $20

and $25 from Esplanade Box Office or Sistic, tel: 6348 5555.

Recommended for those 16 years old and above.