The Tiger Lillies are a three-piece band, formed in 1989 and based in London. Their surreal style has been described as dark, darkly humorous, strangely humorous, Brechtian, and gypsy cabaret. They are also notorious for singing controversial songs involving bestiality, prostitution and blasphemy. Picture a cross between Tom Waits and Klaus Nomi, then add in a strong Bertolt Brecht influence, and you kind of have an idea of what the Tiger Lillies are like.
However The Tiger Lillies defy any singular description and operate within their own eccentric definitions. They’ve tour the world both with the Shockheaded Peter production and by themselves, developing a dedicated following from New York and San Francisco in the US to St Petersburg in Russia. Their songs (once described as ‘Surrealist Pornography’) are captured on numerous self-released albums including Brothel to the Cemetery, Farmyard Filth, Ad Nauseam, Shockheaded Peter and Circus Songs.
Before founding the Tiger Lillies, Martyn Jacques spent seven years training himself as an opera singer with the castrati style of voice for six years while living in solitude above a brothel in London’s Soho. These were auspicious beginnings indeed for the man who would soon front this indefinably eccentric three piece band whose songs are littered with countless shifty characters from contemporary Britain’s dark underbelly.
Rendering the stories of pimps, prostitutes, con-men and thieves with his angelic voice, Jacques is a one man crusade against the powers of censorship, repression, and mediocrity. Jacques’ unique musical mayhem is anchored by percussionist Adrian Huge who is not afraid to use a drum kit consisting solely of silverware and spatulas, and double bass player Adrian Stout who cavorts around the stage dressed in leder hosen and a kilt, in a bizarre tribute to the folk dances of Austria.
The following concert (with documentary footage and interviews) from the PS122 theatre in New York features a selection of songs, including some from their sensational smash-hit theatre production Shockheaded Peter.