Thursday, July 23, 2009

Martyn Jacques, The Tiger Lillies

The Tiger Lillies are the godfathers of the dark cabaret movement, which means that The Dresden Dolls and Rasputina probably owe them some royalties. Among their albums are Shockheaded Peter, a collection of songs based on a German children’s book and The Gorey End, written in collaboration with Edward Gorey. In real life singer Martyn Jacques’s voice isn’t the alarming falsetto wail he sings in; he’s disturbingly normal and exceptionally friendly.

Did you come from a musical family?

MARTYN JACQUES: Not at all, not at all. No music at all. I think it was just the inspiration of my headmaster.

He encouraged you?

MJ: Yeah, he was great. Literary, a very literary man, very musical man. He played recorder and the violin very badly but with great enthusiasm. He was great. He was one of those old-fashioned, liberal, arty teachers, which we need if children are going to grow up to be anything other than accountants and lawyers. You’ve got to have people in the arts really, haven’t you? Teachers encouraging young people.

What was your childhood like? From the songs on Shockheaded Peter I have this image of something that was unutterably horrible.

MJ: No, it was actually very nice. My childhood was very nice, it was my adolescence which became very disturbed and unpleasant but my actual childhood was very happy – happiest time of my life really. Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by childhood, I sort of want to return there in some way because I was very happy. Obviously Shockheaded Peter is really dark and disturbing but kids like to be frightened. Probably not frightened too much. We’ve had kids come and see Shockheaded Peter. Some kids come and see The Tiger Lillies. Their parents bring them. I think they like it because I think they see this rather mischievous or misbehaving naughty monster or whatever on the stage and it’s got a sort of childlike feel to it. Adults behaving badly, children are quite attracted to that.

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