Tonight and Saturday night, the inimitable punk/avant-garde cabaret band Tiger Lillies return to St. Ann's Warehouse for two "Dark and Deviant" concerts, celebrating 20 years together as a band. The shows will highlight songs from the Lillies' award-winning show, Shockheaded Peter, along with numbers from their Grammy-nominated album The Gorey End , plus other deranged favorites spanning their extensive catalogue. Frontman Martyn Jacques, who plays accordion, trained himself as an opera singer with a castrati style while living above a strip club in London for seven years. Which explains a lot about this band! On his way to the airport in England, Jacques responded to some of our questions via e-mail.
Why do you perform at St. Ann's Warehouse so often, and not other NYC venues? It's our kind of venue. We are not just another rock band and they're not interested in that either. They book things that are unusual and theatrical so we're about the same thing.
How has your audience changed over the past 20 years? And how has the band changed?The audiences have got larger the venues more prestigious. Once we were weirdos in the corner of the bar, now we're "artists". Some people think we should still be in the bars; I think we should be in opera houses. I suppose we should be happy with how far we've got. We've changed a lot through the years, and long may it continue. The environments we've played in have had an effect. We were more aggressive when we played in bars because we had to scream to be heard!
The subjects of your songs tend to be pretty dark; what draws you to those kinds of stories? I like darkness. I don't want to be a happy, easy-going entertainer. I want to push people, challenge them, frighten them a bit.
Why did you decide to go into this type of music, rather than classical opera? I'm not a classical opera singer or writer. But I think what I write and sing should be judged equally with opera. Why is what I do inferior? I think those barriers need breaking down.
What are your biggest influences? My biggest obvious influences are things like the Threepenny Opera by Brecht And Weill, lyrically and musically. Jacques Brel, opera, gypsy, Klezmer, early blues, flamenco, lots of stuff like that also inspired me. I don't listen to modern or contemporary music much. Every so often I hear something which sounds good but I'm more interested in writing my own music.