The highly creative threesome will be celebrating 30 years of musical mayhem next year. Their grim originality continues to draw audiences and influence other artists from around the world. Last year, Slovenia got its first musical play based on their widely praised junk opera Shockheaded Peter from 1998. The performance directed by Ivana Djilas and performed by the SNG theatre Nova Gorica won two important theatre awards, the Gracious Comedy Award and Tantadruj, for doing an excellent job.
Lovers of cabaret, twisted humor, emotional and passionate narration and circus theatrics will have a chance to taste the incredibly bizarre but very honest and sensual world of British trio The Tiger Lillies in Ljubljana's Kino Šiška tonight,at 20.00 (8pm). This time around they're coming to introduce their upcoming album Devil's Fairground, a collection of songs about the city of Prague in the 1990's.
Martyn Jacques, the band's frontman, who's famous for his characteristic falsetto voice and scary face make-up, talked to Radio Slovenia International ahead of the concert.
The Tiger Lillies have been around for almost 30 years now. To this very day, you have stayed true to singing about all the possible dark shades of life and vice imaginable, focusing on low living, which helped you build a sort of cult status.What do you think does that say about your audience & fans? Is there any connection?
I think they probably just got a black sense of humor. I don't think that most of them are living very dark lives. Well, we're all living dark lives, I suppose, we've all got skeletons in our closets, many of us have lots of dark things going on in us. So, they're no different really, than anybody else in that respect. One of the main reasons I write lots of dark songs is to kind of laugh at life, because I think life is dark anyway.
How much of a factor is a country, city or concert venue when it comes to changing your performance and communicating with the audience?
Sometimes we play to audiences standing up, and sometimes we play to audiences sitting down. And I'm beginning to think that I should play maybe slightly differently, I've never have up to now. I am beginning to wonder whether I should play rather more up tempo songs to more standing up audiences, especially if there's a bar at the back of the room. There's always a group of people who are probably not that bright, and they will talk through the ballads. Sorry, I'm getting a bit into the technicalities of being a performer. It's kind of a little bit more technical than artistic.
The first concert you had in Slovenia was 14 years ago. Two years and a half have passed since your last visit. The city of Ljubljana will be hosting you for the sixth time now, while you will be hitting the stage in Kino Šiška for the fourth time in a row. What's making you come back, not just to Ljubljana but to any city really?
I mean, we do tours, and we try not to zigzag too much. We try to travel a few hours to the next place. There are towns I've had love affairs with. For some reason, we have played there many many times. I suppose that the one in central Europe would be Prague. I'm totally out of love with Prague now, because it's been ruined for me by thousands of tourists. But the thing I remember about Ljubljana is the venue, it's a very nice venue and it's got a good sound. We've got a good audience there, as well.
Have you learned of any of the city's darkest secrets yet that you could sing about?
No, I haven't, but maybe you could come to the gig and tell me about some of them and then I'll write some songs about them. I actually do that, people tell me stories and tell me things about somewhere. I'm always interested and I continue to search for subject matter to write songs about. You can tell me if you have any ideas, if you like.
Would you be interested in narrating a story about Slovenia's 19th century greatest poet France Prešeren, who wrote the national anthem which is actually an ode to drinking? Perhaps you'd be even more interested in one of his most loved works 'The Water Man' (Povodni mož) set in Ljubljana. Well, it's a dark story of a foreign devilish chap and the most beautiful but very snobbish girl in Ljubljana, Urška.
Oh, okay, sure. Send me an email. (laughs) You never know.
These days, you're introducing your newest album, called Devil's Fairground. 'Hell' seems to be a very creative and stimulating place, which could easily be compared with Martyn Jacques' mind, what do you think?
No, I'm very interested in the whole category of the Grim Reaper and Death in general. I kind of see death as being a friend, and I try to echo his spirit. I think the Grim Reaper is a far more powerful figure than the Devil.
So, who's the Grim Reaper hosting this time and where's the fairground located?
The Devil's Fairground are all the people killing themselves with slow suicides, with alcohol, heroin...they're in the devil's fairground, whereas I'm more like the Grim Reaper, this is a kind of persona on stage, I'm singing about all the victims and also political ones, like KGB, Siberia prison camps and so on. It really is about central Europe, sort of centered on Prague. I was spending a lot of time there. We used to play in small bars, night after night, and we'd go on three-week tours all around the Czech Republic. This is very early days of The Tiger Lillies. I got to know a lot of Czech people, I got to know a lot of Americans who were living there, and also the kind of horrible Soviet Communists, the horrible things they did and the horrible effects that that had on society. It's just really all the unpleasant things, but also some of the beautiful things, it was a lovely place and a lovely time.
Well, you won't be making a stop in Prague as part of your winter central European tour.
We played there in the autumn, we recorded an album there with the Berg orchestra. We're gonna be releasing it as an album in February.
Instead you picked the city of Brno to introduce new material. How did it go?
Not very well, really. I mean, it was a good concert, don't get me wrong. (laughs) But it was a bit like playing in Chicago and singing a lot of songs about New York. I had a couple of people come up to me and say, ''Why didn't you write songs about Brno?'' (laughs) I suppose lots of songs mention Prague. It's hugely a bit like that, isn't it with cities? I think they were joking. I'm sure it's quite a friendly rivalrly between Brno and Prague.
Well, as far as I know, there is no rivalry between Prague and Ljubljana, as they are both capitals, so there shouldn't be a problem there. Have fun in Ljubljana and with the last leg of your tour!
Thank you very much. Nice to talk to you. Bye.