Interview with Adrian and Martyn from The Tiger Lillies

"Our manager says we are the god fathers of dark cabaret. That probably makes Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf great great godmothers of dark cabaret!"

Interview with Adrian and Martyn from The Tiger Lillies

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Adrian: I’m Adrian Stout, I play upright bass, musical saw, theremin and guitar in the Tiger Lillies since 1995.  

Martyn: Hello my name is Martyn from The Tiger Lillies.

How would you describe your show?

It’s a song cycle based on John Gay’s Beggars Opera, which also inspired The Three Penny Opera by Brecht and Weill. Our show is a song cycle about crime, murder, prostitution, punishment and redemption.  It questions morality and societies ideas of right and wrong. It’s Dostoevsky with a jaunty tune.

M: I would say our music is dark cabaret.

Our manager says we are the god fathers of dark cabaret. That probably makes Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf great great godmothers of dark cabaret!

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

A: It’s been a while since we came to Edinburgh during the festival, so we thought we would give it another go after so long away. There is always something exciting to see up at the Fringe and hopefully we will inspire a similar feeling in the people who come to see our show. 

M: So, a lot of international producers can come to see us and book us to play all over the world!

What differentiates it from other festivals?

A: The sheer number of shows that happen every day and the ridiculous cost for performers to put on a show there. It’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome I believe why performers keep coming back! But nevertheless, it’s a wild mix of art, and probably the biggest and best in the world. 

M: There seem to be a lot of people who dream of having their own television show. I wouldn’t mind having my own television show, but realistically I can’t see it happening.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

A: Personally, I was interested in performance from an early age, music just seemed the one I had some aptitude at. I always thought it would be nice to play music and travel the world, so careful what you wish for kids! 

I grew up watching bands in southeast London during the 80’s at the tail end of the pub rock/punk era. There were lots of venues and you could see amazing musicians every night which was very inspirational. Wilco Johnson, Ian Dury, Albert Lee, then moving on to the Post Punk bands like PiL, Bauhaus, Wire etc. I never really wanted a normal job after growing up with all that going on.  

M: I never entered an industry. I always thought I was an artist and art is what inspired me to perform. I suppose it is an industry in which I inhabit a murky backwater. 

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career? 

A: I’m musically self-taught, but I do have parents who encouraged art and culture. Plus, I went to schools where art and music was a part of the curriculum which is really important for working class kids. If you don’t get exposed to theatre, museums and concerts when you are young, you think it’s an impossible leap to do it yourself. 

M: At the age of 11 I moved from a lovely junior school to a hellish senior school. Regular knife fights in the playground to keep us entertained. Suddenly my happy little world was disturbed. I never recovered and been writing disturbed, fucked up songs ever since.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

A: Reading Jack Kirby/Marvel comic books in the 1970’s and trying to draw like that. 

M: my headmaster at the lovely junior school I just mentioned was a highly enthusiastic admirer of the arts. On a daily basis he would wax lyrically about the beauty of music, the wonder of poetry and the magnificence of painting and sculptures. Without him I would never have got going.

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

A: Starving. 

M: A dishwasher 

Did Covid-19 change the way you create work? Do you approach shows with a different mentality now? 

A: We learned to adapt and so we put on some online shows, then recorded 8 albums and sold them on Bandcamp, and generally waited for the storm to pass. 

We scaled back and performed a duo show based on Cole Porter songs when we were able to return to live work in September 2021 which went very well. 

I’m very happy to be out on the road again and grateful that I didn’t have to move to another job after 2 years off. I am still pretty convinced that we haven’t seen the last of restrictions and trouble yet. Covid cases are rising fast and by the autumn I’m sure restrictions will be back in some way or another. 

M: I’m happy to be performing again!

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

A: I knew it would be tough 

M: Traumatic, shocking, grateful 

Do you subscribe to the idea that art should be exempt from ‘cancel culture’? 

A: I think artists should be able say what they want to say, unless it hurts or oppresses someone else. Cancel culture is an idea mostly used by thuggish right wing media pundits to stoke division and fear and I don’t have a lot of time for the term. You don’t want to be ‘cancelled’? Don’t be an arsehole. Seems simple enough to me. 

M: Yes. I hate cancel culture. I should be able to write songs about anything I choose and I do. People have tried to cancel me in various places. I think they are pathetic.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

A: Captain Beefheart in the early 1970’s, because I think he would have been a hoot to work with. Having read accounts from his former band members I know I this is not probably completely true, but I like to think I could have handled his unique approach to song making and I would have enjoyed the process. He would have probably driven me insane in about a week though. 

M: I would like to have done a musical with Rene Margritte.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

A: Think twice. Don’t believe the fantasy that it’s the only doorway to success, but also maybe find other festivals which don’t require the selling of organs to perform at. If you must go, go for it. 

M: Get a mortgage!

When and where can people see your show?

A: The Cowbarn, venue 302 Bristow Square 4-28 August at 21:20 each night. 

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

A: Tigerlillies.com, thetigerlillies on FB and Instagram. Out music is on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, Bandcamp etc.


See Tiger Lillies: One Penny Opera at the Underbelly during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 4-28 August. For more information and tickets visit www.edfringe.com or www.underbellyedinburgh.com

Header Image Credit: Daniela Matejschek

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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