Martyn Jacques, the white-faced singer for the British post-punk cabaret trio the Tiger Lillies, is in town for the next six weeks starring in Shockheaded Peter—a chamber opera that features his black-hearted songs and a veryhigh body count. Based on Struwwelpeter (Heinrich Hoffman’s 19th-century cautionary tales about tots who don’t mind their elders), the show is a deliciously florid mix of Victorian melodrama, puppetry, and stylish, modern theatrics. This award-winning production was originally created in the U.K. by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott; see it now Off-Broadway at the Little Shubert Theatre (422 West 42nd Street).
1 How’s the show going, Martyn? Actually, I’m quite enjoying it. It’s not such a bad way to make a living, really. We spend about half our time doing shows like this and the other half touring as the Tiger Lillies. Playing live is where the money comes from, since we don’t really sell records. It’s exhausting, but it’s good economically.
2 Where should unfortunates who don’t know your music start? I’ve made 16 albums—they all have some merit. But I can’t regard one as the best or a personal favorite since they’re all from different times in my life.
3 What’s next? The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. We’ll premiere it in Sicily this August—with Dan Gemmit, who does these very weird little shows. Then another Tiger Lillies album in the fall. This one’ll be about an old subject for us: prostitution. Very dark—very, very dark.
4 You’ve written songs about drugs, bestiality, and other non-challenging subjects. And been called a pornographer, a blasphemer—and worse—by the press. With Peter, the reviews have mostly been positive. Though there was one in your pink paper that was wholly about the critic . . . It’s sad that some professional journalists are so self-absorbed and ignorant. Rock journalism especially is very dodgy and questionable. It uses such glowing terms about people who are just nothing. If you’re really a success in your lifetime, then what you’re doing is probably very commercial and mainstream. And when you actually go back and look at the history of music, there are very few musicians that really have it—that originality and beauty. When it starts becoming about mass consumption, you lose the care and attention to detail.
5 So, how do you rate? Some artists are precious [about their reputation], but I don’t give a shit, really. It’s funny what happens when you get older. The ambition’s really going. I used to dream about being famous. Now I just dream about retiring.