The following article was published in N-SPHERE March 2010 issue.


2010 marks 20 years of Tiger Lillies and the reworking of Circus Songs into a new & surreal double-album: Freakshow. Why have you chosen the circus world as a predominant vehicle for your artistic ideas?

I was on tour in Germany last week we were talking about acts who have appeared with us. Someone said one of the artists had fallen and can’t perform anymore because she lost her nerve. Then there’s the constant movement from place to place and the history of the carnival…it just seems like a wonderful subject to write stories about. People who are visitors outsiders…

The opening track finishes with “After your heart has been consumed/ Your normality sent to its doom/ You’ll be deformed as the rest”. In the light of these lyrics, would your acts on stage lead to transgression, and thus framing the entrance to an inverted & deviant world for your audience?

Yes that’s the idea. Giving people a sense of other worlds other ways of looking at things. I said in an interview recently I was was starting to make less sense than a politician. They tend to speak gibberish! What is normal what is deviant. Is the inverted any stranger than the normal?

Supposing that the public “enters” the freakshow universe, does this destabilization of social and mental order last only during the show or does it linger after it is finished, as well?

If social and mental order are just a trick or an illusion… Then destabilizing them sounds like a good idea.

Freakshows in the 19th century also had as purpose “shocking” their spectators by presenting physical anomaly as a disease and, to a certain extent, individuals at the root of pathologies. Does this principle make sense in a 21st century that is oversaturated with violence? Are there any reasons left for employing shock value?

It comes quite easily for me to be able to shock people. Some people seem to like to be shocked (then there are others who don’t). I think it’s more about context… violence is only one way of many to shock. I think nothing disturbs people more than when they don’t quite understand what you are saying.

Most of the time, your lyrics seem to make use of irony, but to some degree there also seems to be a weak moral aspect to them. Do you regard yourself as ambivalent, or more opting for one of those two stances?

I feel like an observer. It seems to make people uncomfortable. Not to have a moral stance that must be bad? Oh well I must be bad then! I blame it on my parents they had such strong moral views about things… I thought it was bad. So maybe I’m good but I know that I’m not… but moral people are a pain in the ass and not good either.

To what extent could we still talk about the existence of “spectator” and “performer” as opposing units nowadays? That line tends to get blurrier and blurrier, as contemporary artists are trying to bridge the gap between the two.

You’d have to ask a contemporay artist about that.

In the case of circus performers, life entangles with performance. How does your musical career intermesh with your private lives?

Totally entangled and intermeshed my whole life is there in my songs! The essence and reason for my existence.

Tiger Lillies gather numerous fans from other musical subcultures such as goth/pospunk/neofolk etc. Do you believe a similarity could be drawn between counter–/sub–cultures and the circus world, in the sense that they are both marginal and they could function as art of resistance? How would Tiger Lillies’ themes fit into that concept?

I’m a bit uncomfortable with counter culture, rock festivals that kind of thing. I’m not sure that’s what we’re about at all. I think circus works more from within the mainstream.

Tiger Lillies has come a long way so far, constantly surpassing artistic boundaries. What influenced you most when you started as a band and what do you find inspiring now?

Oh Marlena Dietrich, Threepenny Opera, Jacques Brel, Gypsies… and nothing’s really changed!

You’ve recently taken part in the Twisted Cabaret project, opening their album. How was it working with them?

I didn’t work with them they took a track and put it on their CD. But I am happy it’s on there and support the idea.

While contributing to their compilation, have you found any new acts worth keeping a closer eye on?

Well I like it when they do versions of my songs! I’ve listened to Tiger Lillies radio on Last fm there’s some good stuff on it.

What are your thoughts on performing at the Berliner Ensemble, near Bertolt Brecht Platz in Germany? Do you believe one could still talk about a Brechtian feel and a Decadent pattern surfacing in Berlin nowadays or is it mostly about nostalgia for a bygone era?

Oh no the ghosts are all watching me from the balconies and one day I will join them! I like Berlin I have been so influenced by it’s art and culture. I watched Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexander Platz recently. That had a huge influence on me when I watched it in my twenties!

If you hadn’t been involved in both the music & theatre world, what paths would you have chosen, individually?

An old friend of mine recently suggested I’d have ended up as a junky…

And last but not least, one of the best things about Tiger Lillies is their portrayal as “madmen”, both aesthetically and mentally – deconstructing normative states. Is it hard to maintain that image?

Not really I think it’s most other people who are mad! I’m still surprised by just how mad the people I meet really are. I’m very sane compared to most of the people I’ve met!

questions & photo by Diana Daia

Full article here.