Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From One Zombie Overlord to Another: An Interview with Lara Hope

Needless to say, any band that records a song called "Zombie Slave" is bound to get my attention, especially if they call themselves Tiger Piss. Add to that the fact that the singer is none other than the amazing Lara Hope, a woman after my own rotting heart, and it becomes clear that it was only a matter of time before we crossed paths. In addition to Tiger Piss, Lara is also the frontwoman for the outstanding rockabilly act The Champtones, and much like myself, is also an organizer of ghoulishly goretastic events. So it really was a match made in hell.

I had the pleasure of attending Lara's Rosendale Zombie Festival, and from that point on I made it my mission to interview her. I'm proud to say that it finally came to pass, and I hope you enjoy the results...

Cruella: Thank you for accepting my invite! It's one hell of a time getting people to sit down and chat with a zombie captain of the undead...

Lara: Its my pleasure, I think this kind of stuff is exciting!

Cruella: Well I certainly think you're kind of exciting! So tell me Lara, the horror world wants to know, what prompted the Rosendale Zombie Festival, and will you be doing it again next year?

Lara: I have been a fan of zombies and horror in general for years. About three years ago, my band Tiger Piss filmed a music video for our song "Zombie Slave" that got a lot of attention and a great response. People still come up to me all the time to tell me that they just saw the video and love it. When my good friend Elena Brandhoffer (Main Street, Rosendale resident) went to the Zombie BBQ hosted by The Wherehouse (which is an awesome venue/restaurant) in Newburgh, her wheels started turning. She approached me last spring, after seeing the "Zombie Slave" video and noticing how I had put together a number of other community music/theatrical events. She asked me if I would be interested in organizing the Rosendale Zombie Festival with her, and I loved the idea. The rest was history. (And yes, we are planning on doing it again next year, bigger and better!)

Cruella: I'm excited to hear that--I had a really ghoulriffic time! With the influx of all this zombie insanity, do you think that this will be even bigger next year? And will you guys change anything? I remember it being a very long day.

Lara: Thank you, I had a great time too. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, or were at least entertained. I was able to learn what to do and not to do in order to make it better next year. And yes, I do think that between my fest, your fest, the Newburgh fest and others, Hudson Valley residents are starting to open their eyes to the zombie ways!

Cruella: Or we'll open their eyes for them...

Lara: Yes! I think that the general model for the festival will stay the same: A parade, live music, filming at the theatre... But I know that certain things worked better than others. I would love more vendors, more promotion, bigger, better and scarier!

Cruella: Absolutely! So speaking of bigger and better, Lara, YOU are a maniac! I mean, two bands? Tell me about Tiger Piss first, then The Champtones. You’re such a talented musician, singing in both bands, and playing guitar in Tiger Piss. I thought I was a busy ghoul!

Lara: OK, you’re making me blush! Tiger Piss, here goes... I lived in New Paltz for five years before I moved to Rosendale last year. I knew Kevin and Danny (Tiger Piss drummer and guitarist) casually from the local music and bar scene. So when my old band, The Red Hopes, broke up, Kevin caught wind that I was a free woman. Kev had been playing in the Hudson Valley music scene for over 10 years, most notably as the drummer for the punk rock band, “Joeys Throwin’ Elbows”, and a friend of his was putting on a benefit show called "Kick Cancers Ass" at Oasis.
Kevin agreed to play the show without even having a band together. Kev and Danny worked together at the time, and they tried to have a two-piece jam that, from what I’ve been told, went horribly. I’ll never forget the night sitting at the bar at Snugs next to Danny, who I barely knew, when he said, “I have a proposition for you." Needless to say, it wasn’t for sex! Thus Tiger Piss was born! Since then we have self released two albums: "Ear To The Wall" in 2008, and "Shake It, Don't Fake It" early in 2010. We've toured the country about eight or nine times.

Cruella: Well it's fucking brilliant, and was honestly meant to be.

Lara: The Champtones has quite a different flavor from Tiger Piss.

Cruella: Is it difficult to be actively playing for two totally different bands that are so musically diverse?

Lara: Well, The Champtones have only been a band for 15 months, and I have only toured with Tiger Piss once in that time. I thought it would be harder than it is, but I think that both bands help to propel the other. There are people who are really into the rockabilly, and others who are really into the punk/hard rock and then there are these people who are really into both. And each helps to promote each other. I mean, the more I am out playing, the more I can meet people and network and spread my gospel!

Cruella: Amen, sister! So speaking of The Champtones and yourself, you recently had a video shoot! When can we expect to see this out? And was it so much fun I want to kick myself for being too sick to attend.

Lara: Yes we did, and it went better than I ever could have imagined! First of all, I want to give a huge thank you and shout out to Greg Kanan for shooting, editing, directing and overall helping out with the video. Greg was just a fan who met us when playing at Snugs and offered to shoot a video for us. And without rubbing it in too much, yes it was a magical day and we had about 25 extras and everyone has been talking about what a fun time it was! Rob, the owner of the Saugerties Bowlers Club, opened all of the lanes for us and let everyone bowl for free. We were all drinking and dancing.

Cruella: I'm certainly excited to see it! This was the shoot for "Big Block Betty", correct?

Lara: Yes it was! We’re so excited and fortunate, we even had a friend of my guitar player Jeff who lent us these awesome old hot rod T-bird cars for the shoot.

Cruella: So in your spare time away from being a punk rock diva and a zombie events planner, what the hell do you do?

Lara: I host the open mic night at the Cafeteria in New Paltz every Monday night. I've been working for Chronogram magazine for the past 6 months part time as an account executive selling advertising and I also bartend at The Bywater Bistro in Rosendale on Sundays, across the street from where I live.

Cruella: Lara, you’re one ambitious ghoul! So what does 2011 hold in store for you, Ms. Hope?

Lara: In 2011, I am seriously considering producing the Vagina Monologues again (I put them on last February at the basement in Kingston.) So if that’s going to happen, I’ll be needing to get on this very soon!

Cruella: I know, I heard all about this, and am very excited.

Lara: Aside from that, I am in the market for a new band van so that both Tiger Piss and The Champtones can get a little more time on the road, even just for weekends away. The Champtones' reputation and shows have been steadily rising, and I think that we all want this to turn into a working band, more private parties, weddings, rockabilly festivals, car shows, you name it.

Cruella: I'll make sure to put a shout out there to all the ghoulies. Lara needs a van, man! And I am very thrilled to see what this year holds for you. You're certainly a woman on the rise and on the lips of many people I talk to.

Lara: Thank you! I could never be satisfied working a 9 to 5 job, going home, making dinner, watching TV and going to bed. That’s just not my style!

Cruella: Well, I want thank you for taking the time to chat with me, and I wish you the very best of luck in your endless adventures in the music world, as well as in zombie land.

Catch The Champtones:
January 28 at the Skytop in Kingston
Jan 29 at the High Falls Cafe
February 25 at the Falcon in Marlboro

Tiger Piss has some shows in the works, but will be focusing mainly on writing new material and doing some recording in 2011. Keep checking in with the FB page and the website for updates.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Give Me a Village and I Take It Over. Ghouls Yule. All Your Ghouls Belong to Us!

Dashing through the snow will take on a whole new meaning come Saturday, December 11, as the citizens of Saugerties, New York may just find themselves being chased by zombies. But have no fear, because it's all the in the spirit of good, holiday fun, and supporting the local businesses of one of the crown jewels of the Hudson Valley.

In the tradition of my smashingly successful Village Invasion zombie crawl in October, the Ghouls' Yule is an interactive, horror-flavored event which promises to take over the town and leave a trail of merrymaking in its wake. For all of you who have grown  just as tired of the commercialization of Christmas as I have, and are looking for a different way to celebrate this year, the Ghouls' Yule may be just what the undertaker ordered.

This is all about spreading some holiday cheer, with a little zombie flair and also about supporting local commerce, and I'm excited to have so many of the shops in town involved!

Many of the local establishments will be staying open late for the event, with dinner and drink specials offered
at a number of the area bars and restaurants. And since it is Christmas, expect many of the stores to be open late for holiday shopping, as well. Dave's Coffee and Wine House will feature the eclectic music of the Connor Kennedy Band (CKB).

Best of all, in keeping with the season, The Inquiring Mind bookstore will be the location for a special toy drive, in which patrons are encouraged to drop off unwrapped toys, in exchange for a free cup of coffee. The Inquiring Mind will also be hosting a special demonstration of the brand new horror strategy game Zombie Cataclysm, as well as a reading of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, by my parter in crime, Mr. Brian Solomon of The Vault of Horror.

I'm expecting people to be milling about town dressed as ghouls and ghosts straight out of the Dickens story, and am thinking Christmas, except with a certain spooky, Tim Burton-esque flavor to it. It should be a lot of fun, and I hope all of you can make this spooktacular holiday event!

You can also expect giveaways, raffles and contests, including one for the best costume. I encourage you to keep an eye on my Facebook page, ( and Twitter page ( ) as the time drags onward to December 11th! Viva la Zombie kitty kats--can't wait to see you all there!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

RockABettyBeauty: An Interview with the Mastermind Behind the Makeup

I had the pleasure of speaking with the founder of a most delicious makeup line (and now one of my all-time favorites)--Kimberly McKinney of RockABettyBeauty. When not busy chasing around her four children, (That’s right, I said four) she’s whipping up decadent cosmetics for discriminating ghouls like me.

Cruella:  What made you decide to create RockABettyBeauty?

Kimberly: I am addicted to makeup and beauty products, and I will try anything and everything. I got to the point where I became very specific about what I wanted to use on my body and face, and I was searching for a very specific shade of black--something that was totally me and just perfect. But I couldn't find one anywhere--so I decided to make it myself! I spent about six months researching mineral makeup--how to make it, ingredients and what should and should not be in makeup, even suppliers…

Cruella:  Wow! Such dedication!

Kimberly: Well, it's going on my skin! I want it to be awesome, you know?
The first shade I created was that perfect black! It started out as 'Cunt'--but now you guys know it as 'Potty Mouth.' I loved it! And not only the color, but also the whole process of creating something beautiful, something to make me feel beautiful. So I started making more shades for my friends and myself. It didn’t even start as a business, just something fun for us girls. Needless to say, they all adored the products and convinced me to start selling them! And it just went from there.

Yours truly sporting RABB's 'Primal' shade...
Cruella:  What sets you apart from other home-based cosmetic companies currently?

Kimberly:  I spend a bit of time each week checking out my 'competitors' (although I hate that term), just to see how I compare. One thing that I found is that we are all so passionate about what we do. I love being surrounded by so many amazing handmade cosmetics brands, but I do think that RABB has some very distinct qualities.
For one, my business is all about friends and family, and I love to get to know my customers. I've made some great friends by doing so. I also know that I wouldn't be where I am today without the love, help and support of my family and friends and I think it shows! Most of my testers are my girlfriends. Our main model is one of my best friends, and a friend of mine even created the logo!
I love to show that to customers and honor the things that these people have done for me. I'm not above saying, hey, this is a big deal and I want to do it right, so I do need help sometimes.

Cruella: How do you come up with the shadow names, and what are the chances of a "Cruella" eye shadow in the near future?? I am a RABB pimp, you know...

Kimberly: [laughs] Half the time I pick shade names based on real life or conversations I've had with people. Maneater, for example, is a tattoo that one of my girlfriends has on the inside of her lip. I loved the idea of it--so I went with it! Other examples: Kink is the nickname of one of my friends, and Frostbite is a small ice cream shop in my hometown.
It’s funny you should mention the “Cruella” thing! That was one of the presents I was working on! We think so much alike!

Cruella:  -gasp!- Don’t tell me anything, just surprise me!

[At this point in the interview, I was so happy that I started to daydream about what it was going to look like, and how happy I was going to be to model the new color for the RABB line...]

Cruella:  Have you been seeing an increase in your sales since utilizing social media to sell your beauty line, and if so, has it been a positive experience?

Kimberly: Yes, I have! There's just no other way to run a business like this, especially when you are a small, handmade operation. I find it really helps; it lets you get to know you customers on a more personal basis, and it gives them a chance to talk to me in real time! That is a major plus! My business pretty much runs via social media.

Cruella: What's does RockABettyBeauty have in store for us in the future? A website? Maybe additional beauty products being offered? Ruling the cosmetic world with lip-gloss in one hand and a blush brush in the other?

Kimberly: All of that sounds amazing! I am hoping to open a RABB website within the next year, and am constantly working on new products and new ideas. I have a few that I am hoping to debut by January.

Cruella:  I'd love to push people to your site. Etsy is the best, I assume. And I’m betting you’ll have some specials running for the holidays?

Kimberly:  Yes, it has everything we sell, plus it's so easy for customers to navigate and use! I love to make it easy for people to shop my site. As far as RockABettyBeauty holiday specials, I have a Black Friday weekend thing. Twenty percent off all orders Friday through Sunday, with some free goodies. Plus, we have the limited-edition holiday gift set and a (random shade) free mini eyeshadow with every purchase of $20 or more all next month!

Many thanks to Kim again for creating such amazing products and taking the time to talk to me during one of her busiest seasons. You can purchase her products on Etsy,and be sure to see what she's up to on her Facebook page!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Welcome to My Insanity... AND to the Ghouls Yule

It's beginning to look a lot like zombies! They're in every store...but the scariest sight to see is the zombies that will be on your own front door....

That's RIGHT! I'm at it once again. Am I totally out of my mind? YES! Nevertheless, I'm tirelessly working my fingers to the bone on the Ghouls Yule--coming to Saugerties, New York on December 11.

The event is shaping up nicely, and I'm asking all the unique boutiques and great shops in the village to stay open later for a little holiday shopping. After you've bought that special ghoul the perfect gift, be sure to swing into the restaurants and pubs for some dinner and drink specials with a delightfully dark twist. Live music is in the works for multiple locations, and ghouls of good cheer will be out roaming the streets to celebrate the season.

Be sure to dress in your ghastliest and join along in the festivities! Keep checking in on Facebook, and my new blog for daily updates and further information. I look forward to another zomberrific time, and can't wait to see all of you again! Viva la zombie!