Viva La Muerte, Chicago performer and producer, talks America’s Got Talent, HP Lovecraft, Hot and Heavy Burlesque, tacos, tarps and heavy metal.
Interview by: Divertida Devotchka
You were recently in L.A. taping for America’s Got Talent! Tell us about your experience!
It was a very unexpected experience, I can say that much! After having been cut just before the ‘Vegas’ round even though myself and several others thought we were going to Vegas, no one ever expected to hear from the show again. To my surprise very shortly before the finale I get a call that they were doing an ‘Audition All Stars’ segment during the live taping of the last show, and this group number with the all stars was to be part of it. Shortly after that I was on my way to LA for an entire reach to rehearse for the taping. I’d never done a live TV show before this so it was definitely a new feeling of nervous. But the thrill of being on a stage and set like that and seeing the look in the judges’ faces was priceless!
You won the title “Most Original” at both the 2010 and 2011 Texas Burlesque Festivals, and it’s no surprise why! Your influences and inspirations really seem to run the gamut! You do everything from Cthulhu, the Cryptkeeper, Galaxina, to Hellraiser! I could go on, but please tell me more about your vast pool of inspiration and how you manage to combine your varied interests with your performance and make it seem so effortless?
What you see on stage is exactly what you get off stage, and I think that’s part of my secret sauce for acts. I love horror movies, heavy metal, sci-fi and tacos. It’s things a lot of other people like and it makes it fun to connect with folks after a show when they “get” what I was doing. Like when a KISS fan comes up to me after my Paul Stanley act, or an HP Lovecraft fan gets into the Cthulhu act. It’s me connecting with my audience on a very common level. Sure folks love the glitz and glam of classic burlesque and more traditional stylings, I certainly enjoy watching it myself! But when you appeal to people on a more every day level where you’re glamorizing something that’s very familiar to them like a popular horror film it breaks down the walls and makes the whole experience more fun for the performer and the audience.
You’re the producer of Hot and Heavy Burlesque, a neo-burlesque troupe with a strong focus on music, especially heavy metal and classic rock. Tell us about the growth and development of Hot and Heavy since its inception in 2009.
When I started Hot & Heavy a few years ago I never thought it would catch on the way it has. We are very fortunate to live in a city full of metal heads and horror fans! There’s definitely an audience for the unusual here and without that I don’t think we’d be doing something like preparing for the 3rd year in a row of our Pink Floyd THE WALL show next year. I realized early on people really liked a heavier theatric and we quickly moved on from the more usual style of burlesque shows to full scale theatrical tributes & live band shows. I’m also honored to have some of the best Chicago talent in my troupe!
Speaking of metal, in addition to burlesque, you’re also a musician and a heavy metal promoter, correct? Tell us about your current band or project. Do you have any exciting plans in development? Also- I too am an avid metalhead. Favorite subgenre? (I’m a death metal girl through and through!)Top five all-time metal bands?
You are correct my dear! Way before I ever even knew what burlesque was I started out as a concert promoter & producer. I moved to Chicago to go to school at Columbia in the fall of 2002 and while pursuing a marketing degree got myself heavily involved in local metal scene, started writing for a couple of magazines and doing photos/interviews with bands at shows. Pretty soon I was managing some bands and then in 2005 started my first band Borborygmus with a couple of friends. We wanted so bad to have an all female death metal band! We played a string of rad shows for a year and have been on and off since. I’m currently playing guitar in an Industrial band called Flood Damage, and having a blast playing guitar again after a long time! I’m also a diehard metal head and have been since early high school. Old School death metal (Swedish in particular!), Pornogrind & thrash are my favorites. I’ve seen Megadeth 13 times and traveled half way across the country many times to see bands like Massacre in Florida and attend Maryland Death Fest. Metal to me has always been a lifestyle and not just a kind of music I listen to. Top 5 bands (All of which I have tattoos for) – Megadeth, Pungent Stench, Massacre, Bolt Thrower & Blood Duster.
Hot and Heavy’s upcoming Halloween production Horror TV is described as your “grandest Halloween event to date.” Knowing that October is your favorite month, that’s saying quite a lot! Please tell our readers about what they can expect from this show.
Halloween for us is when you pull out the big guns, then go to your secret storage unit and get out the MASSIVE guns! Our name is synonymous with Halloween style burlesque in Chicago and I definitely wanted to do something different to keep that true for a long time to come! I knew we had to go way beyond just a burlesque show to keep it interesting this year. Instead it’s meant to be more of a full evening of Halloween entertainment than just a short burlesque show. We will have a live band, costume contest, horror movie trivia, mini fashion show and raffles in addition to 3 burlesque sets throughout the night. Expect really over the top acts, and to need a tarp if you’re in the first couple rows!
In February you’re masterminding a burlesque tribute to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which is now in its third year of production. I understand this year’s show has a lot of new additions, such as a new venue and more. We’d love to hear all about it!
Fans that have seen it the last two years can expect a whole new show in 2012 with the addition of the band Comfortably Floyd who will be accompanying us this time around and playing the entire WALL album live! We are also adding a more comfortable and modern venue as well as aerial performances!
Another thing we share in common (and I know this from trolling your Facebook in a completely non-creepy way, hehe) is a rabid love of all things taco-related. (No euphemisms here; I’m totally talking food!) I saw video of your newest act “Taco Grande,” and oh man, did it make me giggle! So, the question is: favorite tacos? Go!
Steak Taco on a corn shell with Cilantro-Onion-Cheese and Green Sauce. Nothing Else!
What’s next for Viva La Muerte?
In addition to the Halloween & Pink Floyd shows I’m also working on a live band burlesque tribute to TOOL with Hot & Heavy. We have an amazing local TOOL cover band called ‘Vicarious’ that we did this show with 2 years ago and are thrilled to have them back again. The first time around I remember being so surprised and happy when someone came up and said they drove to Chicago from MO just to see the show!
Anything you’d like to add?
We are hoping to take the Pink Floyd The Wall show on the road in 2012!