The Hillary Watts Riot is loud, sexy, and brazenly odd. They play a style of music they call "Freak Pop" - humorous, absurd, and often sexually-charged lyrics, funk-inspired dance rhythms, dirty synth lines, and lots of experimentation and noise.
Looking like a cross between a 1980's Pat Benatar and a prom queen, the slightly-insane Hillary Watts fronts a band of nameless, jumpsuited Drones. Together, they create a bubblegum and jackhammer landscape and invite the audience to come and play. Hard grooves, off-kilter rhythms, surprising song structures, and sonic explosions underscore tales of the odd done by the strange: killer bees on a rampage; hirsute, gun-toting cadillac drivers; funky odes to tube tops; bubble boys in love.
Money Wolf Music is a collective and an improvisation. A production house and a record label. A group of friends, artists, collaborators and vendors working to provide musicians with the outlets they need to create and support their art.
I joined Money Wolf Music in January of 2013 because I love the people involved, I love their family approach to music promotion, I love music, and I see this as yet one more way to promote the arts and culture of Kansas City.
Money Wolf Music is:
MusicKC is a not-for-profit advocacy group focused on building the arts infrastructure for a sustainable live music scene.
Our mission is to encourage and support the creation and performance of live original music in and around Kansas City. Our goal is to make Kansas City an international live music destination.
Watch for our official launch in the fall of 2015.
Alacartoona was a modern cabaret troupe that I co-founded in 2002 and which performed from 2003 until 2012. Inspired by our deep knowledge of Weimar Germany, we applied the spirit of freedom and desparation from that time and place in history to modern events and relationships.
Alacartoona's stage show was a visual extension of our all-original songbook. Utilizing a stripped down ensemble of accordion, bass and drums, with the occasional guitar and brass, we brought to life vivid tales of love and loss, of bedrooms and back alleys, of the solitude and the camaraderie of sex, drugs, and cabaret. Blending musical and theatrical performance, we put on more than a mere concert. An Alacartoona show was an experience: poignant lyrics, powerful vocals, and surprising compositions, all performed by a dark and vibrant cast of characters.
"Sometimes, we can't see what's around us until we're lost in the dark."
Paralleling the events of Odysseus's ancient journey, Silver tells the modern story of a young man lost in the city at night. Featuring live music and dance, Silver shines its light on love, life, and longing in the dark corners of the world.
Script and original music by Christian Hankel. Directed by Tara Varney. Choreography by Amy Hurrelbrink.
The Monocle was hired by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to produce the opening Gala for their exhibit entitled "Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from LeGray to Monet". Featuring a cast of more that 25 actors, and a music ensemble which blended jazz, opera, and hip hop, The Monocole's production took the museum guests on a train journey from Paris to the seaside.
Concept, production, and direction by Christian Hankel, Nathan Granner, and Katie Gilchrist.
"This holiday season, keep a song on your lips, your friends by your side, and a baseball bat in your backpack."
It's December 24, 1940, in London, England. A young couple listens to the broadcast from the local dance hall while they discuss the family they're just starting. The announcer interrupts the music - Hitler's bombers are on the way. And so, with the wailing of sirens, begins "The Orphans Feast."
Inspired by the holiday meals shared by friends separated from their families by circumstances or choice, "The Orphans Feast" follows a cast of characters as they pursue the meaning of family through the past, future, and present. Love, loss, psychotic breaks, songs, laughter, time travel, and zombies make this show a holiday production that is not easily forgotten. Featuring original tunes and new takes on holiday classics, it debuted at The Arts Asylum, in downtown Kansas City, MO, in 2012.
Script and original music by Christian Hankel. Additional music by Nathan Granner, Shay Estes, and Johnny Hamil. Directed by Katie Gilchrist.
The year is 1941. German soldiers in occupied territories are contracting syphilis from prostitutes in astounding numbers. The disease threatens the stability of the Third Reich. To solve the problem, Adolf Hitler orders the creation of inflatable pleasure dolls that the soldiers can carry in their packs to satisfy their urges.
Script by Bryan Colley. Directed by Tara Varney. Choreography by Amy Hurrelbrink. Original music by Christian Hankel, Richard Walker, Kyle Dahlquist, and Sergio Moreno.
"Who's pulling your strings?"
In a secret nightclub run by assassins, who lives? Who dies? And what does God have to say about it? Welcome to the Oil Boiler, the twisted tale of Leon Nesrac, a neurotic hitman who has lost his mind and possibly his nerve. In the moments after killing his lover, Leon converses with his selves and God about the nature of free will and his attempt to come to terms with the person he was, is, and will remain.
Script by Tyson Schroeder and Christian Hankel. Original music by Christian Hankel, Jeff Freling, and Tyson Schroeder. Produced by Christian Hankel, Tyson Schoeder, and Erin McGrane. Directed by Scott Cordes.
"A little corporate sponsorship never hurt anyone. Right?"
What would you do with a million dollars? What would you do for a million dollars? When a struggling cabaret troupe tangles with a devlish agent and his promise of riches and fame, "who's on top?" takes on a whole different meaning.
Script, music, and production by Christian Hankel, Erin McGrane, Gregg Jackson, and Kyle Dahlquist. Directed by Phil Kinen.
"One night, in a forgotten cabaret, music and dreams collide."
In 2008, Alacartoona received an Inspiration Grant from the ArtsKC Fund to produce a video. The result was Night Is the Mirror, a full-length movie about the thin line between fantasy and reality. Filmed over the course of 48 hours, the movie includes live footage that isn't live, interviews that don't answer questions, and journeys of great distance with little progress.
Written by Christian Hankel and Alacartoona. Produced by Alacartoona and Phil Kinen. Directed and edited by Brian Hicks.
Volume is the second release from The Hillary Watts Riot, a limited-edition EP of remixes of the songs from A/S/L. Sergio Moreno and Torre Norton both produced several remixes and I provided an arrangement of Tube Top for marching band.
Discover more about The Hillary Watts Riot, listen to music, and view videos here.
A/S/L is the debut EP from this 5-piece freak pop band I co-founded in 2011. With influences ranging from Sonic Youth, to Devo, to George Clinton, the sound is fresh, new, and brazenly odd.
Discover more about The Hillary Watts Riot, listen to music, and view videos here.
This is the original cast recording from the stage play The Oil Boiler. I co-wrote and co-produced the show along with a talented group of Kansas City artists. The CD includes two of my original compositions, two more collaborations between myself and Tyson Schroeder, and a number of jazz instrumentals written by Jeff Freling.
In 2008, Alacartoona received an Inspiration Grant from the ArtsKC Fund to produce a video. The result was Night Is the Mirror, a full-length movie about the thin line between fantasy and reality. I was the primary screenwriter on this project, and co-produced the work with the other members of Alacartoona and Phil Kinen. The movie was directed by Brian Hicks.
I co-founded The Mongol Beach Party with Jeff Freling back in 1986. We revived and revamped the concept in 1989, adding Mark Southerland, Kyle Dahlquist, Scott Easterday, and Bill Belzer to the line-up. In 1991, we released Toast and toured extensively throughout the Midwest to promote it. In 2008, as part of a reunion concert weekend, I had the the disc remastered, added five bonus tracks, and rereleased the CD as Toast: Reburn.
This is the second CD from Alacartoona. We performed a live-on-the-air concert in the KKFI 90.1 FM studios as part of Kent Downing's weekly show, The Red Wheelbarrow. Someone in the studio recorded the broadcast, and we were so happy with the performance, we had it mastered at Kansas City's Evolution Audio and released it.
Discover more about Alacartoona, listen to music, and view videos here.
Songs From the Show was Alacartoona's debut CD. Recorded and mastered at Kansas City's Evolution Audio, it served as an introduction to our unique style of theatrical music that we call Modern Cabaret.
Discover more about Alacartoona, listen to music, and view videos here.
I would love to send you updates about my current projects and upcoming events. If you're interested, please submit your email address with this widget.
This is a list of all the shows and events I have scheduled. It will cover shows by The Hillary Watts Riot, as well as any solo shows. I will also list theatrical events for which I have composed music or in which I will be performing.
I see art as an immersive experience and so I create playful environments that replace the real world. Within these insulated capsules, I offer new personae for the audience to adopt, personae with different beliefs and morals. By becoming someone else, an audience member is briefly freed from closely held convictions and enabled to engage in a conversation about what it means to be human.
Using tones of humor, sex, and absurdity, I direct that conversation down the paths of tragedy – death, desperation, loss, and abandonment – and the rare and pure joy which only tragedy can bring.
Christian has been making art and music since the late 1980s when he co-founded The Mongol Beach Party. As the singer and percussionist for this world-beat influenced pop-funk-dance band, he toured the Midwest extensively and excited audiences with his high-energy performances. During this time, he also co-founded Damawa, an experimental world music ensemble that mashed Afro-Cuban rhythms with Indian ragas, Native American melodies, and Middle-Eastern scales and harmonies.
Christian went on to explore other styles of music, particularly Brazilian samba. He performed as a percussionist with the Kansas City-based batucada ensemble, Soundz of Samba, and as a percussionist and singer with the Luciano Antonio Trio. He also began developing his personal style of guitar composition, and started performing intimate solo shows in the Kansas City region.
In 2002, inspired by the political and social events of the time and by his family's links to Weimar Germany, Christian co-founded Alacartoona, a modern cabaret troupe. Playing what he called "theatrical music," Alacartoona created an immersive, interactive environment - where the performance happened on stage and throughout the audience - and brought to life vivid tales of love and loss, of bedrooms and back alleys, of the solitude and the camaraderie of sex, drugs and cabaret. In 2008, Alacartoona was the recipient of an Inspiration Grant from the ArtsKC Fund, which they used to produce a full-length film, "Night Is the Mirror." As a group, they also produced several theatrical stage shows, and released three full-lengh CDs.
In 2010, Christian teamed up with a group of Kansas City visual and performing artists to create The Oil Boiler. Based in a nightclub run by assassins, it's the story of a hit man who, in the moments after killing his lover, has a conversation with his inner selves about guilt, blame, and remorse. He co-wrote the script, co-produced the show, composed four original tunes that were performed on stage during the show, and played one of the main characters.
Christian co-founded The Hillary Watts Riot in 2011. Playing a musical style they call freak pop – humorous, absurd, and often sexually-charged lyrics, funk-inspired dance rhythms, dirty synth lines, and lots of experimentation and noise – they take the stage as four jump-suited drones, hidden behind white sunglasses. Lead singer Hillary Watts, dressed somewhere between an 80's Pat Benetar and a prom queen, runs the show, while the band subserviently lays down the groove.
Also in 2011, he co-founded the musical and theatrical performance ensemble, The Monocle. Featuring some of Kanas City's most talented performers, this group performed original pieces and re-visioned works of the past as artifacts of the future. In October of 2011, The Monocle performed a 5-minute opera based on two pieces by classical composer Virgil Thomson on the Helzberg stage in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. The piece was part of an evening dedicated to Thomson, and was recorded as part of an upcoming PBS special on him.
In the early spring of 2012, Christian composed a song for a pivotal scene in the world premiere of the stage adaptation of A Bucket of Blood. He was also invited to take part in Artist, INC, an 8-week artists training workshop sponsored by the Charlotte Street Foundation, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, and the UMKC Innovation Center. He composed music and acted in several roles for Tara Varney's July production of "Sexing Hitler." His bands were busy both on the stage and in the studio with Alacartoona releasing "Fantoche" and The Hillary Watts Riot releasing "A/S/L". He penned the script and several compositions for "The Orphans Feast", which The Monocle produced at the Arts Asylum in November.
2013 proved to be a busy year. In January, he joined Money Wolf Music, a KC-based music recording collective. In February, he was recognized by KC Magazine in their list of "100 People Who Make Kansas City Great." In March, The Monocle and Money Wolf Music presented a three-day music festival featuring local and national acts. In April, Money Wolf Music hosted a stage at the Middle of the Map Fest. In October, The Monocle produced the opening night gala for the "Impressionist France" exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
In 2014, Money Wolf Music was awarded two grants to assist in their effort to coordinate the Kansas City presence at the 2014 Folk Alliance International Conference. They used the funds to help over 40 local musicians attend the music industry conference. Later in the year, The Hillary Watts Riot released an EP of remixes and a video for one of the tracks, entitled Knuckle (Nudillo Remix) In the fall of that year, Christian started composing the music for "Silver: A Noir Ballet".
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Co-founded this four-piece experimental "freak pop" dance band. Collaborate with members to compose original songs and create branding. Designed costuming. Designed and built website, including copywriting.
Co-founded this performing arts production company. Wrote, composed, and produced "The Orphans Feast" in late 2012. Performed at the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO as part of "Homecoming: An Evening With Virgil T," a celebration of locally-born composer Virgil Thomson.
Co-founded this "modern cabaret" troupe, which combined original music performance with spoken word and theatrical elements to create an immersive and interactive audience environment. Wrote over 25 original songs and co-wrote several more. Created branding and copy style for web and promotional materials. Worked closely with other members to create a cohesive group of characters who interact through music, dance, pantomime, and on-stage improvisation.
Co-founded this collaborative group of theatrical and musical performers to flesh out and stage The Oil Boiler. Worked closely with other members to develop characters and design fully immersive audience environment, including a stage that wrapped halfway around the seating area and a live band performing between scenes.
Co-founded this six-piece pop/world-beat/funk fusion band. Sing and play afro-cuban percussion – primarily congas. Toured and recorded in the early 1990's. After a reunion show in 2008, this group has begun to write new songs and return to the stage on a regular basis.
Co-founded, performed, and recorded with this world-beat fusion instrumental ensemble.
Composed and arranged the music for this one-hour ballet. Co-wrote the script with Tara Varney.
Wrote the script and composed the music for this two-act holiday musical play.
Played the parts of Francis Galton, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Madison Grant, Margaret Sanger, and Stage Hand. Composed original music for the score. Collaborated with playwright, director and cast to create the show.
Wrote five-minute mini opera for The Monocle, re-imagining two Virgil Thomson compositions to tell the story of a pompous singer, his overly pure girlfriend, his jilted lover, and his oft-abused dresser. Managed rehearsal schedule. Sang the part of the singer.
Co-wrote and edited the script of this six-scene absurdist exploration of guilt, fate, and responsibility. Created the nightclub framework into which the scenes were set. Created and scripted the club MC, the chanteuse, and the house band with which the main characters interact. Co-produced show and CD recording. Played the part of Manchester Gravy during the debut live run.
Principal screenwriter for Alacartoona's full-length feature film combining live musical performance with fictitious interviews and dream sequences to tell the story of a fantasy concert in a run-down night club. Co-produced the movie. Played the part of Providence Forge.
Co-wrote two-act musical theater work that combines the original music of Alacartoona with a darkly humorous take on Faust. Co-produced stage play. Played the part of Providence Forge.
Co-wrote and co-curated this three-act Alacartoona performance that explored the Weimar Republic through original and contemporary musical and dramatic pieces. Co-produced the performance. Played the part of Providence Forge, The Fool, and various historical figures.
Co-wrote series of vignettes and soliloquys based around the concept of "the future as imagined by humans in the past," and designed to be interspersed throughout a live Alacartoona performance. Co-produced the performance. Designed costuming for the Robot.
Received the ArtsKC Fund grant to support Money Wolf Music's efforts to help Kansas City musicians attend the Folk Alliance International Conference.
Received this grant to fund the Folk Alliance International Conference badge fees for the two Kansas City high school songwriters that won the Money Wolf Music "Young Songwriters Contest".
Received the ArtsKC Fund grant in support of The Monocle's "The Orphans Feast."
Granted 501(c)(3) sponsorship by Fractured Atlas.
Selected to attend this artist workshop sponsored by the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City.
Co-recipient (with Alacartoona) of the ArtsKC Fund grant.
University of Missouri, Kansas City
English, emphasis in creative writing
University of Missouri, Kansas City