Live Fast, Dye Your Hair Often: In Conversation with Tish & Snooky, founders of Manic Panic

By Lindsey Anderson
Banner photo courtesy of Manic Panic website

Whether you have a committed relationship to a local salon or a pair of clippers and a YouTube video, the act of changing one’s hair tends to be one of the simplest and most accessible ways people can start anew. Traveling through the Manic Panic tag on Instagram, you can see the positive effect a jar of Lie Locks can have on a person.

The vibrant and iconic hair dye was born from a community outcry. Punks needed a place to buy punk gear and Tish & Snooky decided to take a crack at filling that need. Armed with a few hundred bucks and a want to make a difference, the 2 women ended up creating a phenomenal brand that has boosted confidence and saved lives.

The duo has an extensive history worthy of a lengthy docu-series. From putting on rummage sales in a friend’s loft to singing backup for Blondie, Tish & Snooky have lived fast, loud and have made it possible for millions to do the same through the avenue of hair dye and other cosmetics. I got the chance to chat with Tish and Snooky about their company, their musical history and what Manic Panic means to them today.


Do you recall the moment you realized there was a need for something like Manic Panic in the punk community?
Yeah! There were no punk boutiques, no punk hair color; no place you could really get punk gear. We used to have Rock N’ Roll rummage sales at our friend’s loft and we’d sell a bunch of things we owned and some things we personally made. People really loved our look and style so we thought ‘Let’s try to sell it!’ because there seems to be a need for it.

You have named skin care and make up as your passions in addition to hair, what are some skin and makeup products you swear by?
We love to use the line of cosmetics we have at Manic Panic; we’ve always worn them on stage and when we go out. We have a product called ‘Goth White’ that we swear by! It’s a great base to put on your eyelids before applying eye shadow because it really makes the color pop and helps the shadow stay in place. It also helps if you’re going for a pale look or want to highlight certain areas of your face when you’re contouring. It’s for sure one of the staples of our cosmetics line! As for skin care, we like Tracie Martyn’s products. We are also big fans of coconut oil!

How does it feel to see your company play a role in the personal renaissance of millions?
It’s amazing! We truly appreciate our customers and our mother would be so proud. She’s actually the one that came up with the name ‘Manic Panic.’ She was a commercial artist and then became one of the 1st art therapists; she worked with psychiatric patients and had such a love for people. It seems like we attracted so many people who felt like they needed color therapy and that’s essentially what our mother did with art therapy; she used art for healing. We think of our hair dye and cosmetics as color therapy and it really has made an impact on people. Folks have told us that our products have saved their lives and it’s so cool that we’ve been able to have that impact and influence on people.

Photo courtesy of Manic Panic Facebook

What are your goals for Manic Panic this year?
We’ve got some colored hair sprays coming out. It’s temporary color so you can wash them out at the end of the day. You can also use them to touch up your roots if you already have Manic Panic in your hair. We’re also coming out with some hair care products such as shampoos and conditioners. Some of these items have been on the table for 35-40 years. We’re very much a small business and we don’t have a huge corporate entity behind us so it really takes time for things roll out. We started this company from scratch with about 200 bucks a piece; it was very DIY and we continue to run our business with that DIY mind set.

You both have backgrounds in music and were singers in the original Blondie lineup; what was the process for getting into the band?
We were in this whacky vaudeville show and some friends of ours were in it too and they were telling Debbie Harry and Chris Stein about us. Our friends invited them to see us in the vaudeville show because Debbie and Chris were looking for backup singers and our friends felt we’d be a great fit. They both came to the show and at the end, Debbie and Chris came backstage and introduced themselves to us and invited us to a rehearsal. We went to our 1st rehearsal and then we were in the band! It was very organic back then. It was very easy because the underground scene was very small and everybody knew each other so there was no auditioning or anything like that. You just knew people, you were on the same wavelength and then you worked together! It was very natural and fun.

I read in your Allure 2017 interview that you’re learning the harp; are there any other instruments you’re learning or have an interest in picking up?
There are a lot of instruments we’d like to learn but it’s really a question of time! We barely have time to practice our harps! We end up working so many hours during the week and then we play gigs on the weekend. We still sing and currently sing backup for a band called Blue Coup and it’s so great! Now that we think about it, joining that band was a very organic process too! We met Dennis Dunaway at a Chiller convention in New Jersey. We were there repping Manic Panic and Dennis was there signing autographs. We went over to ask for an autograph and his wife Cindy said ‘Our daughters are going to think we’re so cool that we met you!’ and we were like ‘Well, it’s so cool to meet you guys!’ Then we invited them to a party we had, we became friends, Cindy started working for us at Manic Panic and then we ended up singing in Dennis’ band!

 

Manic Panic seems to have a strong connection to the music community. Would Manic Panic ever throw their own music festival?
Yeah! We have done benefits for different things and have been apart of festivals but we’ve never thrown one ourselves. Someone else would definitely have to organize it because it’s so much work! Any time we’ve organized a benefit, it has been so time-consuming and exhausting.

If someone was doing all the organizing, who’d you want on the line up?
Of course we want Blue Coup! Honestly it’s so hard because we like such a variety of music…. being old school we love Blondie! We actually don’t get out as much as we used to because we work so many hours so it’s hard for us to catch new musical acts. Maybe one day we’ll be able to see bands again!

What did Manic Panic mean to you in 1977? What does it mean to you in 2018??
One of the best things about Manic Panic is that it’s our’s; we don’t have to work for anyone else. It was our baby in ‘77 and it’s still our baby now! It’s our labor of love and continues to mean so much to us. It’s incredible how much it has grown and who’d ever imagined that we’d come this far! We were bought up very poor and started this company with very little money. And now we’re not poor so it’s wonderful that we’re now in a position to give back and spread the love. We’ve always wanted to try and help save the world and every year we give 15% of our profits to charity and use our platform to bring awareness to important issues. That’s honestly what we think the measure of success is; not how much money you make but how much you can help the world.


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