Getting behind the mask with UltraMantis Black
Both punk rock and professional wrestling have their hardcore sects, but rarely do the two cross paths. Enter UltraMantis Black, a mainstay of the Easton-based Chikara Pro independent wrestling promotion, who can now add punk frontman to his list of accomplishments. Earlier this month, the masked UltraMantis teamed up with members of Pissed Jeans to release his debut EP, and will celebrate the release at Voltage Lounge on Thursday as part of Relapse Records’ This Is Hardcore Afterparty. The leader of the Spectral Envoy discussed his efforts in the squared circle and on the stage from his home base in the mysterious, storied Parts Unknown.
The Key: How did you move from pro wrestling to punk rock?
UltraMantis Black: I’d been doing music prior to my professional wrestling career, but decided in the past year or two that I wanted to bring that part of UltraMantis Black out. Some of the members of Pissed Jeans approached me about doing something a few years ago and I was a bit hesitant at first because I was concentrating on professional wrestling at the time and didn’t really see a way to balance the two. Now I’ve found a way to bring them together.
TK: How do the two relate in your mind?
UMB: I think they’re very similar. Punk rock and professional wrestling have more in common than most people might think. Both the communities and fanbases involved in each are niche audiences. I feel like performing in front of a crowd onstage or within a
wrestling ring, you’re trying to entertain, trying to convey a message, trying to display your art form, so I see them both coming together in that way.
TK: Who is UltraMantis Black?
UMB: Ultramantis Black is known as the Mayor of Parts Unknown, a part-human, part-insectoid overlord of professional wrestling. A little bit of evil, a little bit of deviousness, but at the same time bringing a little consciousness back to professional wrestling.
TK: Does the character put forward the same message in both arenas?
UMB: I think so. I’ve always tried to bring something different to professional wrestling, something that probably wasn’t always there. I speak my mind, I speak what I feel will open other people’s eyes to my own personal beliefs and philosophies and they way I look at life, and that’s probably unorthodox in professional wrestling but I think it’s worked. I’ve developed a fan base in wrestling that’s not the typical professional wrestling crowd, and with the band I wanted to bring social and political aspects of punk rock back to hardcore, where I think it’s been lacking in recent years.
TK: Who are some of the artists who have influenced your sound?
UMB: I grew up on old straight-edge hardcore and thrash metal back in the ‘80s, so it runs the gamut of all the different genres of punk and hardcore. As far as specific bands, Cro-mags, Bad Brains, Rites of Spring is one of my all-time favorites.
TK: How did you initially get involved in wrestling?
UMB: I’ve followed professional wrestling most of my life. I wasn’t a big fan of the old WWF, but even as a young child I was more into the NWA and the old southern regional territories. As I got older I got more into Japanese professional wrestling and decided that it was my dream, and I pursued that dream.
TK: You’re both straight-edge and vegan – is it difficult to maintain that lifestyle in the world of pro wrestling?
UMB: As far as being substance-free, that’s always been a part of my life. There’s absolutely no challenge there. Of course, professional wrestling has always had a history of drug use, whether illicit drugs or steroids, but that’s had little bearing on my life or career. As far as being vegan goes, eating the right things in order to maintain the physical form that enables you to take those bumps and bruises in the ring can be a challenge. It takes some work, that’s for sure, but it can be done and I’m proof of that.
TK: What is the importance of the mask and of maintaining the UltraMantis Black persona?
UMB: People might think this is silly or cheesy, but I deeply respect the history and roots of lucha libre, which is the Mexican professional wrestling where the mask was developed and cultivated. The mask is everything to the luchadore. It’s your identity, and protecting that identity and protecting the person behind the mask is of utmost importance. So I’ve made it almost a mission in my career in professional wrestling to make sure that I keep my identity protected at all times, which is why when I decided to go the route of music there wasn’t a thought in my mind of removing the mask or the identity. I don’t want people to think of UltraMantis Black as a novelty band with a masked professional wrestler who’s out there to do superkicks or sentons. I want then to think of UltraMantis Black as a hardcore punk band that just happens to have a lead singer who is a professional wrestler.– Shaun Brady
You can stream UltraMantis Black’s eponymous EP in its entirety below, and catch the band Thursday night at the Voltage Lounge with Devourment and Call of the Void. Ticket information is available on our concert calendar here.