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Getting behind the mask with UltraMantis Black

photo by Jamie Heim
photo by Jamie Heim

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.

UltraMantis Black in the ring.
UltraMantis Black in the ring.

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.

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Randy Randall of No Age starts anew with Pissed Jeans’ Sean McGuinness in Rat Fist

Photo via facebook.com/ratfisted
Photo via facebook.com/ratfisted

Randy Randall was caught up in how good he and Sean McGuinness were feeling about starting their new project, Rat Fist, to the point that while laying the music, they’d looked past a crucial part: vocals.

“Sean and I were driving back to recording one day and we were saying, ‘Well, now all we have left to do is the vocals,’” Randall says. “So I asked him, ‘Do you want to sing?’ and he’s like, ‘No, do you want to sing?’ And then we’re both like, ‘Uh… well, let’s both do it. We can both give it a shot.’”

It’s the first time Randall and McGuinness – best known for being the guitarist in No Age and drummer in Pissed Jeans, respectively – are singing in a band, so it’s taken a little bit of adjusting. They’re splitting lyric writing roles too, another first for them both. And the lines on “Disrupt yr DNA,” “You smile and burp while your insides are rotting/ The stench of your decay is… offensive,” are Randall’s doing.

“But it’s an equal collaboration,” he says. “He came up with some songs, I came up some songs. That song, ‘Disrupt Yr DNA,’ I’m singing on that one and I’m not really a trained singer but it has a punk feel to it so whatever. It doesn’t really matter too much what sounds my mouth makes when I open my mouth.”

Even singing and playing guitar simultaneously is something new for Randall. He says that since his bandmate Dean Spunt writes the lyrics and sings in their experimental punk-leaning two-piece No Age, he generally refrains from it entirely. So the prospect of taking his song, “Disrupt yr DNA” out on the road is exciting. Continue reading →

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Photos: Pissed Jeans, Purling Hiss and Trophy Wife at Union Transfer

Pissed Jeans | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Pissed Jeans | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

It was definitely one of the harder-hitting lineups at Union Transfer in recent memory: Philly thrash four-piece Pissed Jeans, alongside scuzz-guitar jammers Purling Hiss and power duo Trophy Wife. Check out photos from Saturday night’s all-ages punk extravaganza below.

(Hear More – The Key Studio Sessions: Pissed Jeans)
(Hear More – The Key Studio Sessions: Purling Hiss)
(Hear More – The Key Studio Sessions: Trophy Wife)

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Restorations at Boot & Saddle, Mission of Burma / Bleeding Rainbow at First Unitarian Church, and Trophy Wife / Purling Hiss / Pissed Jeans at Union Transfer

Restorations | Photo by John Vettese
Restorations | Photo by John Vettese

Philly punks Restorations will play tonight at Boot & Saddle. The five-piece will likely play some tunes off of its latest album, LP2, released last April, but according to the band’s Facebook page, they have some new songs in store for the audience. The Holy Mess and Dogs on Acid are also on the bill. The 21+ show will start at 8:30 p.m.; tickets cost $12 and can be purchased here.

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Just Announced: Pissed Jeans, Purling Hiss and Trophy Wife will play Union Transfer on 2/8

Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

Why not start the year off on the heaviest foot possible with Pissed Jeans, Purling Hiss and Trophy Wife at Union Transfer on February 8th?  Ultra-thrash punk band Pissed Jeans released their Honeys LP on Sub Pop this year, while scuzzy distortion kings Purling Hiss celebrated their major label debut with Water On Mars and Drag City.  Fellow local duo Trophy Wife are prepping to head into the studio in January, so we can expect to hear some new songs from the socially-conscious rockers as well.  Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here.  Watch Pissed Jeans’ video for “Bathroom Laughter” below.

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Review: A chaotic set from Pissed Jeans and more at Morgan’s Pier (photos, review)

Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

Last week, boisterous Allentown / Philly punk band Pissed Jeans performed a free 21+ show at Morgan’s Pier along with Big Mouth and Ultramantis Black.  The show began with five guys all dressed in black and playing black instruments on stage creating a wall of noise and feedback.  This was Ultramantis Black, a hardcore band fronted by the professional wrestler of the same name.  As the feedback and buildup continued I examined the men on stage and tried to determine which one of them was the pro wrestler.  I figured it probably wasn’t the skinny guy with the beard or the average-sized man sitting at the drums.  “Maybe it’s the tall dude playing guitar, he’s pretty big” I thought to myself.  It never occurred to me that Ultramantis himself wasn’t even on stage yet until he came charging out in full wrestling garb, complete with cape, mask and skull staff.  This was when I started to get a little worried.  I didn’t find the spooky clown getup endearing and the all-black uniform donned by the other members made me feel like these guys are a little too concerned with trying to look badass.

Ultramantis Black | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Ultramantis Black | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

After the first song Ultramantis began pacing back and forth across the stage, shouting the usual “HELLO PHILADELPHIA” type stuff, but it wasn’t long before he went off on a long diatribe about the choices people make when they sit down to dinner.  I was confused until he went on to give us a rather poorly thought-out lecture on the morality of consuming meat.  He went on to rant about America’s dependency on pharmaceuticals and how they are destroying our bodies.  It took about five minutes of this before they even started the second song, which was immediately followed by another long-winded lecture, this time on the evils of fracking.  Obviously the guy was talking about some important issues, but they only had a 20 minute set and at this point it was half over and they’d only played two songs.  It isn’t wrong to be opinionated and passionate about these issues but there’s a time and place for activism and I personally wasn’t interested in being lectured on my night out.  They finished up their set and before the last song was even done Ultramantis had disappeared from the stage.  The band finished out the set and with the help of some of the staff started disassembling their gear.  At this time Ultramantis reappeared from backstage drinking a beer with his wrestling mask still on.  This ridiculous guy didn’t even help his band-mates load out their gear.  It doesn’t matter if your instrument is just your voice and a microphone, helping your buddies load out is just the decent thing to do.  To be fair, though the music wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, they did play spot-on and had a lot of energy on stage, but my experience was soured by one of the most obnoxious front men I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing perform.

Big Mouth | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Big Mouth | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

The next band was Big Mouth, hailing from the DC/Baltimore area.  They performed an angsty brand of punk characterized by creative atonal interplay between the bass and guitar, backed by fairly straightforward, but effective drumming.  Their front-woman taunted the crowd and sang in a voice that reminded me of a homeless lady I saw last week at 69th st. terminal last week who screamed at me and called me a cocksucker.  She even teased the bouncer by the stage and stroked his beard.  I was extremely impressed by the guitarist’s ability to stomp around on stage and headband in heels and a floor-length dress.  The singer weaved her way through the audience throughout the set and certainly captivated people through fear that they would be the next victim of her manic outbursts.  This was definitely the most unique performance of the night and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

When Pissed Jeans took to the stage and began playing the energy at the pier came to a head and things became chaotic.  This was a true rock and roll performance.  Their front-man, Matt Korvette, has amazing stage presence and is a master at working the crowd.  He’s also a genuinely hilarious dude.  Matt ran back and forth across the stage as a sea of people moshing and stage diving churned before him.  He shouted, threw ice at his bandmates, chugged Miller Lite, did some pull-ups from the scaffolding and posed for the photographers next to the stage.   Pissed Jeans puts on one of the most high-energy shows in Philly and I’d recommend attending their next show to anyone looking to witness true madness and hear some great punk music.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kurt Vile at Courtyard City Hall, Pissed Jeans at Morgan’s Pier, Taj Mahal at Havana

kv

The City Hall Courtyard summer music series comes to a close tonight with a free solo performance by Kurt Vile.  Today has been dubbed Kurt Vile Day by the City of Philadelphia, which will present the Philly native with the Liberty Bell Award in recognition of his “outstanding professional achievements and civic generosity.”  Vile released his highly-regarded Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze LP earlier this year and will be back for a full-band show at Union Transfer on October 25th.  More information for tonight’s free concert can be found here.  Watch Vile’s video for “KV Crimes” below.

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Watch Pissed Jeans thrash out at Pitchfork Music Festival (playing Morgan’s Pier 8/28)

500x333Allentown-born, Philly-based sludge-punks Pissed Jeans, along with other Philly acts like Waxahatchee, recently paid a visit to Chicago as part of Pitchfork‘s 2013 music festival. Late last week, Pitchfork.tv released two videos of the band’s set. Watch them play “Romanticize Me” and “Bathroom Laughter”, both off their latest LP, Honeys, below, and be sure to catch the band at the end of the month, when they’ll be playing a free show at Morgan’s Pier on Wednesday, August 28th. More info on the 21+ show can be found here.

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Pissed Jeans release new video for “Romanticize Me” (playing free show at Morgan’s Pier in August)

pissed-jeans-9Local punks Pissed Jeans just debuted a new music video for their song “Romanticize Me.” The track is off the band’s latest full-length release, Honeys, which came out earlier this year on Sub Pop. The video is sure to be the only place you’ll find a figure skater using Pissed Jeans as his backing music; check it out for yourself below. The band is playing a free show at Morgan’s Pier on August 28th – which should be awesome, since the show they played there last summer ruled. Get more information at the R5 Productions website here.

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Pissed Jeans opening for Mudhoney on tour this spring (download “Bathroom Laughter” from The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7)

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Talk about an ideal match-up. Philly proto-punk aficionados Pissed Jeans, who released the hard-hitting Honeys earlier this year on Sub Pop Records, will tour with their labelmates and sonic ancestors Mudhoney. If you’ve spent any time with Honeys – particularly “Cathouse” or “Teenage Adult” – you know the bands will play totally well off one another. There might even be some possibility of Pissed Jeans, with their well-earned reputation for live ragers, upstaging the headliners. But don’t be so sure on that last count – Mark Arm remains a wily and charismatic frontman in his own right. The tour sadly doesn’t stop in Philadelphia (it’s a handful of dates in the UK and midwest, per Brooklyn Vegan) but it nonetheless gives us an excuse to turn up this live performance of Pissed Jeans’ “Bathroom Laughter” from The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7.

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