In late October, Poppy nearly stole the show at WWE NXT in Orlando, Florida, spinning heads with her kaleidoscopic mix of shredding heavy metal and sugary pop, joined by her backing band, the Icky Babies, who were decked out as terrifying doppelgangers of the singer. Poppy ripped through her single "I Disagree" (the title cut off her forthcoming third album, due in January) and accompanied NXT superstar Io Shirai through her high-octane entrance with the song "Scary Mask," a collaboration with rap-rock firebrands the Fever 333. Io took the energy of the entrance into her white-knuckle match with Candice LeRae, from which she emerged victorious.
Once the dust cleared a few weeks after the big show, we caught up with both Io and Poppy to discuss the collaboration, their mutual fandom, and the ties that bind heavy music and pro wrestling.
HOW DO YOU GUYS FEEL THE PERFORMANCE AND ENTRANCE AT NXT WENT?
IO SHIRAI I thought the performance went great. Her music is very similar to music in Japan, and I love it. I have never done anything like that before and was honored to be part of such a unique experience.
WERE YOU NERVOUS BEFOREHAND? HOW DO EACH OF YOU WARM UP TO TAKE THE STAGE OR ENTER THE RING
POPPY I was only excited. Before I go onstage, the band and I will scream at each other really loudly.
IO I was more excited than nervous and couldn't wait to get out there with Poppy.
HOW DID THE COLLABORATION COME TOGETHER IN THE FIRST PLACE? WERE YOU FAMILIAR WITH EACH OTHER BEFOREHAND?
POPPY I heard that Io and NXT wanted to use my song and I was thrilled. I was familiar with Io because I watch WWE and was drawn to her. We first met at WWE in person, but we chatted on Twitter.
IO I already had Poppy's album and was a fan of her before the performance. I enjoy listening to it in the car, at the gym or on the plane whenever I can.
POPPY, YOU MENTIONED WATCHING WWE. ARE YOU A BIG FAN OF PRO WRESTLING?
POPPY I have been a fan of pro wrestling ever since I was a small Poppy. I used to own a few of the figures and the WWE-themed ring. I love the intensity of it and the theatrics. I love watching the wrestlers really leave it all out there in the ring. My favorites are Triple H, Io — of course — Ken Shamrock, Ric Flair.
IO, WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU USUALLY LISTEN TO? WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEAVY MUSIC AND PRO WRESTLING FOR YOU?
IO I listen to a lot of Poppy and EDM music. The main connection between heavy music and sports entertainment, to me, is that both evoke a certain type of emotion. Her music is great because it can be fun and scary, which is perfect for NXT and my character.
POPPY, WHAT'S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEAVY MUSIC AND PRO WRESTLING FOR YOU?
POPPY The intensity.
IO, HOW DID YOU GET INTO WRESTLING? HOW IS WRESTLING DIFFERENT IN JAPAN THAN IN THE U.S.?
IO My sister started training to be a wrestler and shortly thereafter I fell in love with it. The main difference between wrestling in Japan and the U.S. is that, in Japan, it is more of a sport. In the U.S., it is both sports and entertainment so there are more characters and emotion involved when performing.
POPPY, YOU'RE PRETTY MUCH FLUENT IN JAPANESE. HOW DID YOU COME TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE? DO YOU FEEL A SPECIAL KINSHIP WITH JAPAN AND JAPANESE CULTURE?
POPPY I have been studying Japanese in Los Angeles off and on for three or so years. I try to get back into the lessons when I am in town. I think it's a beautiful language. I've always been drawn to the culture and I try to visit every chance I get. I am in love with the fashion and technology and music.
WHAT DOES THE SONG "SCARY MASK" MEAN TO EACH OF YOU?
POPPY Everyone is wearing a mask.
IO I like to think there is a "good Io" and an "evil Io." "Scary Mask" is when evil Io comes out.