Insane Clown Posse

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

For most people, the mere mention of clowns conjures up images of early birthday parties, Tim Curry or Red Skelton. For others it means MLC, or rather, Mad Clown Love. It’s a lifestyle with millions of devoted fans willing to do what a pair of Juggalos command at the drop of a hatchet. Recently, I was able to catch up with Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope of the Insane Clown Posse and question them on the topics of hip-hop, Juggalos and Faygo Soda.

Why are you banned from Canada?
Violent J: Well, we can’t get across the border because of our criminal records! It’s a very stale thing in our lives because we very badly want to come, you know what I’m saying?

I know, I had tickets to see you when I was 16 and you never made it.
Violent J: Oh yeah?

Yeah, I was a sad little Juggalo. Still am.
Violent J: Damn. We’ll get there eventually.

It’s arguable, but I would say that you are the biggest underground band in the world. I mean, you played Woodstock (99) with virtually no video or radio play.
Violent J: Awwww, that’s awesome. That’s the shit. Man, yeah, that’s a fresh-ass statement.

Outside of the Juggalo world, do you care how you’re perceived? Are you affected by haters?
Violent J: Sometimes. I mean, it’s easy to say, “Fuck ‘em, we don’t care.” But sometimes it’s stunning. Sometimes when we do something that I think is so cool and it gets so hated [laughs]…

What would you say is the biggest misconception about you or your fans?
Violent J: That we’re racist. Asinine shit that people say to try to hurt, you know what I mean? Also, that we make 10 million dollars in a year.

[Laughs] Do you really want to fight that?
Violent J: That’s the thing! Part of it’s cool, you know what I’m saying? I feel like, who the fuck wouldn’t be a wicked clown for 10 million a year? And if they knew how little money we make, I think it would show that we have more passion for what we do, you know, because there is no 10 million a year, or even a tenth of that.

Do you think the reason that you don’t make as much money as people think is because of your production costs?
Violent J: Absolutely, because we push everything to the limit. Everything! If there’s money left over we spend it. Even if it’s something small, like confetti guns. Or new costumes for the clowns.

Back in 1997, you released the song “What is a Juggalo” on your Great Milenko record. You define Juggalos in a lot of different ways… How would you define one today?
Violent J: Same way, you know? There is no real definition of a Juggalo,
that’s what makes it so crazy and special. We’ve met Juggalos of all walks of life and not even a majority of them are the same.

A lot of kids relate to bands in a die-hard fashion—like your fans—because they can identify with a singer’s lyrics. But you guys tend to talk about The Dark Carnival and things like that…
Violent J: I think it’s the other stuff… rapping about instead of having things, we rap about not having things. And I think we appreciate things that real people appreciate…. if we could explain it, other people would be able to figure it out and they’d be doing the same thing. I really believe this, and I don’t care if it sounds corny. I believe there’s a lot of genuine, real magic behind it all, man. Because if it was something a college professor could easily pinpoint in one essay—why Juggalos are who they are and this is why they’re attracted to the music—I think other bands would apply the same thing. I think it’s a lot of genuine unknown to the whole thing. Because it’s definitely unknown to us because some of the things we release, don’t work.

How did Gallagher and Tom Green do at the Gathering of the Juggalos this year?
Violent J: Awesome. That’s the other thing, man. If we had Juggalos totally pegged, we’d make the lineup exactly what they want, but some times we’re wrong, man. We thought Tila Tequila would work. Here you got this chick who’s obviously an internet sensation. We figured Juggalos would like the hot chick up there rapping about fucking the DJ. Every year we try to figure it out, we try to book a lineup we think is gonna turn it out, and sometimes one or two artists might not get it.

Do you think the artists know what they’re in-store for as far as the types of crowds?
Violent J: I think most do, but a good deal of them don’t. We try to go around and talk to people before they go on. We have a documentary out called “Family Underground,” which is about the Gathering. We started sending that to everybody that was booked. Hoping that at least their agents or somebody in their camp would watch it and tell them.

Do you think that your kids will carry on the Juggalo tradition?
Violent J: It’s up to them. [Laughs]

They come out on stage with you sometimes, right?
Violent J: The first time I ever brought my son on stage, he was on the side—my girlfriend was holding him—and it was the first time he had ever seen our show, and he was crying throughout. I thought, “Awww man, this is terrible. It’s scaring the hell out of him.” Then, at the end of the show, he came running out there, and he got on my shoulders and started throwing Faygo and it turned out, he was crying because he wanted to get out there!

The Gathering has become one of the biggest festivals for music in the world. Do you find that because of this, mainstream America is more willing to embrace you?
Violent J: I don’t think mainstream America is embracing us at all. They’re making fun of us… In what way would you say they’re embracing us?

I figured they’d at least be trying to send some money your way for endorsements.
Violent J: Never been offered anything in our lives. Not even from Faygo.

Why?
Violent J: Well, they say that they’re a family product and they’re not made for throwing on people. They don’t wanna fuck with us because of the language in our music and the way we use Faygo.

You gotta get Barack Obama to become a Juggalo.
Violent J: [Laughs] He might be! You never know who’s a Juggalo and where they are. There are Hollywood directors that are Juggalos.

Like who?!
Violent J: The director of Be Cool. He called us and said he’s a Juggalo, asked us to send him a bunch of stuff. And he placed it in the movie. And then there’s another movie coming out with Ben Stiller, which isn’t out yet, but the main character in it is wearing an ICP shirt. Same story. The director told us he was a Juggalo. It’s like a secret society!

You’ve helped a lot of rappers that were once very popular find fame again via the Gathering, such as Coolio, Spice 1 and Tone Loc. Why help resurrect their careers?
Violent J: Because I don’t believe in fads and I don’t believe in styles. We believe that if somebody was fresh once, that they stay fresh… forever… first of all, thank you for noticing that.

Of course.
Violent J: We try to do that. Like Vanilla Ice, for example. It’s funny how the world laughs at Vanilla Ice, but it was the world that was buying all that shit. Now they laugh at him when they need to be laughing at themselves.

Do you pay much attention to popular culture, like what videos and singles are big right now?
Violent J: I try to. But like, the MTV Music Awards? When Taylor Swift was singing that song to Kanye West… that was just fucking ridiculous. That was so fucking dumb I felt like throwing up. She wrote a fucking song and she’s singing it to him…. because he ran on stage during her award acceptance? Like that was some traumatic, horrible thing that happened in her life. It was like she was molested. I’m sure he ran up there, drunk, during her award. A year later, we have to all sit here and listen to her sing a song to a grown ass man… about how he’s still acceptable… he’s still okay, he’s one of the good ones? Fuck MTV for putting this on. Fuck everybody involved for us having to sit there and watch this bullshit… as they take nothing and try to make it something. It’s pathetic, man. There are so many other artists that could have taken that slot and brought the house down. But, instead we gotta listen to that.

It seems like knowledge of Juagglo culture has gotten bigger now than it ever has been. The Gathering being in its 11th year is an indication of that.
Violent J: Yeah! That’s the interesting thing. You go to any of the concerts and it seems like most of the people in the crowd are like from 17 to 25. And, some Juggalos end up landing in important positions. Like, look at you, you’re a writer! You said yourself you were a Juggalo.

Fuck yeah.
Violent J: And now here you are doing a story about ICP! That’s awesome! That’s why this is gonna last forever, because even if somebody outgrows it they had those two or three or maybe four years where they had a good time being a Juggalo.

Apparently on your latest tours, there have been traveling scientists showing up outside your shows and showing how magnets work.
Violent J: I think that is fucked up! And listen, if it wasn’t illegal, I’d straight up beat their asses. [Laughs] No, straight up! We know how the fuck magnets work! What are you doing out there insulting our fans like that? The song is so innocent! What it’s saying is to appreciate everyday things in our life, man. It’s by Juggalos for Juggalos! That’s why it’s soft. Sometimes when we’re talking to Juggalos, it’s like talking to your best friend. Not everything we say has got to be violent and wicked. You wanna speak to Shaggy?

Shaggy’s there? I’ll talk to Shaggy!
Violent J: Alright, here he is, be good man.

Shaggy! Dude, I’m really sorry, I didn’t know you were there, I talked to J for like 45 minutes!
Shaggy 2 Dope: Aw, it’s all good man. We were just doing our thing up here.

The state of hip-hop. What do you think? Better now or worse?
Shaggy 2 Dope: It’s making more noise than it used to back in the day. I think it’s actually cool that somehow rap has made it so far that it’s just considered normal pop music.

It’s true. It’s really infiltrated American culture.

Shaggy 2 Dope: No doubt! Everybody back in the day is like, “Awww, it ain’t gonna last.” You know what I’m saying? Well, obviously it has. I think I liked it back in the day more… just because, you could hear something and know where somebody was from. You would hear some West Coast shit where it’s just like thicker bass lines, it’s not so much about the drums… that’s some West Coast shit. You know, you hear some heavy 808 type shit with mad snares and hi-hats, so you know that’s some down South booty shit. Nowadays, everybody works with each other so much, you don’t know where it’s from.

Chuck D was saying that typically the harder music comes from the suburbs and the smoother music comes from the inner city, where it was more dangerous. Do you find this to be true?
Shaggy 2 Dope: Not at all [Laughs]. I mean, I was gonna say N.W.A. was pretty fucking angry. But if you really look at it, Compton is a suburb of L.A.

I think maybe he meant like the G-funk shit, you know what I mean? It’s pretty relaxed…
Shaggy 2 Dope: Yeah, the beats were more laid back, but what they were saying wasn’t. Talkin’ about shootin’ motherfuckers and smokin’ weed? That’s not too relaxed. Well I guess smokin’ weed is, but what do I know, I don’t smoke weed.

You don’t smoke weed?
Shaggy 2 Dope: Nope. When I was a kid I did a few times, not my thing. I don’t like being high.

Just Faygo?
Shaggy 2 Dope: Yessir.

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