ICP's Violent J Talks Texas, Faygo & The Juggalo Family
"Texas is my favorite state"
Photos by Marc Brubaker
Next Tuesday, Detroit's Insane Clown Posse invades Houston for the third time in as many years for another night of Faygo and Juggalo family fun at Warehouse Live. This will also be Rocks Off's third jump into that sticky, harrowing breach.
The past two years have been some of the most visible in Violent J (above) and Shaggy 2 Dope's nearly two-decade career. Back in 1997, their label, the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, was pressured into shelving their album, The Great Milenko, and canceling a promo tour behind it. ICP went aboveground and were pointed to as a prime example of corporate censorship, which did nothing but help build the band's underdog status and foster a whole new fan base for the next 13 years.
In April 2010, the group released a video for "Miracles" from 2009's Bang! Pow! Boom! which confounded mainstream yucksters and indie blogs as it went viral for the better part of that summer, even though the group was in on the joke. We think. Then came the interviews, some radically altered, and a new interest in Juggalos, their army of fans, whose annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival in Illinois became national news fodder for a weekend in August.
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Back in August, it was announced that the rap duo had paired with Jack White, of all people for a classical rap project, which was a confounding and exciting prospect. The musical marriage between the Detroit rock impresario, now living in Nashville, and one of the most polarizing acts in recent history made many in the music business cry into their IKEA bedding for at least a week.
Since the first time Rocks Off went to an ICP show in 2009, we have felt strangely drawn to the Juggalo culture, keeping it at arm's length but always finding it fascinating.
We read about the crimes that self-professed Juggalos have committed, and have to reconcile that with the outpouring of seemingly familial love we see at their shows. It's not normal to see fans hugging one another. Indie shows are veritable ice fests of blank stares and boredom.
But the violence at the shows - we watched a Juggalo break a window at Warehouse Live last year, and a fistfight broke out at a Walter's gathering last summer - isn't anything out of the norm for a metal or a hip-hop show, either. We've seen fights and idiocy at indie-rock and dance parties too, brought on by ostensibly well-heeled and educated liberal kids. The world's a warped place when someone can threaten to cut you at a Iron & Wine gig.
At last year's Warehouse Live show, we were drenched in Faygo for an hour, and even drank some of the stuff. A few days later a Christmas card from the ICP label, Psychopathic Records, showed up in the mail here at work, complete with a smiling hatchet-man Santa. Someone at ICP HQ realized we "got" the group.
Rocks Off has been trying to interview at least one or both of the ICP guys, Shaggy 2 Dope or Violent J, since our Juggalo odyssey began. We almost didn't think we would get a few minutes with anyone until this past Friday afternoon, when we were patched through to Violent J while the tour was stopped in Salt Lake City.
Rocks Off: Is Salt Lake City good to ICP?
Violent J: A lot of people see the Mormons and get mad about that, but you know what? Salt Lake City has crazy wild Juggalos. If a town is real religious, you have more people being mad, rebellious, and wild.
RO: What is ICP doing right now?
VJ: We're doing a gang of shit. We got a reality show we are filming right now, a documentary is also being shot on this tour, the American Psycho tour, showing footage and a small story of what went on each city.
The reality show covers our lives behind the scenes. If it's not on TV, that's cool. Right now we are filming it ourselves and we're doing it our way. Once we are done we will shop it to some networks and if someone wants it, great, and if they don't want it, we will put it out our way. Maybe someone will pick it up.
RO: What channel would be the best fit for an ICP reality show?
VJ: Probably SyFy, or Spike TV... but my favorite would be HBO, because we could show the cussing and the nudity.
RO: What's been ICP's relationship with Houston these past two decades?
VJ: I'll be honest, Texas is my favorite state, and that's above my home state of Michigan. Texas, hands down. My baby's mama is from Houston. She has that Houston ass. It must be in the water or the barbecue or something.
We've been playing Houston forever. We used to play this thing that was like a torn-down supermarket.
RO: Yes! International Ballroom. We called it the I-Ball.
VJ: Where are we playing this time?
RO: Warehouse Live, it's a good size. You played there the past two times in town.
VJ: Oh, that shows we're not moving up then. (laughs).
That's all Faygo, folks.
RO: Nah, those things are always super-packed, I think, and there is always kids spilling out into the street covered in Faygo.
VJ: Texas is a great place, and I plan on moving there one day...
RO: Just like Glenn Beck. He is moving up near Dallas. (laughs). Right now I am looking at four glass bottles of Faygo on my desk that my friend from Detroit brought back from a trip back home.
VJ: That's awesome! What flavors?
RO: I got orange, grape, vanilla crème and cherry...
VJ: The beauty of those glass bottles is that only with glass bottles can you get every flavor of Faygo, but not it's not that way with the plastic bottles. I'm opening up a studio at my new house, and for the walls I ordered two of every flavor to decorate. They have crazy shit, like mint bubblegum too.
RO: I never get to taste those because the stuff you throw on us at the shows is the normal flavors like root beer...
VJ: That ain't shit, you gotta go to Faygo.com to buy the good ones. We don't bring a full selection, we just bring what's good to shoot off the stage.
RO: How do you pop off the tops of the bottles so quick onstage? A knife, a tool?
VJ: Nah, it's pure skill, brother. We've taken something weird, like launching a two-liter into the crowd, and over the years we've developed tricks, my man. I can't even explain it. I know how to pop that lid off with one swipe of the hand. Pop the lid off, put my finger in it, turn the bottle upside down, while I am rapping, building pressure inside it.
I can feel when it's ready to blow, so all I gotta do is let go and it launches off my finger across the venue. I can tell from the pressure when it's ready.
RO: I have been in the pit when you guys launch them out too. At the last show I may ingested a gallon of the stuff. I had a jacket that smelled like Faygo for weeks, even after washing it.
VJ: You've been baptized in the special sauce.
RO: The first ICP show I went to, maybe two years ago, walking into the venue totally out of my element, a Juggalo came up to me and shook my hand out of the blue, inviting me into the fold.
VJ: Everybody is included, and nobody is excluded. Everyone is welcome, no matter who you are, or where you are from, or what how you look like. That shit has nothing to do with ICP. That shit came from the Juggalos. All of that, the whole "family" thing.
The reason why they chant "family" at shows, is because that's the only way to describe what it feels like to them.
Insane Clown Posse plays Warehouse Live Tuesday, October 11.
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