"It's in your heart."
What is a Juggalo?
We've all seen how Insane Clown Posse's army of loyal fans has been portrayed in the media, typically somewhere within the spectrum bordered by "malevolent" and "moronic." But after numerous experiences with the local chapter of Juggalo Nation over the past year, Rocks Off wasn't buying that anymore. We wanted to get to know the guys behind the greasepaint.
Enter "Fester the Wicked," well-spoken, relatively clean-cut and owner of houstonjuggalos.com. Originally, our idea was to meet Fester for lunch Monday, and sit down either one-on-one with him or perhaps with he and a few other Juggalos, follow him (or them) around for a few hours before the show, and get an idea of what being in "the family" means in everyday life. Rocks Off got Fester's phone number via Twitter, and texted him with our name and intentions at around 6 p.m. this past Saturday.
Less than five minutes later, our phone rang. "Heeeyyy, brother," came Fester's raspy voice. He was either surrounded by Juggalos or at work, because we heard a lot of talking in the background. After a short, friendly conversation, we agreed to meet up around 3 p.m. Monday at a still-undetermined place of his choosing.
Sunday, we called again. This time Fester's tone was accusative and less friendly. "Who's this?" he asked. We reminded him, and his tone quickly reverted back to the friendly rasp we heard Saturday. This time, he said 4 p.m. would be the best time. We agreed.
On Monday, we called Fester again a little after noon. He sounded rushed but friendly and told us he'd be at Warehouse Live at around 5 p.m., and to call him as we were pulling up.
It wasn't the situation we originally expected, but we wanted to interview him where he'd be comfortable, and where better than the ICP pregame party?
Rocks Off: What exactly does it mean to be a Juggalo?
Fester the Wicked: Being a Juggalo is just being different from society, being the outcast, the downtrodden, the forgotten; you don't even necessarily have to know what Psychopathic Records is to be a Juggalo.
I've run across artists in the street that just sung Juggalo shit, true to the heart, but they had never even heard of Insane Clown Posse. It's a family comprised of the downtrodden and the forgotten that relates to the pain, and we're just what society made us be, you know? This is where we fit in.
RO: So you don't need the makeup to be a Juggalo?
Fester: I don't hardly wear anything related to Psychopathic (Records). I mean, I have some Psychopathic tattoos, but a Juggalo is a state of mind. It's in your heart. It's not about the merchandise, it's not about the look, it's not about painting your face or not painting your face.
In today's society, we've made everything so fake, so corporate that you can go into a store and buy what you want to be. And now these kids think they can buy being a Juggalo, but they don't carry it in their heart. It's not about the merchandise; it's about the family love, the unity and the respect.
At this point, two more Juggalos - one wearing blue facepaint and the other's face done up more like a tribal tattoo - strolled over toward us. We later learned their names: Crush and Paradox, respectively.
Crush gives his daughter a shout-out outside Warehouse Live Monday.
RO: When you refer to it as a family...
Fester: A Juggalo family would live and die for each other. We have our fights at times, but we know that no matter what we do to each other, one day we will forgive each other.
Crush: It's like... every family has that one outcast, and all those outcasts come together and understand each other, and when you get someone who understands you, you'll be there for them.
Paradox: It is kind of a state of mind, though. There are morals, and we've got guidelines.
RO: Are there any Juggalos who dress up every day?
Fester: It's not every day, but you know, every now and then you might have a group of Juggalos come by, and everybody's just chilling, jamming out, and you bust out some face paint, and everybody gets painted up... and you have you a little party. It's not an everyday thing, but when we have a party, we party.
RO: How do people react to the way you dress, the makeup, the tattoos and the clothes?
Fester: We do get a lot of negative attention, but it's just the hatred from the outside world. They don't understand.
RO: So what exactly does the face paint represent?
Fester: It represents our own reflections with the Dark Carnival, which is a state of mind. And all of us, we have our own face paint. It's our own identity.
Crush: It's like war paint. Normal society has Halloween; we have the family.
RO: Some schools have told their student Juggalos that they cannot wear their makeup to school. Do you feel this infringes on their rights to express themselves?
Fester: It does. And they're trying to label the Juggalos as a gang, and it's not a gang. It's a family, and they need to understand that we're not out here in the streets... trying to fight, but we defend our brothers to the death. But we're not trying to pick fights and sell drugs. They say it's a gang, but what defines a gang?
Paradox: More than three people walking down the sidewalk (everyone laughs).
Fester and the other Juggalos pscyh themselves up for the show.
RO: What draws you to ICP?
Fester: It's a calling. The first time you hear them, you just know.
Crush (smiling): February 16, '07.
Paradox: There are so many other things to read inside the music other than the violence. And you know, a lot of us choose to hear it, and some of us just go along with the beat or whatever, but there's a lot of hidden messages in ICP's music.
And especially when you're real young, and it's a real hard life, ICP can pretty much put it into words. So it starts with the music, then it becomes something that you trust. There's a whole world to being a Juggalo.
Rocks Off had stepped toward Paradox, Crush and Fester, making something of a talking circle, but as we stepped back and nearly onto someone's shoes, we realized we were surrounded. Four or five more Juggalos had joined the group. It was getting crowded. But the newcomers were just as amiable as the Juggalos we had been talking to.
Juggalo Joe (on what defines a Juggalo): Even if I tried, I wouldn't be able to change it. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't.
RO: Recently, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J have found religion. How has that affected the Juggalo family?
Fester: My religion is my religion, and that's for me to know. The lotus pot is in the future, and the dark is how we grow. We the drunken ninja master, we the drunken ninja flow. Drink blood from your body, steal the life from your soul.
RO: So it's a personal thing; they want others to find it but not necessarily the same way they did?
Fester: We've got Juggalos of all religions who believe in a higher being.
Crush: Christian, right here.
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Joe: They want you to find what you think could be possible after this, whatever this is. Shangri-La is something we're shooting for, and we should try to have Shangri-La here, on Earth. Just believe there's something after this, or your life is nothing.
Our conversation with the Juggalos wasn't what we expected, and it didn't answer all of our questions. But now Rocks Off feels like we have at least a little better grasp on ICP, their fans and a Juggalo's state of mind.
We even talked to one Juggalo with a teardrop tattoo in the shape of a Juggalo hatchet man, in memory of a deceased friend to whom he referred as Butter Nutz. This Juggalo took something negative - a teardrop tattoo, which usually represents the wearer's participation in a murder - and put a positive spin on it.
It's crazy what music makes people do. But maybe not that crazy.