Q&A: Insane Clown Posse's Violent J on the Great Juggalo Return to New York City
"Encyclopedias of rock, rap--I see them all the time at the bookstore. Like, when you look at the 'I's and you get to the 'In's and you see 'Incubus,' just to see our name included in there would be so cool."
Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. . . on a boat.
It's been since six months a certain Village Voice cover story, about a certain widely maligned, fundamentally ludicrous horrorcore duo and their earnestly intentioned family of facepainted, hatchet-swinging outcast fans was foisted into the world. Since then, a lot has changed for Insane Clown Posse. For one, the wicked clowns have been welcomed back to New York City after many years of being shut out. (Even Violent J, the duo's Costello, can't seem to remember how many it's been.) For two, Bamboozle organizers invited ICP to perform at the Festival this year, this coming weekend, on the same day as Lil' Wayne, Mötley Crüe, and Bruno Mars (?). Also, since last September, ICP has been profiled extensively everywhere from Wired to the Guardian to the pages of our West Coast foils LA Weekly. Even friend-of-SOTC Sean Fennessey connected the dots between the Juggalos and Tyler the Creator, in the Pitchfork piece that got anyone to care about Odd Future in the first place.
Violent J is very, very grateful that anyone outside the band's Psychopathic Records circle still knows ICP exists, as he told us over the phone. So grateful that the band decided, at the very last minute, to celebrate the band's Manhattan return with a Juggalo Midnight Cruise leaving early this Saturday morning. Tickets are here. Fingers crossed this isn't the Juggalo Titanic.
When's the last time you played a show in New York?
ICP hasn't played in New York in a long time. Faygo issues. We couldn't find a venue that would take us. But Dark Lotus [ICP's monk-robed alter-ego Psychopathic supergroup] played New York, which was maybe three years ago. But ICP hasn't played New York in--and I'd be guessing--but I'm guessing five or six years. Maybe even longer. Maybe even seven or eight years.
So it's been the Faygo issue, not a lack of area support?
That's the only issue, Faygo. No venue would have us. Nothing really major happened, no major event happened, we just, all of a sudden, couldn't play there anymore. Same thing with Seattle, where all of a sudden we just weren't welcome back. And things are changing now, 'cause of things like your story. I could be wrong, but whoever we're playing, I understand they contacted us, or our booking agency, and they wanted to bring us in, and that's super cool. We're so happy to come back to New York.
It's been so long so I don't remember, but I thought we played at the Roseland Ballroom or something.
You guys played Hammerstein--it was in your book [Violent J's Behind the Paint].
[Laughs] Hammerstein! That's what it was. It was a big crowd, and that Southern-rock group Nashville Pussy opened, and everybody turned around, and flipped them off. Some people came backstage and offered me a role in a movie, which I'll never forget, and that was cool.
Somebody offered you a role in a movie?
Yeah, when we played in New York. It was a movie, it starred Q-Tip, and it was called something like Rap Song or Prison Song or something like that. [Editor's note: It was 2001's Prison Song, also starring Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello.] Check this out: they wanted me to play a prison guard, and the thing about the movie was it was actually a musical. Like, they'd have regular scenes go on, and then all of a sudden they'd break into song. My part didn't have no song or anything.
Like 12 of them, I remember sitting in this chair backstage and [film representatives] were all surrounding me, and they put the script in my lap, and they told me they wanted a big white dude with urban slang to his voice. They had heard me on Howard Stern and they thought I was perfect for it.
The only thing for the role was--and of course there was no facepaint--but they wanted me to play a prison guard who was racist. I did not want to play the racist. If I was gonna take the facepaint off, and I'd probably do it for a sweet-ass movie, but I didn't want to be the racist. That was too different. I know it's just a movie and everything, but if I'm gonna take the paint off and do something like that, it's not gonna be to play a racist.
So I turned it down. When I had my brother--my brother [Rob] was working with Psychopathic at the time--call them and tell them I didn't want to do it, they got furious. They were insulted, they were like, 'Here we come to you, and give you this super-cool offer in this movie, and you turn us down?' And the funniest thing was, I've seen the movie now twice, and I saw the guy that got to play me. Sure enough, they got a big, burly guy with an urban swang to his voice. Like they told me, they wanted me!
That was my little claim to fame. Who knows, it could have led to other things, I don't know. I was proud that I actually turned it down because I don't want to play a bigot.
That's pretty much one thing a Juggalo isn't--a racist.
Yeah, I just thought that nobody would understand. Especially back then, this is like early 2000 or something, where there wasn't a lot of footage or pictures of us without the facepaint.
You're playing Bamboozle and the Blender Theatre. The Blender is an Old Shit Tour show?
Yeah, that's old stuff, all classic ICP. Everything from the '90s. The only reason we're doing it like that is to separate the two shows. They are basically in the same area to us, and for Juggalos that are coming to both shows, we wanted to give them two different shows, with two different stages and everything.
It's going to be a lot of fun. The Old Shit Tour, it's really cool. It's stripped down. We don't bring our DJ. We just bring a backdrop. We fight with the venues to try to at least either have no barricades so you can facedive and stuff--but a lot of people have rules against that now--or have the barricade as close to the stage as possible so that people can get up on stage and jump off.
How'd you end up on Bamboozle? Lil' Wayne is playing the same day? And Motley Crue? And Bruno Mars? Such an unusual bill.
That probably came from your story too! I don't know how they thought of us, or why they put us on there. I'll be honest with you, I never even heard of the Bamboozle Festival until they booked us on it. Then I realized that that's a regular, big festival. Just like Bonnaroo. That feels good to be included as a musician, like that. You know what I'm saying? To have somebody, somewhere, outside of our circle, think of us and say, ask them, and to be considered musicians.
Books come out that have encyclopedias of rock, rap, I see them all the time at the bookstore. There will be these huge books. There will be bands in there that have sold way, way less records, or have been way less active than us, and I've always said it would just be cool to be included. Included as real musicians! Like, when you look at the "I"s and you get to the "In"s and you see "Incubus," just to see our name included in there would be so cool. And usually we're just not included in there, people just don't consider us a real band, or a real group, or a real anything, and that really hurts, man, because we work really, really hard on our music. There's a lot to us besides the music--a lot of gimmick, a lot of show--but isn't that what rock-and-roll's all about anyways?
The Juggalos who do show up--how are they gonna mix with the rest of the folks?
If I was a Juggalo and I came to see ICP, I would love that. I would love standing out, or being together, finding where the other Juggalos are standing. You know what I mean? I would love that shit. I would love to say, 'Hey man, we're us.' It's different, you know, when you're in a small venue and it's all Juggalos there. That's fun. But it's also cool to get out, and be surrounded by other people who aren't Juggalos, and to be able to stand up, with your chest out and be a Juggalo. To do your chants, and the other people looking at you like, "What the fuck are they talking about?"
It really gives you a chance to represent who you are, and what we're about, and show it off to people who don't really understand it, or agree with it. It gives you a chance to really stand up and be who you are in front of other people, you know?
What else are you doing on your New York trip?
We're doing something with High Times, that's going to be the shit. We're doing Howard Stern again, that's going to be cool. I can't wait to go on Howard Stern again and talk shit on there, and get in arguments and stuff. That's going to be cool. We're going to Virgil's BBQ.
You Tweeted about Virgil's. Is that your favorite restaurant in New York?
Oh! Virgil's is a Psychopathic tradition. It's more than that. The last time I was in there, I stole the menu. I got the menu at my house!
Insane Clown Posse headline the Gramercy Theatre on Friday, April 29 and the Bamboozle Festival this Sunday, May 2, along with that soon-to-be unforgettable Juggalo Midnight Cruise.
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