Yesterday, the Internet blew up when Third Man Records announced a Jack White collaboration with Insane Clown Posse on a Mozart song. “We knew it was a pairing of one of the most respected, loved, you know, hippest artists in the world, meets one of the most hated bands in the world,” says Violent J today, the first time we’ve talked since we ran into him in the airport. “And I think that’s what he set out to do. He knew what he was going for.” We’ll let him tell you the rest.
How’d this come together? I’m going to assume he approached you guys.
About six weeks before the Gathering, [Jack White’s people] called us and asked us if we were down with it. And we were like, “Yeah.” Then I talked to him on the phone. And I told him it wouldn’t be a real collabo if we didn’t bring our producer, Mike E. Clark, and our guitarist, Legs Diamond and he’s like, “Bring them through!”
We went to his mansion–his fresh, huge, gated mansion–I’m talking for real, man, a real-deal mansion, you know? An old colonial huge house. The whole thing, all fresh, was white and red. White house with a big, red chimney! You know, White Stripes-style? It was awesome, man. A team working on the yard and stuff.
I asked him before we went out there, “Why us?” He said, of course, he grew up from Detroit and he’s always been fascinated by us. He said he always finds himself looking at our Web site. And some of it he thinks is genius, and some of it he just doesn’t understand at all. But he was always drawn back to our Web site and always ends up looking at us every couple of months or whatever. We sure as hell didn’t expect a phonecall from him, I’ll tell you that.
I’d imagine that growing up in Detroit, ICP was something he’s always been aware of–and the fact that you’ve been still going on for so long is impressive.
When I asked him why, his exact words were that he “could do a song with anybody.” But when he mentions to people that he’s going to do a song with ICP, it has a reaction unlike anybody else. He said he could announce that he’s going to do a song with Megadeth and it wouldn’t have the reaction that ICP has. He’s like, “People can’t believe it.” He’ll be naming all these people he wants to work with, and people are like, “Yeah, that would be cool, that would be awesome.” But once he says ICP, they stop what they’re doing and they’re like, “Are you serious?” And he knew that! He knew that going into it that that would be the reaction of people.
This year-and-a-half has been unbelievable for you guys.
It was a crazy-fresh experience. One thing I’ll tell you, though? Once we got cracking in the studio? It’s not as different as you’d think. It wasn’t like it was all alien to us, the way they were doing things. It was the same style.
When we went to the gate and he bussed us in, we went to the studio, right when we walked in. It wasn’t like we had a big hour-long talk or anything, and he showed us the house, and introduced us to his kids, and everything–it didn’t happen like that. Right when we got there, it was straight to work. He was like, “Let me show you what I’m fucking with here.” And he queued up the track that he’d been working on. And it was that “Lick My Ass” one, you know.
The Mozart song.
At first, I’m not gonna lie, I was, like, a little bummed out. Okay, now it makes sense, the song’s called “Lick My Ass” so of course, they want ICP on it. But of course, as you know, we like to think there’s more of a method to our madness than just saying crude things, you know?
But once he explained it to us that it was a Mozart song and Mozart had a sense of humor–some would say a dark sense of humor–and then he’d explain it to us, the way his face lit up when he was talking about it, it got us excited.
So when he called, he wasn’t like, “Oh, it’s a Mozart song called ‘Lick My Ass.'”
No, not at all. Nothing about Mozart or anything like that. He was like, “We’ll do something, we’ll figure it out.” We didn’t know when we went there if he was gonna sing on it or what was gonna happen. We were like, “Man, whatever it is, we’re there.”
We were just gonna be ourselves and do this. I know people think we’re idiots. But we’re proud of what we do–and who we are. And we went in there with that kind of feeling. We’re proud of who we are, we don’t have nothing to be ashamed about.
He could work with anybody. The predictability probably starts to get boring.
He could’ve done something with so many super-cool stars and it probably wouldn’t have even made a lot of noise. But it would’ve just been like what everybody expected.
The one thing that was really interesting? When it came time to film the pictures? We put our make-up on. He put his hat on. You know what I’m saying? He put on his black hat and his black coat and we put on our makeup. We both had our thing.
You both have costumes.
Absolutely. It was really shocking. We went back to the studio, and we put our normal clothes back on, and we took our make-up off. And it wasn’t that different. He had our shtick and we had ours. He has to have his black hat everywhere.
You’re both from Detroit, you’ve stayed there all this time. He came up long after you. When other artists like the White Stripes rise from Detroit, do you find yourself more interested in them and inherently paying attention?
We found it more interesting with Kid Rock and Eminem. They do more similar to what we do–and we knew Kid Rock. But Jack White is just something we don’t know anything about. That whole music, I’m not a fan of, you know what I mean? I heard the singles that were on MTV and I liked them. I always thought the red-and-white outfits were cool, and him and Meg doing that–that was always super-cool. But it’s just something I don’t know anything about.
Even if we’re from the same neighborhood, we’re just not the same at all. We don’t know anything about that music. And what makes it genius as opposed to what doesn’t make it genius? We don’t even have a clue. I’m sure it’s the same with him and our stuff.
Had you ever met him before?
One time I saw Jack White at the airport. He was walking through the airport really fast, and he was walking through by himself. There’s no mistaking Jack White–in his costume, basically. I jogged right up to him and I said, “Hey man, I just wanted to introduce myself and say ‘Hi,’ real quick. I’m J from ICP.” And he stopped. And he turned around, and he kinda gave me, like, a warm acknowledgment. And he’s like, “Hey, what’s up!” I was like, “I just wanted to say hi.” I turned around and walked away.
That was like a year-and-a-half ago or something. So I came back to the studio and I was like, “I bumped into Jack White real quick and he definitely knew who we were.”
So “Lick Me in the Arse” or “Mountain Girl” aren’t going to be on [ICP’s 2012] Mighty Death Pop?
No. [Third Man] asked us to do a video. We said, “Is Jack White gonna be in the video?” And they said, “No.” We wanted to do the video, but we had to say no if Jack White wasn’t gonna be in the video. We didn’t want people thinking this was our song.
Quite honestly, if it was our song, we would’ve done a lot of things different. But it’s a collaboration. It was his song, his idea, his concept. If he was gonna be in the video with us, showing it was a collaboration, we would’ve loved to do a video. But we’re not gonna be the only ones in the video.
Were JEFF the Brotherhood, the band on the track, there in the studio with you?
Yeah, they were like the studio band, sort of. Everything we suggested, they kind of rolled with too. Just like Jack. He didn’t want to play on it. He would show them what riffs to play.
But it was definitely a collaboration. I like [B-Side] “Mountain Girl” a lot better than the [“Lick Me in the Arse”], myself. It was more ICP’s feel. We were kinda hoping they’d go with that as a single, but it’s cool. The more I hear [“Lick Me in the Arse”], the more I dig it.
But as far as things we woulda done–like stacked our vocals or doubled our vocals–they weren’t having that shit. This is garage-rock style. You go off, one-take style.
And now everybody on the Internet is freaking out.
Funny because some people are mad about it. It’s not like it’s on his new record. Or it’s not like we’re doing a new band together. It’s on a rare 45.
Why people want us to die and go away–it doesn’t make sense to me. I personally don’t like spinach. But that doesn’t mean I want to eliminate spinach from everybody’s menu. You see what I’m saying?
But the reception you guys are getting has changed a lot in the last year. You’re always gonna get people who hate you.
But has it? Is it changing? If it was really changing, what would be the big deal about this? What would be the exciting news? People are tripping out because the respected meets the non-respected in every way. That’s what the whole news about this is. You know what I’m saying? Two respected artists working together–it wouldn’t even be a big deal. But people are nuts, because it’s like, “WHUUUT?!?”
Even though things are going our way–and we’re getting a lot of positive press, no doubt about it–but I don’t think it would be much of a story if we were honestly respected as good musicians.
You do have a point.
It might be better than it was, but it’s still leagues below everybody else, you know what I mean?
But it was so cool, really, it was so cool. I’m gonna be bragging about this for the rest of my life.