Learning to love Insane Clown Posse; “the most hated band in the world”

What it’s like to be in the most hated band in the world? Ahead of Insane Clown Posse’s first Australian tour in 10 years, TOBY MCCASKER talks to Violent J to find out.

Before this year I thought Insane Clown Posse – and by extension Juggalo culture – was silly. Tragic, even. All we ever see when ICP and their fans come up on the mainstream big screen are toothless hillbillies and the silvered noses of paint-fume enthusiasts making no sense. They have the faces of clowns, these Juggalos and Juggalettes, and they listen to the horrorcore on ICP’s own Psychopathic Records, and they go to Gatherings to do that latter around more of the former. As far as sub-cultures go, it is too weird to live; too rare to die. Also, there are clowns everywhere.

The clown is a strange iconography. In many ways it encourages those on the outside to laugh harder at those others who are down with the clown ‘til they in the ground. But then again, the clown stopped being fun after Stephen King’s It twisted a whole generation of 10 year olds into twitching adults who can’t watch Tim Curry in Rocky Horror anymore because he could turn at any moment.

Talking to Violent J, the wider yin of ICP to Shaggy 2 Dope’s leaner yang, it’s not carnivals or killers I see but the image of the sad clown, lonely red balloon in hand, sinking as its helium heart beats slow. J’s slouched in his office at Psychopathic Records HQ in Detroit, and the weather is bothering him (“It’s feezin’-ass over here!”). Detroit, from what that Eminem movie told me, is a shithole. No offense meant. He laughs. “Hey, none taken. It is exactly that.”

So you guys are like a clown flower that grew out of a pot of dirt.

I wouldn’t call us a flower. More of a weed.

Weeds can be beautiful in they own way, Mr. J. Hey, randomly: Are you au fait with POJ?

Pee-Oh-Jay, you say.

Passed Out Juggalos [A group of women who take naked photos next to Juggalos “at their most vulnerable moments”]. Thought you might appreciate them.

Aw, I do know what you’re talkin’ about! Yeah they’re awesome [laughs]. Buncha hotties, yeah. I’ll show ‘em some appreciation alright.

They taught me about your world this year. The extent and reality of the Juggalo culture, messed with my mind.

Yeah it’s quite an unexpected thing. There’s nothing like it in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, that I know of. There’s always been groups of fans if you wanna call ‘em that that had titles, like hippies, you know, or Deadheads or something like that, but uh, there’s never been anything like Juggalos. Juggalos aren’t anything like hippies or Deadheads or anything like that. They’re definitely different. They’re active all the time, even when there’s no concerts comin’ to town. You know, they’re always active. They get together on their own, they have their own parties and get together at their own mini-Gatherings. They stay active, they do things as Juggalos. They get together online and they decide where they’re gonna meet and they have BBQs in parks and stuff. It’s almost like a culture that acts on its own. There’s bad Juggalos that get together and commit crimes, and there’s good Juggalos that are against that shit, know what I mean? But it’s definitely always active, even when we’re sleeping.

Are the FBI still intent on legally branding Juggalos as a gang?

Yup. We’re still suing ‘em too. It’s a long process. It’s not easy. It’s costing a lotta money. We’re gonna keep it up, ‘cos if we don’t do anything about it and Juggalos are accepted as a gang, that takes everything we’ve done and shits on it, you know? It takes all the magic of being a Juggalo and flushes it down the toilet and says, “You’re just a gang.” They’re not a gang. They’re something amazing, they’re something incredible within the history of rock ‘n’ roll. If we don’t fight it and get that gang label taken off it, they will be a gang and everyone will just accept them as a gang. And they’re not a gang. If we don’t fight it, it sort of throws our legacy down the toilet. We have to fight it. We can’t have the FBI labelling them a gang, and we can’t have, after five or 10 years of that, everyone else accepting them as a gang.

Learning about the culture was also about learning about my own misconceptions. I was kind of ashamed I’d bought into the “Juggalo = dumb hick” shtick. That’s not how it is.

They come from all walks of life, all walks of life. There are police officers – and I’m not just saying one or two. There’s a lot. There’s a lot of police officers that are Juggalos. There’s a lot of people in all walks of life, all jobs, all careers. There’s Juggalos everywhere: Juggalo attorneys – I’ve heard of it all! It’s a little bit of everybody, and there are some bad apples in there. They’re all in there. It’s a giant mixture of all walks of life. I don’t know what it is. I can’t even say, because I don’t know what it is that attracts certain people to be a Juggalo. There’s something in the music, there’s something in the culture of being a Juggalo that people from all walks of life can relate to. Certain people just wanna be down wit’ it, wanna be part of it. It makes them feel less alone in the world, you know?

“There’s a lot of police officers that are Juggalos, there’s Juggalo attorneys – I’ve heard of it all.”

Right in the feels, J.

That’s the thing. It’s about togetherness. Yeah. It is. That’s the truth. When we have a Juggalo Gathering, it’s not about ICP. It’s not about the bands. The real magic at our festivals is the Juggalos with each other, the camaraderie. The feeling of all these people that are like your brothers or sisters, you know? There’s no fights at our concerts. There’s no, “Hey man get off my shoe,” and “No fuck you, you pushed me first.” It’s like magic, you know? If you’re an ICP fan and you’re livin’ somewhere, it’s not easy to be an ICP fan. Everybody says, “What do you listen to those stupid idiots for?” We’re the most hated band in the world, and therefore our fans don’t have it very easy either. So if you walk around wearing an ICP shirt at school or at your job or something, people fuck with you all the time. And it’s hard, and you have to explain yourself all the time. You have to explain what ICP is, ‘cause most people just hate it. They hate it right off the rib. They’ve never heard it, they don’t know anything about it, but people fear what they don’t understand, so they hate it. They just instantly hate it. And they make fun of our fans, but when our fans get together at one of our concerts or better yet at a Juggalo Gathering, it’s like a euphoria falls over them.

It is so beautiful to see in the ugliest way for some reason.

Because they’re now surrounded by thousands – or hundreds if it’s a concert, or something – they’re surrounded by all these people that are just like them, you know? Already the ice is broken. It’s like everybody’s your friend. Everybody’s instantly your friend. Somebody’s cookin’ hot dogs, they’re handin’ hot dogs out to everybody, everybody’s eatin’ ‘em, nobody’s afraid that they spit on it or something. Everybody’s just totally cool with each other, like they’ve known each other for years. A lot of Juggalos have met their wives at concerts or their best friends at concerts, and they started great relationships. A lot of Juggalos were lonely in their regular life until they started going to Juggalo events. Now they got friends on Facebook and they got friends everywhere in their life. It was the best thing for them. There’s people that grew up lonely until they discovered the Juggalo world, now they have great lives, and they’re happy and they’re grateful.

Excuse me. I have something in both eyes.

You have no idea how many times Shaggy and myself , in our lives, how many Juggalos have said the words “thank you” to us. And it’s not us. All we did was make the music. The Juggalos are the magic. ICP is not the magic. ICP just made the music, and everybody bumped and everybody enjoyed it. The magic came when the Juggalos came. The magic is each other, it’s all the Juggalos. A lotta Juggalos misunderstand that. They think ICP planned this, and plotted this, and there’s gonna be a Juggalo army. We never in our wildest dreams thought there’d be something like that. All we are is the soundtrack to it. The magic is them. They’re what makes ICP special. They’re the reason ICP has been here for 22 years, you know? It’s the Juggalos – they’re the real magic behind the band. The band are a of couple idiots – high school dropouts with no education [laughs].

“We’re a of couple idiots – high school dropouts with no education.”

You know, that’s the thing. The culture around ICP gets more play than ICP.

It’s them: they’re the real show. They’ve seen our show a million times. It’s nothing special. It’s the audience, it’s being together, it’s waiting out front before the show, hanging out front before the show for hours. They come early and they hang out, ‘cause they wanna be together. They wanna talk, they wanna hang out. It’s more than just the show. We’ve been doing basically the same thing – I mean, we switch our songs up and our sets up every time we do a tour, we build a new set and everything – but it’s still the same shit, you know? It’s more about each other, man. It’s being part of something. Everybody wants to be part of something, even all the people who wanna be part of the Shriners and secret clubs and shit like that. Everybody wants to belong to something.

Even Vanilla Ice, I learnt.

He’s a Juggalo.

That was a revelation to me. I, uh, thought he died.

Look at what they did to him, you know? They put him on top of the world then they shit on him. When they build somebody up, they love to tear him down. Vanilla Ice is a perfect example. Everybody bought the shit – then they all laughed at him! The same people that bought it, laughed at him! They should be laughing at themselves, but instead they laugh at the man himself. He sold something like 13 million albums when that album was out. Thirteen million people bought that, and now you got ‘em all laughing at it. They’re older now and they’re laughin’ at him when the joke’s on them – they’re the ones that bought that shit. While the rest of the world will laugh at Vanilla Ice, Juggalos will accept him in wholeheartedly. He’s one of us, he’s our brother, he’s our homie. He’s a very cool guy.

Hey, does Faygo [the US soft drink] really have lead in it?

No, c’mon. Faygo’s great. I been drinkin’ Faygo my whole life!

And look how you turned out!

Exactly, know what I’m sayin’! [laughs] Faygo is probably fattening, ‘less you drink diet Faygo. But I don’t drink diet Faygo, I like bein’ fat. Faygo is wonderful – it’s way less expensive than all that other pop. It’s the poor man’s pop. Faygo itself wouldn’t wanna be called the poor man’s pop, but it is. You can go to Coke or Pepsi, but those are like easily a dollar and a half or two dollars more. So you go to Faygo, it’s the cheaper brand, it was produced right here in Detroit and they got multiple, a plethora of flavours: Orange, grape, rock and rye, redpop, bubblegum, watermelon, peach… any kind of flavour you can think of, Faygo makes it.


Crème soda, root beer, anything – a rainbow of flavours. You know, I wish – I’ll be honest with you – I wish we could bring Faygo with us to Australia. But we can’t, because there’s a customs issue. We can’t bring all of that Faygo ‘cos they think we’re gonna sell it. But we’re not, we’re gonna throw it on the crowd and we tell ‘em we’re going to throw it on the crowd, and they won’t accept that. They think we’re going to sell it, so instead what we have to do is get some local pop, and strip the labels off, and everybody’s just going to have to enjoy the spirit of Faygo. But there’ll be plenty of soda-throwin’! Don’t worry about that, there’ll be plenty of soda-throwin’. It’s just gonna have to be, the Faygo spirit will be in our hearts.

Follow Toby McCasker on Twitter @jane_tobes

Insane Clown Posse tour

Wednesday, December 4 – The Gov, Adelaide

Thursday, December 5 – HiFi, Brisbane

Friday, December 6 – HiFi, Melbourne

Saturday, December 7 – HiFi, Sydney

Sunday, December 8 – Metropolis, Fremantl