Exclusive Interview: Wicked Clowns of ICP


2009 has been a banner year for the team of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope – the talented duo behind the multimedia empire that is Insane Clown Posse. They recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of their massive fan exodus “Gathering of the Juggalos,” during which they screened a preview of their new movie Big Money Rustlas. They've also re-teamed with producer Mike E. Clarke, who had worked with ICP on their celebrated albums The Great Milenko and The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (both considered landmarks in dark-themed hip-hop and the core of their “Joker's Card” series), to complete their new record Bang! Pow! Boom! which hits the streets tomorrow from their own label Psychopathic Records.

I recently got the chance to grab a little Q&A with hatchet-man Violent J (aka Joseph Bruce) to talk about the busiest year of the team's careers... and it sounds like they're just getting warmed up for the next onslaught. It's a great big world they've created, and they clearly love playing in that world every day of the year. Read on and find out what mysterious wonders lurk in the Dark Carnival!

FEARnet: Congratulations on 'The Gathering' turning 10 this year… how did the show turn out?

VIOLENT J: It was absolute freshness... the biggest one we’ve ever had. It was packed with people from every place possible. Juggalos are not one specific kind of person: they’re not all rap heads, or metal heads. Each ninja there is unique, but drawn closely together by the Dark Carnival, making them all brothers and sisters. I know that sounds crazy, but ask anybody who goes. There’s a magic that makes us all family.

What does it feel like to be in the middle of that huge extended family?

It was mind blowing in every kind of way, it always is... and every year, somehow, some way, outdoes the last. There were over 10,000 people listening to the hardest, wickedest music known to man for 4 days and nights... thousands were inebriated, and not one single fight happened, and never does.

I heard you screened the trailer for your new movie Big Money Rustlas at 'The Gathering'.  How did it go over with the crowd?

I think it went good... I was watching from behind the stage and the crowd really popped when the narrator said “A small western town in desperate need of a hero…” and it showed Shaggy 2 Dope in his cowboy hat for the first time. They dug that part a lot. A friend of mine took a golf cart and watched from way, way in the back, behind the crowd, and he said he could hear and see everything perfectly. He said ninjas around him loved it.

Your first movie Big Money Hustlas was a grindhouse-style exploitation flick... what led you to decide on a western theme this time?

We wanted to basically play the same characters again, but with a whole new twist. So, we made this one kind of like a prequel to the first film. This one features the first film’s ancestors and takes place in the days of the Wild West.  Of course the goal was also to make the movie stand on its own – in other words, you don’t have to have seen Big Money Hustlas to enjoy the new film.

You've always brought horror imagery into your music and videos, but you haven’t made a straight-up horror movie yet.  Any plans to do one in the future?

Being honest, I feel like we would need a huge budget and some help to do it the way we’d want to. It just feels so much easier and natural being funny on film.  Not to sound big-headed or anything, but I think we’ve captured some really great horror in songs like “Amy’s In The Attic,” “Prom Queen,” “Truly Alone” and a few others. But to us, the images of those stories are best left to play out in the listener's mind than to put them to film; I can’t see us doing the film justice. I don’t even really like making videos for our more serious music very much, because I think the listener paints a better picture of what’s going on with the song than we could on film. Comedy is a different story.

Bang! Pow! Boom! is a full-on return to the Dark Carnival theme, but would you call it an unofficial continuation of the “Joker’s Card” series?

I will say that yes it is, and no it's not. The new album has everything the original Joker's Cards has, but we're done with that countdown. We said over fifteen years ago there would only be six Joker's Cards until the end... well, they all came and went, and thankfully, it’s not the end. Perhaps we underestimated our longevity in some ways. I respect the original six Joker Cards too much to call this album the seventh.

Could this record represent a new beginning then?

Maybe Bang! Pow! Boom! is the first of six more Joker's Cards... maybe we will further pound out our Dark Carnival message with six more cards. Life is far from over, and we plan on growing old with our fans, and maybe we will just reiterate our main message in six more ways. Why not?

You've talked about bringing old and new musical styles together on this record...

I’d say we more or less returned to some of our older, original musical styles on this one. Of course, there are plenty of new sounds, as there always is with new material, but rather than try to do something we’ve never done before, this time around we decided to pull out the old equipment. We used a lot of our older original studio tricks and tactics for this one. We feel it helped create that original sound Juggalos first fell in love with. There are all new song topics and stories, but musically we wanted to bring back that classic wicked clown sound. We’re crazy, fuckin’ happy and exited with how everything turned out.

Sounds like you're putting the focus on your core audience and what they want to hear.

At this point in our legacy, we aren’t trying to impress anybody but Juggalos. We know what they want, and we delivered.

And you're also back with Mike E. Clark, which must feel like coming home again.

We went back to Mike’s studio, “The Fun House,” which is the very place we recorded Riddle Box, The Great Milenko and The Amazing Jeckel Brothers many years ago. We worked with Mike from scratch. None of this “send me the track via email, and I’ll lace it up and send it back, and you mix it” bullshit. This time we worked side by side, making the absolute greatest music we possibly could, with one goal: to please the Juggalos. Not with radio play in mind, not with appealing to critics in mind, not with making any record company executives happy, the way 99% of music out there is made. We did this album for the Juggalos, and had a fuckin’ wonderful, pressure- and stress-free time doing it.

It sounds like 2009 must have been one of your busiest years ever.

The longest tour ICP has ever done in our lives!

So what can we expect in 2010?

We'll stop here and there and switch up the lineup, rename the tour, take out a new stage design and show and head right back out. We’re also going to do another 'Juggalo Championship Wrestling' tour. We’re going to do a big festival tour in the summer, which is unusual for us. We’re gonna spend the whole year out on the road playing live, and working this record and this movie, including heading back to Europe and Australia, and that’s a big deal for us. We want to do some cool new stuff, like have some really cool and unique after-parties and after-shows, and really try and do some stuff we don’t normally do.

I figure you’ve gotta be a horror movie fan… what are some of your favorites?

My all time favorite is Poltergeist. I know it's old-school, but it was awesome then, and it’s still awesome now. I like the whole Evil Dead series; I really like Wrong Turn 1 and 2. The whole idea of crazy hillbillies always works for me, so of course I love the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films – newer and originals. I like the newer-school Zombie movies like 28 Days Later. I like all of Rob Zombie’s stuff; his shit is all good to me.

How about real-life horrors? What’s your biggest fear?

Panic attacks. For me, panic disorders are the worst fear of them all. Knowing you could be in the middle of a crowded place, in the middle of the day, with family and friends all around you, and still be paralyzed with fear, unable to breathe from a panic attack. Also, fear of death, and what’s after death... fear of a hell and going there, suffering in hell. Being alone and having panic attacks while suffering in hell. That shit is so scary.

Sorry, we can stop there...

Did I mention the Juggalos really liked the trailer for the new movie?