More than a few words with ICP's Violent J
On Juggalos, fatherhood, Michael Jackson and 2-liter technique
This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Insane Clown Posse and friends. Here’s some of our earlier coverage:Melissa Giannini's 2000 article on the first Gathering of Juggalos, photos by Doug Coombe Hobey Echlin on ICP in 2002 Serene Dominic’s 2008 piece on the duo Brett Callwood’s 2010 piece on fellow Psychopathic recording artists Twiztid Brett Callwood’s 2010 piece on fellow Psychopathic recording artists Twiztid
Also worth checking out:The FBI’s 2011 National Gang Assessment that put Juggalos on the U.S. law enforcement radar The YouTube video of ICP press conference on possibly challenging the FBI juggalo gang assessment is here The now-classic ICP video for "Miracles" As well as the Saturday Night Live parody Check out some pics of ICP from the author Doug Coombe
Published: August 15, 2012
MT: What do you love about Michael Jackson and how does he influence ICP?
Violent J: He was an alien, you know, just unbelievably talented. Everything about him was just unreal — unreal heart, unreal dancing ability, unreal singing ability. I'm a huge fan, Joey [Shaggy 2 Dope] too. Joey's got his tattoo. When the world builds something up, they love to tear it down. He was America's hero, and then they turned on him and wanted to bring him down. It was like a modern-day lynching, what they did to him. Michael Jackson is a huge pop star — his music is obviously nothing like ours — but he was a target to everybody's cruelty so much that I can't help but feel for him. Very few artists are put on that pedestal and remain on it. They love to watch them fall, there's so many examples of that it's ridiculous. His gift was so amazing, his music, his dancing, his swagger. His anger is in his music, broken glass is in his music. I'll dispute this with anyone — Michael Jackson was one of the first to do the wicked shit; look at Thriller. Michael Jackson was the first one to have monsters in his videos, back in 1984. That's what we do — we got monsters on stage with us too. On a list of Top 20 scary songs "Thriller" is right up there — he's also got "Ghost" and "Is It Scary." Musically his anger really influenced us.
Also, musically, there's two styles of music — you can do stuff like Wu Tang where you like your stuff really gritty and rough, and then you can do it like Michael Jackson where everything is perfect and smooth and the mix is crystal-clear. We like to make our stuff crystal-clear and that comes from Michael Jackson.
MT: What's the fascination with wrestling?
Violent J: There was a time in my life — probably 14 to 20 — those years were so important and influential, that I've spent the rest of my life based off those years. All the entertainment I loved in those years is my classic shit. I strive to know those artists, they're friends of mine now. Those are also the years we started ICP, and that's where you lay down your roots and foundation. And you never want to stray far from that.
Me and Shaggy, that was our first dream. I wrestled my first match when I was 19 — and dropped our first record. We were doing them both, and music kind of replaced wrestling. But we still went back and lived out the dream. We went to WWE, we went to WCW, we schooled that shit, man. No regrets.
MT: Where did you get your business skills from?
Violent J: Pro wrestling, Vince McMahon [owner and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment]. He does exactly what we do. He creates something that's not exactly real. These guys aren't bad guys, and we're not really ax murderers. Wrestling, I think everybody in the arena boos and cheers and knows it's not real. They just want that escape and get into the storyline. And that's what we do. These Juggalos know we're not ax murderers. They just want to go and escape, and that exaggerated anger works as therapy for them.
MT: Why do you love the Beach Boys?
Violent J: C'mon — Beach Boys are insane, man. Brian Wilson? His story is so incredible to me, it's so mind-blowing. I have a party at the Gathering of Juggalos called the Beach Boys Blowout! Bash! Blast! We play Beach Boys music, everybody wears hula shirts and we hand out cheeseburgers and Faygo.
I like the Beach Boys more than Beatles, and I love how they competed with each other in the '60s. And just like everything else I'm into, brother, they're a gimmick. Their gimmick is they're on a beach, they're singing about fast cars, girls, being on the beach, surfing — that's their character, you know.
MT: Where did the love of Faygo come from?
Violent J: Back in the day when we started out, the cool thing was Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Run DMC just talked about Adidas. And the Beastie Boys on their first album name-dropped White Castle like three or four times. So when we started we wanted something that linked us to who we are. We loved pop, and we'd leave the house with no money and walk through the alley to the party store. And by the time we'd get there we'd have 10 returnables to take back and get a motherfucking two-liter for 89 cents. ... Even before rap Joey and I used to get into spray paint for a summer. I used to be known as Faygo Joe — that was my tag name. That was way before ICP. We always had a two-liter around and a bag of Andy Capp Hot Fries. But we never rapped about that. [laughs]
MT: ICP has mad skills when it comes to shooting off two-liters of Faygo in concert — how did that come about?
Violent J: Who would have fucking thunk it? You never know until you do it. You have to shoot Faygo on stage for an hour a night for 20 years to realize there's actually some skill that can be developed there. We usually go through about 500 two-liters a show.
I've done things like thrown it on the ground and it'll shoot off and just levitate in front of my face. I'll rap and just reach out and grab it without looking and the crowd will pop. Or sometimes I'll just kick it and it'll shoot off and come back to me and land in my arm. Or some kid'll flip me off 10 rows back and I'll just rocket that shit right at his hand.
But basically you unscrew the two-liter — and that's a talent in itself, we can do it in one motion — and then stick your finger in it and turn it upside down. And then while you're rappin' and shakin' it upside-down, the weight of it builds pressure. And the other thing is the heat on the stage. If it's a blistering hot day those two-liters are like bombs. If you throw it down on the floor it's going to explode. If it's cold, you can't get them to go anywhere. In Europe, the two-liters are longer and skinnier, and something about the aerodynamics of European pop — that stuff will go real far.
MT: It's hard to believe ICP has been at it for 20 years now.
Violent J: I know! We have tons of 18-year-old fans. They were born when we started rapping. That's crazy. My whole life there's just one regret I have out of all this. And I'm so blessed, Joey and I we get to make music and tour and work with all our friends — and, believe me, I would do what I do for free. I think the ultimate price I pay for what I do for a living is it's making my life go by extremely fast. It sure seems like since I started ICP stuff is flying by.
Doug Coombe is a longtime photographer and sometime writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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