When the Insane Clown Posse formed twenty years ago, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope had little idea that the Dark Carnival would take them to such dizzying heights and that the Juggalo Nation would take on a life of it’s own. In those two decades, this diabolical duo have risen from Detroit’s underground music scene to the world’s stage. Keep in mind that they managed to accomplish this amazing feat without the support of a major record label, in the most volatile climate that the music industry had ever seen and became a cultural phenomenon in the process! Say what you will about them, I assure you they have heard it all, but there is no denying the fact that Insane Clown Posse built their multi-million dollar Psychopathic Records empire based on their own hard work and dedication. Not too shabby for two guys who dropped out of high school and wear clown makeup! Their story is legendary and to hear them tell it, it has only just begun! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Violent J to discuss the legacy of Insane Clown Posse, a new autobiography, a typical day at Psychopathic Records, what to expect from their upcoming album, “The Mighty Death Pop” and all the freshness that they have in store for the Juggalo Nation in 2012!
You guys inspired a lot of people through the years. I was curious to learn how music first came into your life and your earliest memories of it?
The first song that I actually remember liking and buying at a record store – here in Michigan we had a chain called Harmony House – was a 45 of “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band. That was the first piece of music that I ever purchased!
I wouldn’t have expected that! Who would you cite as your biggest musical influence?
The Geto Boys! Willie D., Scarface and Bushwick Bill. The Geto Boys by far! N.W.A. also had a huge thing to do with it but not quite as popular as N.W.A. was the Geto Boys. It was a whole deal of what they were sayin’, man! I couldn’t believe it! Nothing that ICP says can even fuck with the shit that they were sayin’ back then in those days! Nothing! They were talkin’ about raping and crazy, crazy shit, man! And this was 1989 or 1990! I was straight up mesmerized by that shit! I loved the feeling of shock that it gave me and the sense of wonder about these guys and what they were like. They were from this place called Fifth Ward in Houston. I used to just think about Fifth Ward and how fucked up it must be, ya know?! It’s just like Compton! I used to listen to N.W.A. and think that you couldn’t even walk down the street without gettin’ your head blown off! [laughs] The first time that we ever went to Los Angeles, we went to Compton and bought a 40 of Old English at a party store, ya know what I mean?! [laughs] I used to think about Fifth Ward and Compton and neighborhoods like that and think, “How can it be so fucked up?” It got me thinking about the artists so much that when we started rapping, I wanted us to have that same kind of effect on people. I wanted people to wonder if it was real or not, ya know what I mean?
You guys have been at it now for 20 years, which is quite a milestone. To what do you attribute the longevity of the band?
Honestly, and this may be very conceited sounding but, I think it is because we are good. I think it is because we are good at what we do and we are just as hungry today as when we started. We have this building here in Michigan and it is full of employees. We come up here every damn day and think of ways to be relevant and bang those drums. They aren’t gonna look your way unless you’re bangin’ those drums. We just come up here and strive to survive, ya know? Strive to stay alive! We try to think of innovative ways and things to cause tension and make our music still cool. It’s a balance. You want to put in the amount that you know they love but at the same time you want to keep drawing your picture as well. You don’t want to just keep giving them the same shit. You want to keep developing and keep growing so you can keep your long time fans interested but at the same time, keep giving them more good shit. It is an everyday part of our life. We don’t sit around, vacation or stop! WE JUST DON’T STOP! I think we have survived this long because we are good, we are very good at what we do. What we do might not be respected. What we do might not be popular in pop culture but for the people that love us, we are the best at what we do! We fuckin’ school at what we do!
You experienced plenty of ups and downs on your journey. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
Just knowing that this is it. This is all we’ve got! We’ve got no high school education, we’ve got nothin’. Without this, what the fuck are we going to do? Ya know, we are at the level where we can’t walk away, we are always going to be ICP. There is no walking away and starting a new career, not that we would ever want to, but this is it and it is who we are. This is our legacy. It is what it is, so it is “make the best of it” or “make it happen” or die trying. Straight up, that is what keeps you going — survival. I look at all of the people who work here at Psychopathic and they depend on us. When we started out, we were young, everybody was in their early 20s. Now, everyone who works here have families, husbands, wives and kids. And all of that shit is depending on us surviving, ya know what I mean? A lot of the people who work here have been here for 10 or 15 years and have devoted their lives to this company for the past decade or more. What are they going to do if we just closed shop? I mean, could they even put that on their resume that they worked at an independent record label called Psychopathic Records and helped put out Insane Clown Posse? Would that even look good on a resume?! [laughs] I don’t know! So, I don’t even want them to even think about that and I want them to retire comfortably from working here their whole life.
How do you think you evolved as artists since those early years?
Well, ya know, back in the day when we were doing interviews, we used to take the characters that we were on the records and be them all of the time. During interviews we would be wylin’ out, talking about the end of the world and screaming and bringing those characters to life. We used to be those characters on the record, 24 hours a day, out in public. We don’t do that anymore. A lot has happened — the whole thing with the Juggalo World. A lot of press comes across and says that Juggalos can be dangerous people, so we don’t front like that anymore. We keep it real about who we really are when we are doing interviews and answer the questions as real as possible. If you look at an interview of us in the mid-’90s … [laughs] it was craziness! It’s not like that anymore because we aren’t afraid to admit who we are. I can sit here and say that I was raised in the suburbs and moved to the inner city, trying to be a gangsta. That is our legacy, that is what really happened! Back in the day, I could never admit that, ya know what I’m sayin? But now that we have established ourselves, we are proud of how we are and we are proud of the dumb moves we made and the dumb things we said! It is all part of our story and part of our history! Being open and honest about who we are and being ourselves outside of the music is something that we didn’t do for the first half of our career.
You put out an autobiography quite a while back, “ICP: Behind The Paint.” So much happened in your life since that was released. Are you considering doing another book in the future?
Oh yeah, we are definitely going to do another book. It has been 10 years, so we are going to call it “Another Decade Down.” We want to catch everybody up on what has happened. There has been so much! There is one thing that I learned when I put that first book out. At the time, I felt like we had done it all! The one thing that I learned is that life goes on, man! [laughs] I didn’t really know shit when we wrote that book! [laughs] Everything I said in there is true, that was pretty much the coming out deal right there where we really admitted who we were and gave it all. We were nearing the end of the six Joker Cards, so we wrote the book before the sixth Joker Card came out to say, “This is who we are and this is how we were raised,” because just like we wanted people to wonder about us, they WERE wondering about us! They wanted to know if we were really like that. Just like we wanted, they were wondering so we figured that the ultimate way to tell them was to write that book. We figured that once the sixth Joker Card dropped, well, we didn’t really know where we were going after that or what was going to happen. It felt as though we were almost done with our mission. But like I said, we learned that life goes on and we have learned it in a major way! We have learned a lot as people and I can’t wait to write the new book! I just don’t want to let anyone down because some of the things that we did in the book, that was then and this is now, ya know what I’m sayin? Things are different now and we have kids and stuff like that. Not that we are soft or anything but I can’t tell those stories again! I have to tell what has happened in the last 10 years and it is definitely not the same as what happened in the first 10 years!
In the first ten years, we were angry! And we were mad that we were poor! We were mad that we were hungry and we were mad that we were hated! Now, we have accepted all of that and it is our legacy! We love it! We love being the most hated band in the world! We embrace all that shit! We aren’t mad anymore! I mean, how can I be mad about life shit when my kid’s college is paid for when they are 5 and 7 years old, know what I’m sayin? How can we be mad? Look at all of the Juggalo love that we get! We tour and we never play for less than 800 people in any venue, anywhere in the country! To me, that is fucking awesome! That is incredible to us and we can’t be mad about that shit! I am happy about it! And that is bare minimum, on a normal night there are 2,000 people out there! That shit is wonderful! And I am going back now and those very rappers, like Willie D. — I just sent him a track last night, to do a song with him! And Above The Law, these guys are my friends now! I know these guys! I know my heroes and my peers, I know them by name and get to talk to them! All those mysteries that I had, I know the answer to! We just aren’t as mad anymore, is what I am tryin’ to say! The book may be a lot different but I am going to do my best to explain it, so that people know that we just aren’t as angry as we were in real life and that I am grateful!
I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! As hated as we are, no one has ever come along and put a bullet in our heads, ya know what I mean? We are allowed to do this according to the laws of this country, a bunch of people that dropped out of high school can sit there and literally make millions by pulling together, making some smart moves and opening a company together! We aren’t part of any major label and we don’t have any bosses. We do this shit all ourselves! The fact that we are allowed to do that is amazing! We had people in here the other day inspecting and making sure we were doing things according to the labor laws, not working people 60 hours a week and all that shit. No one has ever shut us down. We have been audited and all of that. We do everything by the book. I am just saying this so people realize that if you want to, you can do this, ya know what I mean? I don’t have that much to bitch about. If someone is in a shitty position in their life, school it! Get out of it! That’s what we did! I mean, yeah, you may be mad about things when you are young and you are just getting started but you CAN get out of that shit! I know you can because we did it! I broke my family curse. All of my family has been broke but I’m not broke! So I am not mad at life! I’m not mad at this country or MTV! I am glad they don’t play us because if they did, we wouldn’t be as cool as we are! [laughs] Ya know what I’m sayin?! [laughs]
Personally, I think your story is inspiring and I find the level of commitment you guys have for the company and your fans fascinating. What is a typical day like in the life of Violent J at Psychopathic Records?
I get up to the office about 10 in the morning and I start making my way around. The first thing that we do is have a big meeting at this huge, presidential, round fuckin’ table — I don’t even know where they got this fucking table, but it is president style! [laughs] We all get in there and go around the table. We talk to the Internet people about what they have going on and what they should be doing. Then we talk to the video department about the videos or infomercials that they are working on. We see what they are doing. Then we talk to the shipping department or the art department, the people who are designing the merchandise. We have to constantly keep fresh shit coming out. We take a look at it all and might say, “We need to come up with some new stuff for The Dayton Family or Boondox” or whichever of our artists we are discussing at that moment. Then we talk to Andy [Pellegrini] and see what she has going on or what she should be going after. Then we talk to the people who operate the websites to see what they have going up or what should be going up. We all are able to sit there and brainstorm about, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we posted this?” or “Shouldn’t we post that?” We go all the way around the table like that and everyone is included on everybody’s shit! It’s not like if you work for the video department, that is all you are involved in. You are involved in all aspects of the company. Everyone knows what’s going on and has a say in everything.
After the meeting, I usually gravitate back down to the studio because most of the stuff I do is studio related. I work on whatever we are working on at the time. Of course, forever, we have been working on our newest record which is called “The Mighty Death Pop” and it is just about finished. We are just working on the bonus material which comes with the album. Boy, we just kept tweakin’ and tweakin’ and tweakin’ that main album but now it’s done, done! Done, done done! [laughs] And now we are workin’ on that bonus material. I usually work down there until about 4 o’clock because that is when my son gets out of school. I race over to pick my son up and then I go home. I play with my son until he falls asleep at about 8:30 and then I go back into my room and I start writing. Then I go online and I start looking at things online. I am looking at websites and on YouTube, checking out artists and things to keep current and keep track of what is happening. I go to the fansites to see what all of the Juggalos are talking about, what they are posting and see what is going on in the Juggalo world. I am always thinking of things to bring up at the meeting the next day. I keep a sheet on my computer of topics that I want to bring up the next day at that meeting and I do all of that until I fall asleep, usually about 2 in the morning! [laughs] So that’s my day, brother!
It is cool to hear about that because I don’t think the business side of ICP gets enough focus in the press. You are doing something you love.
Yeah, it is every day. It is every day. It’s not work to me. I also write music. I loop the beat up and write music, ya know. But that is every day, it’s not work to me, it’s my passion! My love. It’s sorta like if you love to skateboard, you skateboard all of the time because that is what you love doing. We love music. So where do we usually get together and pow-wow? In the fuckin’ studio! That is where I do most of the hanging with my friends, sitting around in the studio. Unless we are on the road and then we are sitting on the bus or in the venue. This is our passion, this is what we love and this is it until the wheels fall off, man!
You guys never slow down and always have something up your sleeve. What can we expect from Insane Clown Posse in 2012?
Usually, between albums, we fall back a little bit. We lay back for a while and don’t do anything in public. We try to pull back for a minute and disappear, while we load our cannons for the new album. We do that so we can load all our artillery and go to war again. But this time, it will be a little different. We have so much momentum going off the latest record, “Bang! Pow! Boom!” and have so much cool stuff going on from all of the cool breaks that we have been getting! Ya know, in 2011, we made a lot of noise! We were sayin,’ “We shouldn’t fall back! Let’s just stay relevant as much as we can, right up until that new album drops!” We just dropped a video for “It’s All Over,” about two weeks ago and we just put a record out called “Featuring Freshness,” which is all “collabos” that we have done with artists, both Psychopathic artists and other artists. We got our Big Ballers party tomorrow in Detroit, which we do every year, and our New Year’s Party just around the corner. We also have some other stuff that we will be doing with JCW. But the main thing we are gearing up for is that new album. “The Mighty Death Pop” will probably be out around, I’d say, March of 2012. That is going to be when we go all out!
We’ve got some big surprises! The main thing about that record is the bonus material. It’s incredible! It’s almost as impressive as “The Mighty Death Pop” itself! The packaging and the way the album is coming out, it’s the coolest thing we have ever done. It’s a lot of work. It was a mountain! But we set out and we took our time and climbed that motherfucker, all the way to the top! Like I said, we are just finishing it all up now but that will be our main thing, that new album and the new tour! The other thing that we are working on is something that we haven’t been very successful with but we believe in the concept and we are going to work on it all throughout 2012, and that is internet Pay-Per-View events!
Yeah, I thought the Pay-Per-View element was a really great addition to The Gathering in 2011.
We want to really stick it to them in 2012 and do some really major cool things. For example, acoustic shows from right back here in our warehouse, broadcasted onto the Internet. And special shows, like I put out a solo record called “Wizard of The Hood.” It was seven songs on a continuous story. It is th “Wizard of Oz” story told gangsta style! People love that and have been saying, “Oh, you should do a movie to that album or something!” So we are going to do a concert to that record, where it is going to be in a theater. It is almost going to be like a play where the backdrops will keep changing as we change songs and we go through the whole “Wizard of The Hood” story. We aren’t going to take that on tour. We are just going to do it once and make it available on Internet Pay-Per-View! We are going to do a bunch of cool events like that. And of course we are going to do The Gathering, which we did really well with last year. In 2012, we are going to do it even better.
Then we have the big events we do called Hatchet Attack and Oddball Bonanza. Oddball Bonanza is a big deal where we have comedians, artists, DJs and freakshows. It is a really wild event! It’s almost like a variety show with all types of shit going on. We are going to pick a city and bring Oddball Bonanza there! But it’s only gonna be in one city, one time that year but everyone will be able to watch it on Internet Pay-Per-View! We really believe in that concept because nowadays, when you buy a new TV, it’s got Internet connectivity built in! People are now able to watch this on their TVs and it’s not like they have to watch it on a tiny computer monitor. People can watch that shit right on their Wii system, ya know what I’m sayin!? [laughs] It will be cool to be able to watch it on your big screen TV with your surround sound. Times are like that now, so we are really going to be working on that aspect. When we do a show, it’s not just a concert, brother! There are hosts! You will be watching the show and the host is out there and he sends it to another host in a different part of the building. Then she is talking to some fans and says, “Let’s take it backstage!” and it goes to someone else interviewing the artists who are about to play! It’s a whole show! Like ABC or NBC was putting this thing on! Once Juggalos everywhere realize that what they are seeing is not just a show but that they are seeing all kinds of backstage footage and more. Our video department is preparing all kinds of packages. For example, when we do Hallowicked in 2012, it will be like [in announcer’s voice] “Well, ICP will be taking the stage in one hour for their annual Hallowicked show! But before they do, let’s take a look at the history of Hallowicked!” and it will go into an awesome video package that will show clips from the very first Hallowicked, interviews from back then and all kinds of crazy shit! It’s going to be cool! We are going to actually prepare these Internet Pay-Per-View to not just feature the live stuff but all of these packages and vignettes as well. We are really going to step up our game on the overall broadcast of these events! We are going to put out an infomercial at the beginning of the year that tells all of the Juggalos what they are going to get if they get one of these Internet Pay-Per-Views, because we really believe in that concept!
I checked out the one you did for The Gathering and it was cool to be able to see the show in some form, if you couldn’t be there in person.
I will tell you this, the one for The Gathering, that was our first time. We were learning it. Now we know what we need to do. We don’t just need a camera sitting there lookin’ at the crowd. We need the camera on something at all times! We went back and looked at what we aired and we are going to improve the shit out of that! This year we are going to bring in celebrities, well, not real celebrities but like Ron Jeremy and shit! [laughs] We will have celebrities like that come in and host. So, it could be like “Check out Hallowicked hosted by Paulie Shore!” or whatever, things like that! Bring in the host, send it to a co-host, like I said. The Gathering is going to be the number one priority next year. I know we had a lot of downtime where it was just the camera on the stage but there will be no downtime this year. There will be something constantly happening. People out interviewing people in the crowd, we did some of that last year but it will be constant this year! It will be greatly improved!
The other thing we are doing in 2012 is the launch of our new radio station which is also visual now. We built a whole new radio studio with camera equipment all around, in the studio, in the green room, everywhere! How that came about was when Shaggy and I did the Adam Carolla show last year, we saw how smoothly they did that shit! So now, we are doing it just like that! We came right back from that appearance and got everyone to discuss it. Since then, we have been building it all last year and we are launching it in January. So it is our regular radio station but you will be able to see us now as well. And whatever we are talking about will come up on your screen as well, so if we are talking about Madonna, you will see a picture of Madonna come up. We have guys working the computers behind the scenes, pulling up images of what we are talking about and footage. We have 15 cameras set up in there and whoever is waiting in the green room you will be able to see them, ya know what I’m sayin? We are doing it up BIG, man! Right now, everyone is currently filming the intros to their shows. Everything is visual now, so we just can’t go to a show and play the intro like we used to when we were just audio, it has to be visual now as well. Everybody is filming their intros and Shaggy was in here yesterday with a bunch of midgets, a monkey and all kinds of shit running around! [laughs] I can’t wait to see what he has coming up with that!
So, we have a lot coming up in 2012 but not enough that we can’t handle! We are just trying to keep up in this rat race, ya know?
I hear that! It sounds like it will be an amazing year for ICP and Juggalos around the globe. Anything you want to say to them before I let you go?
Oh, man! It’s gonna get better! It just keeps getting better! Keep your eyes on The Dark Carnival because it is just going to keep getting better! Two whoops and all of that!
We appreciate your time, Violent J. We are pretty for what 2012 has in store for us. Thanks for letting us spread the word on all that you have going on!
Thank you, brother! Thank you for all that you do for us and we thank you for all of your support!
To get the latest news, dates and happenings straight from Insane Clown Posse themselves, visit their official website at www.insaneclownposse.com!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.