Violent J of Insane Clown Posse
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When Insane Clown Posse calls itself the most hated band in the world, it’s more than just outlaw bluster. The clown-themed Detroit horrorcore duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope inspires some of the strongest feelings in pop culture, positive and negative. To its detractors, Insane Clown Posse personifies cultural de-evolution. Its cult following of “Juggalos” and “Juggalettes” have been ridiculed as white-trash idiots and deemed a gang and a menace to society by various busybodies as well as Bill O’Reilly and Nightline host Martin Bashir, both of whom have done hilariously overwrought scare stories about the group and its allegedly blood-crazed fan base. To its hundreds of thousands of fans, Insane Clown Posse offers not just music but a whole world to get lost in, complete with an elaborate mythology involving The Dark Carnival and its Joker’s Cards, and a yearly festival/reunion known as the Gathering Of The Juggalos.
Insane Clown Posse came close to breaking through from the underground to the mainstream in the ’90s. The duo signed to major labels (Jive, Hollywood, and finally Island), played Woodstock 99, and scored gold and platinum records. After parting ways with Island, the group re-embraced its independent roots and released albums through its own Psychopathic Records, a label that also houses protégés like Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie, Boondox, and Anybody Killa. But the group’s profile has risen dramatically over the past year: Insane Clown Posse’s music video for the message song “Miracles” became a viral hit, inspiring a Saturday Night Live parody, and the Gathering Of The Juggalos recently made headlines when performers Tila Tequila and Method Man were hit with projectiles from an enraged audience during their sets. The pair, who play First Avenue tonight, also recently released a Western DVD, Big Money Rustlas. The A.V Club spoke with Violent J about O’Reilly and Bashir, the meaning of “Miracles,” and why he doesn’t hate Justin Bieber.
The A.V. Club: Why make a Western?
Violent J: Just for the oddness of it, because most rappers, when they make movies, they don’t make Westerns. [Laughs.] You know, just for the fuck of it all. We did the first movie like, 10 years ago, so we had a lot of time to sit and brainstorm and think about what our next movie would be and how to be outrageous with it. And then, once we really did the homework and figured it all out, all we really gotta do is—I don’t want to give our secrets away, but they might be obvious—all we gotta do is rent out a small Old West ghost town, and we could shoot all our stuff there. It actually made a lot of sense, budget-wise, because all we had to do was find an Old West ghost town, and we could basically do everything we need right there, you know? But that came after. We figured that out after we decided to make a Western, that it was actually going to be economically better.
AVC: You mentioned brainstorming different ideas for movies. What else did you consider?
VJ: We talked about doing another mob movie, and then we talked about a space movie, and of course, being the Insane Clown Posse, there was talk about doing a horror movie. I know that’s what everyone expects from us, doing a slasher-type horror movie, but you know what? When we rap about it, we become these characters that we’re talking about while telling the story. Sometimes in our heads, when we’re making a song—like a typical wicked song with some scary themes to it—it plays itself a lot better in our head when it’s all left to the listener to decide how things look and what the story’s like. But when we actually try to do it on film, and show Shaggy and myself cutting people’s heads off or cutting their necks, something weird happens, and it’s not cool. In our opinion, it’s not cool to actually see us doing the murders, as cool as it is to imagine it when you’re hearing the song. That’s our opinion.
AVC: You like for listeners to use their own imagination.
VJ: Yeah, let the listeners use their imagination on how everything is playing itself out. It just looks a lot better in your head than it does to actually see us cutting somebody’s head off or something. That’s our opinion. We did a video for the song “Bowling Balls,” and the video was like a 15-minute horror movie in 3D. It comes with the album Hell’s Pit. When we did that video, we weren’t totally happy with the outcome, because it was all bloody, and it just didn’t look cool. Like I said, it’s much better when you’re imagining it all than to actually see us as villains killing the people. It just didn’t work for us.
AVC: It sounds like you had a difficult experience making Big Money Hustlas, your first film.
VJ: We weren’t as known, and I think the crew that was working the movie, they didn’t respect us. They didn’t respect our humor. I think a lot of them felt like it was a bum job. The attitude on the set every day was shitty. We got into arguments and battles with the crew. We’d be the only ones laughing. To do a comedy, it seems like you would need the whole crew laughing and having fun, to keep that morale up on the set, but the only ones that were having fun were us. The rest of the crew just seemed like, “Ah, this shit’s not funny. We’re only doing this because we have to.” By the time we did Big Money Rustlas, things were a lot different. The people that were working the set were really cool. They were really happy to be working the set. They laughed at our jokes in the movie. It was night and day. It was totally different. Different time, different place. The karma was with us, and I think people actually respected us on Rustlas. I think they actually respected our ideas and input, you know? It really felt like it was our movie. As to the first one, I think they thought we were just some spoiled kids with a record company paying for this movie, and they just had to film it, and I think they were mad at us. I don’t know what it was. It just was shitty.
AVC: In the audio commentary for Big Money Rustlas, you make a reference to the 2008 movie Death Racers. How was your experience on Death Racers?
VJ: Well, that was just a terribly shitty movie, you know? I don’t regret that we did it, because doing that movie actually inspired us to get Big Money Rustlas done. A friend of ours who worked in film for a while, he was actually hired to direct Death Racers, and he asked us. He said, “I’m doing a really low-budget movie, it’s a take-off of Death Race. Would you guys be interested in doing it?” And we thought about it, and then we said, “Man, that’s actually a cool place for ICP to pop up in, is this ultra low-budget horror movie.” We thought it might be funny that we did that, for our fans. That you could see us in this cheap fucking movie. We just did it for fun. We knew it was gonna be basically garbage, but we thought about it and decided to do it. After doing that, we saw what they did on that low budget they had. We saw how they would take shortcuts, and cut corners, and not even give a fuck. We would go back to our place and talk about it amongst each other and be like, “Man, we could school them, you know? They’re half-assing everything! Maybe we should do it. Maybe we’re ready to do it. Maybe we got the money together, and the know-how together.” Watching these guys basically fuck around on Death Racers, we could take it serious with Big Money Rustlas. As soon as we got home from L.A. from shooting Death Racers, we had a meeting with our company and said, “It’s time to do Big Money Rustlas.” That’s the good that came out of Death Racers.
AVC: From your 2003 book Behind The Paint, it sounds like Insane Clown Posse audiences have a history of throwing stuff at acts they don’t like. Does that make it harder to get opening acts for your shows, knowing that crowds might be a little hostile?
VJ: Of course. Yeah, people are scared. Booking acts, period, for The Gathering is hard. To go on tour is hard. For us to get our shows is hard. If there’s some show we want to get on, the minute our name comes up, people are like, “Fuck that.” Yeah, it makes it hard, but it also makes it special.
AVC: I just recently watched your appearance on Nightline. Can you talk a little bit about that?
VJ: You know, I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan. Me and Shaggy both are. So, we knew who [Martin Bashir] was, and we also knew what he was going to do. They had their minds set on the story they were going to make before we even did the interview. It really didn’t even matter what we said. The whole reason they even did an interview with us was looking for lines or something to come out of our mouth that we can say to further make their point. We might have sat down for that hour, and we might have actually changed Martin Bashir’s opinion of us, but he wasn’t going to let that show. They knew the picture they were painting before we even fucking did that interview. They knew exactly what they were going for. The one thing that really hurt me is that they said we make $10 million a year. I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t do what we do for $10 million a year.
If we made $10 million a year, who the fuck wouldn’t do what we do? If people knew how little money we actually make, I think it makes us more impressive. It shows the Juggalos that we’re that much more dedicated to what we do, because there aren’t millions floating around here at all. When we go on a tour, our goal is to break even. That’s a whole other subject, I know, but that’s what really bothered me about Martin Bashir, because they asked me what we made. They asked us, and we told them. But that’s what they said, $10 million a year. Well, what the fuck they ask us for? Part of it’s cool, people thinking you make that much money. Part of that’s cool, I guess. But at the same time, who wouldn’t be a wicked clown for $10 million a year?
AVC: The segment depicted Insane Clown Posse as being fundamentally amoral. Did you talk to Bashir about the Dark Carnival and the positive messages in your music?
VJ: They took what we said, and they turned the interview to make it to their point. But we filmed the interview as well, and we posted the whole thing up on our website. It’s still out there on YouTube or whatever, but you could see the whole interview, unedited. We talked about everything. We talked about the Joker Cards. They talked about crime happening and about how some Juggalos have committed these crimes. We made the point that millions of people bought our albums, and out of millions of people, there is going to be some bad apples. I’m sure Barbra Streisand fans have committed crimes as well….
Things like that we talked about, and he just kept rephrasing the same questions. They were going for what they needed. They needed some blue in their picture, and they needed some green. No matter what we said, they were going to get what they needed to paint that picture.
AVC: What you were saying about taping it yourself and then running it on your website, that sounds like what Michael Jackson did.
VJ: That’s why we did it. [Laughs.]
AVC: How did you feel about Martin Bashir’s treatment of Michael Jackson?
VJ: Man, it was insane. It murdered him. It killed him. He never recovered from that. The Martin Bashir documentary is what spawned the second set of charges. He was fucking innocent in an American court of law! He was innocent by all counts. Michael Jackson is a lot of things, know what I’m saying? A lot of things, but he’s not a pedophile. I believe, believe it or not, in the American judicial system, if that’s what it’s called. In other words, I believe in the courts, when they get a long, drawn-out trial like that, they get to the nitty-gritty of things. I read enough books on it.
I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, as I said. I just believe there was a lot wrong in the man, but he wasn’t a pedophile. He never recovered from that. That documentary was so damaging to him, and that spawned the second set of charges. And even though he defeated the charges, it was too much for him. When he tried to make a comeback, he died in the process. It was Martin Bashir’s documentary that eventually killed Michael Jackson. I believe that. I honestly believe that. He let him into his life for six months. Martin Bashir is your typical fucking snaky guy that’s gonna shake your hand, laugh at your jokes, and all that shit, and make you think he’s cool with you, and then do whatever’s gonna get him up the ladder.
AVC: What Bashir was saying about the Insane Clown Posse and the effect its music has on its fans reminded me a lot like the mid-’50s, when busybodies were saying that Elvis Presley was going to destroy society, and his fans were hoodlums. That’s something you see over and over again in pop music.
VJ: It’s the oldest argument in the world. It’s the fucking oldest argument in the world. Does rock ’n’ roll corrupt the young? It’s ridiculous! It’s the oldest fucking argument in the world. It’s been rehashed. New names, same fucking thing. It’s the oldest shit in the world. That was a stretch for Nightline. They got a lot of old people watching it, old people stuck in old ways. I’m sure they ate that shit up and loved it. I don’t think it’s young America watching Nightline like that. Know what I mean? I don’t know. Maybe it is. It was stupid for even them to say, and that’s why they kept hammering.
To be honest with you, at one point—and this is what’s insane—they took my response to one question and edited it so I looked like I was responding to another question. And what’s scary to me is that this is Nightline. This is a respected piece of American journalism, and they were full of shit. That just makes me think, 90 percent of what I watch is full of shit. I couldn’t believe what they did with us, with the $10 million thing. He was so clever, the way he was saying, “No, no, no, Violent. I never said that, Violent.” It’s so clever what he’s doing—it was so clever!
Then they had me sitting on the edge of my chair to make it look like I was getting mad. In reality, that was my response to another question. It was just so clever the way they did that. I said this before, and I don’t want to say something that I said before, but this is the best way I can explain it: It reminded me when I was a kid, and I had a schoolteacher saying that I said something I didn’t. Of course, everybody’s gonna believe the schoolteacher, but I never said it. She said I called some kid a name, a swear word, and I didn’t do that. I didn’t call that kid a name. When that lady lied on me, or she was misunderstood or whatever, I was scared of that lady, man. I was like, “Damn, here’s this lady who has power. She’s my teacher. And she’s telling a fucking lie that made me fear that lady.” Well, that’s how I felt when Nightline said we made $10 million a year, and bringing up those criminal charges that Juggalos have had. It was like somebody with power abusing it. It was scary to me. I watched it one time, and I never watched it again. And I didn’t even want to watch it when I watched it, because I knew what it was going to be. It’s scary to me to see somebody that’s that trusted pulling shenanigans like that. It’s just fucking crazy to me.
AVC: How did your experiences on Nightline compare to your experiences being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly for The O’Reilly Factor?
VJ: I don’t really remember too much about Bill O’Reilly. See, the thing was, when we did the Bill O’Reilly show, I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know anything about him. They kept saying to us, “You don’t know who Bill O’Reilly is?” And me and Shaggy both didn’t have a clue who he was. Looking at that also makes me sick, because I know we could have schooled his ass a lot better than we did. We were kind of weak with it on his show. I’m proud of what we said to Martin Bashir even though they didn’t use any of it. I’m still proud of what we said to him. I felt like we defended ourselves pretty good, at least in what we’re doing.
AVC: It seems like the “Miracles” video played a big role in that and exposed ICP to a new audience.
VJ: That’s a perfect example of what we are. I know a lot of our stuff is “Chop ’em up, kill ’em,” but “Miracles” is another side of ICP that’s always been there. We’ve always had deeper songs and more emotional stuff on our music. The whole idea of what “Miracles” is to me sums up the band. It’s like, of course these things we’re talking about aren’t real miracles, according to what a miracle is in Webster’s Dictionary or whatever. But anybody that can stand there, looking at a rainforest or something and not think that’s a miracle—I mean, that’s their loss. Anybody that can sit there and look at shooting stars or a fucking full moon when it’s red and hanging over the city and not sit there and think, “That looks awesome, and that’s a miracle that we get to see that and have that on this earth and all this shit,” you know, that’s their loss. Instead, everybody just makes fun of us because we said it. It’s like, that’s fucked up. We will say it, and we’ll continue to say it, and think that.
AVC: How involved are you in the day-to-day planning of The Gathering Of The Juggalos?
VJ: Very involved. Every morning, from the beginning of it, when we’re first putting it together, we shoot ideas and names. Everything takes so fucking long. If you want to try to book Slick Rick, you don’t just call Slick Rick and ask him. Just finding out if Slick Rick is interested can be a monthlong process. It’s very fucking drawn out. Everything. Just finding out if somebody’s interested can take even longer than a month. So, every day we have a morning report. We get together in the morning. We go over everything, and what progress was made, and what needs to be done, this and that. And we just build it up day by day, every day, right up until about four days before The Gathering when Billy, our main guy, heads out to the grounds and we get ready at home. For about two months prior—maybe even longer, maybe even three months—up until then we meet every morning in the office, if we’re in town, if we’re not on the road or something. We kick it for a couple hours and put it together.
Then, when we get all the ideas and all our moves made, we head off to the studio or whatever we’re doing that day, and the guys in the office execute it. They call the guys, they call the agents, they call the jugglers or whatever we’re trying to do. If we want moonwalks there, they call the moonwalks. [Laughs.] The goal every year is to break even. We almost broke even this year. We were 15 grand short.
AVC: It sounds like you’re willing to accept that kind of a loss.
VJ: It’s not a loss. Because it only costs the 15 grand to give all those people an experience. It costs us 15 grand for that to happen, for that Gathering to go off like that. The whole world talked about The Gathering this year. That’s a small price to pay to give everybody that kind of experience. All the people that went had a blast. They still remember it. The whole thing cost us 15 grand, and to give all those thousands of people a great time, and to get everybody talking about it. If we had done business a little bit better, we might have even made money, being that close. We were only 15 grand off. We’re talking millions. Usually, we’re a couple hundred thousand off. [Laughs.]
AVC: A lot of people were surprised that Tila Tequila was invited to perform at the gathering this year.
VJ: Yeah, our thinking was, here you got this chick who’s famous because she’s hot. You know? And when we heard she was singing, someone suggested her to us, like a booking agent. We were looking for somebody else, we said, “Who you got?” And they said, “How about Tila Tequila?” And we said, “Does she sing?” [Laughs.] They said yeah, you know, she’s just put a record out. So we looked at a clip of her video and her song was called “I Fucked The DJ” so here we got this sex symbol, who’s going to get up onstage singing and rapping about fucking the DJ. It just seemed like it was going to work. You know what I mean?
She’s not like a pop star that I knew of. I never heard her on the radio or saw her on MTV or nothing. I mean I know who she was she had a reality show and shit. I thought the whole reason she got a reality show was because she was some kind of Internet sex sensation. I just thought Juggalos would like to see a hottie up there singing about fucking. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you warn her that audiences might be on the rowdy side?
VJ: Oh yeah, they told her, they told her at The Gathering. Absolutely, it was obvious. She didn’t even want to get out of her car. It was obvious. Her mistake was staying up onstage, man. She didn’t have to stay up there.
AVC: You paid her in advance, right?
VJ: Absolutely they did. They told her you don’t even have to go up there. She wanted to do that. I don’t know what the deal was, but I know she never would’ve received one scratch if she didn’t stay up there antagonizing people. That’s my opinion. That’s no secret.
AVC: In Behind The Paint your brother writes that ICP was invited to Ozzfest, to perform at Ozzfest, but declined. What’s the story behind that?
VJ: I don’t know. I don’t really remember. I know it wasn’t recent. I don’t remember what the details were. It was probably something along the lines of you can’t throw Faygo or something. We might have been asked to perform on the tour, but we couldn’t bring our Faygo because of whatever the reason was. That’s always a deal breaker.
AVC: The Faygo policy?
VJ: Well, we don’t play without Faygo. We haven’t been offered something like Ozzfest in so long I just don’t remember.
AVC: Did you see The Wrestler?
VJ: Yeah, hell yeah I did.
AVC: Did it remind you of your wrestling days?
VJ: You know, we still wrestle. And a lot of our friends, a lot of my best friends are wrestlers. And I know the wrestling world super-tough, I know it inside and out. And that movie, as great as it was, for me personally, it even had a little tint of boring, and I’ll tell you why. Because it was that dead-on.
AVC: How so?
VJ: It’s so accurate. There are so many wrestlers that age where that’s the story of their life. Where they’re just holding on to what they had and they’re still wrestling, and they’re now wrestling in high school gyms and bingo halls. And there’s so many wrestlers that that movie could’ve been about it was almost predictable, because I know so many wrestlers that are living that life. It almost made it predictable for me. Like, nothing they showed in that movie we didn’t already know. I’m that tuned in to the wrestling world. We spent a lot of time in wrestling, and if you think about it, wrestling is a lot like ICP. It’s a gimmick deal where the crowd knows we’re not really axe murderers, and the crowd knows these wrestlers aren’t really whatever they’re doing. But they’re caught up in the entertainment, and they cheer the good guys, boo the bad guys, and they love it because it’s an escape from reality. And I think that when we became a band we took a lot of the general rules of wrestling and added it to our band.
AVC: What kind of stuff did you borrow from wrestling?
VJ: A lot of our early interviews were done like wrestlers do, where we’re screaming and yelling all this shit. But we’re characters. We’d never be seen without the face paint, and wear wrestling masks in and out of the bus, until the Internet just blew up everywhere. We still don’t like to be seen without face paint, but there’s just endless footage of us without it. Everything about wrestling, playing that role. If we rapped about being axe murderers, we were axe murderers in our interviews and everything, and just the way we carried ourselves. We carried that illusion. And [rapping] about the Dark Carnival, about the end of the world, we carried our storyline to the finish, just like wrestling. I think that has a lot to do with being obsessed with wrestling growing up.
AVC: Which is a tougher business, the music industry or the wrestling world?
VJ: The wrestling, because once you’re done you’re done. There’s no union. There’s no fucking money that comes in later. There’s nothing. In music, number one, you’re the only guy onstage so you’re the one getting paid. You and your partner or you and your band, you guys are the only ones. But in wrestling, there’s always 20 guys jockeying for position. There’s always 20 guys on the show and each one of them is thinking about their 10 minutes. And if a bingo hall or a high-school gym draws 300 wrestling fans, you can do the math. You have to pay 20 wrestlers. You have to pay two referees, ring announcers, bell timekeepers. Music is way more lucrative and way more rewarding if you can pull it off. Every wrestler I know is broke, even guys that have been on top. There’s nobody I know in wrestling who is living comfortably, unfortunately.
AVC: Even people in the WWE?
VJ: Well, they’re on top right now. They’re young. They’re in their mid-20s. Fast-forward 20 years and see where all those guys are.
AVC: They’ll all be Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.
VJ: Exactly. Just like all the guys I know now, that we hang out with. I don’t want to say one name, but they’re all guys we know that are all traveling around, living off that fame they had 15 years ago or something on TV, still getting booked off that. I love them. These guys to me deserve to be living in phat houses. They deserve to have money in the bank, you know? But to see them haggle and battle over 50 bucks the promoter shorted them, it just hurts. These guys are legendary. A lot of these guys I had so many questions growing up watching them on TV, and now they’re friends of mine, and I’ve had all of those questions answered. And it’s like, they’re still always heroes to me. Have you ever watched Beyond The Mat? You can see it right there. Guys like Jake The Snake, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Koko B. Ware. These are guys that had the limelight 20 years ago that are now wrestling in a VFW hall in Utah, making $150 bucks, and $100 goes on hotel and $50 goes on gas.
AVC: Is that part of the reason you started Juggalo Championship Wrestling? So you could have a venue for these older wrestlers to perform?
VJ: You know, Shaggy is not as much into wrestling. He’s into wrestling a great deal, but not as much as me. I get great joy out of booking wrestling shows and bringing in old-timers, legends, and making it as cool as I can for them. I don’t know why. I’m sure maybe a psychiatrist could tell me. [Laughs.] But I get a lot of joy out of that, man, a lot of joy out of bringing some of my old heroes back and putting them in front of enthusiastic Juggalos. Because Juggalos are like no other audience in the world, and Juggalos cheer louder and harder. Even if they’re in front of only 400 Juggalos, it feels like 4,000 because that’s just how lively Juggalos are. And a lot of those wrestlers come back from wrestling and they say that was the greatest, awesomest thing they have ever done. Do you have an ink pen with you? Or something to mark this down?
VJ: Write this name down: Dutch Mantell. His name is “Dirty” Dutch Mantell, and he’s one of the wrestlers that we booked at The Gathering this year. And he’s a wrestling legend. He’s competed in Madison Square Garden and Louisville Garden and he used to wrestle in full arena. I used to watch him as a kid. He wrote a three-part thing on his website, a three-part, giant story about his experience at The Gathering Of The Juggalos, and you can read what it meant to him. And this is a guy who once did it all, but recently has probably been wrestling in high-school gyms, nothing very fancy at all. Another guy named “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, he came back from the ring and he told us that when he got the call from us—he hasn’t wrestled in three years, and he’s been retired—when he got the call, he’d heard about it, he wasn’t going to turn it down so he took the gig, and he said now he can retire. He said he’ll never do something that cool again in his life. He said that was the perfect way to go out, that was so incredibly awesome. And just hearing that from him was just—I don’t even know what the word is. It made me feel so good, and I get so much enjoyment out of being able to do that. It feels like paying these wrestlers back with a great night for all the enjoyment they’ve given me as a kid.
AVC: It sounds like your experiences with Jive and Island were terrible. Was there anything about being on a major label that was positive? Is there anything you miss about it?
VJ: Well, you know, the experience of it. Seeing what it’s like, because I’d always wondered. I mean, I got something positive out of going to jail. Honestly, the experience of being on a major label and seeing how it operates and everything, I’m glad we did it, I’m really, really glad we did it, got to see it, got to experience it, and we also got to figure out how it’s not for us. But we wouldn’t know that, we’d probably sit around thinking the grass was greener on the other side all the time.
AVC: On Twitter, you’ve talked about your admiration for rapper Paris. What about his music do you respond to?
VJ: First of all, he’s got one of the greatest voices in all of rap. His voice, his flow is fucking outrageous, man. And his beats—I love all the George Clinton samples and all the P-Funk samples, his beats, those loud claps, those bounce claps. Just everything about it. And then what he’s saying, I know a lot of it is basically against white people, but I know him personally and he’s never seemed like that in real life at all. He’s just an incredible artist. I just think he looks awesome, his flow is awesome, his rhymes are awesome, his beats are awesome, and when he puts that skully on, he’s got those Ice Cube eyebrows and he just looks mad. And his voice and the Panther growls … the whole Black Panther thing is just fearless. “Bush Killa” you know what I’m saying? Talking about killing President Bush. Just the things out of his mouth, the conspiracies—and knowing that he’s a well-educated businessman and does really well for himself and makes music on his own terms, doesn’t sell out, doesn’t make music he thinks the world would love, he makes music to make himself happy. He’s awesome, he’s a role model if there ever was one.
AVC: He also has his own record label.
VJ: He does everything himself. He has his own web store. He does it all. It’s just awesome, man. That’s what there needs to be more of. It seems like half the industry should be doing that. Major labels shouldn’t control MTV, VH1, and BET. There should be half the artists on major labels, and half the market is also people like us and Paris, and Kottonmouth Kings, and Tech9, people that are hustling. Ice Cube, even Ice Cube is on his own label now, and Ice Cube puts out music to make himself happy, and I love it, man. I just think it would be awesome if half the industry doesn’t have to be everybody being independent, but if there were so many more independent artists out there it would give all these other people dreams and hope that you can make it without the help of a major label. It’s not out of the question to be successful on your own, man. And it’d just be great.
Like right now you can count them on one hand almost, but if half the industry was people that are independent, it would be like it was before the Internet, when just driving around to local record stores in your neighborhood you can make a living, just putting your shit on consignment. Nowadays there’s no mom-and-pop stores. There’s nothing left. But back in the day, people said, “How do you guys do it?” I just said, “Shit, man, press 1,000 CDs, put five at every record store in your city, go back in two weeks collect on what you sold, and drop more off. That’s the answer. That’s how you do it, and build from there.” But it’s not like that no more. There’s everything else involved, and there’s very, very few artists who can make a living on their own without the help of major labels. And usually they get shit on, they get picked on and fucked with and they’re not considered cool and not considered what’s happening, and it’s just unfortunate.
AVC: Do you think major labels will survive?
VJ: Yeah, they’ll always find a way to stay paid. That’s probably what they’re meeting about every single day. “What can we do to stay paid?” They’re already rewriting everybody’s contract so they get paid for shows and merchandise and everything else. You can’t download a T-shirt. So the deals are all cutthroat, and record labels are getting paid off more things. I think they’ll always have a place in business, and I think there will always be Lady Gagas and Beyoncés that’ll keep everybody rich.
AVC: It seems like one of the problems with major labels is nobody is buying CDs anymore. It seems like you’re one of the only acts that still sells CDs because the packaging is so important.
VJ: Yeah, Juggalos think more about collecting things, and they want that piece in their hand. But even us, we don’t sell millions. Nothing like that. If we move 100,000 records—I don’t know how many have been downloaded. I know we used to sell a million, and we used to draw the same amount of people we draw now, and we used to sell pretty much the same amount of merchandise we sell now. The only thing that’s different is that we don’t sell as many records because there are so many downloads and things of that nature, but everything else is the same. We seem to move the same amount of merch, we seem to draw the same amount of people. It’s just that now record sales are dead in the industry everywhere. You know you could sell 10,000 records in a week and you could be No. 50 on Billboard, and back in the day you couldn’t even make the top 200 with 10,000 copies.
AVC: When No Limit was at its height, everybody on the label went multiplatinum, not just Master P. Now only people like Lil Wayne and Jay-Z go platinum.
VJ: It’s crazy, I wish they’d redo the gold and platinum plaques. I think it’s real impressive if you can sell 100,000 actual units now. I think they should redo it and say 100,000 is now gold or something. That would be fresh.
AVC: In the book you say that you had some problems with teachers growing up and wouldn’t care if one of your kids were to slap a teacher. Now that you’re a parent, do you feel the same way?
VJ: I don’t want my kids slapping a teacher. No, not at all. I want my kids to be good students. When they get to be 16, 17, I’ll deal with that when it happens, but until then, they’re going to pay attention in school, they’re going to listen, they’re not going to be slapping any teachers.
AVC: Would you say you’ve mellowed a little bit with age?
VJ: Absolutely. I think I’d be a fool if I denied it. And another thing, we’re not as mad anymore. When we were kids it was easy to find that anger, because we were mad about so much shit, but for the last 15 years we’ve had Juggalo love warm in our hearts. It’s harder to be as mad. I’m not as mad about living in America. I think it’s pretty cool living in America, you can go out and get yours if you want. If you work for it, you can have it. I think that’s cool, man. I don’t even mind Nickelodeon, or Kids’ Choice Awards, or any of that. I’m not against all that. I’m not against Beyoncé. I love Beyoncé. I’m not against pop music. I think it all has a place. We just want to have a place too. I don’t like people trying to stop us from making music and being us because I don’t want to stop nobody. I don’t want to stop Taylor Swift. I don’t want to stop Justin Bieber. I don’t want to tell them they can’t, it’s not for me, but I don’t want to stop it. And I don’t want nobody trying to stop us.
AVC: You’re different, but you’re not in opposition.
VJ: Exactly. I actually support everything. You know the other day we had MTV, and they asked us what we thought of the MTV Music Awards and we were like, “We don’t give a fuck.” But in reality I wish I didn’t say that, because I don’t hate the MTV Music Awards. I’m not rushing home to see it, but I’ll catch it if I can catch a replay or something. If I’m sitting at home about to have dinner, I’ll definitely watch it. I’m not against it. I’m not saying, “Fuck everybody there” or, “Fuck everybody winning an award.” That’s not how we feel at all. I think it’s cool that they put together those giant shows. I think it’s cool that those people get to go up and win those awards and all of that shit. It’s just that we’ve learned a lot. We may have softened up, but we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that a rough childhood—we had a lot to be mad about, but becoming an adult and being able to go out and get yours and things…. I’m not that mad anymore, I realized that people can have their shit as long as they work for it, and I think that’s good. I think it’s great that they never came and shut us down or anything like that. You know, we may have caused some shit over the years, but nobody’s every stopped us, and I think that’s awesome.
AVC: Was that one of the inspirations for “Miracles,” not being angry and coming from a place more of appreciation than rage?
VJ: See, what people have to realize about the “Miracles” video is that that went out into the world, but that wasn’t for the world. That was for Juggalos. We had no idea that was going to go viral like that, and sometimes when we’re talking to the Juggalos, there’s no anger there. Especially this deep in our career, our music is for Juggalos. We have Juggalos in mind when we create an album. Some of these songs when we’re talking to this fan base that we’re in love with, that loves us, we’re hitting them with the entertainment and the fucking anger and the excitement. But other times we’re saying, “Hey man, I know everybody can get caught up in the mundane routine of life, but every once in a while, stop and look around and look at some of these amazing things that we’ve been given on this earth. Look at the stars at night and look at the mountains, look at the ocean. It’s some pretty cool shit here.” And having kids, and seeing through their eyes everything for the first time—even a bug, a fucking ladybug, my kids gather around a ladybug and I realize how much there is in this world that’s cool for people. If there is no God and it’s all science, we could’ve been born living inside a rock, or as a worm, and all you do is travel underground. But we weren’t, we were given this playground, this awesome planet to explore. If you want to fucking climb a mountain, you can do that. If you want to scuba dive, travel the rainforest, or chop a rainforest down, you can do whatever the fuck you want to do on this earth.
That’s all the song is saying, but we were talking to Juggalos. We weren’t trying to make some public statement to the world to say, “Hey world this is what ICP is about.” We were just making another video, that’s the same thing we’ve been doing the last 15 years. Just making a video for Juggalos, doing our shit, and it somehow caught on and everyone loved to make fun of it and everything, and now people think that was some political move we made for our career and it wasn’t. It was just a video for the Juggalos.
I honestly believe that all the people that hate that video so much and said so much shit about it, I believe it touched those people in some way. It might not be their favorite video, their favorite song, but they were taken by it. Because when you really hate something, when you really don’t like something, when something really doesn’t interest you, you don’t write about it. You don’t write all the lyrics down and write a couple paragraphs down, [sarcastically] “Check this out, look at how dumb this is.” You know, that’s something you do when something has an effect of you of some sort, and you can’t explain that effect, so you hate it. I think that song had an effect on people, and it was so unique—I’m not saying it was a great effect or something, I’m just saying it had an effect, and it caused people to talk about it, and to write about it, and to diss it because people fear what they don’t understand, and that definitely affected them somehow so the natural thing to do is to say, “Look how fucking stupid this is.”
But they need to check themselves, because what they’re really doing is sitting down, writing about it. When you really don’t like something, when you genuinely really don’t like something, you don’t do that. You just skip past it and move on. But it held their interest that much that people felt the need to write on it, or to review it and write their review, or break it down line for line, and discredit it line for line about how these aren’t miracles, or whatever they did. People went haywire over it, and I think it’s because it affected them in some way, but they’re not confident enough to say “I like that,” not confident enough with themselves to stand up in front of their boys and say, “I think it’s pretty cool.” Instead they say, “Look how fucking stupid it is.” But in reality, if it were something stupid you’d just turn the page, just turn it off and look at something else.
AVC: There was something about it that kind of grabbed people.
VJ: Exactly, and I’m not saying it was overwhelmingly good, I’m just saying it was unique enough that it caught all those people’s attention.
AVC: How did you feel about the Saturday Night Live parody?
VJ: Awesome. Crazy fresh. Man, to be parodied on Saturday Night Live, devastating. That’s just nothing but the shit. How could anybody be mad at that? That’s what they do.
AVC: Do you think that’s as close as you’ll get to being part of the mainstream?
VJ: Yeah, that was awesome. That was great, man.