In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
When Insane Clown Posse debuted in the early 1990s with a slew of crazy gimmicks and a homemade mythology called the Dark Carnival, few could have predicted the resilience, longevity, and tenacity that would transform the duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope from hip-hop’s most disreputable sideshow into something resembling a cultural institution. While the record industry is locked in perpetual death throes, Insane Clown Posse has paved its own lane and created its own world, complete with a wrestling league (JCW), movies (Big Money Hustlas and Big Money Rustlas), one of the most notorious fan bases in existence (Juggalos), and an annual festival known as the Gathering Of The Juggalos that yearly attracts thousands of true believers and the morbidly curious. Insane Clown Posse just released its latest album, The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost, and plans to follow it up with a companion, The Marvelous Missing Link: Found, which will be unveiled during this summer’s Gathering. Insane Clown Posse and its fan base were also the subject of the 2013 book You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me, written by this interviewer.
Violent J: How you doing, brother? After reading your book, the one thing I wanted to say was, in comparing Phish’s world to ICP’s world, in our defense, you don’t have to get high or need drugs to experience the Juggalo freshness. But you do need to get high to experience the whole Phish freshness. To fully embark on the whole Phish experience, it’s all about going to the city they built beforehand, with the fans and tent city or whatever it’s called.
The A.V. Club: The lot.
VJ: Yeah, and finding some drugs and then taking some drugs and then going in there high on the drugs and experiencing the music and how wonderful and great that all is. But you don’t have to take any drugs to experience the Juggalo world. That’s where the magic comes in. Because it’s fresh and magical to the people who enjoy it and the people who love it all by itself without any substances. A lot of them do get high, a lot of them do get drunk, but it’s not necessary to experience the Juggalo freshness.
VJ: I had a lot of jobs. I worked over 50 jobs before I rapped for a living. The worst job I ever had was probably McDonald’s. I had to cut my hair to work there. It was extremely hard labor. You’re on your feet all day, super-fast-motion panic style, all day. You’re going a thousand miles an hour and you’re being bossed around, and in my case, yelled at, by your boss, who is in his 30s, who works at fucking McDonald’s for a living. I was 16, 17—just a kid, on the come-up. I’m working at McDonald’s because I’m a kid. What do you say for the 30-year-old fuck who’s yelling at me? He thinks I’m fucking up my job but he works at McDonald’s every day. If you’re 30 or 40 and you’re working at McDonald’s? You better be putting on a suit and working in the big high-rise offices of McDonald’s. If you go into that little brown building with the golden arches over it every day and you’re over 40, or even 25, you’ve got issues, man. I worked at car washes—two or three different car washes. I worked at McDonald’s and Wendy’s, I worked as a dishwasher and as a telemarketer in two or three different places. I sold windows door-to-door and never once sold a window.
AVC: You were a door-to-door salesman? I didn’t even think those existed anymore.
VJ: They used to drive us around in some weird fucking freak operation where a guy—once again a grown man—would park his van, and then send the kids out to the neighborhood and try to sell windows. You know how fucking hard it is to sell windows? They are not cheap. It’s fucking expensive to buy a new pair of windows for your house and here I am, probably 16, again, and I don’t know the first thing that I’m talking about. I don’t even know how I got that job or what the hell was going on, but, believe it or not, I was a door-to-door window salesmen in what feels like a cheap, creepy pedophile situation. And I can say that because we were a bunch of kids driving around in the back of some old guy’s van and it was creepy. Now that I look back on it I get chills of creepiness.
I was a caddy. I also worked as a bouncer, selling Christmas trees at Frank’s Nursery and before that, selling what they normally sell. I was a pizza delivery man. I worked at a gas station. I worked a lot of jobs, man. A lot of jobs.
VJ: I first felt successful when Alex [Abbiss], our manager at the time, told us that we didn’t have to work no more, and he gave us $50 a day. That was when I felt successful, because all the money was coming from rap, from our career, and getting 50 bucks a day was 350 bucks a week, you know? Me and Shaggy lived in our own place and we could afford to pay our rent and all that and still have money left over for gas, man. I still think that’s successful, to make 50 bucks a day with your own music.
VJ: If I was a supervillain then I guess I’d want what all supervillains want, which is world domination. I wouldn’t want anything less than all the other supervillains. I don’t know what my powers would be. If I could have as many powers as Superman, and instead be Super Bastard, that’d be fresh.
AVC: You could be like Bizarro, who is sort of the anti-Superman. He does the opposite of what Superman does.
VJ: That’d be me, then. Because Superman is no punk. Everyone else has one or two superpowers. Superman has them all.
VJ: Poor and scrubby. Nerdy and made fun of.
AVC: In other words, you were a Juggalo.
VJ: That’s right. But we called ourselves “floobs” back then. We were poor, man. But us and our friends made being poor cool. We turned it into “fuck wearing what everyone else is wearing.” I didn’t suffer—I didn’t sit there and cry because I couldn’t be like everyone else. I don’t know if people do that but I was happy to be a scrub. I was proud to be a scrub. When I got older and I started talking to girls, part of my game when I was talking to them was to tell them how poor I was. I actually enjoyed that. I was all, “You’re probably from a rich neighborhood. You’ve probably got a lot of money, but I don’t have shit, you know what I’m saying?” When you get older, no girl wants to hear that shit.
AVC: You brought that idea to Insane Clown Posse—that having nothing is better than being rich. Do you think if you’d grown up with money ICP would have happened, or was the struggle necessary?
VJ: No. It wouldn’t have been the same. If anything were different, nothing would have been the same. Man, if we hadn’t grown up on food stamps there’d be no ICP. We’d be some fucking other, I don’t know, we’d be the fucking Cure or something.
VJ: Janet Jackson.
AVC: What era?
VJ: For me, it was the “Pleasure Principle” video. She was slipping around on that chair and you just see her fat fucking ass in that video. This was before Rhythm Nation and the military stuff and even when she was doing Rhythm Nation you could see her womanly curves busting out of those military outfits. She was always so fucking thick and blessed. Wow, man. Janet Jackson, all day.
AVC: And one of your favorite musicians was Michael Jackson. It seems like you’re pretty invested in that family.
VJ: Yeah, it’s weird. I knew, of course, that they were brother and sister, but I didn’t like Janet because she was Michael’s sister. They had two very different careers and I just liked Janet because she was so fucking hot. I liked Michael for different reasons.
VJ: My most favorite entrance music of all time… [Starts singing a difficult-to-discern yet catchy melody.]
AVC: Is that “Eye Of The Tiger” you’re singing?
VJ: Nah, it’s that, “You’re my obsession, you’re my obsession” song. [Animotion’s “Obsession”]
VJ: Shit, not much. I woke up and came here. I was up late last night and yesterday was Mother’s Day so I was taking care of my wife all day, so I slept in real late and just came into the office now for this interview. I don’t usually sleep in that late but today for some reason I just caught up with my sleep.
VJ: Not actually mistaken, but compared to Guy Fieri, whatever, that cook guy.
AVC: Do you see any resemblance?
VJ: Yeah. I’m bigger than him now, but when I used to wear my hair in the same style as his and he was a bigger guy, people would compare us. Before that it was a wrestler named Johnny Grunge. I think I’ve actually been mistaken for Johnny Grunge.
AVC: Do you think they ever slap on the paint and pretend to be you?
VJ: This guy came through the in-store line and he was built like me and didn’t exactly look like me in the face, and he told us this story about how he got laid by a stripper by pretending he was me. He said he went down to Florida and she said, “What are you, famous or something?” and he said, “You don’t recognize me? I’m Violent J from ICP!” And she said “Oh my God! My sister loves you!” And he ended up getting laid that night. I think a lot more guys get laid pretending to be Shaggy 2 Dope because without his paint he’s a lot more unrecognizable. He’s not a gimpy gorilla like me.
VJ: I would put on my resume that I was a writer, and that I wrote for Juggalo Championship Wrestling for however many years it’s been. And then I wrote for ICP for all of our creative endeavors. Hopefully those two would get me a job writing for the WWE, because that’s what I would want to do if I wasn’t doing this.
VJ: I collect wrestling figures from overseas, like Japanese wrestling figures and Mexican wrestling figures. They have some American wrestlers who travel overseas a lot. I like the Japanese version of these figures where there’s writing on the box. Even if it’s an American wrestler, if it’s a Japanese company I’d collect it. I also like to collect the figures of my friends. For example, we’re good friends with Scott Hall so I have all his figures, and then we’re friends with Sabu so I have all of Sabu’s wrestling figures, especially the ones from Japan. They take wrestling much more seriously than Americans do and they put more detail into their figures—and more heart—and it’s awesome. When my friends come over, I show them to them and they’re like, “They’re awesome.” They’ve got blood on them and stuff. They’ve got super cool shit.
VJ: My last meal would be my mom’s cheesy potatoes. Hell yeah. My mom makes the best meal on the fucking planet. Or the cheesy noodles. Either one of them is good, but I’m going with the cheesy noodles. Mom’s own recipe, you know what I mean?
VJ: [Laughs.] And I can answer with one word? Can I use two?
AVC: Of course.
VJ: Fuck no!
AVC: And then the final question is: What question would you want whoever does this feature next to answer?
VJ: That one. The last one about having sex with a man. [Laughs.]