Every day is Juggalo Day
ICP’s Violent J on strippers, wrestling and the FBI
The Insane Clown Posse occupies a unique position in pop culture: part Midwestern hip-hop, part sketch comedy, with a Grateful Dead-esque following. They may or may not understand science, and may or may not believe in God more than they believe in earthly pleasures. We may never truly know, and that’s part of the fun.
For their current tour, ICP is working through their version of a midlife crisis. After 20 years of touring, co-leader Violent J (real name: Joseph Bruce) says the group has learned which songs are best live and which don’t quite work. “Every time we tour, we select through those songs we know are guaranteed barnburners, you know what I’m sayin’?” But this time is going to be different.
Most Juggalos (“Juggalo” being the nickname for ICP fans) have seen their show “10, 15, 20 times,” he says. But there are always younger fans coming for the first time. “We’re fortunate that a band as old-school as us, that we draw as many young people and newcomers as we do.”
The current tour will feature a new stage set, costumes and skits. Plus, they’ll be playing some more obscure songs from their back catalog as well as selections from their 12th and latest studio album, The Mighty Death Pop, which was released last summer.
“That’s exciting for us, it’s exciting for the Juggalos who’ve been seeing us for years, and to the people that are brand new, they don’t know the difference anyway,” he laughs.
“The scary thing is, people say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” J notes. “We’ve never had any complaints about our concerts. People have always loved our concerts.”
Why now? J says the primary motivation came in February when, for the second annual Juggalo Day, ICP performed their 1995 album Riddle Box live, skits and all.
“That was a challenge. Learning all three verses to every song, you know what I mean? Some songs are slower and they don’t seem like the kind of songs you would do in concert. However, because we wanted to do the entire album, we went ahead and performed the entire album, as it was, whether it was concertable or not.
“Not only did we succeed, but we knocked the ball right out of the fuckin’ park. You know what I’m sayin’? … We met that challenge and we fuckin’ killed it.”
While their music’s commercial appeal is apparently untouchable, the FBI has not been giving the Insane Clown Posse and their fans much muthafuckin’ clown love lately. A long investigation, now seemingly closed, looked into whether the Juggalos constituted a “gang,” in the extra-legal sense.
“At first, I thought it was cool!” laughs J. “‘We are a gang, fuck you,’ y’know? But then, when I heard how it was affecting Juggalos that are on probation, parole, and they’re (being accused of) violating … They go to see their probation officer with a new (ICP logo) Hatchet tattoo, and they’re being written up for it?
“I don’t want our fans to be punished for listening to our shit! That’s unheard of! That’s never happened in the history of rock ’n’ roll, that they’re punishing our fans.”
He says some are being sent home from school and from the military for wearing their shirts, jewelry or tattoos. Some stores won’t carry their merchandise because of the accusation.
“That’s fuckin’ bullshit, because you know why? We’re not a gang! There’s no organized crime here … It’s a music band! It’s very unfair, and it’s scary.”
To be a Juggalo gives one “a feeling of camaraderie, family and togetherness.” They are consistently misunderstood, in his view. It’s something magical, and it pisses off those who see how much fun they’re having but remain on the outside, he says.
Now free from increased scrutiny, they’re back to doing what they do best, and J is happy to be getting back to Louisville.
“I got a lot of wrestling friends there,” says the 41-year-old owner of the JCW (Juggalo Championship Wrestling). Friends like JCW champion 2 Tuff Tony, as well as rapper Bukshot, live here. Violent J’s version of Louisville is not too different from his native Detroit.
“You guys have got really kick-ass titty bars,” he says. “I love it there.”
Insane Clown Posse
with Moonshine Bandits,
Kung Fu Vampire
and Axe Murder Boyz
Wednesday, May 15
2900 Seventh Street Road
$21-$28; 8 p.m.