Too me, the lyrics of “Miracles” demonstrated a sea change, away from the juvenile antics espoused in classic ICP tuneage like “Chicken Huntin.’ ” I was interested in the many aspects of the ICP mythology.
Then there was the Juggalos. And Juggalettes. I knew some members of that community through my work as a teacher. They were, for sure, human beings, possessed of the same frailties as other members of the Earthly tribe. Yeah, they like to party hard; and they seemed to like songs that portrayed them as outsiders hellbent on transgressing the normative. But I have to admit that, in all my rocanrol travels, I never met a Juggalo who was violent.
I wondered out loud how their group had come to be considered a gang by federal authorities. Maybe it was their iconography, which featured some dude running with an ax held up menacingly. Their lyrics were certainly sometimes questionable, but as Mick Jagger once remarked, “It’s only rock and roll.”
And really how bad was that combination of imagery and words, compared to metal bands that used the upside down pentagram in their symbology? Or doom bands that called for Armageddon or the whole concept of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, for that matter.
While I’m at it , how did the Juggalos compare to other ostensibly rocanrol subcultures, like the Deadheads or even the Hell’s Angels? Certainly, they weren’t as sweet and peaceful as the former, but not as violent as the latter.
When it came down to it, I was more interested in the flow. Tunes like the aforementioned song about killing rednecks or its opposite—because, after all, “Miracles” is an affirmative celebration brought to life by working class vernacular and sensibilities—rocked in a way that was totally unforseen to me.
In order to sort all of these questions, I decided it would be best to speak to the source. As it so happened, a fellow from Psychopathic Records got a hold of my email after reading an interview I did with Rob Zombie a few years back.
He wrote to me this week, wondering if I would like to talk to Violent J ahead of the dude’s appearance in Burque on New Year’s Eve. I graciously accepted and telephoned, noting that I would be asking Violent J some nontraditional questions. The Juggalo for life from the label laughed about that when I called, telling me that I was a trusted member of the rocanrol world. How could I say no to that?
Weekly Alibi: Hello, this is August March.
Violent J: Brother August!
Hey man, how are you doing?
I’m doing pretty good. You know, a little under the weather, but I’m coming out of it now. I’m feeling better.
Are you way up north, in Michigan?
Yeah. This is my second beef with the flu since it started getting cold.
It’s cold here in Burque today, it’s probably really cold up there, que no?
I’m looking forward to coming out West because I’m way too sensitive to the cold. The reason I’m still here is because of my family.
That’s a cool part of your legacy: A family base, Psychopathic Records, a whole subculture based out of Michigan, right?
Yeah, you can count my family on one hand. [laughs]. It’s not like I have a whole lot of family. I got my mom; my mom is still alive and I feel incredibly blessed because I’m 46 years old and my mom is still alive, you know?
I’m really fortunate about that. My real father, I don’t know him. And then, I have a brother and a sister. So I am pretty blessed as far as family goes.
Let’s talk about your solo tour, I know you got that on your mind.
We don’t like to tour as ICP in the cold months. That’s because we don’t like to throw Faygo soda all over everybody and then send them out in the freezing cold.
I totally get that; I wouldn’t wanna get sprayed with Moon Mist in the middle of winter!
I mean, we used to do that when I was younger. We never seemed to draw any less in the winter, but we just felt, man, out of everyone that came to those shows, we’re probaly sending a certain amount of people ill—you know what I mean. It’s just something that we don’t want to do. For a while we didn’t tour [in the winter] at all. Later on, we decided to do solo tours, but at the same time. The first two years we did this, we did them for charity. They were small runs, just two weeks long. But this year we are each doing six weeks of touring in the winter. We start on the same day, New Year’s Eve and then we meet up in New Orleans for this year’s Juggalo Weekend, which is like a Juggalo holiday we have every year. Then we plan to do two shows in New Orleans as ICP. So that’s pretty cool.
You mean you’re hitting Burque for the opening show of your latest solo tour?
Yeah, that’s right!
Wow, what an honor for our city.
So you guys will see all the mistakes and everything! [laughs heartily].
Well, I don’t know about that …
You know, we do get better as we go along. I’ve come to learn that the Juggalos like to see us fuck up on stage. It’s just like me, if I was watching a band I dig, I wouldn’t mind the mistakes. I think that’s cool. It shows some vulnerability. I’ve learned that most of the people that come to our shows like that vulnerability too. When I was young, I used to have nightmares about being on stage when the music cuts off. But every time that’s happened in real life, it’s never been scary. Now, if the Faygo shorts out the elecrtricity, it’s never anything bad.
Fans like their heroes to have some flaws … that makes them feel even more connected to the music you make, amiright?
It took a while to understand that. But the more I understood that, the more my fear of making mistakes vanished.
Speaking of your fans, let’s talk about the Juggalos.
With us, we don’t have any huge hits, we’ve always been word of mouth. The way that our music sounds in general, that it’s outrageous, transgressive, that sort of thing still appeals to kids today. A lot of kids still come out to our shows.
Young people love that sense of transgression, I think. But you’ve grown over the years, too …
Exactly. There has been a lot of growth, but a lot of elements are still the same. What I mean by that is that our more well-known songs, people know us by those songs. There are Juggalos that follow all of our music, they’ll point out similarities from our early work to later stuff, like “Miracles.” Today, we still make songs that are similar to “Chicken Huntin.’ ” But for most people that know ICP, they only know certain songs.
Why do some people think that Juggalos are a gang?
I think that happens because people tend to talk shit or degrade stuff they don’t understand. When people don’t understand something at all, they tend to see it as a bad thing. It’s like the furries …
Yeah, I read you had a daughter that was involved with the furries.
I used to make fun of that myself. So, I learned what it was and I was stunned by the similarities between furries and Juggalos. People say things about furries, that it’s mostly a sexual thing. That’s not what it’s about. But when people don’t understand the underlying culture, they can easily make it into something that seems bad. There may be furries out there who like to have sex in their furry costumes, but that is not the breadth of the entire subculture at all. Just like there might be Juggalos out there that are gang members, but that is not what being a Juggalo is all about.
Sometimes the media like the juicy aspects of subculture, so that’s what gets written about. A lot of authorities don’t know how to explain Juggalo culture, so they end up thinking the worst. Mostly the Juggalos get together and have barbecues. They’re not fighting for territory; they’re not moving weapons. People assume it’s a gang because they don’t know how else to categorize such brother and sisterhood. It must be a negative thing, that’s what comes out of a cultural misunderstanding. The Juggalos are just people wanting to belong to something.
So, maybe they came from a bad home, maybe they didn’t have any friends before they listened to your music, is that correct?
Absolutely. The Deadheads and other subcultures certainly caught their share of trouble for the same thing. Everybody says they are all druggies, all losers … of course some others are going to dog them for that instead of saying these are people doing what they want to do and having a blast doing it!