The Insane Clown Posse are unkillable.
The group was born in 1989, out of the ashes of attempts at careers in both wrestling and hip-hop, and has more than earned their reputation as the “Most Hated In The World,” putting out horror-core releases that receive levels of scorn which can only be described as “Nickelback-ian.”
They’ve also earned a ton of money and a die-hard army of facepaint-loving fans called Juggalos as well as launched an annual festival/free-for-all, successful record label (Psychopathic Records), and, yes, a wrestling promotion (Juggalo Championship Wrestling).
With the release of their latest album The Marvelous Missing Link: Found, we took a moment to talk with Joseph Bruce (better known as Violent J) about the past, present, and future of hip-hop’s maligned clown princes.
The Marvelous Missing Link: Found is your 14th album. You’ve been doing this for 26 years. What keeps you and Shaggy 2 Dope going?
This is my career. I’m good at it, you know.
I’m… 42 or 43. [Laughs] I’m not sure how old I am. [Ed.: He’s 43] When you really think about it, that’s not that old in the span of a life. It might be old for hip-hop. Well, it’s not even really that old for hip-hop anymore. But, as long as I am physically able to get on the stage and put on a good show for the fans, I will. This is what I love to do.
So, even with all the controversy you guys have faced, especially the recent trouble with the FBI, you never thought about hanging it up?
That’s a ridiculous question, man. What’s going on is we’re suing the FBI for calling the Juggalos a gang… Why would that ever make us want to stop?
ICP has obviously been around for a while, and you’ve had your die-hard fans forever. But you really blew up everywhere after “Miracles” and the Saturday Night Live parody. How did you deal with all the new attention, especially knowing a lot of the new people weren’t being sincere in their fandom?
You know, we’re used to that. When Disney dropped us after we released The Great Milenko, that’s when I feel like we really became the “Most Hated Band In The World.” We’ve been dealing with people like that, people who don’t get it, for a long time.
I noticed on the new album, the song “Found” sounds a lot like “Miracles.” It deals with a lot of the same topics: spirituality, faith, the natural world and the like. Is “Found” meant to be a follow-up to “Miracles?” Was that intentional?
That song has nothing to do with “Miracles,” man. If you look in our catalog, you can go all the way back to ’94 and find very positive stuff like that.
These two albums [April’s The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost and TMML: Found] are about a life with and without faith. [Missing Link: Lost] is someone without faith. It’s dark, it’s wicked. it’s depressing. There’s nothing light in that album. [Missing Link: Found] is a lot lighter, there’s positive songs, there’s comedy. That’s what the “Missing Link” is. It’s faith.
That’s interesting. Do you and Shaggy subscribe to any particular religion?
We believe in a higher power. A Creator. We don’t have a specific religion. We don’t go to church or read the Bible or anything like that. But we believe in faith. And you can find faith in anything, you know? You can find it in art, you can find it in skateboarding.
I mean, I look at my life, and how could I not believe in a higher power? I have a beautiful wife, two beautiful kids. I get to go to work every day with my best friend. That’s my brother, and I get to work with him every day. We’ve been friends since we were little kids and we still get to work together. How could I not believe when I’ve been given all that?
Every year, you host this massive festival – The Gathering Of The Juggalos – and it’s kind of become known as this crazy, lawless party. So, I want to know, what’s the wildest thing you have seen at The Gathering?
It’s just pure anarchy. Everyone’s running around, completely free. There’s nudity. [Laughs] Not saying nudity is the wildest thing I’ve ever seen but, a lot of people like to get naked at The Gathering. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because they work office jobs and this is the one place where they can be free…
You know, Juggalos get f*cked with so much. Just for being fans, then they get to The Gathering and they know they’re among people like them. A Juggalo sees another Juggalo and they automatically know they have so much in common, you know? They can let it all out.
So the overall, collective sense of freedom is the wildest thing you’ve seen?
Being that you’ve done and seen all these things, what’s on ICP’s bucket list?
I’d really like to write another book. I wrote the first book [the 2003 autobiography Behind The Paint] and it got such a positive response from fans. I feel like now isn’t the right time to write it, though. The first one I had my whole life up until that point to write. And it’s only been a little over 10 years since the last book. I’d like to do another one, but I don’t want it to suck.
We’re still in the middle of our career, we’re only on the third card of the second deck [Note: ICP’s overarching Dark Carnival mythology is split into decks full of joker cards. The Missing Link albums are the third joker card in their second deck, which began in 2009]. I could write it now, but then that second book wouldn’t really have an ending.
You’ve put together a long career, you have your own record label, the wrestling, movies, merchandise, all of that. Given that you’ve been so successful for so long, do you think ICP gets the respect it deserves?
Yeah, man. I do. We get respect from our fans, the Juggalos. We get thanked all the time by fans for making this music. They tell us that our music literally saved their life, man. That’s something special to hear that from somebody. Some people will say Oh, their music is just for Juggalos or Only Juggalos like that. But what does that even mean? Juggalos are people. That would be like saying Only people listen to that music.
What would you say is the single biggest misconception about ICP?
That we suck, you know. That we’re just no good. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve kept a lot of fans because we make a good product and we do it consistently. We wouldn’t have as many fans as we have for as long as we have if we weren’t putting out good sh*t.
A lot of people say “Ah, the old sh*t was better” or only want to listen to the older stuff, but that happens with every artist. It comes with the territory when you’ve been around as long as we have.
Insane Clown Posse’s latest album The Marvelous Missing Link: Found is out now on Psychopathic Records. They’re kicking off their tour on Oct. 3 at Rob Zombie’s haunted house in Villa Park, Illinois. They will be touring (either as an act or with Juggalo Championship Wrestling) through December.