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This weekend in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois over 10,000 people will come together for the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, a three-day music festival hosted by face-painting, hip-hop-loving Detroit duo Insane Clown Posse. It’s the 12th such confab of outsiders, which has gained in size, scope and reputation, especially over the last few years when the likes of Vanilla Ice and Tila Tequila have made headlines for appearing at the fest — sometimes for all the wrong reasons (Tequila, for one, got pelted with bottles last year after angering a rowdy crowd).
The 2011 lineup promises more neck craning as ICP rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have recruited none other than Charlie Sheen to host the show on August 13 (also on the bill: Bobby Brown, MC Hammer, Busta Rhymes, Flavor Flav and Lil Jon). What exactly does hosting entail? “He’s going to introduce about eight acts and tell jokes between sets to kill time while they’re setting the stage up,” J tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He’ll probably take some questions and do whatever else Charlie Sheen does. Your guess is as good as mine.”
The Juggalos wouldn’t have it any other way. Read on for more Insane insight in THR’s Q&A with ICP’s Violent J.
The Hollywood Reporter: How did the idea of the Gathering of the Juggalos originate?
Violent J: We buried in the liner notes to [our 1996 album] The Great Milenko that any juggalos reading this should meet us behind St. Andrews Hall at midnight on this date, like, a year later. St. Andrews is a 1,000-seat historic hip-hop venue in downtown Detroit that we used to work at as security, but we were underestimating how many people would read that and end up wanting to go. Once the album came out, we started hearing from people, “I’m going; what’s it going to be?” So we decided, we better book St. Andrews Hall for that day and have a concert there. Then we made it so everybody that came to meet us that night got a flyer and a special ticket to go somewhere else, a bigger place. It started with a couple hundred people where we’d give them all a free T-shirt or something, but it ended up spreading like crazy.
THR: The 2010 Gathering had attendance of more than 20,000 people and was written about in such mainstream publications as the New York Times. What spurred the critical mass that year?
VJ: It’s hard to say. It was number 10 and we were actually really worried about the 11th. Then last year came along and looked just as great as the 10th anniversary. It just seems like it’s gotten to that next level now. Then again if it got too big, it wouldn’t be as awesome as it is. Something like Bonnaroo where you’ve got 70,000 people there, you have to bring in some sort of law enforcement. It would have to be policed, and one of the greatest things about the Gathering is the utter freedom. It’s like a private party or going to a friend’s house who lives in the middle of nowhere where you can light off any kind of fireworks or walk around naked if you want. Everybody can go skinny dipping! It’s the ultimate freedom…. It’s so cool the way it is that it feels like it’s going to end in any second. Like, somebody is going to put their foot down and say, “No more fun!” But to the best of my knowledge, there’s never been one fight at the gathering because Juggalos is a different vibe, man.
THR: Whose idea was it to get Charlie Sheen involved?
VJ: We did the Howard Stern show and somebody said, “You should get Charlie Sheen.” I’m thinking, “Man, we don’t have Charlie Sheen-type of money,” but we called his managers and they were down with it. Charlie Sheen is doing this because he wants to do something different, and even when you’re Charlie Sheen status, somebody that’s seen it all, you’ve still never seen anything like the Gathering. There’s nothing like it. I think Juggalos won’t be respected until 20 years after they’re done. Everybody will look back on it and say, that was great. That was history. Certain people recognize that now. They understand this is something special and unique that’s never happened in rock and roll. Charlie Sheen and his managers recognized it.
THR: What will you say when you meet him?
VJ: I’m going to say thank you, first of all, and I’m going to try to show him a good time. I’m going to give him a golf cart and say, “Let’s go riding, man! Let me show you the gathering.” It’s an honor to have him. I don’t think he’s doing it for the money, I think he’s doing it because he believes in it, so I want him to relax and have a good time. I want him to understand and witness the fact that Juggalos are different. I think he’ll find it really cool. I’m hoping he will.
THR: Do you regret having Tila Tequila on the bill that one year?
VJ: Not at all. We made a lot of noise off that. If she would have gotten off stage when they were chanting for her to leave the stage, she would have never got hurt. When everybody is booing you, that means it’s time to leave. She just stayed up there, wilding out, pissing them off further. Anybody in that situation would have ended up getting hit. She was up there saying, “I’m not a bitch. I’m not leaving.” That was just antagonizing people. But I think it’s a shame that she got physically hurt.
THR: Was that a miscalculation on your part to book her?
VJ: We thought it would have worked. She was this internet sensation who was known for being beautiful. She had a song called “I want to f–k a DJ.” But then she went on Twitter saying that she’s down with the clown and spelling clown with a k. Juggalos weren’t liking that. But at the same time, I think she got what she wanted out of it: a lot of publicity. Somebody like that, what is she famous for? Is she an actor? Is she a singer? What does she do? She lives off publicity like that. I don’t think she regrets it either. She’s in control. She’s got her people. She knows what she’s doing. I think she stayed up there because she wanted headlines. I think she would’ve stayed up there until something crazy happened because that’s how she gets by.
THR: You guys have really defied every music business convention there is. Did you have a plan or did it just turn out that way?
VJ: We always thought what we were doing was the shit. We thought, we keep it entertaining — like a science fiction film or a Harry Potter movie — but we also like our music to talk about things that aren’t real. We all have to live in the f–king real world, why does the music have to reflect that so much? So we like to put out music that makes you laugh or takes you somewhere else, we develop these characters that are like serial killers or just like Freddy Krueger, we become the wicked clowns and put ourselves in different scenarios. We think it’s great art. The only time we’ve ever clashed was when we signed with labels in the past. They don’t have any idea what the f–k we’re trying to do. They don’t get it at all. Even to this day.
THR: How do you mean?
VJ: I was in the record store the other day and there was a greatest hits called ICP Icons or something. I believe Island Records put it out from back when we were on the label. They don’t even know what our greatest hits are! They could have put s–t on there that’s 50 times cooler than what they got. Nobody understands it.
THR: In 1996, Disney’s Hollywood Records pulled The Great Milenko from stores on the day of its release taking issue with the lyrics. The album went on to sell 1.8 million copies for Island, but clearly your major label experience wasn’t a good one….
VJ: Our experience was a nightmare, except for the outcome. Getting all that press was great for us. It put us on the map. But the people out there on the street they’re much smarter than the people in the towers. Now there are some [exceptions]; I’m sure the people in the towers are doing a better job for Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber — they’re working that to the max. But a band like ICP, leave it to us. We know our audience better than anybody else. I’m not saying there’s no place for those huge labels, because obviously there is — all you have to do is look at the top 10. It’s full of groups that are being crafted by major labels, but for groups like us, it’s best to just let us do our thing.
THR: As a group from Detroit, are you at all surprised that Eminem is as relevant today as he was ten years ago?
VJ: I’m not surprised by it. His hype lives up to his talent and I think he’s just a super talent. I know that he’s no longer Slim Shady, he’s no longer the wild guy he used to be, he’s more like an adult contemporary version of Eminem now. If it were me, I’d still be slim shady. If I was him, I wouldn’t be scared to say something just because I’m older now. I hear Dr. Dre saying, “Hey man, a guy my age can’t be saying the same s–t I said 20 years ago.” I think, “Why not? Sure you can.” But I don’t listen to Eminem. He’s a little too serious for me now — not my style.
THR: What do you think about the state of hip hop today?
VJ: It’s just as good as it’s always been. I remember Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy… These guys were, like, characters. Everything about them and the way they looked. You had A Tribe Called Quest who was different than Public Enemy who was different than LL Cool J who was different than N.W.A. Today, if you stray down your own path, you get made fun of. But then again, you got Odd Future coming out basically doing horror-core, you got Rick Ross and he’s fresh with the big beard. Of course, Lil Wayne is incredible. I don’t have a problem with hip hop today. At first glance, I miss the way it used to be, but it’s still there. I think it’s still dope.
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