Insane Clown Posse shows heavy on the mayhem - and flying soda

Danielle Hatch

When Insane Clown Posse rolls its psychotic carnival into East Peoria on Dec. 11, a semi truck full of Faygo soda will be right behind.

The Southwest Detroit rap-metal duo of Violent J (Joe Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joey Utsler) - the group that made a splash in Peoria in 2002 when it brought its three-day annual "Gathering of the Juggalos" to the Civic Center - is known for wearing frightening clown makeup, attracting legions of rabid fans known as Juggalos and leaving venues drenched in Faygo soda, their beverage (and stage prop) of choice.

"My favorite flavor is orange, although it's not the best on stage. You want to go with a cola or a root beer, something with super fizzy powers," said Violent J by telephone from Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Violent J says the fizzier sodas are easier to kick into the crowd. And despite several pending lawsuits over just this issue, the band is having a prosperous year. The group released its 10th album, "Bang! Pow! Boom!" and made "Big Money Rustlas," the follow-up to the 2000 film "Big Money Hustlas." Now, a three-month slate of concerts.

"This tour has been devastating. You know what I'm saying? It's been awesome," Violent J said. "It's what people struggle for their whole career. Just to be here, 17 years into our career, is a blessing like you never imagined."

'It's like therapy'

Despite good times, the band has its share of opponents. Violent J calls them "haters." They don't like ICP's message, lyrics, soda-spraying ways. Sometimes they spray paint the duo's bus or office in Detroit. Sometimes they give them the finger as they're pulling out of a venue and moving on to the next town. They say the group's music - which has lyrics about murder and rape - is a bad influence. Violent J's response?

"We know our music is different, it's radical, it's outrageous. We know that. But our videos aren't on MTV," he said, "so while you're waiting for your Miley Cyrus video, you don't have to watch ICP. You don't have to listen to our music on the radio. We never subject what we do to anybody who's not looking for it."

Violent J himself calls his music "wicked, crazy, filthy, violent." But he also calls it therapeutic.

"There's people that don't want you (to perform in their town), that don't understand. And then there's people that say you've changed their lives and you've helped them. A lot of times our music is angry in substance but if you pay close attention, all the people we kill on the records are people who deserve to die - pedophiles, rapists, racists. The characters of ICP are vigilante killers and it's like therapy for a lot of people."

Chaos of the clowns

The rappers are used to causing a ruckus. When they brought their three-day concert-event to the Civic Center in 2002, the event sparked a dollars vs. destruction debate throughout the city but resulted in $400,000 spent at area hotels and restaurants. Police in riot gear were ready to handle any problems, but few occurred. The group also played the Madison Theater in March of 2003.

Violent J, 37, says he won't be bringing the annual gathering back to Peoria. The group's 10th anniversary event this year was held at Cave-In-Rock, a tiny village in southern Illinois.

"Peoria was the last indoor gathering that we ever did. People were getting arrested for dumb (expletive), like girls flashing. It's not Peoria's fault, but it's a little too massive and a little too rowdy (an event) to be indoors. Putting it outdoors in a huge campground, which is primarily a private place without police standing every 10 feet, made it more of a relaxed environment," he says of the event, which he estimates drew 10,000 fans.

Big money

There's no question that ICP's fanbase is devoted - and not without buying power. Fans pony up for albums, tickets, and merchandise from the band's clothing line HatchetGear. It's an empire built by two guys who refused to bend their music or their message to fit mainstream dimensions.

"When we started our career, we didn't wait for no big record deal, we didn't wait for some famous star to come and put us on tour. We didn't wait for some big break that every musician sits and waits for," Violent J says. "We started walking, handing out flyers in a parking lot, then looked for a bigger parking lot. We did it from scratch."

Just like those early days, it's still all about the live show. Violent J says the tour that comes to East Peoria has clowns, ringmasters, monsters, showgirls, plenty of props. And, plenty of soda.

"Everyone's going to get their wigs blown off," Violent J said. "We're gonna shred skulls, we're gonna pack it with maximum voltage and just blow the roof off that (expletive). We're not about keeping it real, we're about entertaining."

Danielle Hatch can be reached at (309) 686-3262 ordhatch@pjstar.com.

There's more clown to go around. Violent J sounds off on...

ICP's soda-launching lawsuits: "I don't really like talking about it because it gives people ideas. (The lawsuits) are really stale. If you think about it, when a 2-liter rockets off the stage, by the time it hits you it's empty. When we throw a bottle, we throw it up and over the crowd. We'll never surprise anybody with a full 2-liter in the face."

The band's underground ways: "The cool thing about being an underground band, is you never hit your peak and then have to fall. You always maintain. You never have that one hot summer, but you're always there, bubbling under."

Why he creates horror-themed music: "When you walk into a video store, there's something for everybody - thrillers, scary movies, romance, love stories, action stuff. It's the same thing when you walk into a record store. (Our music) is like a Stephen King movie, only it's on record. We play these characters and we try to give them fresh adventures."

ICP's discography

1992 - "Carnival of Carnage"

1994 - "The Ringmaster"

1995 - "Riddle Box"

1997 - "The Great Milenko"

1999 - "The Amazing Jeckel Brothers"

2000 - "Bizzar" and "Bizaar" (double album)

2002 - "The Wraith: Shangri-La"

2004 - "Hell's Pit"

2007 - "The Tempest"

2009 - "Bang! Pow! Boom!"

Quick Guide:

- What: Insane Clown Posse.

- When: 8 p.m. Dec. 11.

- Where: East Peoria Event Center.

- Cost: General admission tickets are $25 at all Peoria Co-Op Records locations, the Peoria Riverfront Visitors Center, online at JayTV.com or by calling (800) 514-3849.