Violent J talks ICP's challenge to the FBI, which classifies the Juggalos as a gang: "It bums me out... but we're fighting it. They're gonna have to do their research"
Neither a legal battle with the FBI nor a torn Meniscus suffered by Violent J is going to slow Insane Clown Posse down this year.
The rap duo -- whose latest album, "The Mighty Death Pop!" debuted in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200, Top Rap Albums and Top Independent Albums chart -- is getting ready to hit the road May 1 in Rochester, N.Y., and stay there through its annual Halloween night Hallowicked show back home in Detroit with, of course, its 14th annual Gathering of the Juggalos in August. And Violent J promises ICP will surprise its fans with this year's show.
"This next tour is going to be a brand-new show -- not just the Clowns and the zombies and the Faygo, but a lot of new stuff going on and a bunch of songs we don't normally do in concert," Violent J (nee Joe Bruce) tells Billboard. "We're going into the catalog and are gonna stop doing the same batch of songs that we always do every tour because they're the concert hits. We're going to do a lot of songs we've never done in concert. Most people that come to see us have been coming for years and seen ICP, like, 12 times or something...so we want to give them something really different and fresh this time."
Violent J adds that he and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joe Utsler) will "get back to doing the regular stuff that we know everybody loves" in the future, but for this year ICP is "gonna open some new doors, kick some new flavors and show we don't have to rely on our regular bag of tricks. We're looking forward to the challenge and providing something new and innovative and unexpected."
This year's Gathering, meanwhile, takes place Aug. 7-11 back at Cave-in-Rock, Ill., and will be themed The Rise of the Underground, according to Violent J.
"We're going for a lot of people who are independent," he explains. "We're gonna have a lot of your big stars there, but I think we're going to put more of our attention into the underground and people that are doing it themselves and less on stuff that was huge commercial hits and things like that. We're going for more underground stuff as far as the main stage, more than there ever has been."
The tour, of course, comes in the midst of ICP's fight with the FBI over the agency's designation of the Juggalos as a gang -- which has impacted on the group's ability to book shows and on its merchandise sales. ICP's attorneys have filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documents from the FBI (a trial date looms for March 2014) and are also preparing another suit that will ask for the classification to be removed.
"I try to keep my mind off it, honestly," Violent J says of the conflict. "It bums me out, and I get winded when I think of the challenge. But we're fighting it. They're gonna have to do their research in trying to prove the Juggalos are a gang, but that scares me, what they're going to find to say. I don't know what to expect. It's so ridiculously stupid; I expect (the FBI) to say something like, 'You misunderstood what we mean. We're just saying (the Juggalos) behave LIKE gangs...but to make you happy we'll take your name off the list.' They'll try to talk their way out of it like that. It's so dumb and ridiculous and untrue that they're gonna have to do something like that."
Meanwhile, ICP continues to support "The Mighty Death Pop!" The group plans to shoot videos for at least 10 of the album's songs; it released its fifth, for "Where's God?," in time for Easter and it's filmed another, for the track "When I'm Clownin'." The duo produced the first solo album by longtime associate Legz Diamond (the recently released "9 Pistolas"), and Violent J says ICP is also working on "this huge project" that he promises will "shock the world" -- which, of course, is all he'll say about it at the moment.
As for a next musical project, Violent J says that "We're starting to think about it now, just recently, and I'm excited," Violent J says. "I'm trying to see what's gonna pop into my head as far as a name or an image. Once we settle on that, then it'll be full speed ahead."