An American Juggalo, looking more like a soundman at a Halloween party than a gang member. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
It’s not a crime to dress like a clown and listen to horrorcore, though it’s certainly not going to get you a job at Goldman Sachs. However, it does seem a little harsh that here in the United States, fans of Insane Clown Posse are legally on a par with the Bloods and the Crips.
Back in 2011, an FBI report labeled ICP fans a "loosely organized hybrid gang," whose members were guilty of committing assaults and vandalism, and were actively engaged in more serious crimes. ICP brought a lawsuit against the FBI on behalf of their beloved Juggalos and Juggalettes, but last week they lost that court case, bringing great shame upon the Juggalo cohort.
We asked some UK-based Juggalos and Juggalettes how they feel about their subculture being criminalized.
Stephen, 42, Sunderland
VICE: Hey, Stephen. What does being a Juggalo mean to you?
Stephen: It’s all about family, friends, the music that we listen to—as in ICP, ABK, Twisted. It’s all about the horror music. We smoke the old green, but most people do nowadays, so that’s nothing new. To me, it’s all about family and respecting one another. I have not met a Juggalo that I haven’t respected, because we all come from different backgrounds, areas, walks of life.
So you're not a “gang” then?
I just think it’s ridiculous, to tell you the truth. The whole UK Juggalo community thinks it’s ridiculous. To call anyone into different music a gang member is just wrong. To call Slipknot or Slayer fans a gang is mad. The same thing happened when people started listening to Marilyn Manson—it’s all to do with dark music and death metal.
What’s the UK Juggalo community like?
We have gatherings and meet up when we can. I have a Juggalo tattoo, and I’ve become sort of the unofficial Juggalo tattooist. It’s all about family. We’re there to help the family. We go to a lot of gigs and shows, and never seen one bit of trouble. All we do is keep to ourselves. When the people from the outside come in, that’s when any trouble gets caused, but it’s us that get the bad name. It’s always the God Squad and people like that.
Why do you think the FBI problems started?
There are good Juggalos and bad Juggalos, and the younger Juggalos are giving us a bad rep. We try to guide the younger ones, as the older Juggalos. We all do stupid things when we’re young, until we get older and learn better.
Does the US case mean anything for Juggalos in the UK?
There are Juggalos worldwide, so what’s happening in the US affects us all. It’s frustrating, because there's only so much we can do to help over here in the UK. Either way, I support my fellow homies in the States.
What would you do if being a Juggalo was criminalized over here? Renounce your allegiance?
I’d still be a Juggalo. My youngest son is a Juggalo too. I’ve brought him up as one, listening to all the music. Neither of us would stop being Juggalos.
Craig, 26, Hereford
Hi, Craig. What’s a Juggalo to you?
Craig: It’s basically being a strong fan of the music. We’re no more a gang than the people that follow other bands, like Justin Bieber and shit. I’d say Bieber fans are more dangerous than Juggalos, definitely. I’ve heard the shit they do. It’s ridiculous. They cut themselves in front of him and stuff. All Juggalos want is to have a good time, painting your face up, and listening to music. It’s nothing about gang members and all that.
Do you paint your face up?
I paint my face up and go out for a laugh sometimes. I haven’t got any tattoos of Hatchetman [the logo of Insane Clown Posse's record label Psychopathic Records] yet, but I'm looking to get a few. And I’d still get them if [the gang allegations] kicked off over here. The music’s what I love, and nothing’s gonna stop that. I’ll get a tattoo on my neck plain as day—don’t matter.
How long have you been aware of the American Juggalo scene's issue with the FBI?
Since about a year ago. I speak to a lot of the US Juggalos daily. I think it’s so stupid that they could even think Juggalos are a gang. There are actual gangs over there that are causing real trouble. It’s just ridiculous, and I can’t see why they’ve done it. I can’t describe how I feel about it.
Have you got any friends who've had problems over there?
Yeah, I was speaking to a Juggalo friend of mine who lives in the US, and he got stopped by the police for having a Hatchetman tattoo. They pulled him in and questioned him more about it.
Are you worried that the police will criminalize Juggalos here?
I’m definitely worried, especially because of the way that people over here get so panicked about stuff. It’s gonna cause riots. Does that mean I can’t walk down the street now wearing a Hatchetman logo on me, or what? It’s ridiculous to think I’m a gang member.
Kev, 30, Hereford
What do you think of the FBI classing your Juggalo brethren as gang members?
Kev: Well, it seems to just be another case of people thinking they can control everyone through conformity. It’s all about conformity and not really toeing the line. It’s just another example of the world becoming a dictatorial state. If you don’t conform, you’re not right, and therefore you must be stopped. They want to stop it because they don’t understand it. It comes across as being scared of something out of the mainstream. To my knowledge, there are no Juggalos involved in crime over here.
Are you a part of the UK scene yourself?
I’m a bit of an outsider Juggalo. I wouldn’t mind going to the gatherings—they certainly do look like a good laugh. I want to see ICP live, but they don’t come to the UK. That’s about it for me. For me, it’s all about the music. I like all the psychopathic music, but I listen to metal as well. I’m a Juggalo from afar, I’d say.
So you don't paint your face?
No, never been tempted with that one myself. It’s part of it, but it’s a choice. Everyone thinks, What are you doing that for?
Do you fear the prospect of police over here treating you all as gang members?
It’s certainly daunting, yes. It’s a bit crazy, isn’t it? You think about it, and it’s just music fans. It happened before with Marilyn Manson and the Columbine shootings. To be honest, it could happen, but it’s all whether we’re well known enough over here. It’s a bit of a different thing in the UK.
Do you think of yourself as a gang member?
I’ve never really given much thought to it, but I’d say that’s a bit ridiculous. If they said that over here, I wouldn’t stop listening to the music. If they can’t accept that it’s just music, it’s all madness. That’s for them to deal with. If they just talked to Juggalos, they’d see that. But they’d never do that.
Sez Too-Dope, 27, Manchester
You’re the organizer of the UK Gathering of the Juggalos. What’s the scene like here?
Sez Too-Dope: It’s only the unofficial gathering, but it gets bigger every year. It’s all good fun. The first gathering I did in Liverpool was small—there were only about 20 of us, but we traveled from all across the UK. And since then, it’s grown huge. It’s like we’ve known each other for years. It’s really special.
What have you heard from US Juggalos about what's going on over there?
People are having to get their tattoos covered and stuff. It’s ridiculous. The people giving Juggalos a bad name aren’t Juggalos—they shouldn’t be called Juggalos.
Would the criminalization happen over here?
I hope not, because I’ve got two Hatchetman tattoos and I don’t want to get pulled over by police. I don’t think there’s as many of us over here as in the US or other European countries, and ICP haven’t toured over here for years. No one gets any stick over here at the moment. We get asked about the tattoos and what we’re wearing and stuff, but that's no problem. We’ve got high-ranking people over here who are Juggalos. We’ve got a Juggalette who works for the council, and she openly says she’s a Juggalette.
That's handy for the future. What would you say to anyone who thinks Juggalos are dangerous?
The world would be a better place if we all treated each other like we Juggalos treat each other.
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This article was updated at 5.54PM on the 16th of July to reflect transcription errors.