We now return Revue readers to their semi-regularly scheduled Juggalo coverage.
This time, it’s through the lens of Steve Miller, an investigative journalist, true crime writer, author and sometimes contributor to our sister publication, MiBiz. Miller’s latest book, Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made, chronicles both the genesis of the “World’s Most Hated” band’s epic music festival, as well as the controversial and contested decision by the federal government to officially label Juggalos a gang. Having just returned from his third Gathering of the Juggalos, Miller spoke with Revue on how the book came to be and what he saw this year.
Much of your past has focused on writing about true crime. How did Juggalos and ICP become a topic for you?
I was a fan of the music anyway. They were in rotation. Not any more than anyone else, but I listen to music so much that they were always in the mix. Then, I guess, as I was writing Detroit Rock City, I realized something: These guys really had an impact in Detroit and I was trying to identify acts that weren't always on the radar. I talked to those guys for that and I enjoyed them. I saw the sincerity that they had for their craft and the love for their fans. I was like, "Wow! This is kind of cool and very different."
How did you get drawn into the aspect of the FBI labeling Juggalos a gang?
At the time, I wasn't completely aware of the FBI gang threat assessment, what it was, and how it impacted them. After I got done and put Detroit Rock City to bed, I thought I'd look into this and started reviewing articles and checking some of the documents and just what this gang assessment was — how ICP had come back and was going to sue the FBI. I was just astounded by this idea.
What did you think of that?
“This is awesome.” Even 2 Live Crew didn't really do that. And (ICP was) doing it on behalf of their fans. And they were never trying to hide the fact that it hurt their commerce. So all these fans kept popping up. Then I figured, “No one is going to publish that.” But I don't pick books to make money, obviously. I pick them because I think they're worth the attention. Back to ICP, it just struck me that the feds had it so wrong and the police departments had it so wrong.
How do you see the FBI gang designation affecting not only the Gathering but also everyday life for Juggalos?
The impact is - yeah, you can be pulled over. Obviously cops can pull you over for anything. If they see the hatchet, they can just pull you over. This still happens. In some states, people get pulled over, cops see the hatchet and that's that. But if you have a hatchet tattoo or a Psychopathic tattoo, you would be deemed a gang member and you would go into a database. If you were unfortunate enough to be popped for something, from jaywalking to a ticket, you can be noted as a gang member.
What has that meant to some of the Juggalos you’ve spoken with?
That comes back in enhanced sentencing. We've seen cases where there were child custody disputes and if one of the parents was a Juggalo, that was brought into it and presented to the court as a detractor. If you're in the Crips or the Bloods you're probably not operating as part of normal society. But if you're a Juggalo, you are.
How do you mean?
You're generally going to work every day and so on. There's certain things you have to face. That really was the impact and that was driving the lawsuit. And again, Psychopathic would say that some stores stopped carrying their merchandise because it was now gang-related merchandise. Some places (the band) can't even play because they don't want a gang-connected group playing their venue.
So despite all that, how did this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos turn out?
It was number 17 which is significant for some reason. Everything there is significant. I went over to the scrub care unit, which is where they give out free water and clothing. They said they weren't prepared. They said it was a bigger turnout. … They were scrambling because there's just more people than before.
Anything in particular stand out to you?
I noticed anecdotally, just like last year … I don't want to say more ‘non-Juggalos’ but more people who were just interested in checking it out. That's the second year in a row I've noticed that. People are really curious about this. It's just people really wanting to enjoy the vibe.
What were some of the big announcements?
Well, they announced that next year they're moving the Gathering to Colorado (but they didn't specify where) and I'm really curious. I think a lot of people want to know where it's going to be. Like, in the mountains? I can't remember how he said it but it was funny as hell. (ICP frontman Violent J) was like 'you can buy pot and it's like going to Arby’s’ or something like that. The way he put it was so damn funny.
That and the march on Washington D.C. (planned for next year to protest the designation of Juggalos as a gang). This year felt like the announcements were as significant as anything else, to the world at large especially. The march on Washington, what could happen? It would be awesome.