Insane Clown Posse
The Great Milenko
By Scott Colburn
Granted, I never really got in to rap. My best friend Dave found it early on, but I could never relate to it. So sue me.
Fast forward 15 years - Dave called from Chicago one day to say he'd edited an hour-long documentary that would be broadcast on MTV that night. I love my friend, and I love his work, so I set the VCR for midnight and went to bed.
The next evening I rewound the tape.
My wife found me swirly-eyed and giggling senselessly. She's still worried about me, frankly.
ICP are a rap duo from Detroit, where-the-hell-is-Michigan, but don't let that fool you - they're really a couple of wicked, wicked clowns residing over their own Dark Carnival, and if you don't watch your step your apt to acquire a permanent, sinister grin, yourself. I may just be a hick from Indianer, but I's sho 'nuff knows hella stuff 'bout freaks, and these guys are waaay beyond cheesy side show attractions; this is the fascinating stuff of acid nightmares!
ICP (the KISS of rap) don nightmarish clown makeup over street clothes, take everything imaginable to absurd extremes, and market themselves with absurdity. What other group has both action figures and beanie babies in their likeness, I ask you? What other group has raised the roof of a local, no-name soft drink company's bottom line merely by consistently spraying their adoring and demented audience with the stuff?
Of course, I immediately bought ICP's latest (at the time) album, The Great Milenko (1997). The opening cut begins with a hillbilly pool hall drama, which scratches into an intro speech by none other than Alice Cooper The Almighty! All this madness ends, creepily enough, like a skipping record - "Milenko... Milenko... Milenko...". Then comes the real madness - circus organs, fun house joker laughs, overlapping/opposing vocals, and barker-style raps extolling the wonders of the Great Milenko and warning of (conjuring up?) the doom he dispells upon us all. Mayhem, thy name is ICP.
The Great Milenko is focused in lyrical content. This disc erupts with rantings about carinivals, freaks, wicked clowns, voodoo, the killing of rednecks, frustration over John Q Public's lack of courtesy (!), kangaroo court systems, christians, alienation, and worthless knowledge. These lyrics speak to me! For example, "Halls of Illusion" has a duality in sound design and lyrical content akin to an audio version of "viewing the world through rose colored glasses". Each verse begins with pleasant-enough music and rosey lryics, but all this soon darkens, like a fun-house mirror reflecting the more sinister realities of a life turned rancid...
What do we have here, oh yeah, no way
It looks like your kids, and they okay
Your daughter's chillin up in college, top grade
And your son's a fuckin doctor, phat paid
They got families and kids and it's all good
They even coach little league in the neighborhood
Is this true have ya really seen the holy ghost?
Nah, bitch... not even close!
Back to reality - your son's on crack
And your daughter's got nut stains on her back
And they both fuckin smell like shit
And live in the gutter and sell crack to each other
When they were kids, you'd beat em and leave em home
And even whip 'em with the cord on the telephone
And that reminds me, man, hey - ya got a call
Watch your step to Hell...it's a long fall!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa...
Can I get a witness?
ICP producer Mike E. Clark wrote and recorded all of Millenko's musical elements. Clark created Milenko on 2 ADAT's, a 32 channel Mackie mixer, 2 Akai S1000 samplers, a few sound modules (Juno 106, Novation Bass Station, TR808, Korg M3R) and a midi sequencer (Akai ASQ10) at his own project studio (appropriated named The Funhouse). To date, this record has sold millions of copies!
Despite the fact that it was recorded with basic, off-the-rack, run-of-the-mill equipment, Milenko sounds great! Why? Because Clark has a rare talent for sound design, period. "House of Horrors" is a prime example of Clark's artistry - the piece begins with a carnival sideshow scene wherein a barker entices two teens into the House of Horrors. In the background are a bass drone, cricket ambience, and whispers. A door slam provides the perfect transition to a drum beat, funeral organ, evil laughs, and ghostly voices...
Welcome to the House of Horrors
Were you born in a barn, shut the fuckin door
You see, damn, cuz I'm about to scare you
Blubablubabluba, okay now I dare you
Close your eyes, open up your mouth, and count to ten
Don't wanna, huh, cuz you know my nuts are going in
I'm twisted, I'll cut your finger off, and stick it in your butt
Awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa and glue it shut
Milenko's music is simple and the recording equipment was modest, but the sound design was superb - ear candy for everyone! I still don't consider myself a "rap fan", but I'm most certainly "down with the clown". ICP makes me laugh (so twisted, so absurd!), and Mike Clark makes me proud to be an audio engineer and producer!
Check out www.insaneclownposse.com for more info