It’s no secret that times are hard. The economy is still in the toilet and people are finding it hard to have a good time. What the world needs is a bit of entrepreneurial spirit and a manifesto of partying hard to pull itself out of the current economic hole. Enter Wisconsin born rapper JUICEBOXXX. Not only is this guy producing some pretty phenomenal music right now, but he’s also got his own clothing line, brand of energy drinks and record label (called THUNDER ZONE) through which he recently released his album I Don’t Wanna Go Into The Darkness. JUICEBOXXX produces the type of accessible hip hop not a million miles away from the hard rock hybrid of early Beastie Boys, furnished with a West coast sheen. His live shows, during which he’s backed by members of Los Angeles noise rock outfits Abe Vigoda and HEALTH, are pretty incendiary affairs. We caught up with JUICEBOXXX to talk about life as a rapper, energy drinks and crowd surfing in Japan.
*We did this interview over email. The answers below are reproduced as they were received: in block caps. You’ll get the impression JUICEBOXXX is a pretty larger than life character… and you’d be right.*
Where are you and what were you doing just before answering these questions?
THUNDER ZONE HQ. JUST WOKE UP.
Let’s start at the beginning, why did you to start making music?
I’VE BEEN DOING THIS SINCE I WAS A KID. I’VE NEVER HAD A CHOICE – MUSIC HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE. PLAYED MY FIRST SHOW AS JUICEBOXXX IN DECEMBER 2001. THE SAGA NEVER ENDS.
LA has a scene of artists playing all kinds of musical styles (hip-hop, hard rock, punk). How does JUICEBOXXX fit into the LA music scene right now?
I DON’T CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE AN “LA ACT” IN ANY WAY, ALTHOUGH I SPEND A GOOD AMOUNT OF TIME HERE. THAT SAID, LA HAS A LOT OF GREAT BANDS AND I THINK THE “CROSSOVER VIBE” OF A LOT OF SCENES IS INSPIRING. WHEN I PLAY LIVE IN LA I PLAY WITH AN ALL STAR BAND FEATURING MEMBERS OF HEALTH AND ABE VIGODA BACKING ME UP.
How would you describe the experience of seeing JUICEBOXXX live?
I TRY TO PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE, EVERY TIME. I THINK A LOT OF LIVE RAP FALLS FLAT SO I TRY TO USE MY BACKGROUND IN PUNK MUSIC TO PUSH EVERY SHOW TO THE NEXT LEVEL. SOME OF MY LIVE INFLUENCES INCLUDE PUBLIC ENEMY, IGGY POP, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND TROUBLE FUNK.
You rap a lot about going out and getting fucked up… things that young people in a city can probably relate to. Do you draw on your own personal experiences?
YA MAN I DON’T KNOW – I’M NOT TRYING TO GLAMORIZE ANYTHING. I’M JUST TRYING TO DRAW FROM MY LIFE AND TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT KIDS MIGHT BE ABLE TO RELATE TO. YOU GOTTA LIVE YOUR LIFE MAN, IT’S A WILD WORLD OUT THERE.
What’s it like being a white rapper in LA?
I’M FROM MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – NOT LOS ANGELES. I’M ALWAYS TRAVELING BUT I HAVE NO REAL “HOME”. BEING A WHITE RAPPER IS A REALLY CRAZY THING, IT HAS ITS ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES. I’M JUST TRYING TO BE MYSELF AND MAKE MUSIC THAT SYNTHESIZES ALL OF MY INTERESTS.
You put out free mixtapes pretty regularly. How important is it for artists get exposure by giving away free music these days?
I THINK YOU GOTTA JUST BE MAKING MUSIC IN GENERAL AND JUST FUCKING THROWING IT OUT THERE, A LOT OF IT FOR FREE. I SPENT TOO LONG WORKING ON A RECORD THAT I’M REALLY PROUD OF (I DON’T WANNA GO INTO THE DARKNESS) BUT THIS YEAR I WANNA GO BACK TO DOING DEMOS, MIXTAPES – WHATEVER. AND THEN LET THE KIDS DECIDE. BUT I’M STILL ALSO INTERESTED IN MAKING MORE TRADITIONAL RECORDS. I JUST WANNA DO MORE OF EVERYTHING.
Tell us about the concept of Thunder Zone.
IT IS A RECORD LABEL/”BRAND” THAT PUTS OUT ANYTHING WE FEEL LIKE. BEYOND MUSIC. WE HAVE DONE SHIRTS, 7 INCH RECORDS, DIGITAL RELEASES, STICKERS AND ENERGY DRINKS. EVERYTHING GETS A CATALOG NUMBER. I’VE WORKED WITH G-SIDE, LIL UGLY MANE, 2 TON BUG AND OF COURSE PUT OUT SOME JUICEBOXXX SHIT. THIS IS JUST THE START.
How did you come up with the idea of producing your own line of energy drinks?
I JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE REALLY EXCITING FOR A RECORD LABEL TO HAVE IT’S OWN CRAZY ENERGY DRINK. I LOVE THE CULTURE AND BRANDING OF ENERGY DRINKS AND JUST LIKE MUSIC, I HAD TO DO IT MYSELF. I SELL THEM AT SHOWS AND I HOPE IT GETS KIDS OF ALL AGES SIKED TO FREAK OUT AND ENTER THE THUNDER ZONE FOR REAL.
The video for ‘Like A Renegade’ is pretty crazy. It looks like it was done in one take. Tell us about how it came together.
YA WE DID IT IN ONE TAKE. “FUNNY STORY” — WE SHOT ANOTHER VIDEO FOR “LIKE A RENEGADE” THAT WAS PRETTY TIME CONSUMING BUT DIDN’T COME OUT THE WAY WE WANTED IT TO. SO WE WENT “BACK TO BASICS” WITH THAT RAW STREET FIRE INTENSITY AND JUST DID ONE THING IN ONE TAKE AND I THINK IT TURNED OUT GOOD. I WANTED SOMETHING SIMPLE AND POWERFUL!
You’ve toured Japan. How did your music come across in over there?
I CONNECTED WITH SOME KIDS AND THEY KEPT FLYING ME BACK TO DO CRAZY TOURS WITH NOISE, PUNK AND FREAKOUT ACTS. LAST TIME I PLAYED DAMN NEAR 20 SHOWS. THE ENERGY OVER THERE IS JUST THRU THE ROOF AND THE SHOWS ARE CRAZY. IT IS TRULY A DREAM COME TRUE TO BE ABLE TO TRAVEL AND PLAY MUSIC FOR ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. THIS IS WHY I’M STILL IN THIS CRAZY GAME.
What’s the funniest thing that happened when you were on tour?
MAN I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN OR END WITH THIS ONE BUT I MEAN ONCE ON TOUR WITH JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD WE ENDED UP PLAYING THE “SMALL ROOM” AT A BIG CLUB. ON THE “BIG OUTDOOR STAGE” THAT DAY WAS A CLASSIC “NU-METAL” BILL (SPONSORED BY MONSTER ENERGY DRINK, I SHOULD ADD) FEATURING EVANESCENCE AND CHEVELLE.
I’M WORKING ON A TON OF EVERYTHING. GOING TO BE STEPPING UP THE GAME IN MANY WAYS. LIKE I SAID, I’M NOT SOME FUCKING WACK INDIE ROCK BUZZ BAND – THIS IS A SAGA! IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THAT THEN YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE THUNDER ZONE. PUTTING OUT MORE MUSIC ON THE LABEL (NEW SCHWARZ SINGLE GONNA BLOW SOME MINDS), MORE SHIRTS WITH LIL UGLY MANE. NEW MIXTAPE COMING SOON. WORKING ON SINGLES, EPS, MORE RECORDS. MAN I’M SO DEEP IN THIS THAT I CAN’T GET OUT. AS CRAZY AS JUICEBOXXX IS IT HAS BEEN MY LIFE FORCE SINCE I WAS A TEENAGER AND I CAN’T GIVE UP QUITE YET. NEVER SURRENDER FOREVER.