This past weekend’s Gathering of the Juggalos in Thornville, Ohio, was the 16th consecutive year of Dark Carnival debauchery. Insane Clown Posse’s annual festival brought in loyal ICP devotees from all over the world to see a lineup boasting artists from the Clowns' Psychopathic Records roster past and present alongside more mainstream acts such as Waka Flocka Flame, Machine Gun Kelly and Flosstradamus.
One artist on this year’s bill was Los Angeles&ndas;by-way-of-Canada rapper Nova Rockafeller, making her Gathering debut. To get a female perspective on what it's like to play the notoriously anarchic Gathering, we spoke to her about her experience venturing into Juggalo territory for the first time.
How were you first contacted to appear at the Gathering?
ICP have been reaching out to my management team for years trying to get me to go. I just didn’t have the music ready, you know? I couldn’t go with my first album. It didn’t make sense for me at the time, but now it kinda does. This year we were just, like, in a good place.
Was there any particular song you knew the Juggalos would dig?
Well, all of my raps. When you’re at a record label, everyone’s trying to get the pop singles out of you. They want radio stuff. They want hits. This gave me an opportunity to do a lot of the rap stuff that comes naturally to me, and I love doing it. I haven’t had an outlet for that for the last couple years, so at the Gathering I got to do all my rap songs.
Did you know anyone who was going to be performing at the Gathering this year with you?
I knew Madchild and Machine Gun Kelly were going. I was pretty excited. I wanted to make out with D.O.D. but I didn’t see them. We were going to be in the autograph tent together, but they didn’t show up. I think it was because I was harassing them on Twitter, saying I was going to shove my tongue down their throats.
As you were making your way to the Gathering, were you having any second thoughts?
Well, of course I was kind of terrified. All the violence that’s happened there in the past, you have Tila Tequila. On the Internet, I look like a pop artist, you know what I mean? I just didn’t know what I was walking into. I was scared I was going to walk into a unsafe situation. I’m onstage on front of hundreds of people who aren’t scared to admit that, if they don’t like you, they’ll just throw bottles at your face. We all saw what happened to Tila Tequila.
And then their [Gathering of the Juggalos informercial] video came out and they describe me as “Nova Rockafeller and her sexy ass,” and I saw that as a red flag. I had people on the Internet warning me to be careful. The more people would warn me, it would kind of make me angry. So I went in to just be myself with all my best songs. I wasn’t taking any break with any slow things. I did a 40-minute set of double-time rap because nobody’s throwing bottles at me. And with Juggalos, if you win them over once, you win them over for life. I can use that kind of fan base, you know?
At what point did you start to feel comfortable at the Gathering?
You don’t know what you’re walking into. It’s crazy. There’s people holding signs for drugs. There’s people shouting through megaphones, “You can get ketamine.” When we first got there, we were by the ticketing booth to get inside, and a girl told us they weren’t checking bags or cars for any kinds of weapons and drugs. People were carrying hatchets around. I was scared somebody was going to [shoot] a firework onstage.
The first night was terrifying. It was pitch black, everyone has masks on and people are shouting crazy shit. I went back in the day and seeing how many people already knew me, seeing the culture of what Juggalos are, they’re a bunch of kids who just all accept each other no matter what. It was nice because I didn’t have the best upbringing, and these kids reminded me of the kids that I’d lived on the street with in Edmonton, or meet on Greyhound buses across the country. I felt I could be one of them, and that they didn’t hate me. During that day, I was pretty sure that nothing bad was going to happen.
When I got onstage, people were jacked. I think people threw a little bit of ice, but it was more of an accepting thing, like, “We like you, here’s some ice.”
You were in the autograph tents with ICP. How did they treat you?
It was so good. I felt like they were giving me a real gesture of acceptance. As soon as I got there, I felt they were trying to make me feel safe and protected. They asked me about dates in September, but I’m also going out with Set It Off and All Time Low up in Canada, so we’re just trying to see if it can work. That’d be nuts, right?