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Twiztid combines brutal imagery with a desire for greater connection

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Juggalos are so devoted to Insane Clown Posse that they dress up as killer clowns to prove it. For their devotion to the Detroit hip-hop duo, however, they’re reviled. Juggalos have been called a subculture, a cult and a gang — and have been classified by authorities in four states as engaging in gang behavior. But Juggalos claim simply to be a group of disenfranchised Americans who are fed up with being ignored, forgotten and abandoned. Because deep down, being a Juggalo means having companionship, an identity and a sense of belonging.

Paul Methric, one half of the Michigan-based hip-hop duo Twiztid, is a Juggalo first and foremost. Psychopathic Records gave him and partner Jamie Spaniolo a chance when few others would. He understands, though does not condone, the bad press received by the global group of clown-painted fans.

“When you peek your head into our world, and you don’t understand what’s going on, you’re going to have some questions. But to label everything under one big blanket is irresponsible,” he says.

Twiztid, like their label cohorts ICP, crafts macabre lyrics about horror-movie villains, murder and aggression. But in speaking to them, they hardly seem combative. They’re gregarious and talkative, albeit with a slight persecution complex. They feel as if the world is out to get them, to misinterpret their goals and paint them as scapegoats and villains. It’s understandable. (Spaniolo readily cops to it: “We know why [the media] paints us that way. That kind of fear sells.”)

Onstage, Spaniolo and Methric dress in bloodstained butcher’s aprons, surrounded by cleavers and hatchets. But what at first seems like grim fantasy is slowly revealed to be cathartic, even conciliatory.

“You’re mad at the world, you put on our song. You get it out, and you’re better,” Spaniolo says.

Twiztid doesn’t want to encourage the kind of violence they rap about — they want to give their fans an outlet to let it go.

“We’re inspired by the darkness of what is real — phantasmagorical stuff, almost magical. Stuff that people don’t want to deal with: breakup, suicide and rape,” Methric says, “We try to find that release point in our music. We’re talking about real issues. Stuff that you go through. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor alike go through it.”

“Your boss is a dick. You think your old lady is messing around on you, maybe with your best friend,” Spaniolo adds. “But nothing that life can throw you is too much that you can’t handle it.”

The duo has had what they consider to be a great amount of success, both in terms of their music and their message.

“[We’ll] get mosh pits at a rap show. That never happens,” Methric says. Twiztid embraces the gory spectacle, committing themselves to putting on the best, most over-the-top performances they can.

“If I’m going to charge someone 20 dollars to come and see us, we’re going to put on a show,” Methric says.

Yet no matter how hard they try to spread their message of healing-through-horror-rap, Methric says the Juggalo image is one that continues to be tainted.

“The media won’t shut up about the seven or eight f---ups,” Methric says, referring to a few deadly incidents involving Juggalos. “But they won’t talk about the hundreds, the thousands of lives we’ve saved. I’ve had grown men come up to me crying and say that my music saved their lives. That if it wasn’t for us, they would have committed suicide.”

As Twiztid, Spaniolo and Methric are fiercely loyal to the Juggalo movement — loyal to the notion that they are making a huge difference in the lives of people who might not otherwise have someone around to make that effort.

“We don’t want to make dance music. Or pop music. We want to reach people who grew up the same way that we did: dissatisfied, alone. The Juggalo is someone that no one really gave a shit about,” Methric admits.

But these supposed social rejects have found vindication and even acceptance within the context of the Juggalo culture.

Methric puts it best: “It’s bigger than what most people think. We’ve been classified as a gang, yes. But we’re not a gang. Not really. I’m Paul Juggalo. He’s Jamie Juggalo. We’re a family whose last name is Juggalo. That’s what we represent.”

Twiztid with Potluck, Kung Fu Vampire, and Knothead at the Knitting Factory on Tuesday, March 23, at 7 pm. All-ages. Tickets: $18.50; $20, door. Visit ticketswest.com or call (800) 325-SEAT.

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