Interview & Portrait by Asher Penn
“Freaked Out American Loser” is the latest album by Sex Magazine favorite JUICEBOXXX. The Milwaukee bred punk rapper has been in the recording booth, the practice space and on the road for over a decade now and it shows. A seasoned professional who refuses to give his signatory “guts and tension,” the world of Juiceboxxx is an exercise in controlled chaos, striving for excellence against all odds. It’s no surprise that “Freaked Out American Loser” feels like an American classic from start to finish, and the perfect soundtrack for a world past repair.
What were you setting out to make with Freaked Out American Loser? What was your process like for writing and recording?
AT THE TIME, I WAS WORKING ON TWO PROJECTS AT ONCE. I CONCEPTUALIZED “FREAKED OUT AMERICAN LOSER” AS THE “PUNK” RECORD AND THE OTHER ONE AS MORE “POP.” I MAYBE DON’T THINK IN THOSE BINARIES ANYMORE, REGARDING MY OUTPUT.
“Freaked Out American Loser”, 2017. Photo: Joe DeNardo.
You released this album in a diner at Ridgewood. What are your favorite venues to play in? Does size matter?
I LIKE THE CHALLENGE OF ROCKING IN A VARIETY OF PERFORMANCE SITUATIONS. AT THE TIME OF TYPING THIS, I AM GEARING UP TO PLAY AT A STADIUM IN ARIZONA. NO LIE. 1:35 IN THE AFTERNOON. THEN I’LL GO PLAY IN A BASEMENT OR SOMETHING. I CAN NEVER MAKE UP MY MIND ABOUT WHETHER I’VE TOTALLY WASTED MY LIFE OR NOT.
You promoted the album in LA with a 1-800 number on bus ads. Did you get many calls? Did they get what it was about?
GOT A LOT OF CALLS. WILL PLAY SOME ON FUTURE “FREAKED OUT FRIDAYS.”
Is ‘Freaked Out Fridays’ the same as ‘State of The Thunder Zone?” Is there any difference between the two?
“FREAKED OUT FRIDAYS” IS A CONTINUATION OF “STATE OF THE THUNDER ZONE.” TRYING TO DO SOMETHING THAT IS TOTALLY INSANE AND CONSTANTLY CIRCLING BACK ON ITSELF. I LIKE THE LIVE COMPONENT. IT IS FUN TO COMMUNICATE WITH FANS AND KIDS OF ALL AGES.
Record release show, Ridgewood, 2017. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk.
The lyric vids are a new thing for you. Who did the lettering?
ARVID LOGAN. GENIUS NEW YORKER. THE LYRICS ARE IMPORTANT SO I’M GLAD KIDS CAN ACTUALLY READ THEM NOW. EVERYTHING I DO IS AN ATTEMPT TO BUILD ON SOME WEIRD AMERICAN CONTINUUM THAT MAYBE ONLY EXISTS IN MY DEMENTED, PATHETIC HEAD.
I heard you had a spa day on tour. Are there other road rituals?
“SPA DAY” MIGHT BE OVERSTATING IT BUT ME AND THE BAND DID GO TO THE DESERT AND HUNG OUT IN SOME HOT SPRING HOT TUBS. I REALLY LOVE SAUNA CULTURE. SELTZER AND SAUNAS. I HAVE VERY FEW INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF MUSIC.
You’ve played with a lot of acts this tour- any standouts?
A FEW OFF THE DOME: PRISSY WHIP IN LA, TAJ IN MILWAUKEE, ANTWON IN OAKLAND, EAT SKULL/MEAN JEANS/E*ROCK IN PORTLAND. I’M SURE A TON OTHER THAT I’M FORGETTING.
Bench Ad, Los Angeles, 2017
When I saw you at the Smell you played with a lot of technical difficulties. Is this super normal when you tour?
IT USED TO BE A LOT MORE NORMAL. THAT SMELL SHOW FELT LIKE EVERY JUICEBOXXX SHOW A DECADE AGO: JUST TOTAL CHAOS. NOW IT IS MORE ABOUT TRYING TO DO THE ULTIMATE ROCK AND ROLL SHOW. I’M DONE ACTING LIKE A JACKASS. I WANNA BE GREAT. I FEEL LIKE I REALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE. SPRINGSTEEN.
You were in Vegas during the shooting. Describe that night?
WE PLAYED AN ALREADY SURREAL SHOW AT A ROCK BAR ON THE STRIP. GOT THE NEWS AND RUSHED TO OUR HOTEL ROOM. THINGS FELT VERY UNCERTAIN AND TERRIFYING. DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE SAYING MUCH MORE.
Not your first brush close to death. How have you processed it?
ONE DAY AT A TIME. CERTAIN AMERICAN REALITIES MAKE ME FEEL VERY BLEAK AND HOPELESS.
“Freaked Out American Loser” Thunder Zone Energy Drink
I saw you have a new Thunder Zone energy drink design. Is it a new flavor for the heads?
ALREADY OUT OF PRINT. ULTRA LIMITED EDITION FOR THE NEW RECORD. THINK OF IT LIKE A NOISE TAPE BUT IT IS AN ENERGY DRINK INSTEAD. I AM AN IDIOT.
The title track of the album has you singing, which is a big change. Will there be more of this in the future? Are you done with rapping?
I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE NEXT LP. I’M NOT GOING TO LIE: SOMETIMES I’LL WATCH U2 AT RED ROCKS AND THINK “THAT IS WHAT I WANNA DO.” THEN I’LL TURN ON THE DIPSET RAP CITY FREESTYLE FOR 1,000TH TIME OR SOME MASONNA LIVE VIDEO AND FEEL VERY CONFUSED AND SAD. I HATE MYSELF.
“Freaking Out” lyric video still by Arvid Logan.
Is this your first album with another label that’s NOT Thunder Zone? What’s it been working with Danger Bird?
I’VE RELEASED WITH A TON OF SMALLER LABELS OVER THE YEARS. THAT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER, THOUGH. FOR THE THREE OF YOU THAT CARE ABOUT MY DUMB FAILURE OF A LIFE ON THE PERIPHERY OF MULTIPLE “UNDERGROUND” MUSIC SCENES, THERE IS GOOGLE. IT HAS BEEN A TRUE PLEASURE WORKING WITH DANGERBIRD. JENNI IS A REAL ROCKER AND WE BOTH LOVE THE REPLACEMENTS VERY MUCH.
Your live show is with a band. Are they involved in the writing / recording process? What are you going for with live vs recorded?
WILLY D IS A CRUCIAL COLLABORATOR, PLAYED GUITAR AND BASS ON EVERY FULL LENGTH RECORD. ROCKER MIKE ENGINEERED “HEARTLAND 99.” THE NEXT STEP IS A BIG ANTHEMIC RECORD THAT THE KIDS CAN BELIEVE IN. I STILL FEEL LIKE I HAVEN’T MADE THE REAL RECORD YET. THAT IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS WHY I AM STILL DOING THIS DUMBASS BULLSHIT. I GOT SOMETHING TO PROVE.
“Freaking Out” Official Music Video, Directed by Guy Kozak.
You’ve been covering “Devils Haircut” during your live shows. Are you a fan of Karaoke? What other songs would you love to cover?
COVERING BECK IS SORT OF CONCEPTUAL IN A FUNNY WAY, BUT MAYBE IT PROVIDES SOME CONTEXT. I’M OBSESSED WITH HIS EARLY OUTPUT… BASICALLY I THINK THERE IS A LOT MORE TO BE DONE WITH GUITARS AND BREAKBEATS. I LOVE CONTEMPORARY RAP MUSIC BUT NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO SOUND LIKE THAT. I ALSO REALLY LOVE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND TOM PETTY. AND I’LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME I HEARD “GRINDIN’” BY THE CLIPSE. AS FAR AS KARAOKE, I LIKE TO DO “FLY” BY SUGAR RAY FROM TIME TO TIME.
The first lyric in Freaked Out American loser references the Gold Line… Did you write that song when you were in LA?
YEAH. I WAS WORKING IN PASADENA ON THE WEEKENDS, TAKING ALL SORTS OF PUBLIC TRANSIT UNTIL I GOT FIRED. I WAS JUST A MESS OF A HUMAN BEING, SLEEPING ON COUCHES AND IN BASEMENTS, HOLDING ONTO WHATEVER SHRED OF SANITY I HAD LEFT. “FREAKED OUT AMERICAN LOSER” IS NOT A JOKE OR A GAME. OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS I HAVE CUT A LOT OF BULLSHIT OUT OF MY LIFE BUT THE ONE THING I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO QUIT IS MUSIC. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME AND I WHEN I GET ON STAGE, I TRY TO CHANNEL ALL OF MY SELF-HATRED INTO SOMETHING POSITIVE THAT CAN HOPEFULLY PROVIDE SOME REAL VALUE FOR REAL PEOPLE.
Freaked Out Fridays
The Boxxx report is still going strong. Where are you finding these links? Do you wake up in the morning and google “stuff juiceboxxx would like”?
THE WHOLE REASON THE BOXXX REPORT EXISTS IS BECAUSE I HAVE A STUPID OBSESSION WITH MUSIC AND WANTED TO FOCUS THAT INTO SOMETHING THAT FELT AT LEAST REMOTELY CONSTRUCTIVE. ALSO NOW I DON’T HAVE TO BUG MY FRIENDS ABOUT THIS SHIT, THEY CAN JUST SUBSCRIBE TO THE LIST OR NOT. AND IT IS A GOOD WAY FOR ME TO PRACTICE SOME NECESSARY SELF-FLAGELLATION. BEYOND THE LIST, IT IS ALSO A RADIO SHOW ON NTS AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE OPPOSITE OF DEFINITIVE. THE “CONTEMPORARY MUSIC LANDSCAPE” IS A CHAOTIC MESS. THE BOXXX REPORT IS JUST SOME SONGS I LIKE. PART OF THE ENDLESS SHIT FLOW.
The “Freaking Out” video is my favorite you’ve done with Guy Kozak. You guys have worked together a lot. How did you meet?
GUY AND I ACTUALLY MET WHILE I WAS WORKING A PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JOB ON A TV PILOT IN THE BRONX, NO SHIT. HE WAS IN THE PROP DEPARTMENT, IF MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY. TURNED OUT HE SAW ME PLAY A GIG WITH MNDR AT RISD WAY BACK IN THE DAY. WE KEPT IN TOUCH AND HAVE MADE THREE JUICEBOXXX VIDEOS TOGETHER PLUS A LOT OF OTHER THINGS. GUY IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE TO WORK WITH. A TRUE TALENT AND HE GETS IT. STRAIGHT UP. HIS DOGS IN ECSTASY VIDEO IS A MODERN CLASSIC.
Tuscom, Arizona, 2017.
You’ve played with so many acts, you’re like the Zelig of underground music. Who is your dream band to open for? Who would you love to open for you?
I WOULD LOVE TO OPEN FOR WEEZER. I ALREADY GOT TO TOUR WITH PUBLIC ENEMY. WOULD I LIKE TO DUET WITH SPRINGSTEEN ON NEVER SURRENDER FOREVER? OF COURSE. A DECADE AGO I DID A SHORT TOUR WITH A BAND CALLED “GOOGLE EARTH” WHO ARE THE TRUE LOST INSANITY UNIT OF THE 2000′S. BEING ABLE TO GO TO JAPAN FOUR TIMES AND INTERFACE WITH THE ETERNAL FREAKOUT UNDERGROUND THERE IS SOMETHING I WILL TREASURE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. GOING TO MOSCOW TO PLAY FOR 20 PEOPLE. 6 HOUR SET AT A CASTLE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AUSTRIA. ANY BASEMENT IN THE MIDWEST. MUSIC IS ALL I KNOW. IF THIS WAS VANITY TO ME I WOULD’VE QUIT A LONG TIME AGO AND TRIED TO SOMETHING THAT WOULD ACTUALLY POTENTIALLY MAKE ME HAPPY. I KEEP DOING THIS BECAUSE I AM INSANE. I’VE BEEN JUICEBOXXX SINCE I WAS 15. I’M A FUCKING IDIOT. CHANGE YOUR LIFE. FREAKED OUT AMERICAN LOSER.
You’ve been making music and touring for basically a decade now. How are you feeling about the past? What are you looking to do in the future?
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS I’VE TRIED REALLY HARD TO CHANGE MY LIFE. MUSIC IS SO IMPORTANT TO ME. IT IS DEEPLY EMBARRASSING THAT I LET ME INSECURITIES GUIDE ME THROUGH MY STUPID PATHETIC 20’S. ROCK AND ROLL RUINED MY LIFE BUT HERE I AM, STILL STANDING, TRYING TO TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME. I AM FOCUSED ON MAKING THE NEXT RECORD COUNT.
Live at The Smell, 2017. Photo: Arcadia the Delinquent