“It’s sketchy back here,” says Jonny Craig as he steps out of his van to scope the dark alley. We’re in the middle of California’s High Desert in a narrow loading dock behind the venue that stretches nearly a football field long. Aside from faint lights glimmering by the old train tracks a couple hundred feet away, everything is pitch black, and cold winds are nearing 40 mph. “Can I get a rundown of these questions?” he asks in a paranoid tone, suspicious of our release form. “I don’t sign just anything.”
Over the past few years Craig has established a reputation for being the scene’s biggest troublemaker and has become one of the most hated musicians in the world. His 2011 MacBook scam – where he convinced fans to wire transfer hundreds of dollars in exchange for an undelivered laptop to buy heroin – stained his career and turned his support group and the music community against him. Booted from Emarosa, shunned from Dance Gavin Dance, in and out of jail and rehab, Craig’s misbehavior has made him the center of controversy and public humiliation.
But despite years of turbulence and public scorn Craig seems unshakeable, and his contradicting personality has made his die-hard fans even more obsessed – even with the rest of the world against him. With a Corona in hand he talks of his current sobriety; then he mentions how some of the kids he ripped off in his scam donated to his IndieGoGo campaign, which raised $20,000 to fund his upcoming solo EP. And all the while, he speaks with a strange authenticity.
For the first time on camera Craig opens up about his intimate childhood experiences, how his inner devil got the best of him over the years, and lessons learned from scamming his fans online.
“I definitely stopped caring about what people thought of me,” he says of his infamy. “I’m just a normal ass human being trying to live my life.”
Photos by Dorothy Gilbert