Rock N Jock
Underground rock superstar Craig Owens discusses his love of hoops and not missing an NBA minute on tour.
by Bryan Wulff / @smileyoufckers
Craig Owens is known as one of the most passionate and charismatic front men in the music industry. The raw emotion he exudes on stage is felt by all who attend his shows and leaves everyone wanting more, but music isn’t the only thing he’s passionate about. Growing up in Detroit, basketball was a way of life for Craig, and you can still catch him at a Pistons game during his downtime.
Craig is in the middle of the first national headlining tour for his band D.R.U.G.S. (short for Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows). Between shows and sometimes even during, Craig always has one eye on the NBA. SLAM caught up with Craig before a show in Atlanta and discussed growing up a hoops fan in Detroit, misconceptions and all things basketball.
Craig Owens: Good. We are like a week and half in, on the first like real headliner for Drugs, it’s a little weird because we announced it so last minute, like um tour starts in two weeks and we’re coming to your city, but ultimately it’s been really great. Packed clubs, excited kids, what more can you ask for?
SLAM: You said Charlotte was the best of the tour so far?
CO: I think so. New York was pretty unbelievable, Boston was unbelievable, but Charlotte was just amazing. It was the second time my shirt has been just completely literally ripped off my body. The one in NYC at least had holes in it, this one didn’t. It was one of my favorite shirts I bought in Europe. They just ripped it off my body. It felt like a 30 pound rope with 14 big dudes pulling on it. It hurt so bad.
SLAM: So have you been a basketball fan your whole life?
CO: I mean, you can phrase that a different way. Basketball has been my life since I was born. My dad was a massive basketball dude and he would take me out and beat me every single time until I got better and better. Always made me work on the little things, left handed dribbling, stealing the ball from me until I got better, blocking my shot until I shot higher you know so on and so forth.
SLAM: Did you ever play for any teams?
CO: Yeah! Yeah, I played for a lot of church teams. You know growing up a lot of the sports teams in these hick towns are decided by popularity, who donates and stuff like that. And I was just this white trash kid who could ball, but had long hair and no one understood. I would just go to these church leagues and dominate. I was never interested in playing for the school or anything though.
SLAM: Did people take you less seriously because you didn’t look the part?
CO: Yeah, it’s funny ’cause even now I’ll get on a court and there’s two perceptions because most NBA players are starting to be tattooed now, but back then it wasn’t like that. Especially with these old school coaches. I get stereotyped and always have a target on my back when I play.
SLAM: How would you describe your game, compared to like an NBA guy?
CO: You know, it’s funny. I was describing this earlier. At the gym where I play, it’s actually where a lot of the Pistons play during their time off cause I live close to the palace. It’s where a lot of the guys play pickup games because there’s decent pick up games there, but a lot of the times I’ll be forced to be down in the 5 spot and that isn’t obviously isn’t my strong point. I mean I’m 6-2, 170 now. You know posting up, just working as hard as I can, but I just get beat out by the body weight. Luckily I have that hustle factor and I usually win. The funny part is I’ll bring the ball down as the 1 just cause I can see the court and I have that leader mentality and I can just see the floor better . I’ll run point and then once I pass it off, I just make as many cuts or set as many picks as I possibly can. So it’s really hard for me to compare my game to anybody on an NBA level. If I had to, I’m capable or seeing the floor on my level like a Chris Paul, you know distributing and shooting when I need to and just making things happen. At the same time I can get rebounds and block some shots too. The Clippers have me excited being ahead of the Lakers by like half a game, but I love the way they were going at it the other night, CP and Gasol.
SLAM: Yeah, Pau kinda patted his head…
CO: Yeah! I mean Chris Paul though..His posture you can tell he just doesn’t mess around. He walks around like a Marine with his head up and I think Kobe even said, he has that short man syndrome. And especially with the whole non trade at the beginning of the season, it was really fun for all sports fans to see a nice little rivalry. I know Kobe laughed and said “not until the Playoffs,” but there are regular season rivals. With Blake, Deandre and Paul I just don’t see how they can not be contenders.
SLAM: Yeah they’re good. Surprisingly good.
CO: They blew me away, but that’s what happens. That’s why I think Detroit is struggling so much right now because they don’t have those leaders that will step up. I think the Knicks are a perfect example of why the Miami experiment doesn’t work, you know you don’t throw a bunch of stars on a team and expect it to be the MJ, Magic and Bird dream team. You need to develop players and bring out the best in each individual. You need a deep bench where everyone brings something to the table, whether that be a Matt Barnes who can bring that intensity and energy and just toughness. All the way to a high energy player like, JJ Barea. I mean you remove him from the Mavs and you see how slow their season has started.
SLAM: What do you think about the Pistons so far?
CO: Greg Monroe is doing well, but we only have like four wins. I remember, I had season tickets to the Pistons two seasons in a row and I was courtside one of the last games I went to and I yelled at Rodney Stuckey “Are you going to lead this team?” and he just looked at me. I mean they have all this young talent, but young talent takes time to develop and you need one or two of those older players, like a [Tayshaun] Prince, but I think they need a couple of additions to do this thing right.
SLAM: What do you think of Brandin Knight? He looks like he can be all right.
CO: I believe in him. I mean, he’s proven he can play at an NBA level, but I don’t see him being a leader. He seems like he has confidence I just don’t that leadership coming from him yet. Right now it’s just a team of misfits. Usually I like that, but right now it’s just like a fantasy team, not an actual team.
SLAM: Is it hard to keep up on tour?
CO: Nah, we have satellite on the bus and I have the ESPN app. Last night during the show, there was an amazing dunk and while I was singing a song I peeked over at the TV.
SLAM: I saw on Twitter how you invite your fans out to come play ball with you in cities when you’re on tour—do you get a positive response from that?
CO: Yeah, it’s amazing. I started this thing called the BBA at home. The first time I did that, over fifty people showed up to play. We split it up and everyone played, girls, boys whatever we split it up accordingly. We had three courts by my house and we just ran games and we played 4 on 4 and we’d rotate and it was really amazing. I met some of my best friends doing that. On this tour I was planning on doing the same thing, it’s just hard when you have soundcheck at 2, meet and greet at 4, interviews until 7 then you play at 10. So my basketball had to stay at home on this tour. When I get in Southern California I always go so SDSU and play over there or I’ll hook with some friends and go play at UCLA. We’ll get some pick up games in. Once I get a little more settled in on this tour, also we’re headlining I’m playing an hour an hour fifteen it’s a lot more tiring, but about half way through once I get in the groove of this run and when we get into the warmer states, I’ll start inviting to play and see what some of my twitter followers got out there. There’s nothing better than showing up and being that skinny kid and taking everyone to town.
SLAM : It seems really important to you to connect with your fans and that seems like a really good way to do it.
CO: Well listen, I’m one of those guys, if it were up to me all I’d do is watch basketball all day. 80s games, 70s games. I love when they play those old classics on NBAtv, because I believe basketball represents life. It’s a way to live. I think that our lifestyles, basketball players and musicians are very comparable. You know the way that we act on stage is the way they act on court. The things that they say in public and the things that we say in public. The way that we that they have to work to win a championship is the way that we have to work as a band in order to succeed. Hard work pays off. I mean we can’t necessarily trade our guitar player and get “not one, not two , not three, not four, not five” but we can get to that next level with chemistry and hard work and I think that’s how NBA teams should do it. I believe each player should be able to play where they want, to each their own but for the NBA’s sake, as a fan I’m not a fan of these bigger markets monopolizing these great players because I want to see a league. I don’t want to see the globetrotters, like Dan Gilbert said, I don’t want to agree with that guy at all. I’m not a fan of his, I don’t like the way he handled it. I also don’t like the way Lebron handled it, but no one is perfect. The kid was young and he got stars in his eyes and he chased them. I can understand that feeling. I’ve been there, in the music world. I don’t want to support Gilbert at all but at the same I agree with him on the monopolizing players, but the best part of the NBA is that you never know who is going to step up. You can look at the Pistons, Jonas Jerebko, no one thought that dude would step up and play, now he’s killing it. He’s playing well, he’s a hustler. You know underdogs, that’s what basketball is about, it’s about being an underdog. It’s about those people who never believed they deserved anything just working and working and getting what they deserve through hard work.