Ten Questions with Ryan Werner

maxresdefaultRyan Werner is a modern-day renaissance man, if by “renaissance” you mean listening to Krokus and eating food from gas station mini-marts.  In addition to being an amazing writer (he’s had short fiction in a ton of places) and publishing chapbooks as Passenger Side Books,  he’s also an accomplished guitar player, and when he’s not on a crazy far-flung car tour across the country, he’s obsessing over professional wrestling and working as a janitor, or serving food to kids.  He can be found at http://www.ryanwernerwritesstuff.com
 

PL: Who are your favorite three members of Krokus other than Chris Von Rohr, Fernando Von Arb, Marc Storace, Mark Kohler, and Mandy Meyer?

RW: They’re all drummers, actually. Freddy Steady, because he kind of sucked but really loved being in Krokus, which is admirable. (Sort of.) Steve Pace, because he played drums and his last name was Pace. Stefan Schwarzmann, because he’s like the foreign metal version of some asshole like Matt Sorum, who just plays in every band after their prime. He was on one of the Krokus albums in the mid-2000s, which he left Helloween to play on.

 

PL: What kind of guitar strings do you use?

RW: I use those Ernie Ball skinny top/heavy bottom sets. Big power chords and bendy leads. Nothing exciting, but it reminds me of the time I saw Deicide in the Quad Cities and yelled at Eric Hoffman after show, just his name over and over again trying to get his attention and once he finally turned around I just very cutely and plainly asked what gauge guitar strings he uses. He just growled at me and walked away.

 

PL: Are you going to write any novels?

RW: Man, probably not. They’re just too fucking long. And I keep threatening to reduce my entire written output to a sentence someday, so I don’t think a novel is going to ever really be in the works. I actually just got an email from an agent, and after she showered me with praise for a recent short story, basically just asked me if I have a novel. I wrote her back and said that I was thankful she contacted me, and maybe by the time I assemble a full length story collection the market will have changed enough to not just have short stories be a part of a plea bargain deal.

 

PL: Did you know there was a vice-president at IFC Films named Ryan Werner?  Have you ever tried to contact him?

RW: Every once in awhile someone gets in touch with me asking about a lecture I gave on film festival submission strategies or something. I’ve never tried contacting him, but he’s the reason my website isRyanWernerWritesStuff.com and not RyanWerner.com. I’d love to contact him and let him know that since he’s resigned from IFC now he can give me that fucking web address.

 

PL: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever found in a bathroom while cleaning it?

RW: There are two worst things, one incredibly complicated, one incredibly simple, and both a product of the four years I spent working as a janitor at a Wal-Mart in northeast Illinois. The first is when someone took two clean sanitary napkins, pressed a turd flat between them, shaped the overflowing turd to match the contours of the pads, and set it down on top of the toilet paper dispenser. The other is someone just nonchalantly putting a used tampon in the sink.

 

PL: If I am a new writer, should I self-publish or try to find a book deal?

RW: I lucked out and had my first book published by someone else, the totally awesome Jersey Devil Press. They reached out to me and did the majority of the work. I knew from the second they asked me that I would have a great book when it was all done with, but also that it would give me enough of a pedigree to start putting out my own stuff. It seems like in the publishing business, as best I can tell, you’re nothing until someone says you’re something. Not to get off on a Mike Muir rant about positivity and DIY or whatever, but that’s the sort of shit people in control say to stay in control. If you write a book and you’re proud of it, put the damn thing out yourself. Understand that you might be sacrificing perhaps a sleeker look, wider distribution, stronger public relations, and other things associated with bigger or established presses, but also understand that you might not, and that if you’ve got a vision, see the damn thing through.

 

PL: What was your opinion of the Montreal Screwjob?

RW: It changed the way wrestling stories are told. Over in WCW, the culmination of the giant build to Sting vs. Hogan would end only a month after the Screwjob. Goldberg wasn’t on the scene yet and he’d be an afterthought in a company that was doomed. The WWF needed something and ended up using the Screwjob to present a story with no good guys or, concurrently, no bad guys. This allowed the viewer to bring more of themselves to the table in deciding who to root for. The “shades of gray” mentality was a completely different approach to mainstream wrestling, as far as the way it was executed.

 

PL: Who are your top ten favorite female writers?

RW: So many great ones, but here’s what I’ll come up with today.

1) Amy Hempel
2) Lorrie Moore
3) Mary Robison
4) Mary Miller
5) Sarah Rose Etter
6) Grace Paley
7) Flannery O’Connor
8) Alice Munro
9) Pam Houston
10) Chloe Caldwell

 

PL: You are always finding weird shit at goodwill. Do you have any thrift store strategies or habits?

RW: I’m pretty open as to what I’m “looking for” on any given day, but usually I’ll just head out with the attitude of “I’m going to buy something today.” Once, I found an old Swans LP with the shrink wrap still on for 75 cents. I found a copy of a whiteface Proco Rat for $3. I’ve gotten band shirts and nice jeans and awesome shit made out of leather. Stuff with tassels. Stuff with wolves. I love looking through piles of VHS to see if there’s an old George Lynch instructional video or a still sealed copy of one of those Robocop straight-to-video releases. I guess I don’t really have any tips. I’m probably doing a really bad job of streamlining my Goodwill experience because I waste so much time just looking through everything. I just like to look at stuff.

 

PL: What is the worst experience you’ve had on the road?

RW: I’ve been lucky enough to go out almost exclusively on well-planned, fun tours. The only thing I can think about is when I was in a band called Bull Dyke Rodeo that did instrumental psych-doom jams about Robocop and we had a show in La Crosse, WI. Being complete amateurs–no van, no recordings, no anything–we took two vehicles up to the show for the three-and-a-half hour drive. The bassist went up with his parents and girlfriend and a bit of the gear and the rest of us went up in another vehicle with the gear. Our bassist had somehow managed to drink an entire bottle of gin by himself on the way up, so by the time we started loading gear in he was already yelling at the sound guy and yelling for a circle pit to get started, even though the first band hadn’t even started yet. He drank about three more beers–somehow, as he’s nineteen at the time–and when we start playing it’s already a nightmare. At several points in every song he’d just start playing the opening riff to “Raining Blood.” He tried tuning his bass at full volume–with a Big Muff turned all the way up in the chain–for a full five or six minutes. At one point I walked over in the middle of a song and punched him in the face. Later on I just slapped him. This was during a phase when we wore dresses, too, so it’s just two adult men in dresses while their band completely breaks down. Four people watched the set and thought it was the greatest thing they’d ever seen. To this day it’s the worst show I’ve ever played.

Teaching Flannery O’Connor

Flannery
At the Millions, there is a terrific appreciation of the great Flannery O’Connor as a writer, southerner, Catholic…

In “The Teaching of Literature,” an address to English teachers later collected into an essay, O’Connor assails the “utilitarian” approach of doctoral studies in English, where it is assumed that novels “must do something, rather than be something.”

While you’re at it, you might as well read “Good Country People” and see what great writing looks like.

The Magnificent Ambersons of Parody Movies

Val Kilmer

If Airplane! is the Citizen Kane of parody movies, then Top Secret! has to be the Magnificent Ambersons of the genre. Top Secret!, for those of you who haven’t seen it (shame on you!) is a parody of both early rock n roll movies, specifically those starring Elvis, and World War II spy movies. It’s supposed to be taking place in 1984 (when it was shot), but East Germany resembles Nazi Germany, right down to the French resistance fighters encountered about half way through the film.

There are a ton of sight gags in the movie, half of which you’ll miss while laughing your way through the deadpan jokes slapped on with a trowel throughout the script. Even the cringe-worthy jokes, especially the one involving a “little horse,” will double you over.

I saw Top Secret! at the theater when it came out, I was in college at the time, and was stunned that there were so few people in the theater with me. It wasn’t a hit. I suppose no one had heard of Val Kilmer yet, but he was beside the point–though he was very good as a blonde Elvis stand-in, especially when singing such songs as “Skeet Surfin’!” and “Spend This Night With Me,” in which he makes several attempts at suicide on stage (gas oven, noose, railroad tracks) and is saved over and over by some Jordanaires-like back-up singers in plaid sport coats.

And then there are the Commie-Nazi’s. At the beginning, when a motorcycle messenger brings General Streck (played by Brit character actor Jeremy Kemp) a message that says that the British spy (played by Omar Sharif) has gotten away, he rubber-stamps the note with”FIND HIM AND KILL HIM.”

Orson Welles

No, there is nothing subtle about this movie. That’s the point, really. That brings me back to my original point. In the oeuvre of Orson Welles, The Magnificent Ambersons is almost always overlooked. It’s a fantastic movie, every bit as good as Citizen Kane. But when people speak of Welles, it’s Citizen Kane, Lady from Shanghai, Macbeth, Touch of Evil, and The Trial. With Zucker/Abrahams/Abrahams, it’s always Airplane! Naked Gun, Naked Gun 2 1/2, etc. What all the movies in this paragraph have is that touch of genius, of greatness. I think comedies are every bit as important as any other type of movie. If something makes you laugh, it has unlocked a bit of you buried inside, just like a great drama or thriller has.

And if you haven’t watched Top Secret!, for Jebus’s sake, get your ass over to Netflix right now and watch it: www.netflix.com/WiMovie/60023499. You’re welcome.

Seven Outlaw Scumfucs

GGAllin“If you believe in the real underground of Rock ‘N’ Roll, then now is the time to do something about it…Talk is fucking cheap…It’s time to fight… Make them aware that the disease and the Scumfuc tradition is still spreading. We must live for the Rock ‘N’ Roll underground. It CAN be dark and dangerous again. It CAN be threatening to our society as it was meant to be. IT MUST BE UNCOMPROMISING. And with me as your leader, it will happen. I am ready to lead you, my allies, into the real Rock ‘N’ Roll underground. Let’s get started.” —From the GG Allin Manifesto

21 years ago this Saturday, we lost Kevin Michael “GG” (born Jesus Christ) Allin, before his mission to save rock n’ roll was complete. The following is a list of seven people continuing his Outlaw Scumfuc tradition:

1. Merle Allin: GG’s older brother Merle sports a sort of modified tickler mustache, dyed bright red to look as though someone sat on his face, then got their period, coupled with lengthy, dreadlocked sideburns. The bass player of GG’s final band, The Murder Junkies, Merle collects and sells serial killer artwork while overseeing his brother’s legacy. This past April, Merle unveiled The Resurrection of GG Allin, an exhibit in conjunction with L.A.’s Museum of Death, featuring the clothing GG was wearing on the night he died (not to be confused with the outfit he was buried in: a motorcycle jacket and jockstrap). The Murder Junkies still tour regularly, and released the album A Killing Tradition (with They Hate Us singer PP Duvay on vocals) last year. http://www.ggallin.com/

http://www.museumofdeath.net/

2. Spike Polite: Polite’s band, Sewage, was one of the opening acts for GG’s notorious last show at The Gas Station, on June 27, 1993—a show that ended in rioting after the power was cut, and saw GG, clad in ill-fitting Daisy Dukes and covered in poop, pied- pipering a pack of raucous punk rockers up and down the streets of the Lower East Side. In 1999, newspaper headlines all over New York screamed about Polite’s bad friendship choices after his name became associated with a grisly crime involving the slaying of his landlord. Released from prison a few years ago, Polite and a reformed Sewage play regularly around New York City, and a documentary film is in the works focusing on Spike’s adjustment to the technologically-savvy world that emerged while he was in prison, potentially answering the question, “How many punk rockers does it take to turn on an I-Pad?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btA0o9AI9RI   https://www.facebook.com/pages/SEWAGE-NYC-PUNK-ROCK/223918884799http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/boroughs/sex-drugs-rock-murder-punk-musician-set-stand-trial-99-landlord-slay-case-article-1.896518

3. Gene Gregorits: Gouging at his chest with a torn-open aluminum beer can during a 1989 reading in Boston, GG proclaimed, “My body is like paper.” When underground writer Gene Gregorits cut off his earlobe and ate it in 2012, “to promote books,” he said that the flap of flesh “tasted like beer.” In the same way that Allin’s talent as a songwriter was often completely overshadowed by his Rampaging Shit Warrior persona, Gregorits’ talent as a writer is often obscured by his melodramatic online antics, bitter rivalries, and gore shows. This past May, Gregorits accidentally- on- purpose slashed his arm while reading from one of his books at a Providence Gallery, the resulting wound requiring close to 50 stitches. The fans who didn’t flee in horror promptly showed their adulation by dipping their just-purchased books (in a few cases, their just-stolen books) in his blood as he was carted off to the emergency room. http://www.monastrellbooks.com/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CArN59xraw

4 & 5. Zoe Hansen and Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba: She’s beautiful and brash. His feuds are the stuff of punk rock history. Together, they own and operate New York City’s last real rock ‘n’ roll bar, Manitoba’s. When Richard’s not on tour with the Dictators NYC, or doing his radio show, and Zoe’s not writing, or working on the FEAR CITY custom clothing line she designs with Mary Raffaele of Cycle Sluts from Hell fame (it’s worth noting that the name FEAR CITY comes from the 1976 flyer put out by the City of New York to alert tourists to the crime wave that had overtaken the city at the time), they can be found there, behind the bar, doing their part to keep New York City gritty. http://www.manitobas.com/https://www.facebook.com/fearcitycustom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeuNckmt7h8

6. Tibbie X Kamikaze: A week after GG’s death, drug-addicted, and feeling despondent after the discovery of his girlfriend’s body in the back of serial killer Joel Rifkin’s truck, Reagan Youth singer and co-founder Dave Insurgent ended his life with an overdose of antidepressants. This could have been the end of the seminal NYC band, but they’ve soldiered on, with a new line-up featuring Gash singer Tibbie X on bass. Known for her aggressive vocals and in your face stage style, she’s working with original guitarist Paul Cripple on a new album of songs about Dave’s life. http://www.reagan-youth.com/paulcripplehttp://tibbiex.tumblr.com/       http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/predators/rifkin/1.html
7. Duane Peters: It’s been a tough year for US Bombs singer and O.G skateboard legend Duane “Master of Disaster” Peters. After going M.I.A this past February, clad in only a hospital gown, his ex-wife, original Nashville Pussy bassist Corey Parks put out an S O S online, trying to track him down amidst rumors of legal trouble and concerns for his state of mind. Thankfully, things seem to be on the up and up for the man who invented scores of skateboard tricks, including “the acid drop” and “the loop of death.” Take care of yourself, Duane! The Outlaw cause needs you! No one ever said Scumfucing was easy! https://www.facebook.com/USBombs

http://pocketpistols.com/duane-peters/