Ryan 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.