On September 9, 2023, I caught up with Jim Ruland, also known as Jim Vermin, while he was in Chicago to promote his books, Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise & Fall of SST Records and Make It Stop, and participate in a couple of speaking engagements. The first was a talk at the Printers Row Lit Fest to discuss his recent novel Make It Stop, in conversation with Tony Tovano of the Chicago punk band Vortis. The second was a virtual conversation with Jim Ruland, Daniel Weizmann, and Kyle Decker about their books and punk rock, sponsored by the Chicago Public Library.
Jim Ruland is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise & Fall of SST Records, which was named a best book of 2022 by both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. He also co-authored Do What You Want with Bad Religion and My Damage with Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and OFF!). Ruland is a frequent contributor to Razorcake fanzine and the Los Angeles Times. He lives with his family in San Diego.
Short interview with Ruland below.
Dying Scene: What brings you to Chicago?
Jim Ruland: I’m here for the Printers Row Lit Festival to promote Corporate Rock Sucks — the paperback came out in April — and to do a reading with Kyle Decker and Danny Weizmann for my novel Make It Stop; the Chicago Public Library is sponsoring that.
DS: How’s it going so far?
JR: It’s been a whirlwind. Usually, when I come to a city, I like to scope things out, let people know I’m coming. You know, go to some of my favorite spots or hit up a bookstore or record store but this has just been go go go.
DS: What are some of your favorite spots?
JR: I love Exile in Bookville. We’re right down the street from them on Michigan Avenue. And Lincoln Hall where we saw the OFF! show. Lincoln Hall was a lot of fun. I don’t drink so I really don’t have a lot of bar spots. It’s all like bookstores and coffee spots…things like that.
DS: How’s the transition from non-fiction to fiction?
JR: It’s great except it seems like whenever I’m writing non-fiction, I’d rather be making something up. And whenever I’m writing fiction, I’d rather just stick to the facts. The grass is always greener.
DS: What’s the response been like from your punk rock supporters?
JR: The response for Corporate Rock Sucks has been overwhelming. I know from doing books with Keith Morris and Bad Religion that punk fans are the fans. But I was expecting a grumpier, more curmudgeonly response from fellow Gen Xers, who are very protective of SST and the things that they love, and they’ve been awesome.
DS: What’s a big lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
JR: Double-check. Triple-check everything. Triple-check everything.
DS: What message do you have for aspiring writers?
JR: Read as much as you can and as widely as you can. First, follow your passion…the things you care about the most. And then follow your curiosity. There are some people who think that I don’t want other peoples’ voices in my head when I’m writing. The only people who have that are people who haven’t read enough. What makes you special is your voice, and you learn how to tell a story by reading one.
DS: What are the top five punk and hardcore bands you’re listening to this week?
JR: I’m gonna go with Drain from Santa Cruz. I’m gonna go with Osees who dropped a new album that I really like. I’m gonna go with The Nerves. I’ve been listening to The Nerves a lot lately. A local San Diego hardcore band called Take Offense…some of their old stuff. And, mostly, The Stains because the guitar player, Robert Becerra, passed away last week. So, much respect to one of the greatest guitar players of the LA punk rock scene or any scene.
DS: Do you have anything else you like to share?
JR: Read more books. Support your local zines. And if there aren’t any, start one.
Photo Gallery below.