Interview with Jim Ruthless
Interview conducted by Mjölnir
Date online: May 29, 2022
The underground has taken many shapes and forms over the decades, especially after the advent of the Internet opened the doors for online publications, blogs, and the like. Among the more prolific these days is YouTube, with numerous channels dedicated to the genre in one way or another, whether it be uploading albums on behalf of underground bands or discussing the scene in one way or another. Among these channels is Ruthless Metal, which appeared a little over a year ago and gained a sizable following in that time with videos ranging from documentaries to ranking videos to even animated fairy tales describing various genres (personal favorite of mine). Now, having reached the considerable milestone of 50,000 subscribers, I was able to get an interview with the channel's founder Jim Ruthless to talk about his past, present, and future in the underground.
Tell me a little about yourself. How did you first get into Metal, and how much would you say it has impacted your life?
My name is Jim and I run the YouTube Channel Ruthless Metal, which is a heavy metal channel with around 50,000 subscribers. I've been promoting metal in various forms for almost 25 years now.
I got into metal and hard rock as a kid. I remember seeing Metallica's "One" being played on MTV when I was about 10 years old, and after that I became a Metallica fan. After buying all of their albums, I got into Megadeth because of the Metallica ties, and then I discovered that the sound that I liked so much was called "thrash metal." From there, I started buying albums from bands that were labeled as thrash, such as Exodus, Testament, Kreator, Slayer, and so on.
This was in the mid to late '90s, so there wasn't really any information to be found on this genre besides perhaps in old magazines. There was no Metal Archives, Facebook, or even YouTube. Just a few sites that talked about metal in general while my focus was more on thrash metal than anything else.
I loved the genre, and I wanted to spread the word because I found the music so amazing, yet almost nobody knew about the genre besides perhaps the Big Four, so I started the first ever thrash metal site in 1998. Over the years, I have interviewed 100+ thrash metal bands and written about 500 album reviews, and I've written countless articles on the subject, so I've dedicated a lot of my life to the thrash genre. In 2021 I started making metal content on YouTube but for some twenty plus years I have been promoting it in text.
I understand you initially started a website called Ruuth's Inn back in 1998 that focused predominantly on Thrash Metal until it turned into a Facebook group. What's the exact timeline for its run?
Yes, I uploaded the site to the Internet in 1998 and I started writing album reviews, and I did my very first interview in 2001 with the Swedish band The Haunted. Over the years, I have interviewed bands such as Megadeth, Testament, Overkill, Sodom and a lot of other well-known bands. I also started a site in 2005 called Swedish Metal from The Past, which focused on early '80s metal from Sweden and bands like Heavy Load, Gotham City, 220 Volt and such. Around 2010, I kinda grew tired of the site and I had to pay to keep 'em online, so all my sites were down for a few years. In 2014, I put my sites online again.
Fast forward to 2021. As a hobby project, I started creating a documentary on Swedish Heavy Metal from the eighties. This era is one of my favorites, not only because I'm a Swede, but also because I really think Sweden had one of the best metal scenes in the eighties, but only a handful of bands were known outside the Swedish borders. I first thought of using Ruuth's Inn since it was a somewhat established name, but I decided to go with Ruthless Metal because it made it easier to understand what the channel was about.
In March of 2021, I uploaded the Swedish Metal documentary to YouTube, and since then the channel has grown far beyond my expectations, and now, some 14 months later, the channel has over 50,000 subscribers. I just planned to do a video as a hobby project, but it became viral, so I decided to continue making videos since I saw that people had a hunger for some old-school metal on YouTube.
Back when the site was still active, were there other contributors involved, or just you? If there were, do they still contribute to your YouTube videos?
It was like 98 percent just me. I had a few guys that wrote a review or two, but I built it myself more or less. Per-Ola, who made the top 25 doom metal list, actually wrote a handful of reviews for my old site some 20 years ago. He is a former Sweden Rock Magazine journalist and he wrote the official Candlemass biography "Behind the Wall of Doom," so he knows the doom metal genre better than anyone I've ever met. So he contributed with that list, but so far I haven't done many collaborations besides a few interviews in my 'New Wave of Metal' documentary about the NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal) movement.
What would you say is your fondest memory of the old website?
Mostly, I'm proud of the work that I did. Back then in the '90s, nobody cared for thrash and people were unaware about just about every thrash band outside the Big Four. My site didn't change that, but perhaps we had a small, small part in making people aware of the thrash genre. In 1998, it was like winning the jackpot to find another human being that even knew what thrash metal was. I was in contact with about 10 people worldwide that were fans of thrash and heavy metal, so fans like that were really hard to come by. I doubt that there even were more than 10 thrash metal fans in Sweden in the late '90s. Now there are probably thousands of thrash metal maniacs out there, which is a cool development.
What first inspired you to start the Ruthless Metal channel?
I ran a gaming channel, "JimRuthless," for about two years, but I didn't get any views, so I was growing tired of it and I decided to try to do a documentary on Swedish metal as I said earlier. That video took off, so I decided to continue down that path instead. Plus, I thought I had enough knowledge about metal to do a good job at it, and when people are interested in the content that you make, it was a no-brainer to continue on.
It appears your first big hit was with the first part of the History of Swedish Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Did you ever expect it to perform as well as it did?
No, my gaming videos rarely got over 10,000 views and gaming is probably more popular than '80s metal from Sweden, so you just can't expect that. I had been doing YouTube for two years and I had more or less no success, so when a video then goes viral all of a sudden, then it's more of a surprise than anything else. Several of my first videos got 100,000 views, so my channel got monetized within a week, a task that some channels struggle with after doing YouTube for years. So I just went all in on making videos after that.
Currently, your best performing video is "Masters of Plagiarism" at nearly 700k views. What do you think has made this your most popular work so far?
I had to double-check. Damn, we're nearly at 700k on that one. Last time I checked it was at half a million, so it is still a popular video.
There are a few reasons I would say,
1. Metallica is huge and more or less all metal fans are into them or at least know about them.
2. The title "Masters of Plagiarism" is kinda cheeky so it piques people's curiosity.
I think those two were the main reasons, and, of course, you need to be able to keep the viewer interested in watching the actual video by doing some smooth editing and delivering on what the thumbnail implies.
I also made a follow-up video called "Ride the Plagiarism," so those videos kinda work in tandem and drive views between them. I did, however, use copyrighted audio, so I personally don't make any cash from these videos, but if it makes someone check out more of my work then it's a win for me as well.
Maybe I'll make a third video about it called "Plagiarize 'Em All" some day, we'll see or even a "Justice" For Metallica. Time will tell.
What is the typical process of deciding what video to make, and how does the creative process for it usually go?
I wrote down about 100 video ideas back when I started the channel. You have to get organized when you do YouTube and plan ahead and create things that you can use in several videos, streamline things like intros, outros, music, backgrounds and graphics to shave off a few hours in the creative process. Plus, it's just me making the videos, and since there are thousands upon thousands of metal bands out there, it's impossible for me to know everything about every band out there, even though some people think of me as some sort of expert. I might have heard like one percent of all the metal bands out there, so we're all fumbling a bit in the dark when it comes to a genre that has been going strong for some fifty years with thousands of metal records being released yearly.
So I talk about the bands that I know well, and if I haven't listened to some of their more recent albums, I take a month or so spinning those albums before I do a Rank 'Em All video. So the ideas are easy to come up with, what's hard is to give it a fair assessment. But on the other hand, I don't try to hide the fact that I think that metal had its peak during the '80s, but I guess most of my viewers have noticed that I rather do videos on Priest and Slayer more so than whatever is popular these days.
But I also think that is a bit of my role on YouTube, guiding people away from the Slipknots and the Marilyn Mansons and the metalcore bullshit and into the bands that play metal by the old definition, whether it's heavy, speed, power, black, death, thrash or progressive metal.
Which videos are you most and least proud of respectively?
"The New Wave of Metal" is probably the video I'm most proud of since I worked on that video for several months. That video is by far the one I've spent the most time on and I think it turned out great.
Least proud is when I make editing mistakes. Since I copy the layover effects between videos, I forgot to change some things, like in that Metallica "Master of Plagiarism" video it says that the Rush song Tom Sawyer was released in '76 or something when it came out in 1981. I've probably received a hundred messages about that alone, haha. So mistakes will be made and you can't change them after you've uploaded the video. That's what annoys me the most, when a factual error slips through and now it will be there until the end of time.
How would you say the underground as a whole changed over the course of your career/interest in Metal?
It's day and night. The majority of people thought of bands like Nirvana, Pantera, Machine Head, Linkin Park, Korn and such as the next natural step in the progression of heavy music. All those became absolutely huge, but I think something got lost in the '90s. I always thought so even through the Nu-metal phase when everybody jumped ship and started to get into that.
But towards the early 2000s, we saw a lot of classic bands reuniting, Ozzy returning to Sabbath, Halford to Priest, and Dickinson to Maiden. Plus, a lot of fans had missed the days when metal singers weren't just screaming into the mic.
I also think the Internet saved metal in some sense. Now the information is out there and available for anyone, so we're no longer fighting for our existence because these days, the scene is almost getting oversaturated again.
How would you describe your relationship with the community you've built around the channel? Is it an active relationship, or do you try to keep it at arm's length?
I answer 99% of all comments I get. The goal is to answer every comment, but since I got like 4000 comments on my latest Metallica video alone, it's not possible for me to start discussions with everyone, but I'll try to at least say "Cheers" to those who comment. Sometimes
I interact a bit more if the comment intrigues me. I think it's fun interacting with people, and I also feel that it's my responsibility as a YouTuber.
I try to answer the criticism too, but when people start their message by calling me an idiot or something like that, then there isn't a conversation to be had. You wouldn't go up to someone and call them a moron or an idiot to their face and expect a courteous reply, so when people do that in my comment section, I send them back to Poserwire, excuse me, Loudwire, and then I ban them. But most people don't act like morons online, which is a bit of a relief, haha.
What lies in store for Ruthless Metal in the future?
I don't know. I've decided to continue making videos over this summer. After that, we'll see.
Having a YouTube channel eats up all my spare time, and I don't make enough money to live off my work, So it is a hobby for me, but it takes up a little too much time for it to be part of a healthy lifestyle, so I might take a break after that or slow down the production of my videos. Unless people start joining my Patreon in droves, haha.
I haven't had enough time for friends and my other interests lately, so I need some time catching up on that too. But right now, I'll take it day by day and we'll see how motivated I feel about it all in the autumn. No matter what, all the video content will remain online, so all the content ain't going nowhere even if I might start doing something else.
Thanks for taking the time to talk. Do you have any parting thoughts?
Thanks for the interview, check out the Ruthless Metal channel on YouTube at:
and the Ruthless Metal site at:
To quote Grim Reaper, See you in hell my friend! ;)
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