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Monday, November 28, 2011

Tree Killer Ink ‘Fluorescent Stilts For Your Uncle.’ Epic Rites Press, Edited by Rob Plath, Issues #1 and #2 (2011)/ Interview with Wolfgang Carstens.

Wolfgang Carstens of Epic Rites Press recently anointed Rob Plath as editor of the small press publication Tree Killer Ink, as he says in the interview below, ‘to keep the material [in the magazine] fresh.’ In its second year the 12 page black and white magazine has been rebirthed by Plath as ‘Fluorescent Stilts For Your Uncle.’ In the tradition of Tree Killer Ink,  issues #1 and #2 features poetry by some of the leading exponents of underground poetry today, including Misti Rainwater-Lites, Dan Fante, Ben Smith, John Yamrus, William Taylor Jr., Mathias Nelson, as well as other lesser known voices such as John Sibley Williams and John Macker, whom I haven’t stumbled across before.

The writing is varied but characteristically inornate and explores core themes in underground literature: sex, drugs, disappointment, appreciation of the small things in life, death. Issue #1 of ‘Florescent Stilts For Your Uncle’ is more substantial and draws you in with a provocative but enigmatic photo entitled ‘FUCK OFF UNIVERSE’ by Yvette Sohl- who also features in many other photos and concrete poems in Issue #2. Rob Plath also features predominately in each issue with two pages devoted to his work, including his sketch ‘BORN TO DIE’ in issue #1.

The magazine is only available through a yearly subscription through Epic Rites Press and at $75 per year most underground readers will certainly buck at the cost. The quality of the writing is good but the expense of publication and postage is perhaps prohibitive, especially to the younger generation of readers who usually snarl at print. This magazine is an important creative arm of ERP and a means to attract established and up & coming talent in the small underground press. This said, although Wolf Carstens, the owner of Epic Rites Press, has thrown in many freebies (if you subscribe shortly), you may be better off purchasing three or four of ERP’s growing inventory of excellent underground books. I recommend you start with Rob Plath’s brilliant a bellyful of anarchy (2009) and then move on to Carsten’s extremely capable ‘crudely mistaken for life’ (2010) or John Yamrus's minimalistic collections of poetry.


BOLD MONKEY:  I was wondering about the creation of Tree Killer Ink. What is the story behind it? When did you first develop the idea for the project and what were your initial goals?

Wolf:  Tree Killer Ink was born out of the Epic Rites Press netzines The Abyss Gazes Also, The Thin Edge Of Staring and Lines Written With A Razor.  Each netzine had its own mandate and each was widely successful in promoting great underground writing.  With more and more netzines popping up every day, muddying the waters on what great underground literature means, I killed all three and started working on the The Epic Rites Journal.  The first full-length print edition was subtitled "Building A Better Bomb" and was released shortly after the death of Tood Moore.  In addition to a balls deep interview with Todd Moore, the book featured poetry and prose by writers like John Yamrus, Rob Plath, William Taylor Jr., Gerald Locklin, John Dorsey, Tony Moffeit, Zack Wilson, and Mathias Nelson.  I had so much fun putting the ERP Journal together that, with the recent destruction of the three netzines, the only way for me to continue with these kind of projects was to continue with a print magazine.  The first issue of Tree Killer Ink was built from the bones of The Epic Rites Journal.

My initial goals for the project were to publish the best underground writing and images, to print as many copies of the magazine as possible, and to distribute the magazine to as many places around the world as possible.  In order to maximize exposure of the magazine, I concentrated on places where the magazine would reach the widest possible audience.  The magazine initially found homes in "waiting rooms" inside hospitals, hospices, service stations, tattoo shops, and other lonely places where people go to die.  To date, thousands of copies of Tree Killer Ink have been distributed around the world.  There are numerous people who help distribute copies of Tree Killer Ink around the world. 

Q2: The magazine seems to be a breeding ground for future full length collections by your contributors. Who have been some of your special ‘finds’?

Wolf: Some of my "special finds" have been William Taylor Jr. whose short story "An Age of Monsters" (first published in The Epic Rites Journal: Building A Better Bomb) became the cornerstone in a new collection of stories published by Epic Rites Press under the same name.  William's poetry was exclusively featured in issue #6 of Tree Killer Ink - and those poems became the basis of William's forthcoming collection, The Blood of a Tourist, to be published by Sunnyoutside Press.  Another "special find" was Zack Wilson, whose contributions to the magazine have sprouted into a forthcoming novel by Epic Rites Press called Stumbles and Half Slips.  Most recently, the work of Misti Rainwater-Lites has led to the forthcoming project Bullshit Rodeo - which is a novel to be published in 2012.  The work of the great Henry Denander has sprouted into numerous projects which include book illustrations, broadsides and other "secret stuff" that can't be mentioned yet.  The work of Erik "The Lizardman" Sprague has sprouted into numerous projects that can't be be mentioned here.  Although not so much a "special find," both Rob Plath and John Yamrus have been featured in exclusive issues of Tree Killer Ink - and both of their contributions have become the foundation of full-length collections.  The Rob Plath issue became the foundation of Plath's forthcoming collection Staring Down Your Wounds and the John Yamrus issue became the foundation of his newest collection, Can't Stop Now!

Q3: For the second year of Tree Killer Ink you recently appointed Rob Plath to edit the magazine. Why the change?

Wolf: The passing of the chainsaw to Rob Plath happened to keep the material in Tree Killer Ink fresh.  Rob used to edit a netzine called The Exuberant Ashtray - and it was (in my opinion) one of the best netzines around.  I knew that Plath was more than capable of delivering the goods.  Anyone who has read the first two issues of Fluorescent Stilts For Your Uncle knows full well what Plath is capable of achieving.  The first issue of the new year is (in my opinion) one of the strongest issues of Tree Killer Ink ever released.  The second issue is a continuation of that strength.  Plath has, among other things, added new depth and variety to the magazine by including strong images.

The third issue of Fluorescent Stilts For Your Uncle will be a Dan Fante exclusive - presenting thirty pages of his unpublished novel, Malibu Blood.

Q4: What’s with the title ‘Florescent Stilts For Your Uncle’?

Wolf:  I can't answer this question.  Plath has always had a knack for creating unique titles - just look at his poem/book titles!  When I asked Plath what he wanted to call the new magazine, he said "Fluorescent Stilts For Your Uncle" and we ran with it - no questions asked. 

Q5: You are a hugely ambitious guy who wants to sell not just thousands but hundreds of thousands of your Epic Rites Press books. You have been very active in promoting Tree Killer Ink but how do you sell a small press magazine to a generation who usually expect everything for free on-line?

Wolf: The only way to receive Tree Killer Ink is by subscription.  For $75 a year, you receive twelve scheduled issues of the magazine, and (while quantities last) limited edition broadsides, glossy prints, and five autographed books by Mike Meraz, Mike Taylor, Milner Place, R L Raymond and Lawrence Gladeview.  These subscriptions with all the freebies are only available to the first twenty-five subscribers.  There are, at present, only a handful of these subscriptions left.  These subscriptions are the only "selling" that happens with Tree Killer Ink.  The magazine, at present, contains no advertisements. 

Now, when you add up the printing and shipping cost of a yearly subscription and all the free stuff that comes with it, you immediately realize that the main drive of Tree Killer Ink is not to make money.  If you consider the Joe and Maisie Fay book by Milner Place, for example, you realize the amount of money involved just to distribute twenty-five autographed copies.  There is the initial purchase of twenty-five copies, and then the international shipping costs.  These twenty-five copies must first be shipped from Canada to the United Kingdom to be signed, then shipped from the United Kingdom to Canada to me, and then shipped from Canada to subscribers around the world.  This book has been shipped three times by the time it makes it into the hands of subscribers!

The main drive of Tree Killer Ink is as a guerilla marketing campaign.  My goal is to distribute great literature around the world.  This is what makes Tree Killer Ink special.  The reason most underground magazines fail is because the publisher has his/her eye on the bottom dollar.  As such, publication in these magazines amounts to your work being read by maybe one hundred readers.  With Tree Killer Ink, the work of contributors is read by thousands of readers worldwide!  As I boast on the Tree Killer Ink webpage, soon enough we're gonna crawl out of the underground with cockroaches in our teeth and middle fingers stabbing the air!

- Wolfgang Carstens

Epic Rites Press
240 - 222 Baseline Road
Suite #206
Sherwood Park, Alberta
T8H 1S8

Find Tree Killer Ink info and promos here:

Sample Issue:

Tree Killer Ink poems on YouTube: