Ian Kappos, musician, writer and co-editor of Milkfist
Ian Kappos, 27, is perhaps best known locally as the frontman of hardcore punk band Cross Class. Along with his mark on the local punk scene, Kappos has been making his mark on the literary world. Kappos serves as co-editor-in-chief of Milkfist magazine, which he runs with Derek Tollefson and Jonathan Anthony Nathan. With more than 30 works of published short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Kappos has carved a niche for himself in Sacramento, a scene that he’ll soon swap for Los Angeles, where he will pursue an MFA at California Institute of the Arts. We sat down with Kappos to discuss the literary process, the future of Cross Class and the unique relationship between literature and music.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was 10. I did it to basically get attention. As a kid I was really into fantasy, and I really wanted to inhabit another world. A teacher told me I wrote a cool story in class—it was this formulaic elves-and-wizards sort of thing. That validation was really significant at the time. I didn’t really start out writing because I had this artistic impulse. I have a lot of respect for people who do that; it’s like bloodletting for them—they have to write, even if it isn’t going to get published. I think that’s super cool and I think those people are way better than I am, like as people. I started to take (writing) seriously when I was 21. I got what I consider to be my first published story when I was 22.
How would you describe Milkfist?
Sometimes I change my answer. Sometimes I (describe) it as a journal, sometimes as a magazine. … My canned answer for this is, it’s a venue. Derek Tollefson—my best friend since I was 15—and I started it together. The name Milkfist is based on an image from The Holy Mountain, the Jodorowsky film. There’s this weird scene where this cow is just spraying milk and then there’s this frame—and for like a split second there’s just this fist just punching through this deluge of milk. Derek was like, “Milkfist,” and I was like, “That’s it.” … So Derek and I—our whole lives we’ve gone different places to get different things that we’re into. For example, I would go to Maximum Rocknroll to read about what’s new in hardcore and punk. It’s the only place where I could learn about a one-man DIY D-beat project in Brazil and shit like that. … In terms of weird literature, I would go to any number of lit journals that had weird literature. Often times they didn’t have much art. As a consumer, I like art. … We were tired of having to go to different places for that.
So what brings it all together?
One of our contributors for issue one, Susan DeFreitas … said this is like the literary equivalent of outsider art. That’s kind of what it is. What do all these things have in common? Art and underground music and offbeat fiction and poetry? They’re done by outsiders. They’re done by fucking weirdos.
What’s happening with Cross Class when you move?
So Ian Boalt, our bassist, moved back to Portland a few weeks ago. Mitch, our guitarist, is going to be a dad at the end of the year. I’m moving, so there are different things going on for all of us, but we’ve had talks and we’re not officially breaking up. We’re leaving the door open. A couple months ago we recorded a full album—we still need to do some more mixing. … We want to put the album out on vinyl. Boalt said he’s down to come down even once a month to play a show. … If I can work it I’m down to do that too. Mitch is kind of the band, it’s his riffs, that’s how the song writing starts, he brings a riff to the table and we go from there. We’re not breaking up, just going to be less active.
What’s the relationship between underground music and underground literature?
I have respect for musicians and writers. Especially ones that create and are insulated in a community and they don’t have these selfish, capitalist goals. My experience has been that because of the culture that we live in—it’s a very passive culture. People are a lot more willing to go see your band play than they are to read a story. It’s not personal, it’s systemic. I’m not saying anything about musicians there, I’m saying that I have specific respect for writers because they’re so lonely. They’re really lonely. The process of writing is lonely, and there’s no real (culmination). Usually your validation, your reward, peaks at “Congratulations, we’ve accepted your story to be in this journal.” I think that music and literature … all art is parallel in different ways.
What’s it like being a creative writer in Sacramento today?
There are people who are in love with creating and reading and writing. I’m not going to try to prognosticate and make a prediction about what will happen to literature as a medium, but I will say that any art starts with love. Whether it’s conscious love or not. I think for a long time I unconsciously was in love with literature even when I doubted my love. What I’ve learned is that being in love is being curious. Being in love is wanting to investigate something further, to look deeper. … Being in love with literature can be anything from reading critical theory to reading novelizations of video games just because you want to see how this writer is playing in this world. There are plenty of curious people in this world, and I think it’s just a matter of where they’re putting their curiosity.