Building a Home for Alternative Art: A Chat with JT Lachausse, Editor of Matador Review
JT Lachausse is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of The Matador Review.
Interview by Joseph Dante
The Matador Review is focused on publishing and promoting “alternative” literature. You define this as “the controversial and the radical, the unhinged and the bizarre.” Was this in response to more traditional magazines that may not be so open to certain kinds of writing? What was the inspiration to create this type of literary journal?
The team at Matador wants to build a distinctive home for both art and literature. We hatched a plan at the beginning: to become the most professional circus of the small magazine community, to push the unconventional and extraordinary to the forefront. While traditional forms often do an excellent job of provoking thought and emotion, we wanted to carve out a hole specifically for “alternative” work.
That being said, I suppose the answer to your first question is: Yes. While traditional magazines are willing to publish several pieces that are notably unconventional, we thought it appropriate to foster a community purely for that sort of work. This is not to mention that we are just as much a home for art as well; considering the quantity of content, we seek to be a 50-50 split between art and literature. That was another desire for The Matador Review: to bring about another home for alternative art, as there isn’t nearly enough art representation in the online magazine communities.
When I first explained the concept of this magazine to the editors and art director, I suggested that we become “the evil twin of The Paris Review.” Not that we are considerably evil, nor are we connected to The Paris Review, but rather, we should be a hard pill to swallow. I’ve been a reader of The Paris Review since I was in junior high, and for all I’ve ever read, I’ve always been casually entertained. There have been moments when an eyebrow was raised, or a tear was shed, or a fist was shook at the page, but overall, I was always comfortable. I did not want that for The Matador Review. I want readers to be perplexed, embarrassed, outraged, disgusted, and sometimes, indulged. This will not be a magazine for everyone, and that is the point.
The masthead is a little mysterious. Can you tell us a little more about yourself and the other editors?
We prefer the mystery, but I’ll say this much: we are all Chicago-based artists and writers. We enjoy long walks down the street to our local print shop, where we print all of the submissions for our magazine. We then recycle all of the paper when we are finished. Each of our apartments are above the ground floor, and when we find a piece that we love, we are inclined to stomp around, to which our neighbors are inclined to knock at their ceilings with broom handles. Suffice to say: great work leads to broom handles.
As of now, your magazine is brand new and you’re currently taking submissions for your debut issue. You say you prefer writing that is multilayered. Do you have any other advice for writers who are trying to submit?
Our goal is to collect work that is both provocative and entertaining. Ask yourself: how many times has this story been told? How many times has it been told in this way? We want to remember your work long after we have finished reading it, and typically, this happens with work that raises many questions - ergo, multilayered - and work that is told with a fresh and distinct voice. What is the experience that you want your audience to have when reading your work? Do you have that experience when you read it? If so, it’s a homerun. Send it in.
Since you welcome the controversial and the edgy, is there any topic that may be off-limits or a hard sell for you?
We will disregard any submission that we feel propagates hatred or discrimination in a way that is bereft of artistic merit or creative cause; that being said, it may be appropriate to clarify: we happily accept work that is overtly religious, political, or other topics that are unpopular at the dinner table.
We want work that detaches itself from tradition and explores the ugly and the unknown.
Are there any alternative magazines you’d recommend to readers in order to get a taste of what you might be interested in?
To name a few: PANK Magazine, The Adirondack Review, and Creep Machine Magazine.
When I think of “alternative,” the first thing that comes to mind is the genre of music. Your symbol of \m/ throughout the magazine alludes to the metal salute, to “rock on.” Is that the kind of literary equivalent you’re going for?
Exactly. The social impact that rock culture had on the world of music helped to shape many sub-cultures, such as the Punk movement and the Metal genre, which at their core were/are about freedom of restriction. That’s what we are about: the loosening of the tether. We want work that detaches itself from tradition and explores the ugly and the unknown.
I see you have a weekly feature that showcases different kinds of artists (not just writers) and a sampling of their work. There’s music and videos. Are you open to ideas for more multimedia projects? What about collaborations or hybrid texts?
When we began the magazine, we wanted to cover as much alternative art and literature as possible, but some things simply don’t work within the publication format. Our response to that was to make the Weekly section, The Matador Review’s source for various interviews, artist features, and essays. Simply put: the Weekly is open to anything of the artistic or literary demeanor; however, if we feel that the work is too closely related to one of our submission genres - such as a collaboration (poetry + images) or a hybrid text (prose poetry) - we may ask for it to be submitted for the issue instead. The Weekly is not intended to take away from the issue material, but rather to make up for all of the work that cannot fit within the publication format, such as music, video art, live performances, video games, or other multimedia projects. It is a place for us to broadcast art, rather than publish it.
Do you have a certain layout in mind for the first issue, or do you prefer to compose issues more organically as you get submissions? Will there be themes?
There are no themes in mind, and we are letting our issues form themselves around the work we receive.
I know it’s rather early on, but what do you see in the journal’s future? Where are you headed? Would you consider eventually going into print?
For the remainder of this year, we are looking to get ourselves off of the ground. We want to build a strong connection with our readers and set a standard that the art and literature communities can look forward to. We want to help establish online magazine culture as a respectable and reliable resource for great art and literature, just as print publications have been for many years. Annual print anthologies is a consideration for us, but it is to be determined based on support and request. Until then, this circus will be a digital one.
Joseph Dante lives in South Florida. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Permafrost, The Rumpus, Best Gay Stories 2015, PANK, Corium, and elsewhere.