Five Questions for Stephen Proski of XO Press

XO Press is a Kansas City-based cassette tape label and publishing press. They specialize in limited edition chapbooks of poetry, short fiction, and honestly, anything that perks their collaborative interests. I first heard of XO during the Troost DIY Fest, which focused on music and venues between the 41st and 43rd blocks of Troost.  XO released the much anticipated compilation tape, TROOST, which featured the music of 24 bands that performed at the fest.

I met Stephen Proski a couple of years ago while attending KCAI. To this day, Stephen never ceases to amaze me with his words and, more importantly, what he does with his time. He has an incredible work ethic, which is made evident by his studio practice, the energy he devotes to his band, Meat Mist, and his collaborative efforts as part of XO Press.

1. What is the greatest thing you have learned from operating, and facilitating XO Press? 

The whole thing is still a learning process. We’ve done about nine or so releases in less than six months and we have more to come. There was actually one month where we put out a new tape every week. That became exhausting, but it was enjoyable at the same time. What’s great about XO is that I can do something art-related with my friends, who aren’t necessarily artists (whatever that word means), and share it with the DIY/punk scene, which has given so much to me over the years. It’s a very thankless job, but someone has to do it. None of us really mind, either; we just like doing what we do. Simple enough.

2. What book(s) are you currently reading? 

Oh, I could go on forever with this one, but the following are most relevant to the interview:

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, by Lester Bangs

Please, Kill Me, by Legs McNeil

Lipstick Traces: a Secret History of the 20th Century, by Greil Marcus

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

Suicide Casanova, by Arthur Nersesian

A better question would have been, “What have you been listening to lately?”.

Shoppers – Silver Year

Final Club – Blank Entertainment

La Piovra – The FIrst Discovered Treasures

Skinny Puppy – Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse

Aids Wolf – Ma Vie Banale Avant-Garde

Coil – Horse Rotorvator

Verse – From Anger and Rage

Calculator – These Roots Grow Deep

3. Can you talk about the collaborative process of XO? 

XO press is Meat Mist, plus my sister. The boys and I take care of doing the cassettes, and my sister is pretty much in charge of putting together the books. We all live within walking distance of each other. Typically, we have band practice, and then afterwards, we discuss what’s going on and what needs to get done, within whatever timeframe we happen to be working with. Each person contributes something different, but our efforts are communal. A few of our releases have been recorded by Dan (drummer of Meat Mist) on his four-track analog recorder. For the TROOST compilation we put out, I’m pretty sure he recorded an individual song for half of the bands on that tape. Like most artists, we definitely procrastinate, but we are always able to meet the deadlines we establish for ourselves.

4. How do you balance the XO Press, work, and your personal studio? Do you? Or don’t you?

Studio work always comes first. Everyone involved understands this and is respectful of it. 

5. Where do you currently operate XO? Do you have a space?

We operate out of two houses. Mine and Dan’s (the butcher shop), whatever is more convenient at the time. The kind of work we do does not necessarily require a large studio, by any means; just an open (or cluttered) space we can move around in. This is the kind of “business” we can continue to run if any one of us were to move or leave Kansas City. In my mind, that’s a good thing.

Playing in Meat Mist, having toured and put out records, and now this- I have grown close to these guys and they are some of my best friends. We have plans for the future, with no signs of quitting anytime soon. With each release, we get more and more excited about the next. That’s more than enough motivation for me to keep this going. I get just as stoked about this as I do about painting, which is strange, for me at least.

Check out our catalogue / discography:

Everything up on the site is for sale, digital or hardcopy

Shoot us e-mail at

“We’re open to pretty much anything. Send us something to read or something to hear. Please come out to a show and make a new friend. XO”.


About Sean M. Starowitz

Sean M. Starowitz’s work is executed in a variety of social, political, and community engaged contexts. Notable projects include Fresh Bread, BREAD! KC and Byproduct: The Laundromat. He has also explored curatorial projects such as The Speakeasy, and Vagabond, Kansas City’s premiere pop-up restaurant. He has contributed writings to Proximity Magazine and Temporary Art Review, and has lectured at Queens College in NY, UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department, and at American University in D.C. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri as the artist-in-residence at the Farm To Market Bread Company. He is a 2010 graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts program at the Kansas City Art Institute and a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient with support from the Charlotte St. Foundation, Spencer Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation. More recently, he is a 2014 Charlotte St. Foundation Visual Art Award Fellow.
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