It’s incredibly fitting to feature Sam on the ever-important holiday of Halloween. For most of his life, Sam’s been fascinated, or as he admits “borderline obsessed” by all things macabre and strange. Films like Raiders of the Lost Arc, ET and Jaws (which despite their advisory ratings, he managed to see before the age of five), made a profound impression on him. Those huge productions–which tended to employee darker themes and more challenging characters–no doubt influenced his career in filmmaking, as well as his love for Halloween.
“Halloween became my earliest creative outlet. It was a reason, or an excuse to make costumes, do weird makeup, and make elaborate decorations. In my opinion it’s the most “creative” holiday for a child, and that in and of itself was as much of a draw as anything else.”
Sam has exercised that creative drive in a multitude of ways since his formative years. In 1999, he and a few of his close friends started the five-piece punk and hardcore-influenced band, Since By Man. Through touring and working as a filmmaker (first as an art director and now as a director), Sam’s seen quite a lot of the U.S. and Europe. While Paris is his favorite city to travel to (working with Radar Studios in Chicago has afforded him the luxury of developing a close connection to the city), it’s the “in-betweens” as he puts it, that he favors the most. “The open road, roadside oddities, dive bars, weird gas stations / diners – those are my favorite places.”
His child-like curiosity for strange places and knack for getting into unusual situations (ask him about the time he threw a plate of spaghetti that landed on a cop’s face or when he got arrested in high school for possessing guns, easy, they were fake, while shooting a film with friends), is evident in his stylistically distinct work, which includes music videos for bands like Family Band, Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls. Beyond the music videos, he’s carved out a directorial niche with his stop motion work. His travels and creative vision have also lent their hand to photography. Sam and close bud Daniel Arnold (also a Milwaukee native) currently have a photo exhibit up at Sky High Gallery in Milwaukee. Somehow, with all that in the fold, he found time to co-write the book “Sign Painters,” (available here) based on his upcoming documentary film of the same name, co-directed with Faythe Levine.
Working and traveling as often as Sam does makes being home that much more important. When asked what his favorite part about home is, he candidly answers, “family and friends.” Though he’s always been adamant about his dislike for sentimentality and nostalgia, he holds past relics of his family and loved ones close to his heart. It’s that same contradiction that makes both him and his home so interesting. His home is filled with pieces acquired from his grandparents, each with their own unique story which Sam is eager to relay. The rest of his modest but spacious Chicago home, which he shares with roommate Dan Yingling, is pieced together with art and rarities. “It’s not like we came in here and decorated, it’s just been a slow accumulation of life experience that involves gathering weird shit,” Sam explains. And aren’t those always the most interesting homes?
Sam’s apartment on the second floor of a seemingly raggedy building in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago
Sam (left) and roommate Dan Yingling in the black dining room. Oddfellows ceremonial cloaks (on left) made in the late 1800s and purchased from Chicago’s Agent Gallery. http://agentgallerychicago.com “That place is trouble for me. So much great weird shit. I went in there for a desk and left with the cloaks.” – Sam
Painting (right) by the talented Stacey Rozich (also Sam’s girlfriend), who recently had a solo show at the Chicago Urban Art Society http://blog.staceyrozich.com/
Sam’s rotating mask collection (his favorite holiday is after all Halloween). John F. Kennedy vintage mask from Portage, WI. “Old man skull face” and “shitty Dracula” masks are cheapies purchased for their similarity to the old school masks of his youth
Rug purchased off the street in Kiev, Ukraine; Beethoven and Mozart statues (back wall) from an art job in Milwaukee. Egg chair belongs to good friend Hailey Fasse; Sam’s just “holding onto it” indefinitely. Coffee table from Blast from the Past, the amazing midcentury furniture shop in Milwaukee that’s sadly no longer
Naturalism prints from Paris, France; Charcoal portrait of a scary neighbor painted possibly by Sam’s uncle, found in his grandparents’ basement
One year for Halloween, Sam dressed up as a bloody-eared Beethoven, inspired no doubt by the statue hanging on the wall. The resemblance was uncanny (must be the hair)
The dark, enigmatic dining area gives way to a long hallway which lights the path to the rest of the apartment
Giant bullseye targets acquired from a commercial Sam worked on (the perks of having been an art director)
The huge midcentury inspired living room with great architectural details which include built-ins, a brick mantle and crown molding
Amazing sectional couch (incredibly difficult to move) from Blast From the Past
Landscape print was a Christmas present from Sam’s mom. The backside was used as a bulletin board for years and still has tons of old articles pinned up from back in the day
Sam’s first Halloween candy pail, a permanent fixture in the living room
An odd collection of faces and figurines, various stuffed heads and folk art on display above the mantle
Large, creepy rabbit head with various burns is said to have a haunted past, as a woman wearing it during a play many years back allegedly caught fire and died with it on
John Lennon, cat and a Jew walk into a bar…Matryoshka dolls picked up during Sam’s travels to Moscow and Kiev.
Clay mask (middle bottom) from Sam’s grandparents’ basement. He was terrified of it growing up, so naturally, he brought it home while moving his grandmother from her Whitefish Bay, WI home. Small coconut masks on the wall from Sam’s other grandparents (mother’s side). Tambourine was a prop from a Sleepy Sun music video Sam directed
PRACTICE Practice sign painted by Tina Vines, while shooting Sam and Faythe Levine’s upcoming documentary, “Sign Painters”
Sam among his books, photographs and records
Sam’s bedroom, with an overflowing suitcase surprisingly absent
Framed photos by Philin Phlash, an event and street photographer from Chicago who captured punk and hardcore bands like Black Flag in their heyday. Sam bought the photographs directly from Phlash in a makeshift gallery. When Sam came back the next week to interview him, he was gone http://philinphlash.blogspot.com/
REPRESENT! Milwaukee flag circa 1972, found at Mars Cheese Castle
NO!, an original protest poster from the Kent State Massacre–a present Sam purchased for himself on his 30th birthday. Lettuce sign hand lettered by John Downer, a sign painter/typographer who’s featured in the forthcoming “Sign Painter” documentary
Framed art by Keith Shore http://keithshore.com/; Native American woodcut head by Evan Ross Murphy http://evanrossmurphy.com/; Woody Allen portrait was originally friend, Adam Loeb’s. Sam hung onto it during Adam’s many years of travel and moving from city to city. Hanging bat was a gift from Faythe brought back from Bali
Sam with his sisters Melissa and Hannah, taken at Melissa’s wedding
Pictured: Sam’s father with sister Melissa as a baby
“The Heart Shield” bible was Sam’s grandfather’s from World War II. Being made of tin, it was known to protect soldiers who carried it in their breast pocket