On the Couch with Sam Halmarack

Sam Halmarack Arts Review On the CouchWho is Sam Halmarack?
I’m an artist from the UK in Melbourne for WE ARE LIGHTNING! – a theatre show/stadium gig with community choir, brass band and teen punk band, Pythagoras and the Field.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I would have learned to skate. I reckon I’d make a great older skater, being the older guy down the skate park high-fiving all the cool kids. Sadly, my skateboarding career ended abruptly when my dad tried to demonstrate how to skate by taking a running leap onto my skateboard and snapping it in half.

Who inspires you and why?
The surreal comedian Andy Kaufman has always been a bit of an inspiration just for being funny without telling jokes and caring what anyone thinks about him. I must have seen the I Trusted You sketch about 1000 times and it just doesn’t get tired. Think my whole career is dedicated to recreating that moment or at least something as perfect as that.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’ve been thinking about this more and more recently. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a negative impact on the world. When you’re starting out, you don’t fly anywhere, you cook your meals at home, it’s easy to be green. And then suddenly you’re touring all the time and traveling all over the world and you end up being a total jerk (environmentally speaking) You can do carbon offsetting or be nicer to strangers, but there’s not still a nagging feeling that you’re not helping. I think when I next carve out some time, I’m going to do a bit of thinking and acting upon it.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I haven’t had a holiday in a while. There was a beach in Mexico where I felt like I had actually arrived in paradise, somewhere near Tulum. I managed about 15 minutes in Eden before I left my wallet with all my travel money on the table of the cafe I had breakfast in, which says it all really.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Here in Melbourne? I feel like a bit of a tourist still even though this is the 4th big trip I’ve made here. If it was a hot still night, I’d take them to a rooftop bar in the CBD, just because that feels romantic and slightly exotic. Otherwise probably a long cycle along the Yarra bike trail earning the right to eat our body weight in cream teams and cake.

What are you currently reading?
I’ll be honest, I’ve stopped reading and it really bothers me. I keep getting books out from the library and they just stare at me until they’re overdue and then I feel even more terrible about myself. I should probably ease myself back in with a self-help book or one with lots of pictures.

What are you currently listening to?
The soundtrack to our development has been Bop Till You Drop by Ry Cooder, which is an album of Rock n Roll covers that delicately walks the line between brilliance and cheese. We’ve also been listening to a lot of big arrangements of pop songs. Our show climaxes with lots of different musical groups all playing together. It’s hard not get excited by the wall of sound that creates.

Happiness is?
Don’t think it’s a static thing. Making this show is definitely the closest to happiness I’ve been in a long time. Getting to work with Melbourne artist JOF is so many different kinds of brilliant and enlightening. Getting to write music with scores of brilliant strangers who are becoming friends is a pretty good recipe for happiness. Spending time in this brilliant city of Melbourne always feels like a total blessing.

What does the future hold for you?
The future feels exciting and daunting in equal measure. I constantly feel like I’m on the edge doing something brilliant or falling flat on my face. I guess that’s just the deal you make when you are an artist and I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Sam can be seen in WE ARE LIGHTNING! – a darkly comical work that reflects on the importance of communal spaces where people can come together and express themselves – at the North Melbourne Town Hall for a strictly limited season from 6 December 2017. For more information, visit: www.artshouse.com.au for details.

Image: Sam Halmarack