Daily Inspiration: Sam Hockley-Smith

In honor of Sam Hockley Smith’s last day at FADER, we take a fond look back at his glorious, five-year run at the magazine, and as Sam would say, we're "not mad."

Playaz Circle f. Lil Wayne, "Duffle Bag Boy"
FADER has a small editorial staff, and most of us work in one room together. Affectionately called The Fishbowl, it's more like a computer lab, with a slim countertop running along all four walls. Sam and I shared a desk for three and a half years. Not long into that time, it occurred to me that Sam was the person I physically looked at more than anyone else. He was to my right and thus a 10 to seven fixture in my peripheral vision, his red beard like a sunspot. Though I like to think I have grown in the five years both he and I have worked at FADER—and I know Sam has—I am pretty sure I was mostly annoying when I started. What can I say, I was excited. Sam, however, was fresh off a year-long FADER internship, so he knew the ins and outs I did not. More so, he is just much less of a goof than I am. I was eager to impress and did so by entertaining, often comically and at my own expense, more often than not with a plainly obnoxious tone. In late 2007, I was on a "Duffle Bag Boy" kick, playing the song and doing my version of Lil Wayne's ghoulish chorus, basically just looking for attention. I got some from Sam, who extremely sternly barred me from ever playing the song again (a check of my iTunes shows that in five years I have only played it 13 times total; just saying). I remember being surprised at his seriousness. As we were then the junior members of staff, we had a almost sibling-like relationship, often irritated with the other, though commiserative in our powerless plight. But this was stern, so I listened. Similar moments of laying down the law followed, and I sometimes wondered if whatever irritant was worth the stress. I guess Sam did, too, as he got pretty chilled out these last few years. Comically, though, his tendency to get mad has not totally subsided, he's just shifted it to things that it's totally weird and irrational to get mad at. An intern quits mid-semester: mad! A record label he loves releases a dud: mad! How I Met Your Mother is a repeat this week: mad! Watching such a hirsute man rage has been a constant pleasure, and I guess he was in on the joke. This past December, in our yearly Listmania wrap up post, Sam made a list with just two entries: Top Two Things Sam Hockley-Smith got outraged about. Number two was one i was mightily familiar with ("not getting a promo copy of some ambient album") but number one I was not able to bear witness to: "When Wiz Khalifa claimed, to my face, in February 2011 that his high school stoner buddy comedy with Snoop Dogg was coming out on April 20th, 2011 even though he was 'still waiting for Snoop to read the script.'" There are few more perfectly picturable moments than this one, Sam body fighting against his mind's inevitable uprising against such ridiculousness. It's worth noting, too, that he was writing about that a full 11 months after it happened. I bet he's still mad, or at least I'll be disappointed if he's not.

Bruce Springsteen, "Growin Up"
Sam's a classic—a guy focused on music that's new and that's weird, but somehow undeniably classic, someone you can imagine sitting on a wooden deck with in twenty years drinking glass bottles of Corona with lime wedges stuffed down the neck. The whole FADER staff took a trip last year to Asbury Park, New Jersey, a break from insane New York and a visit to the old home of Bruce Springsteen, and I had a lot of fun with Sam, eating candy corn in a suburban home we rented for the weekend and talking about bands, something I'd be happy to do with him any year of my life. Sam's wise, impartial to ridiculousness. His opinion is often definitive and correct; he's able to see through the bullshit, someone who knows the difference between good and just new. I have so much respect for that. It's a trait that's always timeless, just like Bruce.

A-Dam-Shame, "Get It"
Sam sent me this track from A-Dam-Shame, a Memphis/Atlanta supergroup that is now mostly invisible on the internet. It's my 100 percent favorite shit, a pine-smelling anthem that's chafed and so sweet at the same time, kind of like Sam. People rapping without the smallest bit of cynicism, cheerful barks and singing laid overtop weepy guitars and gut-punching drums. If the song's reassuring it's also a little mothering, letting you know you CAN "get it" while putting the pressure on that you BETTER. I owe my job at FADER at least in part to Sam, who at some point when I was an intern kindly said, to someone, "maybe Naomi can do that." I came to the magazine from a line of jobs in education; in my first week as a full-time staffer, I let Sam know that it would be hard to start thinking of myself as a writer. He promised it would become easier, saying it like a friend but also in a way that sounded less suggestion than obligation, to myself as well as to the team. In the years since, he's generously reminded me that doing great writing is pretty much never fun, not even for the most gifted writer. Working through the tough spots without him in the office, I'll continue to ask myself, What Would Sam Do?

Download: Alanis Morissette, "Hand in My Pocket (Nike7Up Lost Generation Mix)"
There are at least two distinct lanes of Sam's niche music expertise: a deep knowledge of cassette-tape ambient and of rappers inspired by Mystikal. Most of the time, these sounds don't overlap, but they do start to blend on tracks by the weirdo remixer Nike7Up, whose witch-house-y brand of mash-ups I first discovered in a Sam Hockley-Smith post on TheFADER.com. When I started working here and posted a Nike7Up song of my own, Sam sent me an MP3 of this Nike7Up Alanis Morissette remix, then he gave me a joke track he made himself—although he didn't admit to making it himself it at first. That song was credited to °°°‡°°°(meaning "train tracks") and in Nike7Up style it mixed the bass line of The Flaming Lips' "One More Robot" with a pitched-down Shady Blaze song. As far as I know, that's the last song he made. A year later, he asked me for MIDI keyboard recommendations, but I think he returned whichever one he bought. What I'm saying is: Sam has a singular mix of points of view, and maybe in his life he won't be a great remixer, but I know he's going to make other amazing stuff that only he could.

Neil Young, "Tell Me Why"
Sam and I started sharing an office a few months ago. I won the window seat in a coin toss, and Sam moved in while I was traveling for work. When I got back, he told me he'd bought speakers for us to share, which was more a gesture of politeness than anything else, since the speakers are about as much mine as the window seat is his. Amazingly, this has never bothered me. The reason I don’t mind him commandeering the speakers is because he has great taste, and either we are very compatible musically, or he just so happens to be the most intuitive person on the planet. I’ve never met anyone else that can put on music day after day and keep me calm and happy (Purity Ring notwithstanding). Whether we were listening to “Parachute” a million times or going deep on that (week long?) Smashing Pumpkins kick, every day was filled with music and, for the most part, it was fun.

Aside from being desk buddies, we also edit each others’ blog posts. So not only do I know what Sam is listening to regularly, I know generally what he thinks about it too. If he likes something, nine out of ten times it will be because it evokes for him the slightly liberating yet melancholy feeling of being somewhere between an adult and a kid—a sort of wistfulness, I guess. The more he loves the music, the more it relates to this idea (what up Mount Eerie!), and like any serious writer, he returns to this thread again and again. So, for his last day at FADER, I’m taking hold of the proverbial speaker jack to play him a song from someone I know we both loved long before we were ever work mates, a song that when I hear it now, always makes me think of Sam and his theme. Good luck, dude. Looking forward to reading your stories and hearing your music for many years to come.

FADER TV, Forest Party with Family Band
On an epic adventure upstate to Family Band's Forest Party last summer, former FADER TV producer Hanly Banks and I were lucky enough to share a tent with Sam for a night. It was definitely a two-person tent, and Hanly and I fell asleep in it on the early side of the evening. A few hours later, at what I can only assume was around three or four in the morning, Sam squeezed in and proceeded to wake us with an urgent and strong desire to hang out. It was a funny and hazy moment, and I know it was a moment because I'm smiling while recalling it now. I remember laughing a lot, probably at him for being so far out and beyond our level of tiredness. That evening was soundtracked by really great music, and now whenever I hear Family Band's haunting melodies, I can't help but reminisce about the ridiculousness of camping with Sam. 

Daily Inspiration: Sam Hockley-Smith