By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM

"American Movie" introduced the world to Mike Schank, but the Milwaukee musician and actor is more than just Mark Borchardt's sidekick.

Schank is passionate about the guitar and he's translated that love for the fretboard into a trio of homemade CDs, including the two most recent ones, "Dreams I Know -- Yesternight" and "Classical Songs I Know."

The two follow his first, "Songs I Know."

"Classical Songs I Know" was recorded in 2008 and features Schank performing 16 works in an intimate setting. That intimacy derives in part from the fact that this disc was recorded at home by Schank's wife Kate, but also from the no frills approach.

Schank seems to have a special affinity for Florentine guitarist and composer Matteo Carcassi and he performs four etudes from Carcassi's "Op. 60" set of studies.

Schank -- who is currently the star of a candy commercial on Italian television -- says the disc is potentially unfinished.

"I add as much as I can think of," says Schank of his recording process. "I might just keep adding to this one," he adds, speaking of "Classical Songs I Know."

Likewise, Schank says his latest disc, "Dreams I Know -- Yesternight," may also not be finished.

"I'm still working on it," he says and will keep recording, "until the disc is full. I like to fill them up all the way over time."

"Dreams I Know" collects 11 audio-enhanced recitations of dreams that Schank has noted in his diary.

Schank recites his dreams -- which are no more or less bizarre than anyone's REM wanderings -- to which he's given great, descriptive titles like "The World's Biggest Boat," "The Power of Feathers" and the complementary, "Mike in Heaven" and "Mike in Hell."

Underneath, he adds his musical interpretations, performed on acoustic guitar, and doused with dynamic sound effects, samples and drum loops.

The record sounds like it was a blast to make.

"It's something fun to do," admits Schank. "I never get tired of doing fun things. I never get tired of it."

Adds Kate, "Over time we will be working on volume two of each the classical and dreams discs. He continues to dream, and practice the guitar. I guess you could say he even plays in his sleep. So, there's a good chance we'll be adding to these discs or coming out with new ones. It's so much fun working with Mike."

The three discs are available for $10 each at Riverwest Film & Video, 824 E. Center St., and on Schank's Web site, Schank also sells T-shirts with the "Dreams" CD artwork through the site.

As if he's sold many discs to date, Schank quips, "I would like to. My wife and I could use the money."

Here is a video of Schank playing ...

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.