extended artistic BIO
aka Russil Tamsen
(This is an illustrated
journey, with photos!
Just click on
the underlined phrases.)
first group, a French punk band out of the suburbs of Paris. Me
rebelling on backup axe after years of learning the Beatles.
Surprisingly, our punk band got to play my
International high school's graduation dance. I had a
step-down transformer for my U.S. Peavey amp. It kept acting
up and falling out of the wall socket! Crackle crackle. Haaa haaa...
jumped into a
Police cover band. We were outta these same Paris suburbs. Be-yo-yo! I
acted as "Andy Summers."
the next few years, I was on stage as an ACTOR with small parts in:
Dogg's Hamlet by Stoppard, No Exit
by Sartre, Three Sisters by Chekhov, and Hammerstein's Desert Song. I had a starring role in
Stoppard... with a 40 minute monologue! I held down another lead role in a
student one-act play. As John Wilkes Booth, I got to assassinate the
President-tyrant. Although, on the other hand, I had already
paid dues as a
true-blue patriotic Jet, dancing and singing in West Side Story.
DADA BOOM: While acting as a theater arts major at Brown U in Providence, R.I., I put together
my first band: an original 'new wave' band.
We A DADA BOOMers flaunted gaudy
80s wardrobes and feather earrings about town. A
in thigh highs, to
boot. I was lead voice and guitarist for our
awkward, oddball cast of flamboyants.
I began songwriting for
the trio. I was heavily influenced by David Byrne,
who cast a long shadow on me as he diversified into world music and
Brian Eno and The Cure. A DADA
BOOM posed for lots and lots and lots
of photos. We even played a couple of gigs before I graduated to the Big Apple.
got my B.A. in Theater Arts. My thesis project? Being a
THEATER DIRECTOR/script editor. I manifested a
shamanistic dance/theater production of Oedipus Rex. Not the
highbrow Greek classic, but the Roman
horror movie version by Seneca. With the help of Jim the choreographer, I
must say I felt more comfortable turning dancers into actors than dealing
with certain divas up in the acting department! [Oops, have
I said too much?] Too bad I
had not heard of shamanism at the time. I would have promoted
differently: New Wave Shamanistic Nightmare!
experience got me into some surreal video scriptwriting.
But as for performing? I began to realize that I needed to deliver words and
thoughts of my own. I decided to both write it and perform it. So:
honed the craft of songwriting. It took
FOUR YEARS before I
felt l I had mastered composition, thanks to my old trusty Tascam 4-track
I also taught myself to play bass guitar, to program drum machines and
do keyboard sequencing.
acted as an intern for Overland Productions in Manhattan. They
managed David Byrne, Ramones, B-52's and the
Waterboys. Sadly... it was never going to turn into a paying gig.
internship I did was as gopher for a casting company, TCI,
that selected actors for regional theaters across the
country. After seeing the process up close, I decided it was all too dang ruthless and nepotistic for
the kickass singer from Living Color, underwrote my first 24-track
demo. On Long Island I recorded an 80's David Bowie-ish dance A-side / an
opiated reggae B-side:
SIN / NEVER.
were a hotshit producer from Manhattan on drums, and the keyboardist off of
an old MTV game-show..
By 1987 I'd hooked up a job
spent three years there. (All that time I kept looking for
the right eclectic musicians to play with in a band, but that
apparently wasn't meant to be. ) Desperately I wanted to graduate from "acting as the computer guy" into a
real creative job
The bosses dangled carrots, I followed.
I did, however, manifest a U2-influenced, solo music video called
Flowergirl. It was
directed by Ivano Leoncavallo, producer for MTV International
and MTV Latino. The music video featured one of my ballads.
I even got to place the video into the sweaty hands of the Director
of MTV Programming. Hallelujah! This Directrix eventually
got back to me and let
me know how life really works:
"No thanks, son. You're not on a
a 4-piece out of West Philly. We focused on being a world rock-fusion band with a middle eastern
flavor. Musician's musicians were we (major label or
no.) A bunch of
serious multi-culti lads. We had Frank Zappa gremlins and Peter Gabriel
dervishes lurking within and didn't mind a little pop with our
GUITARIST FROM TURKEY.
Keyboardist from the Philippines. Eccentric drummer from
Teaneck N.J. The previous bassist quit to pursue a lucrative ska
career, so I found myself doing the
STING THING ON BASS
EARTHRISE recorded a sweet, masterful 16-track demo. We
were busting it out to club owners... just as the tidal wave of MTV grunge
swamped our city. This 'grudge' music was
the only style that the Sicilian owners downtown were willing to book. Didn't want
no goddamn spiritual keyboards in there. Apparently.
Our one and only local underground
rag had a chick critic who only liked punk rock. She said we
were 'pompous, bloated art rock'.
A steady river of frustrating troubles culminated in my
departure. Was this the wrong city altogether? I yearned
for a scene that felt radical, open, cosmopolitan. My
girlfriend and I would move to either Amsterdam or San
STRETCH. These were two incarnations of a jammy, funky-ass, world-rock trio. San Francisco had been my choice.
In SPANK/STRETCH I managed to get some great jamology down on 4-track. I
had pretty much turned into
by then. I was heavily involved in, er, symbology. And
music video. It was shot on a
PSYCHEDELIC STAGE in a cow field
on a 100 degree day, out in
the rolling Hayward hills. It
was to be the interlude for a rock'n'roll cooking show pilot called
Let's Masticate! However, not long after the shoot
OUR BASSIST magician went on a 3-day meth
binge. He communed with some 'angels' and vanished... He
left behind 2 massive shoes that 8 months of auditioners were unable to fill...
musicians in general, I quietly hit the road. Along with my symbol-channeling girlfriend,
I went out to seek a different kind of
adventure. A trip to the Mayan
pyramids proved life-changing. I became a full-on
[I kid you not.] Spent a couple of years with a Zarb
drum under one arm and an acoustic guitar under t'other, speaking in wizardly metaphors (that
few understood). I learned some important healing skills along the ways of
I diversified as
an artist, too. I really began writing my ass off...
THEATER DAYS, I began to experiment with avant voice, sound and
meaning. I rambled far outside the constrictions of
pop song format. In short, I was spacing out like a gypsy
even as we settled down in an L.A. pad.
IN THE WEEDS: The following
SUMMER, I misplayed my cards,
badly. I lost my
great Venice Beach
APARTMENT. A melodic 4-piece rock group
let me crash in their music room.
That's how I began composing with DEEP IN THE WEEDS. We had a versatile,
bluesy girl, a coffee house singer who turned into Janis Joplin
sometimes. Our novice punk
bassist was included because he was shacking up with her;
plus the whole project was his brainchild. We had
an artful metal god on the drums who taught paradiddles for a living. And we had me, acting
progressively jazzier on guitar thru a buzzy borrowed amp.
DEEP IN THE WEEDS double-billed around Santa Monica. We
co-headlined with another friend's band that sounded like
Squeeze. In our little scene, we all had smoky stars
glinting in our deep, weedy eyes! Different levels of
musicianship, unfortunately, collapsed our shaky house of cards.
joined a commune. Yup. Artistically I spread out into
I designed a colorful divination system/party game, called
Runes for Ravers.
My Mayan-influenced BANNERS
also date from that era.
I sometimes played guitar synthesizer at the odd artsy-fartsy, high-brow gig around
LA. I remember performing at one gallery opening with a theremin player(!)
That was challenging. I also sat in as accompanist for some Dance
company shows with The Movement Company.
the overcrowded commune thing proved to be too much, I set up shop
at the World Evolution Loft in sunny, resource-laden
This Loft was an art/music/yoga hybrid of a
commune. I started to succumb to computer-world again by
going digital. The tenants of the Loft all got evicted
after 6 months when the Chicago mafia repossessed the property.
a small "intentional living" house in San Diego, I lived with a
couple of wing nuts. I began creating a slew of original
mp3s for the web. These mp3s landed in the zone between
radio theater and spoken word. "Animations for your
ears!" Many have
sound-designed background: you can check out this impressive project by
ALTERED STATE RADIO.
joined various bands. I vocalized for a crazy, math-rock
vortex called ASHPOOL.
I sat in for a while with a serious world-beat, progressive-rock
mastodon named AZIGZA. I didn't cut it for
with an earbleed alt-rock cover band called
And I watched a bassist get regularly soused in a sloppy
that never managed to get out of the studio...
Here's an overview of my
SAN FRANCISCO ERA.
Stranded in a logical wasteland
where the economy was sucking, and having already
spent 13 years in Cali, I
rolled my scene over to boomtown Tampa, Florida. Here I picked up
some street improvisation skills when I landed a gig playing the
King's Herald in the Renaissance Festival.
and unique music cds, MY SHADOW and BOUNCE
INTERNATIONAL, were created and produced while in Tampa.
Bounce was a full collaboration with
the very talented
Latino jazz-hop composer, Solarmagic. Both platters were mastered at
Black Dog Studios. The cds are for sale at