Shane, Cathy and Zac of the band Lambsbread used to have killer basements shows at their quiet little countryside house about 45 minutes outside of Columbus, OH, known as the Lambs Den! The main event would usually include performances by Lambsbread, Dead Machines, C. Spencer Yeh, Graveyards, Leslie Keffer, Aaron Dilloway, Emeralds, Hive Mind and I even remember one night Bill Nace, Pete Nolan and Chris Corsano showed up! This is where I first met today’s featured artist, Nathan Bowers! He and his band Tusco Terror were were based out of Cleveland but were regulars at the Lambs Den and they also played other places like Skylab and Cafe Bourbon Street in Columbus,OH when there was cool stuff happening. Nathan was down with the Cleveland crew and they were all blowing up at that point. So much stuff was going on in those days! It was awesome! Nathan has his own record/tape imprint known as Tusco Embassy and he’s put together so many beautiful editions. I recall, most (if not all) have super cool screen-printed covers and in my mind truly captured the essence of what was going on at the time musically and artistically. It was a magical time that truly inspired me. I was 100% blown away by all the cool noise stuff happening in those days, right in front of me and all over the world. I started up Lost Treasures of the Underworld in 2006 but I’m positive these guys (Cleveland crew & definitely the Detroit crew) had been on the case a lot longer than that. For the second LP we released on Lost Treasures, Robedoor/Leslie Keffer split LP, we asked Nathan if he would do some artwork for the Leslie Keffer side (Doug Johnston made the art on the Robedoor side). He was friends with Leslie and they were able to collaborate on what she was looking for. It turned out to be one of my all-time favorite cover designs (so far!) for the label and it was a true pleasure to get to work with him and true honor to have some of his work on an LT album cover. At a certain point, I feel like a lot of people started branching out and moving off to other cities. I ended up moving to NYC and Nathan moved off to San Francisco and then ended up in LA. And now, it might just be the end of the world…but here we are!!!!
LT: It’s been over five months in the making along with a world gone mad. How have you been doing and what have you been up to these days?
NB: Initially I thought being quarantined would be a good opportunity to get back into making some tusco embassy stuff, work on more music and art ideas. But it’s been hard to focus on that kind of stuff given that the world has been in so much agony. I’ve been alright. living with my family in Ohio for now. I brought some of my screen printing stuff to Ohio so hope to do something creative while i’m here.
LT: You’ve released so much cool stuff on Tusco Embassy! How did it all begin? What inspired you to get into music and releasing stuff? Are you still releasing stuff?
NB: Hard to say exactly where the Tusco Embassy label began. Mike Tolan, Ben Vaughan and I made tapes of our own music and made cool packaging and art for them and basically traded them to each other since high school. We played in half a dozen different configurations, some musical and some non musical and a lot of in-between stuff.
We started Tusco Embassy to put out tapes by Tusco Terror and Dirty Lords. Both bands had the same members but Dirty Lords was kind of a heavy bass/drums/vocals band. We all lived together in the same house in Akron, where we had a couple shows a month. We started collaborating with Stoney Ben and he helped accelerate the label with his enthusiasm and hard work. We toured and made some tapes with Leslie Keffer who we also all went to high school with.
We started playing with people in Cleveland and the Cleveland people were always at our shows in Akron. We started coming down to Columbus to play with Lambsbread, Sword Heaven and 16 Bitch Pile-Up. Making friends with all these energetic people really inspired us and we started putting out lots of Ohio bands and later released stuff by friends from all over the place.
I will be making some Tusco Embassy stuff this year but I don’t think about it all as much as I used to when I was living with all my friends. I don’t use bandcamp and the company that hosted my TE online store started trying to make me pay for the site (and later shut it down) so the only way that I can sell these new releases is if people reach out to me directly. Tusco isn’t really something that should be on Bandcamp, or at least I probably won’t be the person to digitize and release virtual versions of cassettes and hand made prints and packaging. It’s not really an analogous translation of the original idea.
LT: All of your releases look amazing! They are screen-printed and very beautiful. How did you get into making stuff like that?
NB: When we used to make tapes for each other when we all lived in Tusco County (Mike, Ben, Web and I), all of our stuff was hand made; collages, photos. drawings, typed liner notes. Each copy was handled and assembled and we took great pains to make them feel special. I don’t necessarily like screen printing but there are things about it that I really appreciate. the flatness of the colors, the different effects you can get with layering and metallic inks. And you definitely spend a lot of time with each print. You “make” each copy of every release. I also like to come up with unusual package design ideas.
LT: Tusco Terror was heavy duty! Are you still doing stuff these days? Any other bands or projects?
NB: Thanks! I’d love to do some more Tusco Terror stuff. But since we have all been in different areas for over 10 years, it’s been kind of impossible for us to collaborate. Seems that the ideas behind TT and Tusco Embassy do not really lend themselves to collaborating or sharing using computers and stuff.
But the most of the guys in the TT still make tons of great music, Mike T still makes and releases fantastic stuff relatively often, Ben V has been collaborating with a bunch of projects in Akron, Web just found his gear in the basement of a stranger’s basement after over 10 years. I’m sure Stoney is still playing sax and his noise box. Maybe we’ll find a way to play together again soon.
I have a few projects with my good friends in the Bay Area and Cleveland. The Fathers (with Derek Gedalecia), Sexorcyst (with Rhea DeCaro) Dying Comes Alive (with David Russell).
LT: Are there any specific releases you’ve made or moments in time that you feel captured the true essence of what you’ve been trying to achieve?
NB: As a label, I like making the christmas tape releases. I always try to present those in unconventional packaging and it can be really challenging. Sometimes they turn out better than I’d hoped and other times I’ve been less than happy about the outcome. For a lot of the earliest releases, the guys from emeralds would just help assemble and print and dub tapes with me and Stoney, We definitely shared resources for our label with Wagon and many other Cleveland based labels. The idea for the Christmas tape came when we wanted to create a gift for all the people at the time who had inspired and supported us in the past year. We printed a cardboard box tape case and each tape was put inside a mini xmas stocking personalized for the recipient. The first two christmas tapes were like this – a split release with Emeralds/Tusco Terror, sent to a list of people we wanted to give a gift to. We sold a handful of each too. Those were really great times and that concept still has me putting something together as a “christmas tape” sometimes.
Another release I am proud of is the Nautical Almanac – Melding Linearality LP. Not only was it the first LP we ever produced but it is the perfect example of why TE cannot exist digitally; A record that is cut in such a way that it can never play the same way twice. It was fantastic to be able to collaborate with and release an album by one of the projects that’ve had the most influence on how I view music and performance.
A favorite Tusco Terror show memory was a show at Skylab that ended with people in the audience on all fours barking at each other. I think that kind of feeling captures part of the essense of us playing live. We used to wrestle with each other a lot. We had a lot of great times together and we made a ton of stuff together and made some really great friends and memories.
LT: Any new music , events or anything on internet to you’d like to encourage our reader to check out?
NB: I’ve only watched a few live stream shows but Moth Cock, Jeff Host. Tashi Wada and Julia Holter’s colab all stood out. Jill and Steven from the Buchland Museum of Witchcraft did an amazing streaming performance a few months ago. Also so enamored by the things I’ve been hearing from Pittsburgh (Arsonist, Spednar, W00dy) and Chicago (Billington, Forest Management). I’ve been grabbing a bunch of Unifactor tapes. California stuff has been so solid with Cathode Cinema consistently delivering the most unbelievable graveyard shift live television. Godwaffle Noise Pancakes now becoming a show that the whole world can show up to. The relaunch of Cleveland’s Pizza Night showcases has been spectacular and ..I still feel super connected to a lot of the artists in Northeast Ohio David Russell Snake’s new collaborative album, The recent reissue of the Imaginary Softwoods Annual Flowers in Color. I’m always interested in stuff the Careful Catalog is doing, if I had to name any other person that loves releasing stuff for same reasons as I do, it’d be Dan G. Hopefully I’ll be making a few new releases for my project with Derek (Headboggle) and some other stuff before the end of the year.