Starlog #277, August 2000
By Ian Spelling
Tim Russ can sing. Unlike a few of his Star Trek predecessors – are you listening, Bill Shatner? – who recorded and distorted music in the past, the Voyager co-star can carry a tune. We kid you not. The proof is on a little disc appropriately entitled Tim Russ. Released in late May, it features the artist currently know as Tuvok crooning a range of songs from the sedate “Crazy” to the more up-tempo “Love the One You’re With.” And, not content to let the album itself do all the talking, Russ is out on the road, singing his heart out and proving that what you hear is what you get and not recording studio sleight-of-hand.
“So far the reaction to the CD has been very positive and the tour has been going pretty smoothly,” Russ reports during his Star Trek: Voyager summer hiatus. “We’ve had four gigs in Europe so far, and we’re going to our fifth one shortly, in Germany. We did several shows in England, and people seemed to like it a lot. I’ll be back in the United States soon, and we’ve got a few more shows set up in June and July. I know we’ve got one in Oklahoma and one in New Mexico, and there are at least a couple of others.
“The record was suggested to me by Neil Norman, who heads up the Crescendo Records label,” Russ continues. “He asked me if I wanted to do a CD. I said, ‘Well, it’s not a bad idea.’ I thought, ‘Why not take a shot at it?’ Neil co-produced it and plays with his Cosmic Orchestra [which is also on the road with Russ]. Crescendo is a small label, a mom-and-pop operation. I contributed to the CD’s production costs out of my own pocket, so I could recoup on dollar one. It also gave me a little bit of say-so about the production.
“Initially, the reaction of people may be a raised eyebrow, if you will. All the world needs is another Star Trek vocalist coming out with an album, right? But once people hear it, they are quite surprised. It’s serious. It’s not us just having fun, playing games or joking around. It’s a serious record.” And Russ sounds seriously like Cat Stevens on several numbers. “It’s simply the way my voice is,” he adds. “I can’t do much about it. That’s just the way it is. The tonal qualities of my voice fit in that area. The range tends to be from Cat Stevens and James Taylor all the way back up. I could be compared to far worse people.”
Russ proudly points to “Can’t Do It Like That,” “I’d Stop the World For You,” “I Can’t Imagine” (which he wrote) and “Love the One You’re With” as his favorite tracks on the CD. He also leaves the wormhole to a follow-up wide open. “I think it’s possible we’ll do a second album in a year or so,” he notes. “We had a good time making this one and if it does well, I would like to do another.”
And now on to Voyager. The series just wrapped its sixth season with “Unimatrix Zero,” a Borg-charged cliffhanger that found voyager’s resident Vulcan very much Borgified, along with Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and B’Elanna (Roxann Dawson). “Season six was fairly slow for Tuvok, in terms of storylines for the character and days I worked,” Russ says. “I was not nearly as busy as I was two years ago. That much I noticed. Otherwise the season overall was very good. We did some good shows. Would I like more Tuvok shows? Yes. But you don’t have to do many scenes to have a good season as an actor. You could be around a lot and just saying the usual stuff on the Bridge. The shows that did feature Tuvok as the main character have been very special for me. I’ve gotten to do things other than what I normally do.
“The big Tuvok shows over the past a few season – this season I had ‘Riddles’ and ‘Blink of an Eye’ – have been particularly revealing about Tuvok, I think. There was actually more to ‘Riddles.’ It ran nine minutes too long and we had to cut stuff, like the scenes that further developed the relationship between Tuvok and Neelix [Ethan Phillips]. I had some nice scenes in ‘Unimatrix Zero’ and, judging from the way it ended, I’ll be more involved in ‘Unimatrix Zero, Part II’ than I was in the front half.”
Looking back to the immediate past and into the future as well, Russ sees good things. He has his hat in the ring to direct another Voyager episode next seasons. East of Hope Street, a feature film which he co-produced, co-wrote and co-starred in, is still in limited distribution at art houses around the United States, and has turned a profit in advance of its video distribution. And, no surprise, Russ lends his voice – as Tuvok – to Elite Force, an upcoming Star Trek: Voyager CD-ROM adventure with plenty of action for the character. “Between my music and an Internet project, Fahrenheit 452: The Art Police [an SF comedy show] I’m working on for GalaxyOnline.com, and a feature film project that I’m writing a script for, I think something will pop,” Russ says. “Then, if I get some directing opportunities, I’ll certainly be busy after Voyager ends. I know the end is coming, and I’m just trying to be ready for it.”
So who precisely is Russ? Is he a singer-actor? Or perhaps an actor-singer? Maybe the far more flexible term entertainer fits the bill. “I would go with entertainer,” Tim Russ concludes with a laugh. “I’m either an actor of a singer at any given time. Hopefully, Ian put both together. I would love to do a musical play and then I could do both. Growing up, I was a singer. I did years of music and the acting came later. It just happened that I was earning money as a singer first. But, definitely, I would call myself an entertainer.”