(7/30/01-by phone from Holiday Inn room # 224 in St. Paul, MN)
by Chris McKay/


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 Chris McKay: Aimee, this is Chris. How are you doing out there on the road?


Aimee Echo: Hi, Chris. We’re doing good. We’re having a blast out here.


CM: Great. So how did you wind up on the tour with Sugar Ray and Uncle Kracker? I don’t know that the bands necessarily fit together and I was curious if you thought the same.


AE: (Laughs) It’s just…it was a series of efforts made on everybody’s behalf, but it basically breaks down to the fact that, um, most of my band has been friends with the guys in Sugar Ray for about 8 years. My old band, Scott (Ellis-drums) and I used to be in Human Waste Project, we used to play around LA with Sugar Ray all the time and Jamie (Miller-guitars, synthesizers and vocals) was in Snot and their first tour was coincidentally with Sugar Ray. So it all just keeps unfolding. I mean that and the efforts of our record label and management company getting together and saying “Look, this is a good thing.” And then Mark (McGrath-Sugar Ray front man) basically called and said “We’re taking theStart, okay?” (laughs)


CM: OK, what I’m hoping to do here is put together some kind of little preview of your show in Atlanta in a couple of weeks…


AE: Which I’m so excited about, by the way.


CM: Really?


AE: I love Atlanta. You see, here’s the thing. I’ve only been there once and we played The Point and sometimes when you get to a city walking around can be a real drag and it was just so great to see really interesting shops and interesting people and it’s like a city in the truest sense of the word.


CM: Ah, so you were stuck over in Little 5 Points.


AE: Which was fun. It was great. That was on our, Human Waste Project’s, first tour with The Deftones back in the day (laughs).


CM: Yeah, The Deftones are playing Philips Arena now, which you guys will be pretty much across the street from. You’ll be right in the center of the whole Olympic district so you’ll get to see all of that stuff. Anyway, what would you say if you had to describe to people that didn’t know what theStart was about? What would you say to somebody?


AE: Musically?


CM: Yeah, if they haven’t heard you and don’t know what’s going on. I want to get some people interested enough to come out.


AE: Um, basically it breaks down to…we’re a rock band, but we’re a rock band that comes out of punk rock and I think that there used to be this word “alternative” that meant different than the mainstream and I think we’re qualifying as that right now being that the mainstream is heavy metal. Um, you know…there’s also the words “new wave” (laughs)…


CM: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot.


AE: Yeah, that gets tossed about and, basically, what new wave means to me is…I remember when new wave came up. Basically, (it was) just a word to describe the movement that came just after the early punk rock when everybody learned how to play their instruments…played more than three chords and added different instrumentation and what have you. I think if you put all that together in a soup…that’s what we are.


CM: I’m sure a lot of ‘80s comparisons are already leveled at you…


AE: Yeah, and I don’t know if that’s really correct, cause I think that probably we’re rooted in the late ‘70s a lot more than the ‘80s. When I think of ‘80s, I think of, you know, like cheese pop and I don’t think we qualify as cheese pop in any way (laughs).


CM: Well, I think that it comes from the fact that there’s a kind of a Missing Persons feel to it because of the fact that you can play, you know, and the synthesizers, too. So I think that’s more of that Missing Persons-LA kind of new wave sound that I heard in there. Does it bother you that you keep getting that thrown at you?


AE: Um, it doesn’t bother me per se…um…well, maybe it does. Maybe it’s a little tiresome because I don’t think it’s a retro sounding album. I think it’s a forward thinking sounding album…(laughs) thinking sounding, whew! I think that it has possibly the sensibilities of, you know, like a late ‘70s to like ’81 type of sensibility to it, but I think sonically it’s worlds apart from that.


CM: Yeah, it’s a big production rock record as far as that goes.


AE: (laughs)


CM: So what song from this album would you think really encapsulates what you guys are about right now? Is there any particular song?


AE: I’d have to say “Shakedown” because it embodies the spirit of the record which is you know, it’s time to make a change and, you know dance to a different beat which is a great thing to be able to say.


CM: Is that an intentional subtle political undertone there?


AE: Oh yeah. I was fed up with a lot of things. I was fed up with…I wrote that song in the middle of the election coverage, that fabulous thing that happened to us. Um, and it was also in the middle of this weird period in MTV where it was this heavy metal and pop was all you saw and it was just a strange thing to me and that’s what the lyrics to that song are about was both…the two headed monster on CNN and MTV (laughs).


CM: (As for metal), you actually played at Ozzfest with Human Waste Project, didn’t you?


AE: Yeah, actually that was one of our last shows that we played. It was in the UK, not The States. Jamie’s band was on the Ozzfest in The States. So, yeah, we played in front of 60,000 people.


CM: Does that relate to your metallic “fed-up-ed-ness” for lack of a better term?


AE: Well, interestingly, we left our bands because we were ready to go in a different direction. I think that I always…I don’t think that I’ve changed so much as my group changed. I have different players now. I think that with Human Waste Project we weren’t a metal band. We had some crunchy guitars, but it was more of an art experiment than anything else. We had a lot of friends that were in heavy bands and that’s how we got into that whole scene. So for me, all that’s different is that we really paid attention to song structure whereas with Human Waste Project sometimes we were striving to be experimental and it ended up somewhat…(laughs) progressive. With this one we went back to the birth of rock and studied how a lot of the songwriting…we listened to a lot of Beatles and paid attention to the craft of songwriting and just tried to…we did make a conscious effort to stay away from the crunchy “chunka chunka” guitars.


CM: You’ve got a little bit of that in there…


AE: Yeah, there’s definitely edge, but there’s not any metal.


CM: And there’s a little bit of experimentation in there, too.


AE: Oh yeah, sonically we were up for anything. Structure wise is where we weren’t.


CM: So what’s the most experimental thing on “Shakedown”?


AE: Oh, God, maybe the dog at the end (laughs).


CM: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah, okay. That I would have to agree with you on.


AE: I’ll tell you how that happened if you’d like to know. Uh, we have a dog. His name is Eno, he’s a small chihuaha named after Brian Eno and we found this interesting thing happened ‘cause we were watching movies in the studio all the time and our engineer put on Night At The Roxbury and there’s this one scene in the middle of the movie where Will Farell makes this…mocks an ambulance. Eno heard it and he started screaming. And we were like “Whoa, that’s really weird.” We did it over and over and over again and that was an experiment…in torturing the dog (laughs) and every time on cue he would start to sing. We actually tracked it a year before and it was lost, so when we went back in to add “Shakedown” and “Her Song” to the album which happened a year after we finished the album, we said “Let’s see if we can get the dog to do it again.” So we cued up the DVD and bam, like clockwork, there he went. Now we’ve actually been looking in stores…that’s the next DVD we’re going to buy just so we can show everybody how wonderfully trained he is to sing on cue.


CM: So this is a band dog…like a communal dog? That’s interesting in itself.


AE: Yeah, pretty much (laughs). Well, we began we all lived together in a loft in downtown LA and that’s when he came.


CM: As main songwriter, changing the subject so deftly here, is there anything outside of music that influences what’s going on in your writing?


AE: Um, just about everything, I suppose. The weather, coffee (laughs), too much coffee, love, you know just living life…everything…pretty much.


CM: What do you enjoy doing if you ever get a spare minute completely aside from music? Is there anything?


AE: Completely aside from music? This is going to sound really current, but I do yoga. I do ashtanga yoga which is classical yoga which is a really extreme form. It’s very unrelenting I guess you could say.


CM: Does that focusing affect your performing…


AE: I haven’t been able to practice as much as I should. As a matter of fact, that’s what I’m going to do whenever I finish talking on the telephone, because I don’t get very many minutes alone anymore. Prior to touring, I was practicing for two hours a day, six days a week and that was really balancing and really an incredible experience for me…life changing.


CM: I’m assuming that you don’t get much time to yourself due to this lifestyle. Are you a musician because you love doing it or because you’re just compelled to do it whether you want to or not?


AE: Compelled. It’s like that movie The Red Shoes where she puts on the shoes and she can’t stop dancing. It’s definitely in my blood, I guess. I’ve pretty much been through the ringer. I’ve had music business 101 with my last band and nothing’s stopped me yet. (laughs) And I pretty much saw it all so…I think that it is an addictive thing. I was talking to my best friend on the phone last night and she’s not a musician, but she bought a bass and she wrote her first song and she called me and she played it to me on the phone and she said “This is the coolest thing ever. I want to do this every day for the rest of my life.” (laughs) And I went “Uh-oh, you’ve got the bug.”


CM: Is it the performing, the writing, the creation of the recording itself or what?


AE: Equally…I mean, obviously right now we’re focused on performing and I have to admit that there’s no greater drug than that, but creating the music is also…I mean, when you’ve completed a song, even when you four-track a song and you hear it and you can hear what it’s going to sound like when you take it into the real studio from your head. Then finally it’s on that piece of plastic and you actually hear it completed the way you heard it in your head just walking around (laughs), it’s pretty incredible.


CM: How does this material translate to live performance? What are the differences between the record and live?


AE: I think that…coming from where we come from, I think that definitely it’s more of an aggressive performance than most people expect. It’s really…we’re spent by the end. Um, we don’t hold anything back. There’s a lot of movement, a lot of activity, lots of aggression, lots of dancing, lots of…having a lot of fun up there. (laughs)


CM: Do you guys hang around and check out the rest of the show or do you get out and see the city or just crash?


AE: We have an interesting problem right now. We have a bus that’s really slow. (laughs) So by the time we’re getting into cities, it’s just enough time to pull into the venue, set up the gear and do our thing. We’re getting to do a little bit of walking around. We spent a little time in Seattle the other day which was really great, but we’re in St. Paul today and I’m looking out the window and it’s an absolutely gorgeous city so maybe, which I doubt…I don’t know if I’ll be able to do any sight-seeing but hopefully when we get to Atlanta we will, because I think we have a day off before that.


CM: You’ll be in a good area to kill some time if you’re near the venue. There’s a lot that sprung up there, like I said, around the Olympics. Anyway, how are the fans of Sugar Ray and Uncle Kracker reacting to theStart?


AE: Remarkably well!


CM: Why do you say “remarkably well”? You say that like you don’t think they would.


AE: Here’s the thing. When you’re an opening act and when you’re in the position that we are which is this is the first week our record has been out and we have a slow building plan. We’re not going to throw it all at everybody and hope it sticks. We’re out here to build our life. So, we haven’t had…this is our first tour. We haven’t had a lot of exposure. So half these people coming in don’t even have any clue what they’re going to get and I think that 90% of people expect an opening band to really suck and I think that we’re taking people by surprise which is really great. People expect you to suck and when you come out there and give it your all, they appreciate it.


CM: Are you getting a chance to meet some of these new fans?


AE: Oh yeah, I’m very social (laughs). I’m not the one that hides in a dressing room or bus or wherever. I like to get out there and talk to people. It’s important to me in living to experience as much as I can and get a little different culture in every city in America whether most people believe that or not. It’s not all homogenized into one big milky white America…I try to learn something new every day ‘cause meeting people is interesting.


CM: Well, Tabernacle is an interesting place because it used to be a church first of all, hence the name. It’s an old Baptist tabernacle in the South. So that’s been interesting for a few bands. Like James Brown refused to play “Sex Machine.” They decided to set up a tent outside so he wouldn’t desecrate the venue.


AE: (laughs)


CM: There’s also a club downstairs called The Cotton Club which is I bet where you guys would be playing if you were touring on your own. There’s a lot of bands and people hanging around that area just for that reason so there’ll be plenty…


AE: That’s fun.


CM: I know I need to let you get out of here and do your yoga and experimenting and running around, but what’s up for you guys next after this Sugar Ray/Uncle Kracker tour?


AE: We’re going to take September and we have a few radio festivals that we’re set to do and we’re going to do a couple of club dates on our own. Then in October, we pick up with Incubus and do five weeks with Incubus and then we’re going to end up on the west coast finishing up the Family Values with Stone Temple Pilots and Staind and whatnot.


CM: How do you think you’re going to fit on a bill with Incubus? I just covered these guys at the Area: One Festival here.


AE: I think that we’re lucky in that there’s different elements…there’s a little bit of everything in our music so we can pretty much go over with anybody.


CM: Yeah…there’s really not anybody else that I believe is current that has the sound that you guys have.


AE: No, thank God. (laughs)


CM: It sounds like you’re managing to really play that up to your advantage as opposed to being limited by it.


AE: I’ve never been much for following trends. We really, really strive to stay away from anything that is current and whatever direction that makes us go.


CM: You’re on all these package tours. What would be your dream tour if you had the shot at any tour you wanted to go out on the road with?


AE: Lollapalooza ’91 with Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Nine Inch Nails. Add The Cure on that and I would be the happiest person!


(Chris McKay/