Sleep depravation, gigs in redneck hell holes, sexual harassment, and a diet of coffee and cigarettes. Welcome to life on the edge with America's hottest band - Human Waste Project.
Words - Mike Peake.
A motel on the outskirts of Baltimore, USA. Midnight. Signs on the wall remind patrons that prostitution is illegal, and the one-armed man at the dismal looking reception sits behind a wall of toughened glass for protection. Across the road, at a single storey detached venue called Mickey's, Human Waste Project are playing to a crowd of mullet-headed locals who look like they haven't been out in a while.
Police sirens cut through the air, and rednecks in pick-up trucks pull up outside the venue slugging beer. It's a godforsaken place.
Mercifully, Kerrang! isn't staying here tonight. A six-mile ride through crack-alleys and ghettos which make our car driver tremble with fear, and we're back at our 'luxury' hotel.
But Human Waste Project will be here at the motel for the next 12 hours. And they've got one stinking, wood-panelled room between them and their hotly tipped tour-mates, Snot.
"This is luxury compared to some of the places" says effortlessly cheerful HWP singer Aimee Echo. "At least we get to take a shower."
Travelling across the States on board the Snot tour bus, there's little room for privacy, modesty, and quite possibly, sanity. Guitarist Mike Tempesta- brother of White Zombie drummer John - is missing his personal space more than Aimee, drummer Scott Ellis and bassist Jeff Schartoff. He was particularly upset when someone farted on his head, while he was in his bunk a few nights ago.
"There's no privacy at all", says Aimee. "I mean, nudity? Forget it. I just want to be naked! Somewhere! On the bus, there's a degree of nudity that I'm comfortable with. I'll take off my shirt and change if I'm wearing a bra. It's funny, cos the guys get more uncomfortable about it than me."
"I'll go, 'Okay guys, I'm just taking my shirt off, I got my bra on, and it's not see-through', and they go, 'Argh! she's naked!'
"But what I can't stand is when we're onstage and someone shouts 'show us your tits!'. It happens every night, almost without exception. If I got up there and took my top off I wouldn't necessarily think that was a bad thing, but if someone goes 'Get your tits out!', I'm not gonna go 'Whooo!' like some party girl".
Jeff explains, in some detail, why it's actually a very bad idea to be the person in the audience giving Aimee a had time.
"One of us, or our crew, or any of the other bands, will always go up to the guy and say, 'Er, I think you should leave, cos there's about 20 people who are going to kill you'. It seems to do the trick."
"I'm so safe it's not funnym" laughs Aimee. "Brothered, smothered ... but I like it"
Formed four years ago in Los Angeles, when a then red-headed Aimee was working at her own body-piercing studio in Huntingdon Beach, HWP originally started out with two singers - the other a bloke who wasn't happy with the direction the band were taking, and quickly legged it when he realised that Aimee was stealing the limelight.
After piercing Korn singer jonathon Davis' eyebrow (as well as her bandmates rather more private parts) Aimee met legendary LA producer Ross Robinson, and the five of them put together HWPs first demo.
Robinson also produced the band ferociously trippy debut album 'E-Lux', which was recorded earlier this year, but doesn't hit the shops in Britain until early in '98. It's very much a metal album for the millenium - the kind of noise that is helping push HWP and Geffen signees Snot to the forefront of the Californian metal explosion - but there's some surpisingly subtle sounds on 'E-Lux' which cleverly offset the rest of HWPs frantic sonic soundscapes.
The band love it. And all of them remember the day they signed their deal with Hollywood Records.
"June 16, 1996", says Aimee, "we signed it here in Baltimore."
"We were supposed to sign the day before in New York," says Scott, "but we had so much champagne celebrating that we forgot!"
Which possibly explains the bands no-drinking rule before they go onstage. Although, there was one notable exception ...
"This place was nearly empty", says Aimee, "and I knew it was going to be a bad gig, so I said, 'Screw it, I'm gonna have some fun', and I got completely out of my mind. I was stumbling around going 'Aaghhieee!' like a drowned cat".
On board the Snot tour bus, Aimee is cuddling up to a special new friend. 'Reservoir Dogs' is playing on the video up front, and Girls Against Boys' 'Venus Luxure No 1 Baby' CD is playing in the back.
Jeff, Mike and Scott - none of whom, surprisingly partake of the demon weed - are inside the club, knocking back shots, Jeff doing especially well out of the club owner, who is offering the bassist all he can drink. We think this is because he fancies Aimee. An hour earlier, a hundred people watched the five foot nothing bleached blonde siren screaming her guts out onstage, all of them apparently resisting the urge to shout 'Show us your tits'. "That was a cool show", says Jeff later. "Next time those people will bring their friends, and there will be twice as many there". Several weeks ago, the band accidentally discovered a novel way of selling extra CDs while on the road. "I lost my voice" explains Aimee. "After the second song I had to stop. I apologised to the crowd, and I've never seen such a symapthetic response from fans ever. They were saying 'You're so cool, that took so much courage ...', and we sold as many CDs that night because everyone wanted to know what we sounded like!"
Talk turns to Aimee's odd-ish name, and she whips out her passport to prove that it's genuine.
"I got rid of my old surname three years ago in a witchcraft rite. Echo's the name my mother gave to me. In witchcraft, you take the name your mother gives to you."
She spots our bewilderment.
"Yes, I'm a witch!" Aimee says. "A real one. No bones about it. It's not about spooky hocus-pocus crap, it's about the way I live my life. I create my own realities, and that's what it's about for me"
"I have a strong connection with God, or whatever you'd want to call it, and I've taken a lot of things from different traditions like Buddhism and even Christianity and applied it to my own way of living."
"And", she winks, "I can fly!".
Washington DC, the following day. Aimee hasn't slept all night, and still looks picture perfect.
"Most people start work at eight in the morning", she say, "and they're ready for bed late in the evening. Our days start at about 8pm, so we're just about 12 hours behind everyone else".
Scott - in an unspeakably creasy T-shirt - Jeff and Mike, emerge from the bus, and start thinking about places to take a crap.
"There's a no-dumping rule on the tour bus" explains Aimee, and some horrific horror stories involving dodgy plumbing and Jeffs inability to pee standing up (something to do with a pierced todger) ensue.
Tonight, Human Waste Project will play a venue called The Bayou, which is tastefully located underneath a motorway flyover, it's view of the river sealed off with police 'do not cross' tape.
There's little glamour to the Snot/HWP 'Fuck All Y'all' tour. Aimee is currently the rich one in the band, having saved a little over $100.
Still, the future looks good. UK tours with Coal Chamber - and possibly with their old mates the Deftones - will put HWP in front of scores of new fans, and their debut single is in the shops this week.
But isn't there a temptation for Aimee to say "fuck it all", and bypass this no-filss, grass-roots slog with some sort of 'get rich quick' spell?
"It's not about money," Aimee shrugs. "I don't know what keeps me going. Sheer force of will, and coffee and cigarettes, I guess"
And the goal?
The band pose for a final bunch of pictures, and we wander around looking for a house that we've been told was used in the legendary horror flick 'The Exorcist". A woman in a department store tells us it's about eight blocks away, and we give up, settling in a nearby bar, and trading stories about near-death experiences at the hands of local cab drivers.
"I can't wait to get back to the UK," says Aimee, sipping coffee. "Everyone there was so nice, and they were so into the music."
"And you know what?" she says, raising her sunglasses and sucking on one of Scotts cigarettes. "No one asked me to get my tits out".
Human Waste Project, found of Sushi and sheet metal...
Name: Aimee Echo
Age: "I don't believe in linear time, therefore I have no age."
Previous Occupations: "Body piercer, waitress, receptionist at a law office, and some other things I can't mention."
Likes: "Coffee, cigarettes, PJ Harvey, my mom, sushi."
Dislikes: "Cigar smoke, cranky people."
Name: Scott Ellis
Age: "I'm 28"
Previous Occupations: "Screen printer. I worked in the art department."
Likes: "Music, art, girls, fashion."
Name: Mike Tempesta.
Age: "Too old"
Previous Occupations: "Guitar tech for Anthrax. I used to work in a sheet metal factory."
Likes: "Girls, guitars. And I used to like booze until last night."
Dislikes: "Rude people, bad food, bad bands."
Name: Jeff Schartoff.
Age: "Twenty seven human years."
Previous Occupations: "My last job was the coolest I had - working at Verotik comics, Glenn Danzig's company. I've also worked in a factory, I've done construction work and excavation work."
Likes: "Movies, Stanley Kubrick. 'Twilight Zone.' Bands, books and alleyways. Getting a shower after a show."
Dislikes: "Not getting a shower after a show. And not having our CD available in some record stores."
Also, there was this bit by Don Kaye from New York
The next night, however, was a dilemma for fans of 'new metal': did you go to see Sevendust, Snot and Human Waste Project at Tramps, or the Deftones, Limp Bizkit and Will Haven at Irving Plaza?
Both venues were packed - proving the strength of this 'new metal' scene - with Sevendust and the Deftones going down a storm to their respective audiences. Major sound diffiulties at Irving Plaza however, prevented the Deftones from truly giving their all.
As for Human Waste Project, who were making their first major appearance in New York, the band haven't been embraced as quickly over here as they have in the UK (where the endorsement of Tura Satana's Tarrie B carries a lot more weight than in the US, since TS's album hasn't even been released here yet) but there were some positive if guarded things said nevertheless about Aimee Echo and crew after their show at Tramps
This all appeared in Kerrang dated December 13 1997.