As the drummer for '90s neo-metal miscreants Snot, Jamie Miller bashed out colossal, hard-hitting beats that meshed with the band's agonized vocals and fist-in-face rhythms. After the tragic death of Snot vocalist Lynn Strait, Miller's former bandmates, bassist John "Tumor" Fahnestock and guitarist Sonny Mayo, resurfaced in the equally abrasive Amen. But Miller has made a new beginning with the modern pop band TheStart.
Like other drummers, including Dave Grohl and American Hi-Fi's Stacy Jones, Miller has been reborn as a frontman, writing all the music and performing guitar and keyboard parts and background vocals for TheStart. The
group's debut album, Shakedown!, which comes out Tuesday, blends buzzing guitars with '80s analog synths and perky girl-rock vocals, sounding alternately like the Go-Go's, the Cure, Missing Persons, No Doubt and the
Buzzcocks not exactly what you'd expect from a guy who used to bash skins on turbulent tracks like "Get Some" and "My Balls."
"We just saw a couple kids at one of the shows the other night," Miller said from his hotel in El Paso, Texas, where his band is opening for Sugar Ray and Uncle Kracker. "One of them had a Snot T-shirt and one had 'R.I.P.
Lynn' written on his knuckles, and they both turned out to be big Start fans. I never thought that people who liked Snot would be into this band at all, but a lot of them are. They appreciate the differences between the two bands."
TheStart's poppy vibe is all the more surprising considering that two of the other bandmembers, vocalist Aimee Echo and drummer Scott Ellis, used to play in the noisy alt-metal combo Human Waste Project. Not that TheStart's
peppy sound is any sort of reaction against the testosterone-fueled riffs of most nü-metal.
"Anger is fine and I like a lot of the bands that do that, but I think I just got all of that out of me on the Human Waste Project," said Echo, who's dating Miller. "Anyway, I don't think what we're doing is total pop, it's a little rougher. Coming from the bands we came from, there's gonna be that harder edge no matter what. It's just in our gut."
On songs such as "Dirty Lion," which echoes with warbling keyboards and electronic handclaps, and "Her Song," which rattles along with a bobbing beat and lush, chirpy chorus, TheStart definitely rock, but they do so in a way
that's somewhat redolent of '80s pop and new wave.
"When people say that, it always makes me laugh," Echo said. "My theory is that people started calling punk bands new wave when they learned to play too well. As soon as musicians learn to play more than three chords or add synthesizers, they're called new wave."
"There was never a conscious effort to sound like any one thing," Miller added. "When we started the band, we had an idea that we wanted to be influenced by all the music that we liked and grew up on. The rest just sort of happened."
In October the group will head out with Incubus for a month, and then they'll tag on to the tail end of this year's Family Values Tour. As much as their kinetic music helped them land these bills, their connections didn't hurt them any.
"We're all part of one big, stupid, happy, incestuous L.A. family," Miller said with a laugh. "Snot's first tour was with Sugar Ray and on our second tour we took Incubus out as an opener."
"And when some of the Incubus guys were in high school they used to open for Human Waste Project," Echo added.
Although TheStart have been on the road only since July 10, they've been well received by Sugar Ray's crowds, and they've already logged a few stranger-than-fiction experiences. One involved a Dallas radio DJ who wanted to show her appreciation to the band for playing an acoustic set on-air, so she made them her own human waste project.
"She bought us a toddler potty," Echo said. "She filled it up with yellow Jell-O and stuck a Baby Ruth inside the Jell-O. It was the foulest thing I've ever seen in my life."
For those who still haven't lost their appetite for Snot, Miller referred to a live recording from a 1998 show at the Palace in L.A., which he and his ex-bandmates would love to see released. He added that Immortal Records,
which issued the Lynn Strait tribute, Strait Up, last year, may eventually put out the disc.
"Lynn was an incredible force on this planet," said Echo. "For good or for bad, he touched everyone that he met."
Lynn Strait died in a six-vehicle crash on a freeway exit ramp in Santa Barbara, California, in December 1998 (see "Snot's Lynn Strait Dies In Car Crash").