The Transplants have received a lot of attention since their self-titled debut release came out last year, and it's really no wonder why. This creative fusion of punk, rap, hip hop, and reggae is a welcome breath of fresh air to the stagnant swamp the national music scene has become. With the talent of Tim Armstrong, Travis Barker, and band virgin Rob Aston, I can't see this band leaving the limelight anytime soon.
The Transplants began musically as Tim Armstrong's brainchild, with you writing lyrics. Has it remained primarily his project, or has it become more of a collaboration between the 3 of you?
He had a couple songs with no vocals on them and he asked me to write some lyrics to it. He still writes all the music. I write lyrics, and Travis writes his drum parts. Tim writes everything else, so he's like the backbone of it.
The lyrics are pretty rough. Tall Cans In The Air has the line, "If you see me drinking whisky/better hope you fuckin' miss me," and We Trusted You is even more violent with, "I say we line 'em all up and gun 'em all down/then we all celebrate when they all hit the ground."
How much of the lyrics reflect your own mindset and experiences in life?
Everything that I write about is stuff that I'm going through or have gone through, y'know, in my life. I just write about stuff that, y'know, that I see when I look out my window and stuff that I go through or stuff that's happening in the world today.
There's always the issue of violence on television and in music affecting the youth of America. What is your view on this?
I think that's retarded. I mean, if anybody's to blame it's not anyone in a movie or a band or some shit, y'know. It's the parents. The parents need to watch what their kids are listening to and watching, y'know. When I was a little kid I couldn't listen to Run DMC and they said "fuck" like twice on there or something. I couldn't see all the movies I wanted to when I was a kid, and back then I was mad, but I understand, y'know. I guess it didn't help much, 'cause I'm still kinda a fuck up. Still, if I had kids I'd be watching what the fuck they're listening to and what they're watching on TV, y'know, definitely.
Do you feel that violence in your songs should be allowed to be subject to censorship?
I think censorship is wrong on all levels. Whatever it is, I mean, everyone has their, well, supposedly has their freedom of speech to say what they want and all that other horse shit, but I dunno. I mean, I think it's wrong, but then again there's good and bad to every situation, 'cause then you get people from the fuckin' Ku Klux Klan who have all their speeches and all this shit, y'know, and that bums people out. But they have the freedom to say what they want, it's just unfortunately a lot of times people don't have nothin' good to say. I don't know if that makes any sense or not.
Yeah, definitely. Some stores like Wal-Mart and Target edit out the cuss words on the albums they sell. How do you feel about this? Would you allow this to be done with your albums?
To me it doesn't really matter. I mean, if I'm some kid that lives way out in butt-fuck fucking Ohio or the middle of nowhere and the closest place I can get a record is Wal-Mart, and I wanna pick up Eminem's record, and they have that version only, y'know, I'm gonna buy it, 'cause I wanna hear it. If the kid wants to get my record, and he's in the same situation, y'know I'd wanna be able to buy the record, so I'd make that record for that kid. People say you're selling out, because you're changing your art. No, I'm making it accessible to this kid who wants to hear it, and this is the only way he's gonna hear it. That's the way I look at it. Some people disagree, but fuck 'em.
In my research the only thing I found about you said you were "a skinhead from Fresno" and this was your first band. What did you do before becoming involved with The Transplants?
(Laughs) Yeah, they gave me the nickname Skinhead Rob. But, uh, I was a roadie for AFI and stuff like that. I was never in a band or nothin'. This is my first time being in a band.
So roadie-ing is your only "musical background"?
Pretty much. I don't have no family that's ever been in bands or nothing. Like, I never was in a band and never, y'know, actually thought about being in a band until Tim asked me if I could do it, and I gave it a shot, and he liked it. It's crazy. I never would've thought I'd be in a band, let alone with Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker.
Speaking of Tim and Travis...They have been in the music industry for years. Do you ever feel intimidated by their experience?
It's, uhm, it's...I put a lot of pressure on myself. I guess I should say I never get pressure from those guys EVER, like on anything. They're so easy to work with and receptive to ideas and stuff. Uhm, so I put a lot of pressure on myself just because they're so good at what they do, I don't wanna come in as the new guy and not be able to hold my own. There's definitely some pressure and intimidation.
Haha, I know what you mean. This being my first big interview, I'm a little intimidated by your experience. I feel like I'm 13 again. Like, "Omigod, he's famous and I don't know what I'm doing!" haha. I don't want to screw up and end up asking the stupidest questions ever as the newbie reporter.
Even before the album was released y'all had a pretty big fan base, with the punk kids who follow Tim and Brody, and then there's Travis' fans, both groups who will buy albums soley based on previous loyalties.
I mean, a lot of the fan base for Tim and Travis' other bands, y'know, are real receptive and supportive and stuff, but at the same time it's cool 'cause we get our own fan base we're building too. People might not be into those bands or into punk rock at all, but they might like what we're doing, so that's cool to see happen.
How do you feel their previous accomplishments played into the public's expectations for The Transplants?
Well, since day one people had expectations of what it was going to sound like, you know, and everybody was wrong. I mean, EVERYBODY from day one was wrong about how they thought it was going to sound. So people, when they do hear it, they trip out and say, "Oh, I didn't think it was gonna sound like that. I thought it was going to sound like this or that or the other thing." But it surprises people, definitely.
Do you feel that the fusion of so many genres--punk rock, rap, hip hop, reggae--widen your fan base or narrowed it?
I dunno to tell you the truth, I mean, 'cause being new, we didn't have a fan base to start with, you know. No one could compare us to nothin'. Well, they could compare us to Rancid or Blink, but we don't sound like those bands. So, y'know, we can't lose what we never had. (Laughs) There's always gonna be people who are too worried about what's punk and what isn't punk, and I don't give a fuck. I just do what I wanna do and have fun with it.
Do you feel that the band has received special privileges and attention due to Tim and Travis' names and previous accomplishments?
I mean, those previous accomplishments and bands don't hurt anything. And any press is good press they say, y'know. Whenever people start putting two and two together, oh he's in that band and he's in that band...It helps definitely.
Are y'all planning this to be a long-term project?
Yeah, definitely. It's definitely a full functioning band. As much as we can be with everyone's schedule's being so crazy. We're gonna make another record this year and keep making records, and we're gonna tour as much as we can whenever our schedules will allow it. It's definitely gonna be a long term thing, we're gonna keep making records 'til we can't anymore.
Nowadays there's Avril Levigne, Good Charlotte, Sum41 and countless other psuedo-punk bands on the radio and music television. How do you feel about this dilution and main-stream popularization of "underground" and independent music?
I ain't mad at nobody for doing what they do, and y'know making their money, as artists and in a band and stuff. I can't fault nobody for that. I mean, that's not me, I can't make records like that. Shit if I could I probably would (laughs). It's just not me. I don't live that life. I can't write about that stuff that all those people are talking about. I ain't mad or nothin'.
Do you see this trend sticking around or do you think it's just another music fad?
Who knows? I'm sure they'll last longer than all that boy band shit did, you know. But then again, things come and go, some things stay forever, some things fade out real quick.
Where do you see music as a whole going?
Uhm, I don't know to tell you the truth. We made The Transplants because we wanted to make songs that were fuckin' real different from anything else. And I think we accomplished that, and I think in the future when we continue to make records, we'll continue to fuckin change it up and just experiment with new stuff, 'cause music's so boring right now. All this shit that I see on TV or I hear on the fuckin radio, the majority of it fuckin' sucks, y'know. And uhm, that's for all genres of music too. There's a lot of horse shit coming out everywhere. And uhm, hopefully in the near future that'll all change with some new artists or something, 'cause music's in a bad fuckin' state right now.
Well, that's about it. Just one last question...What's in your CD player right now?
Anything you want to mention that's going on with y'all?
Rancid's working on a new record right now, Blink's in the studio, and I'm working on a solo record, more of a hip hop record. Lots of guest appearances and stuff, I just wanna do something different again. I don't want to keep making the same record. Like how we did the Transplants, all the songs are different, each one is different from the last one. That's how I'm gonna make this record.
Oh, I was wondering, how do y'all do your shows live when there's so much collaboration on the record?
Uhm, well we have only played 9 shows so far and that was before the record came out, so we could kind of cheat and get away with it being more stripped down. But this time out we're gonna get it sounding as much like the record as we can. There'll be someone running samples from the piano and all that shit, but uh, it's harder live. It's good. I like it better live. It's like raw, more like an animal live. It's me, Tim, Travis, Matt Freeman from Rancid, Craig Fairbauge from The Forgotten, and Dave Carlock who helped engineer the record will be running samples and stuff. When people guest appear on vocals depending on whether they're in town or not, then they'll come out, but y'know there'll always be something happening.