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WEB EXCLUSIVE: ROB ASTON
interview by vinnie baggadonuts
THE TRANSPLANTS SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM IS THE PUNKEST RECORD TO COME OUT IN A LONG, LONG TIME. BUT IT'S NOT A PUNK ROCK RECORD. IT'S GOT EVERYTHING: HARDCORE, HIP-HOP, DANCEHALL, SOUL. THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SO DAMN PUNK. IT TAKES THE SPIRIT OF DOING WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT AND NOT CARING WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT IT, AND TURNS IT INTO MUSIC. AND THE AGGRESSIVE VOICE AT THE FRONT OF THIS MUSICAL FREEDOM IS ROB ASTON, THE LAST GUY ON EARTH I'D EVEN THINK ABOUT PISSING OFF. HE'S ALSO ONE OF THE NICEST GUYS I'VE EVER INTERVIEWED.
Vinnie: You're out in L.A., right?
V: So, were you hanging out at the peace protests this past weekend?
R: (laughing) No.
V: You're not concerned about that kind of stuff?
R: I am, but at the same time, whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen, you know? People are gonna fight and kill each other. Whatever. Fuck it. I got my gun. (laughing)
V: Well, we had no protests like that around here--
R: Where're you at?
V: Columbus, Ohio.
R: Okay. It's cold as fuck out there, right?
V: There's a lot of snow around here, and people are freaking out. But it's only because they don't get snow around here that much. It's like the city's under lockdown.
V: You're probably jealous about that, huh?
R: (laughing) Nah. It's nice as fuck out here.
V: So, I read an interview with you today, and they were talking about a rap record you're putting out.
R: Yeah. I'm working on my solo record right now. I can't really talk too much about details or who's really on it. Nothing's set in stone, but I'm looking forward to it. It should be cool.
V: Is that what you grew up listening to? Hip-hop, or a little bit of everything?
R: I grew up listening to hip-hop mostly. Punk rock and all that stuff, I didn't get into until high school. I grew up listening to oldies and hip-hop, and stuff like that.
V: Are there any MCs you look to when you're writing your stuff?
R: What do you mean?
V: Like, as far as your writing goes. Are you into the fast rhyming style, like Big Daddy Kane? Or are you into more mellow stuff---
R: I love Big Daddy Kane! As far as old school stuff goes. I love him, Kool G. Rap, and The Beatnuts. As far as new stuff,.. Oh man! I love 50 Cent. He's killin' it right now. 50 Cent, and the new GZA record, I like a lot. I love everything, though. I love super fast stuff, like Sugarfree. He's out here in Pomona. I love everything.
V: I wanted to ask you, everything I've read or heard (about the Transplants), states that Tim played you the tapes, and asked you to write some lyrics for them--
V: I was wondering if you came up with how any of the music sounded, too.
R: Nah. Tim writes all the music. He'll come up with something, and then ask my opinion of it. But I can't play an instrument to save my life. It kind of frustrates me, because I know how I want certain things to sound. But I can't physically do it. I'm always more than happy with the stuff Tim comes up with, you know? (music is playing in the background)
V: What are you listening to?
R: It's the soundtrack to The Harder They Come. This is "Johnny Too Bad".
V: That's what I thought. So, what's the newest thing you've been doing? I know The Transplants have a Foo Fighters tour.
R: Yeah. We got a bunch of dates with them coming up in April and through May. We start practicing next month for that. Right now, Tim's in the studio with Rancid, Travis is in the studio with Blink, and I'm working on my solo record. We're all keeping busy.
V: How does The Transplants' material translate live?
R: To tell you the truth, we've only done nine shows so far. And we did those before the record came out--
V: With the Distillers?
R: Yeah, and Pressure Point. We got to cheat a little bit. There wasn't all the sound effects and shit, like the pianos and organs and shit. But this time we're gonna try and get it to sound as close to the record as we can.
V: Are you gonna take any of the backing players on the record? Like Vic (Ruggiero) or Brody (Armstrong)?
R: I don't know exactly how we're gonna work it yet, or who's gonna play what. I leave that to Tim. There's gonna be at least one other person out there with us.
V: How did the Foo Fighters thing hook up?
R: I don't know, to tell you the truth. I'm just happy it did. It's gonna be cool. I can't wait.
V: We had some friends come in from L.A., and they were talking about how there's Transplants stuff everywhere.
R: Yeah, it's kind of crazy. All the bus benches and billboards and shit.
V: That's pretty awesome that you're able to make a living off of it. I mean, I don't know how much you're seeing yet--
V: But, just to see what you guys are doing get so much attention,...
R: Yeah, it's definitely the best job I've ever had. I can't complain about nothing.
V: When you're playing live now, is it odd being on stage instead of being part of the road crew? I know you go out on the road with Rancid.
R: Yeah, I'm going out on Warped with them, actually. It's too much fun not to go out on the road. It's just a big party. But it's a lot more fun being on stage.
V: Have you met anyone who's totally into the record that you weren't expecting to be?
R: I think that's what's kinda cool about our fan base. We get a lot of Rancid fans, Blink fans, and Boxcar Racer fans. But at the same time, we get a lot of people who aren't necessarily into punk rock, or who might not check out those bands. They're into us because they're into all different kinds of music. A lot of people's moms say they like the record. We basically made a record that sounds like nobody else's, so people can't say, "Well, it's not punk." We didn't try to make a punk record. It's more than that. We just do what we want, and fuck what everyone else thinks. We're happy.
V: Are you guys gonna do a second record?
R: Yeah. Hopefully by the end of the year we'll go into the studio. Right now everyone's got touring coming up. But we're gonna keep making records for sure, and touring and stuff whenever we can.
V: You know, the record really blew me away.
V: It's like, everything I grew up liking and listening to was in one record. And our late editor, Wayne Chinsang, was not into punk at all, but the Transplants disc was one of his favorites from last year.
R: Wow! That's cool. That's awesome.
V: I was checking out the photographer (Estevan Oriol) you used for the record. How did you hook up with him?
R: He's our homeboy, Estevan. He's a great photographer. Him and Cartoon are partners. Cartoon's a good friend of ours. He tattoos me and Travis. Those guys did all the artwork for the record. I'm real happy how it came out.
V: It was cool seeing all of his photographs, the tattoo photos and the gang photos. How much of that culture are you surrounded by in L.A.?
R: All of it. It's L.A.. It's just like any other city: good, bad, ugly, and everything in between.
V: It seems like a prevalent theme on the album.
R: Everything's here, you know? Gangs, drugs, bitches, violence. The artwork is the alley behind my apartment, And that's my car. I think the cover goes hand-in-hand with the music. I love how the art came out.
V: Any stuff coming up that nobody knows about?
R: Just the solo record. That's it. That's gonna be exciting. If everything goes right, I'll get to work with a lot of my favorite producers. I want to work with Tim again. And Travis. I'm just gonna treat it like a Transplants record: anything goes. I'm not gonna give a fuck if anybody likes it or not, or if it sells or not. I'm just gonna make a record I'm comfortable with. I think a lot of people lose sight of that. Artists are too worried about what's hot right now, or what's next. Fuck that. That shit comes and goes, you know? What matters is what comes from your heart when you're doing it.
V: To me it seems cool to just be doing what you like doing, what's real to you, AND to support yourself doing it
R: Yeah. Exactly. I mean, don't get me wrong, I want all the money and the fucking houses and the cars and shit, you know? But, nothing's promised. If a record sells, it sells. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Just prepare for the worst.
V: Alright. I got one last question: Do dogs have lips?
R: (long pause) Fuck! I'm gonna say "no".
R: Do they?
V: I don't think they do.
R: I don't think they do, either. I never thought about it, but, I don't think so, dude.