Major-Label Transplants

Excerpted from the magazine for

To Transplants lead signer Rob Aston, hearing the trio's new songs on the radio is vindication.

Aston says more than half the songs on the punk act's genre-hopping second album, "Haunted Cities," were intended for another project -- his solo album. But his deal with Warner Bros. Records was not meant to be, he says, and the tunes were given to Transplants instead.

It wasn't much of a stretch, since Aston's partners in Transplants -- Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Blink-182's Travis Barker -- contributed to Aston's solo effort.

"I got dropped," Aston says. "It was cool when I first signed [to Warner Bros.] -- they were all happy. But they ended up not 'getting' it. I was bummed when it happened, but I wouldn't want to be on a label that didn't understand me." Warner Bros. declined to comment.

"Haunted Cities," due June 21, is Transplants' major-label debut and the first product of a long-term pact with Barker's La Salle Records and Atlantic Records. The first two singles, the drum'n'bass-driven "Gangsters & Thugs" and the R&B-slanted "What I Can't Describe," have already earned airplay, mainly on the West Coast.

Aston is quick to point out that "What I Can't Describe" first appeared on his ill-fated solo effort. He is enjoying the irony of having a song rejected by Warner Bros. Records become a single for another label in the Warner Music Group umbrella.

If Aston's solo name didn't carry much weight, the Transplants designation is a different matter. The group's self-titled effort on Hellcat/Epitaph has sold more than 224,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Barker says the decision to release "Haunted Cities" on his Atlantic imprint was one the act made years ago. "The first record we put out on Tim's label [Hellcat] because we didn't think anyone would be interested," he explains. "I was just starting my record label, and Tim said the next one should be out on mine."

With Rancid between albums and Blink-182 on indefinite hiatus, Armstrong and Barker can devote more time to Transplants than before. The act is a headliner on this summer's Vans Warped tour, the trio's first major U.S. trek.

A track from the first album, "Diamonds & Guns," has been a staple in advertisements for Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner, and Atlantic senior VP of marketing and artist development Livia Tortella aims to place the new songs in commercials as well. For now, they are being streamed on such sites as and

Atlantic hopes to introduce Transplants to rap fans as well, according to Tortella. Southern hip-hop producer Paul Wall recently completed an alternate version of the album, and she sees the remixed songs as ripe for placement on mix tapes.

"This record is kind of a mutt," she says. "It's got origins in punk rock and hip-hop, and we're servicing a 12-inch to hip-hop clubs and DJs who spin hip-hop."

Barker is pleased the album will be worked outside the punk world. "That's rad, especially coming from three white kids who live in Los Angeles," he says. "It's 2005, and people don't care about what color anybody is or what genre of music you come from."

Excerpted from the June 18, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to subscribers.

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