There are many benefits to being in the Transplants: Tattoos are not only welcomed, but encouraged. Shirts are infrequently (if ever) worn, which makes tanning a breeze. And you get to make music with a punk icon (Rancid's Tim Armstrong) and a human metronome (former Blink-182 drummer/reality TV father-of-the-year Travis Barker).
But the best thing about being in the band — at least for rappin' frontman Rob Aston — is just being in the band. After all, he never thought it would ever happen.
"At first, the Transplants weren't going to be a band. We were just jamming around in Tim's basement, and it was never going to be released," Aston laughed. "Five years ago, I never would've thought I would be in a band like this, with guys I admire so much."
Those initial jam sessions in Armstrong's basement would eventually become the Transplants' 2002 self-titled debut, and they kept the same formula when making the just-released Haunted Cities, although over a much, much longer time period.
"This record was made over the course of two years, just because everyone was busy with their own stuff," Aston said. "Sometimes we would work two days a month and then we wouldn't work for a month. But every time we got together we were always progressing, so it worked out for the better. No one treats this like a side-project."
A majority of Cities was written in one super-creative 12-day stretch last July (see "Transplants Write 22 Songs In 12 Days But Can't Think Of Names For Any Of Them") , including the first single, "Gangsters and Thugs," which features the mush-mouthed Armstrong rasping, "Some of my friends sell records/ Some of my friends sell drugs" over a snapping Barker breakbeat.
"That's how it is sometimes," Aston said. "I ain't mad at my friends no matter how they get their money. People might think it's wrong, but you got to make your money. That's all real sh--."
Aston earned his money on the LP not just by rapping, but by wrangling a whole host of hip-hop guests for Cities, including his heroes the Boo Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and Cypress Hill's Sen Dog and B Real. And he's largely responsible for introducing the rest of the Transplants to Houston rapper/producer Paul Wall, who's planning on releasing a chopped-and-screwed version of the album later this year (see "Transplants Team Up With Paul Wall For First Chopped-And-Screwed Rock LP").
"I've been a fan of that dude since he first came out," Aston said. "He came through, heard the record, wanted to do the whole thing. I like it way better than the original version — that's some history sh-- right there! No one's chopped-and-screwed a rock record and released it before. We're going to repackage the album and release it as a double disc. It's awesome 'cause you can't chop and screw every album. Some of 'em will sound like sh--."