Transplants get "Haunted"

Transplants get "Haunted"Punk side project takes center stage on second album

The Transplants started as a side project for Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. But with the June 21st release of a second album, Haunted Cities, the band has become top priority.

"Rancid is still a band, but right now the only band that matters to me is Transplants," says Armstrong. "When the three of us get together, it's fucking magic. I've played music for a long time, but this is a rarity. It's explosive." Adds Barker, whose schedule has been cleared by Blink-182's possibly permanent hiatus: "I feel like it's finally our time."

The album adds a commercial sheen to the group's mix of punk, metal, rap, reggae and techno. The first single, "Gangsters and Thugs," joins a drum-and-bass beat (played live by Barker) with vocalist Rob Aston's rapping and a supercatchy chorus ("Some of my friends sell records/Some of my friends sell drugs"). "It's just bigger than the last record," says Aston.

Recorded over two years, Haunted Cities "sounds California," says Armstrong, who produced the album and alternated vocals with Aston. Barker cites the hard-hitting "American Guns" as a favorite, while Aston picks the "cool and dark" "Apocalypse Now." Another track shows off Barker's love for Latin music. "That's what's cool with our band," he says. "We can fuck around with so many different styles, and it's not out of place."

Barker is also at work on Plus-44, another project with Blink bassist Mark Hoppus and hometown friend Carol Heller (ex-Get the Girl) on vocals and guitar. "It's a departure," says Barker. "It sounds like Berlin -- I love that [Eighties Los Angeles New Wave] era of music, like Missing Persons. Everything's really played on drums, but it's electronic." The group hopes to release and album next summer.

Meanwhile, Meet the Barkers, MTV's reality show that turns the camera on Barker, his Playmate wife Shanna Moakler and their two young children, has added a surreal dimension to the punk rocker's life. "It's a different side of me -- truly the best, most sincere documentary anybody could have done on my family life," he says. "But it's crazy to go down the street and have these people call out, 'Hey, it's the Barkers!'"

The Transplants headline this year's Warped Tour, kicking off in Columbus, Ohio, on June 17th.

Brian Hiatt

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