Tim Armstrong

One of the key figures of American punk rock in the 1990s and onward, Tim Armstrong is best known as the singer and guitarist with the band Rancid, though his résumé begins years before that band rose to prominence. Born in Oakland, CA, in the fall of 1966, Armstrong was friends since childhood with Matt Freeman, and as teenagers the two became converts to punk rock after seeing the Clash open for the Who in Oakland in 1982. Armstrong and Freeman were also deeply influenced by the British ska revival of the '80s, which had a major impact in California, and in 1987 they formed the influential ska punk band Operation Ivy; while the group lasted a bit less than two years and only released one single and one album, their revved-up fusion of punk and Jamaican sounds made them kings at Northern California's fabled all-aged club 924 Gilman Street. Internal friction caused Operation Ivy to break up in 1989, and an attempt by Armstrong and Freeman to put together a new band, Downfall, fell apart after a mere three shows in late 1989. Armstrong developed a serious drinking problem, while Freeman started playing bass for veteran anarchist punks MDC. But in 1991, a newly sober Armstrong and his friend Freeman gave launching a band another try, recruiting drummer Brett Reed and later guitarist Lars Frederiksen to form Rancid. While Rancid's 1993 debut album, released by California indie-punk label Epitaph Records, won little notice outside the Bay Area, their second LP, 1994's Let's Go, earned them a massive reputation in punk circles, especially after they were accorded "next big thing" status by A&R men following the commercial breakthrough of their Epitaph labelmates the Offspring. However, to the surprise of many, Rancid turned down seven-figure offers from several major labels in favor of the free creative atmosphere at Epitaph, and their next two albums, 1995's ...And Out Come the Wolves and 1998's Life Won't Wait were both major commercial and critical successes. While Rancid continued to write and record material at their own pace, several of the members began working on solo projects, and Armstrong helped Frederiksen with his band Lars Frederiksen & the Bastards, while also forming the hip-hop-influenced group Transplants with Rob Aston of Expensive Tastes and Travis Barker of blink-182 joining Armstrong in the studio; they released their self-titled debut in 2002, and a second disc, Haunted Cities, in 2005, with a "chopped and screwed" remix edition appearing a few months later. Both of Frederiksen's albums with the Bastards and the first Transplants album were released by Hellcat Records, a label launched by Armstrong in 1997 (and distributed by Epitaph), which also released material by Joe Strummer, the Dropkick Murphys, the Slackers, Tiger Army, and Hepcat. In 2003, Armstrong surprised more than a few of his fans by collaborating with dance pop star Pink on her third album, Try This; Armstrong co-wrote eight songs on the album, as well as handling some of the production duties and contributing guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals. In May 2007, Armstrong released his first solo album, a lively but low-key set of old-school ska- and rock steady-influenced originals called A Poet's Life, recorded with California ska outfit the Aggrolites. Armstrong has promised fans that a new Rancid album is on the way for the fall of 2007. ~ Mark Deming

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