Justin Tranter

Class of

Justin Tranter '01 entered the business as the front man for the glam-punk band Semi Precious Weapons, formed in 2006 with fellow Berklee alumni Steve Pyne '02 and Dan Crean '00, and Cole Whittle. The band's hard-edged music and Tranter's outrageous stage theatrics drew a following in New York clubs, and ultimately the band toured the world, opening for Lady Gaga and Kesha, and headlined its own gigs. The group recorded with three different labels, including Interscope Records, before landing at Epic Records. “We signed with Epic and worked on an album with Tricky Stewart and L.A. Reid, but the music never came out,” Tranter said. “The band was signed to Warner/Chappell for publishing, and when [A&R rep] Katie Vinten came in, she listened to our [unreleased] album, which leaned more toward pop than our others. She told me that if I was moving more toward pop, she could put me in sessions with other writers. She made this entire new life for me; I owe her everything.”

When asked about his role in a songwriting session, Tranter says he does whatever is needed. “I do everything,” he says, “but if I rank things, I would put lyrics first and melody second. I play piano, so I write chord changes sometimes. I love the big picture and doing what an old-school producer would do: not making the beat, but digging into it and picking things apart. Every session is different. When working with Gwen Stefani, every syllable has to be what she is feeling right now. Sometimes we all get in a room and start talking and someone says something cool, and you know it's a song title. For 'Nostalgic,' all I had was a title, and we created a story.”

This excerpt is taken from an article by Mark Small. Read the full story in the Summer 2016 issue of Berklee Today.