be_ixf;ym_202006 d_03; ct_50
CLOSE
BACK TO BANDS
Travis Barker profile image

MONSTER MUSIC

Travis Barker

BIOGRAPHY

Travis Barker has never slowed down. Ever since he traded in the dingy coveralls of a Laguna Beach trash collector for his place behind the kit in the world's most influential pop-punk band, he's just been adding more notches to his sticks. He carries most of his projects with him into the future like the tattoos that cover his skin—each is fascinating, but taken as a whole they're downright legendary. If you ask Barker what he's up to these days, he'll say, "Just working with people that I love on stuff that I'm passionate about, and excluding everything else, ya know?" But as casual as he makes it sound, Barker is nothing less than a one-man culture industry. As he rounds two decades in the limelight, Barker is now: a full-time member of both Blink-182 and Transplants; the exclusive on-album drummer for Goldfinger and FEVER 333 (who’s Grammy nominated album he also produced) ; the presenter of annual SoCal festivals Musink and Back to the Beach; a restaurateur with interest in both the upscale vegan Crossroads Kitchen and the skater-friendly Wahoo's Fish Taco; the apparel guru behind Famous Stars & Straps and DTA Posse; and the head of two record labels, his low-key LaSalle Records and a to-be-announced major label partnership. And that doesn't even touch on the collaborations—remixing, writing, producing, and playing with a thrilling array of artists. There's a reason Barker takes years between solo albums. "Doing work for another artist is so much cooler than saying, 'I did this for me,'" he says. Sure, he'll eventually follow up 2011's Give the Drummer Some (which featured everyone from Slash to RZA to Steve Aoki), but to wait for a sequel is to overlook the fact that Barker is churning out multiple albums' worth of music at any given time. The first half of 2019 alone saw him record or release full EPs with 03 Greedo, who hit up Barker's studio 48 hours before going to prison, and $uicideboy$. Barker brought guitarist Munky in for that last one because he also happened to be working on KoЯn's new album. In that same time period, he was spotted in the studio with UnoTheActivist, Pharrell, the Game, and nothing, nowhere. He also dropped songs with Lil Nas X, Machine Gun Kelly, YUNGBLUD, Halsey, and last but hardly least, he remixed a Lil Peep and XXXtentacion track. "Two weeks before he passed, Peep sent me a video of him playing [Blink's] 'I Miss You' at one of his shows. We were talking about getting in the studio, and then the unfortunate happened," recalls Barker. "I was so honored to know that a lot of these younger artists were influenced by the band. X said the same thing: 'I grew up on you guys.' It's amazing that the sound we created 20 years ago is still relevant and inspires music that's popular today." Just as amazing, though, is that Barker is involved with shaping a new generation's sound, even as Blink-182 gear up for their eighth album. Tellingly, Lil Nas X's "F9mily (You & Me)" was meant to be a Blink demo but the rising star claimed it first. In fact, most of Blink's new songs began as Barker productions. That Barker's doing so much work with rap artists who borrow from emo and punk is, as he puts it, "a beautiful thing." Growing up in '80s Fontana, California, he just accepted that since he was a live drummer, he'd never be able to give back to rap, a genre he loved as much as punk rock. "It was like, 'Oh, a drum machine is responsible for this music," he laments. But times changed, stylistic divisions eroded, and Barker's approach evolved too. He made his first beat in 2005 at the request of UGK's Bun B, who gave him a day to turn it around. "That was kind of the most awesome challenge ever," says Barker. "I now embrace the idea that nothing is impossible." But that act of rising to the occasion on what's essentially a high-stakes dare was a hallmark of Barker's early career. He was drumming in the Aquabats!, opening for Blink-182 in 1998, when the headliner's drummer suddenly left. Barker famously agreed to sit in, learned a 20-song set in 45 minutes, and crushed the show. By 1999, when Enema of the State dropped, he wasn't just in the band—he inspired some of the changes drove that album to go five-times platinum in under two years. He's been an inextricable part of Blink (and spinoffs like Box Car Racer and +44) ever since, and still has a habit of joining bands on-stage last minute, whether it's Run the Jewels at Coachella or Strung Out at Musink, the music and tattoo convention Barker curates. "There's something about the performance and the payoff," says Barker, "being able to create spontaneously and share it with the world immediately." Again, it's about speed. There have been countless times when Barker would've been well within reason to slow down—when any other human would have. He's played goofy with a broken right foot, one-handed with the other in a cast while recovering from skin grafts after surviving a plane crash, and while healing from a car wreck, clots in his veins. The man has played brilliantly in the shadow of personal loss, much of which is documented in his 2015 memoir, Can I Say . But in response to every setback, Barker came back faster. "It's just what makes me happy," he says. "Productivity. Progress. Evolution." Even so, how does a guy with this much going on—not to mention three kids and a meticulously maintained Cadillac collection—make time for an endless stream of new music with an infinite list of collaborators? The answer, in typical Barker fashion, somehow makes all of this extreme productivity and boundless creativity seem super chill. Every so often he'll open up his studio for a week and send out the call to come through. "You never know who's going to be there when you open the door," he says, smiling. "We just create a bunch of stuff and see what happens."

RECOMMENDED

FOR YOU