Travis Barker: Action Man

Blink 182/Transplants drummer Travis Barker

May 2005 Issue

After a brief photo shoot at a Hollywood recording studio, Travis Barker is off to lunch. In his brand-new, jet-black, V12-powered BMW sedan, he rides shotgun and fiddles with the stereo. Swapping discs in the changer, Barker finally lands on something he’s into. It’s Everlast’s latest disc, and the drummer lands on a couple of tracks in particular that strike him enough to begin humming along. He then turns around and asks, “Do you like this album?”

With the exception of the cranked stereo, the ride to the Japanese restaurant is largely a silent one. Piloting the car is Travis’s drum tech, Daniel Jensen, who also happens to be part owner of Orange County Drums And Percussion. Throughout the day, Jensen appears to act as more than Barker’s tech; he’s his business partner, confidant, and friend. And he’s intimately familiar with Barker’s drumkit.

With lunch out of the way, Barker’s whisked back to the studio to complete the remainder of the photo shoot. Again, the twenty-minute ride back is largely comprised of Barker playing DJ, which is only interrupted by a chance spotting of A.F.I. lead vocalist Davey Havok standing outside a studio on Melrose Blvd. Advertisement

As Barker intently listens to his selections, he instinctively begins drumming his fingers on his lap. Although he’s distracted by the occasional cell phone call – he’s answering every one, since it could be his expectant girlfriend – he appears solely concerned with the song at hand.
Observing Travis Barker in the car is strangely similar to watching him on stage. Despite the attention, glitz, and distractions surrounding his main gig with Blink-182, Barker is fiercely focused on the song at hand. He largely maintains a straight-faced demeanor, playing with absolute precision and power’two factors that are often difficult to accomplish in one sitting.
Barker’s been through quite a bit since Modern Drummer last spoke with him at his Corona home in the summer of 2001. He’s moved to Los Angeles. He’s founded, recorded with, and toured with two entirely new bands: The Transplants, with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, and Boxcar Racer, with Blink-182 guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge. And as mentioned before, he has a child on the way.

Some of these changes have transformed Barker, some more drastically than others. There’s also the new Blink-182 album – not quite self-titled, but rather un-titled – which exposes different musical layers from their successful, pop-punk formula, via additional instrumentation and unorthodox recording techniques.

And Barker, with his steadfast quest to expand his drumming skills outside the punk boundaries, is more determined than ever to make everything fall into place once again, soaking up the environment that surrounds him – fingers tapping and all. Advertisement

MD: The last time we spoke, you mentioned how you had set a new record, with tracking your drum parts in two days. Did you break that record this time?

Travis: No. We ended up recording one song at a time. We’d do a drum track, then they’d do bass and guitar and come up with melodies. Once we’d finish a song, we’d move on to the next. To write a record and move on, song by song, was amazing, but it took some time. We did about seven tunes, then I went out on the Transplants tour, and then we did another seven.

We used different drum setups for different songs. I did one take with big drums and room mic’s, and another take with small drums. And if there was a verse that I thought should have the small drums, we’d do that, and then go back to the big drums for the rest. It was really cool.

MD: Was this one of the longest album sessions you’ve worked on?

Travis: Yeah, I usually get my drums done right away and then leave. With The Transplants, I stuck around a little bit and did some other work. And on this Blink record, I’ve stayed around the entire time, except for the Transplants tour. I had a lot of input this time. I guess this was much more of an exciting album too, because we felt like we wanted to be a band and write songs together. I wanted to stick around. We’re finally moving in the direction we’re supposed to. Advertisement

MD: Is this the most input you’ve ever had on a Blink-182 album?

Travis: Definitely.

MD: You’re saying the songs were pretty much written in the studio?

Travis: We’d come up with an idea, we’d rehearse it, and we’d record it. And a lot of ideas came from the drum parts. So the minute I said, “Oh, I have an idea,” they’d just put the click on, and I’d play. Then the other guys would come in and do their guitar and bass parts over it. And a lot of songs had beats that were inspired from the stuff I was playing on The Transplants tour.

MD: Did the fact that you had to leave midway through your recording sessions to tour with The Transplants make for a difficult time readjusting to the studio?

Travis: Actually, I felt so fresh. I felt like I was fully on top of my game creatively, playing-wise, and skill-wise. I need to move like that.

MD: The new album seems so serious. Has the band completely shed its joking image?

Travis: It’s weird. In some ways I’m acting more like I’m eighteen now than I have my whole life. But I like it. I’m still a kid, I do whatever the hell I want, and I live my life. So many people pin us as a joke band because Mark and Tom have fun on stage and we’ve had fun on CD before. But this new record might throw people for a loop, because we don’t have any silliness on it. It’s all very musical. It’s one of those albums that you need to listen to all the way through. It’s kind of like a mini-movie.

I think we’re going to mess people up with this one, because we have this serious album, but we still act like idiots on stage. But people will just have to get used to that, because we’ve got the best of both worlds. We can have fun and be total idiots, but then turn around and be affected by the same real things that affect everybody. We’re still real people. Advertisement

Waleed Rashidi