Four years ago, Travis Barker was on life support in a Georgia hospital. He’s spent the time since blurring the lines of musical genres, reuniting with his pop-punk band Blink-182, and covering his body in ever more ink. The drummer talks about family, touring, and a Muppet genius.
Travis Barker has a serious addiction, and anyone can see the markings all over his body – splashes of ink in the shapes of girls and car insignias and chequered flags. He has tattoos dedicated to his bands and to missing friends and family, his kids and ex-wife, and new ones on his skull of the Virgin Mary and the words “One Life, One Chance”. Getting inked is something the Blink-182 drummer does to relax. He even does it while napping, during his few moments of downtime between surgeries or tours or side projects with DJs and rappers and hardcore punks, from Steve Aoki and Yelawolf to the high-octane Transplants (co-founded with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong). He’s mostly recovered from the 2008 plane crash that killed four people and left him and his close friend Adam Goldstein [DJ AM] in critical condition, and just days after getting his tonsils removed, he already looks ready for action as he sits in the control room of the Los Angeles studio he owns with Blink’s Mark Hoppus. The studio is a darkened, low-slung warren of rooms with drum kits here and there, framed tour posters waiting to be hung, and the kind of clutter one would expect from a place that’s well trafficked. Barker is here every day, right after dropping the kids off at school.
After travelling to Europe by boat, Barker and Blink are currently headlining a slew of festivals on the old continent. But being the drummer in a hugely popular, platinum pop-punk band is not nearly enough these days. Barker is a man of many genres and appetites, sponsoring extreme fighters and running his 13-year-old clothing company, Famous Stars and Straps. He’s also finishing up a new Transplants album and a series of EPs mixing his live drums with EDM and hip-hop. A few days a week he trains hard in multiple fighting techniques. It keeps him fit and ready for trouble. “It’s important to know, man,” he tells The Red Bulletin. “Life’s crazy. You never know what you’re going to be served with.”
The Red Bulletin: Your band just wrapped a US tour and is about to embark on a European tour for the summer festival season. Do you like playing festivals?
Travis Barker: I really enjoyed our last trip to Europe. It was crazy playing for 200,000 people. It’s insane. You don’t have festivals like that in the States. Rock is alive and kicking ass in Europe. It’s bigger than ever. It’s like the ocean – you can see people for days. When we headlined in Leeds, it was crazy. You can’t prepare yourself for that.
What’s it like to face that many people?
It’s like you’re getting ready for a fight. I lock myself in my room, warm myself up for an hour and go out there and do the damn thing. I always play like I could die out there and give it my all. And there’s only three of us up there – it’s an awesome feeling.
Do you do anything different when it’s a gigantic crowd?
There’s no way to rock harder because there’s 200,000 more people there. You just give it your 200 per cent.
I sometimes wonder what it was like to see a band like the Stones in the ’60s or ’70s, in a gigantic place, but without even video screens.
I love that. I wish it would stay like that. I wish there was no such thing as production, honestly. [Laughs.] It puts everyone on an even playing field. You just got to go out and rock.
No 2Pac hologram.
[Laughs.] It’s a trip what it’s coming to.
Now all kinds of acts are announcing that they’re bringing dead people back with holograms to tour, including Michael Jackson.
I don’t think that’s cool. You pay tribute once if you’re doing a benefit concert to someone, but it’s cold as ice.
Read the full interview with Travis Barker in July's issue of The Red Bulletin.