Many purely think that tattoos are about self-expression, but for Travis Barker its deeper than that. As a walking canvas that vividly depicts various memories of family and friends, each telling a story about his life, Travis finds it hard to pick out a favorite since each one means something different. But he does mention that his passion for tattoos helped propel him to become the popular musician he is now.“When I was a trash man in Laguna Beach, I started to get a lot of tattoos. It was my way of forcing myself to go hard for what I love (which is drumming) so that I wouldn’t allow myself to get comfortable being a trash man. I tattooed my neck, hands and forearm, so I wouldn’t be able to get a normal job. All I knew was that I wanted to play music no matter how rich I became or poor I stayed, and getting tattoos helped force me to make it happen.”
Tattooed from head-to-toe, the iconic drummer points out a few blank spots and explains how he’s looking forward to covering them with ink. The flesh-colored skin are reminders from where his skin was burned during the 2008 plane crash that changed his life forever.
“They all hurt, but not the point where I want them to stop,” the famed drummer tells us when we ask about the pain that comes with some of the craziest spots (like his head). “Over the years, I’ve gotten so used to it. I have so many that I’m not sure how many I have anymore. I have some open space from where my skin was burnt off from the accident in 2008, so I’m looking to cover up those spaces.”
His theory has obviously paid off since he is one of the most recognized drummers in today’s music scene. Influenced by a number of the best drummers in music history, it’s Animal from “The Muppets” who Travis attributes as his all-time inspiration for fueling his musical interests. “I always loved Animal’s style and he was a huge influence,” he confesses. “I’ve never been interested in playing guitar or being a singer; drums is what I’ve always been passionate about. It’s something I’ve never grown out of. I think I love drums more now at 36 than when I was kid.”
That passion for the art of drumming can definitely be seen throughout the course of his 20-plus year career. He’s been a member of several groups over the years, including The Transplants with Tim Armstrong and Skinhead Rob, The Aquabats, he’s toured and played drums with the Vandals, +44 and is best known for his affiliation with Blink-182. He also pioneered the DJ/Drummer trend with the late DJ AM, forming TRV$DJ-AM.
“I love that everyone does it now,” he confesses. “It’s so cool that it’s now popular for a drummer to play with a DJ. Anytime you can open doors with your instrument, or whatever you do for profession, is when you win. It’s rad to see drum remixes to favorite hip-hop songs or that electronic DJs are collaborating with drummers. It’s all about taking drumming to new levels and that’s what I’m most proud of when I get to be a part of other genres. Being able to express myself in music other than punk rock has been a huge accomplishment for me; it’s monumental and groundbreaking.”
Considering his career a “dream come true,” Travis attributes his longevity and success to staying humble and knowing that he can still grow and improve his talent while never letting that passion die down.
Everyday I wake up feeling blessed to make a living on what I love most. I’d even do this if I wasn’t making all sorts of money. That’s just how much I love it. In the beginning, I just wanted to do what I loved and be able to pay the bills. Even though I’m able to do that and more, I’m still amazed at the fact that I’m living my dream. I still smack myself all the time to make sure I’m not dreaming.“Everyday I wake up feeling blessed to make a living on what I love most. I’d even do this if I wasn’t making all sorts of money. That’s just how much I love it. In the beginning, I just wanted to do what I loved and be able to pay the bills. Even though I’m able to do that and more, I’m still amazed at the fact that I’m living my dream. I still smack myself all the time to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
Besides his passion for drumming, Travis’ other love is cars, especially old school rides (preferably Cadillacs), a trait he inherited from his father. “My pops loved cars, and between looking at car magazines and the old rusted Cadillac we had in the backyard, it was something that naturally caught my attention.” His first old school was a beat up ’63 Cadillac, which actually caught on fire on the side of the freeway while going to a show, but Travis admits the fascination with one of America’s storied automakers was only heightened. His next big vehicle purchase was a ’66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville that he still owns to this day and claims it as one of his favorites.
Over the years, he’s racked up numerous rides with his most favorite purchase being his new 2012 GMC Sierra Denali truck, which he brought to the DUB Garage for a wheel, tire and suspension upgrade. “I picked this truck ’cause I wanted something to have fun in and not worry about getting dinged in the parking lot or anything,” he says. “When I’m in some of my other cars, like the old schools or Bentley, I’m always paranoid they might get messed up. I like having something I can mash out in and run sh*t over with. Other than the guys at Platinum [Motorsport], DUB is the only other shop I’ll let work on my cars.”
The DUB Garage team and experts from King Shocks fitted Travis’ truck with their OEM Performance Series Shocks which are made with the same components as their racing shocks. It was a direct bolt on to the stock truck and will allow him to take the the truck off-road without any worries, but still give him a smooth and comfortable ride on the pavement. A set of TIS Off-Road wheels with custom Famous Stars & Straps center caps wrapped in Nitto Trail Grappler M/T tires replaced the stock set to complete the upgrade. Travis then took it to Platinum where they added a custom grille and changed up the interior from being wood grain to piano black oak, as well as changed all the chrome moldings to black. “It’s murdered-out and has a cleaner look now,” he mentioned weeks later when we stopped by to check out his other favorite ride: his custom 2013 Prevost tour bus built by Marathon Coach.
After his tragic plane crash nearly four years ago, Barker has steered away from planes and opted for the open road as a means to get to all his tour stops. To benefit from the long hours on the road, the $2 million-plus custom tour bus allows him to travel with numerous guests, unwind a bit and be productive.
“Its where I live for months at a time,” he says. “I get to finish work for Famous Stars and Straps, work on new music, put in some drumming practice in the back of the bus and then just chill and unwind since it has all sorts of amenities like Internet, satellite TV and more. It fits my family when they come out with me to shows and even other acts I’m a part of. Mix Master Mike and Yelawolf have both toured with me on this bus.”
After providing us a tour on his luxurious bus, he showed off his other garage additions: a ’51 Chevy truck, ’64 Riviera and ’63 Impala. Barker had been in the market for an old school truck for some time because he didn’t want one that had been “molested” by other owners and finally found his perfect match with the red ’51. With a clean palette to work with, he added new wheels and bagged it so that it can sit low to the ground.
His Buick Riviera is one of his daily drivers and sports a matte black paint scheme with a gold sparkled roof, while the Impala was bought from a good friend and came “juiced up” with hydraulics and sat on Daytons. “I put some Supremes on it and switched out the hydros to air bags to make it sit low. I love that car. It’s seriously up there as one of my all-time favorites.”
With so many rides to choose from, he considers them like one of his kids, where singling out a favorite would be impossible.“I drive them all, depending on what I’m doing that day, how I’m feeling and even let my kids pick out what they feel like riding in on any particular day,” he says. “But right now I’m spending a lot of time in the tour bus doing all kinds of shows with Blink, Mix Master Mike and Yelawolf. Yela and I have our Psycho White EP dropping in November, and then soon after, sometime in either January or February, the new Transplants album will be released, so I’m going to be on the road a lot.” Something that isn’t surprising from one of music’s most hardworking artists, who is involved with so many side projects.
“In a way everything I do is therapeutic for me. All I know how to do is play the drums and produce music, which is why my life is a dream come true everyday. I’ll never forget what [DJ] AM once told me, ‘Find something you love so much you’d do it for free, then find a way to get paid for it.’ I’ve been lucky to do so and I would do this for free if I had to. All these extra things are extras for me. It’s that love for music that keeps me going.”