Travis Barker was included among the 100 greatest drummers of all time by the legendary rock magazine Rolling Stone.
With his punk attitude and his versatility, embracing almost any genre between rock’n’roll and EDM, including hip-hop and rap, the drummer from Blink-182 is still one of the most popular musicians out there.
Not only a musician but also an entrepreneur and a writer, Travis Barker surely distinguished himself as an interesting and influential artist, able to go beyond any boundary of genre or style.
He had to overcome some serious difficulties in his life. This includes losing his mother at an early age, and also having to cope with the emotional and physical aftermath after he survived a plane crash. If you want to learn more about that, it’s definitely worth listening to his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast (check it out here)
Before we talk about Travis in more detail, check out this fantastic drum solo video of him playing:
Barker was born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Fontana, California1.
His mother, a babysitter, gifted him with his first drum kit at the age of four. One year later he started taking drum lessons and in school he later expanded his interest in music, studying singing and the trumpet.
As a teenager, Travis focused on his passions for skateboarding and surfing, planning to become a professional in one of the two sports, but he would often get back to music as his favorite means of self-expression, finding some big comfort and support in his mother Gloria.
Before he started attending high school, however, Gloria died due to an auto-immune disease. It was a horrific time for young Travis, who was so firmly supported by his mother in all of his ambitions. Nevertheless, despite his first encounters with drugs, Barker kept working hard to accomplish his dreams and gained a lot of drumming experience in different styles and genres, from jazz to rock.
After graduating, Travis had to work as a trash man and often slept on friends’ couches because of his financial problems. Meanwhile, he would join many promising bands in the Californian scene, including the ska-punk group Aquabats. The band had a chance to work with well-known producer Jim Goodwin, and, to promote their upcoming record The Fury of the Aquabats!, they went on tour with the more popular Blink-182, who had already released their second album at that time, in 1997.
When drummer Scott Raynor announced to his bandmates he would take a break, from the scene Barker became the perfect guy to fill in.
One year later, when Raynor came back, Hoppus and DeLonge decided to permanently break up with him because of his alcoholism, so Travis gained his spot, being able to participate at the recording of their first mainstream success, Enema of the State, a sort of manifesto for the pop-punk generation.
Famous Stars and Straps
Following the success of Blink-182, Travis Barker started a clothing company in 1999, the same year Enema of the State was released. Famous Stars and Straps still takes inspiration from the punk, tattoo, and skateboarding cultures to deliver music-focused designs and good quality clothes and shoes. At the same time, Barker also bought a recording studio, the first step towards his label project LaSalle Records, officially founded in 2004.
Meanwhile, the dynamics in the band started shifting, as DeLonge decided to work at a solo project, asking Barker to join him on a few tracks. Through Tim Armstrong (the vocalist for Rancid), Travis also got involved in a rap-rock project called the Transplants, which led him to discover a new, exciting style of music.
Television success and family issues
In 2005, Blink-182 took a break, but Travis didn’t stop being a huge rockstar.
While he kept working at Transplants’ records, Barker also became a television personality through the MTV reality show Meet the Barkers.
In the same year, he started collaborating with former Blink-182 Hoppus at a new electro-rock music project, +44. The band debuted with When Your Heart Stops Beating, which wasn’t very well received by the critics.
After breaking up with his second wife Shanna Moakler in 2006, Travis Barker started experiencing issues with addiction. Despite the difficult situation, however, he kept working at hip-hop tracks, remixes, and the +44 project, putting constant effort into his clothing line too.
In 2008 a tragic event shook his existence. While traveling on a private plane to a TRV$DJAM’s event, a hip-hop project he had started with DJ AM, a fatal accident occurred and the plane crashed.
Barker and DJ AM managed to get off the plane on time. They both survived, despite the horrific burns and wounds.
Suffering from a severe post-traumatic disorder, DJ AM would later die of an overdose, while Travis was able to fully recover, physically and mentally, giving up his addictions too. Later that year, he went back to the studio and started playing drums again. Blink-182 reunited in early 2009.
In 2011, Travis Barker released his first solo album, Give the Drummer Some, featuring many collaborations, including Corey Taylor from Slipknot. In the same year, Blink-182 released their sixth album, Neighborhoods, which debuted at a successful number 2 in the charts. Three years later, the legendary pop-punk band released another album, California, featuring Matt Skiba filling in for Tom DeLonge. The new album represented another huge success for the trio.
Meanwhile, Travis temporarily put the sticks aside to write a memoir, Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums.
His style and influences
A versatile drummer, who plays different genres, from punk to trap, from jazz to hip-hop, Travis Barker has a very personal drumming style, able to fit in potentially any musical project. His main influences are quite eclectic too, as they range from Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham to Buddy Rich.
Through a life of difficulties, excesses, but also incredible work ethics and tireless drumming, Travis Barker is distinguished as one of the most important drummers of the pop-punk generation and beyond.