Travis Barker is an exceptional drummer. Do not let his recent segue into the world of Hollywood reality TV fool you into thinking he’s just another talentless hack with a gigantic platform that he’s undeserving of.
Barker is rightly revered as one of the finest musicians of his generation, and his talent has helped to augment the work of all those he has collaborated with. He is most famous as the drummer of American rockers Blink-182, who he joined in 1998 after performing in the cult band The Aquabats.
When Barker entered the Blink-182 fold he added dynamism to their unrelenting form of punk, helping songwriters Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus expand their sonic palette, and explore more diverse instrumentation. From ‘Dumpweed’ to ‘I Miss You’, the iconic drumming moments Barker has delivered in Blink-182 are countless.
Aside from Blink-182, Barker has performed with a myriad of acts, including the band’s two spin-off outfits, the short-lived emo projects Box Car Racer, and +44. Afterwards, he joined the supergroup Antemasque, which featured members of The Mars Volta and Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as legendary California punks Goldfinger.
Running parallel to Barker’s rock roots is his proclivity for all things hip-hop. He frequently collaborated with the late DJ AM, with whom he formed TRV$DJAM. He’s also worked with the likes of Yelawolf, Asher Roth, Nottz, and most recently, Machine Gun Kelly, but we won’t go into that.
An unconventional drummer in every sense of the word, Barker learnt his tricks from some of the best in the game. He once revealed that his first musical hero was Animal from The Mupppets, who he credits with inspiring him to become a drummer. Over the years he’s mentioned John Bonham, Alex Van Halen, Tommy Lee, and Danny Carey as his all-time favourite drummers, which makes sense. Together, these influences have created a drummer that’s both technically proficient and powerful, a rare commodity.
Given that Travis Barker is such an icon of the drum kit, we’ve listed five isolated Blink-182 drum tracks of his that prove he is a genius.
Travis Barker’s best drumming moments:
The third track on Blink-182’s uber-successful 1999 album Enema of the State, the first to feature Barker, is one of his best moments. The thunderous roll of the toms at the start, the loose pop of his snare, and the way that he covers every inch of the kit as DeLonge comes in with some of his customary bar chords during the break make this a masterclass in punk drumming.
His beat during the chorus is also interesting. He opts for a combination of the crash cymbal and toms, rather than a flat rhythm, creating a unique sound that the band would utilise at numerous points over their career. Barker then switches it up for a more direct punk rhythm, breaking the chorus up into two vastly different parts, saving it from becoming repetitive, and instilling it with an explosive factor.
‘All the Small Things’
Arguably the band’s most famous song, this was when they truly arrived as global superstars. Whilst Tom DeLonge’s vocal performance is iconic, it is Barker’s performance that holds the whole thing together. Another tour de force in dynamism, the opening beat is a standard for any drummer wanting to learn the craft properly.
Four to the floor during the verses, allowing the energy to grow, the rhythmic break that Barker enacts just before the verse that coincides with “say it ain’t so”, helps to prepare the listener for the anthemic chorus of this 2000 hit. The slight variations he also utilises at the end of the track are also genius, keeping things fresh.
Taken from 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, ‘First Date’ has long been hailed as one of the band’s very best moments, and unsurprisingly, it also doubles up as one of Barker’s finest.
Quick and punk to a tee, again, he covers every inch of the kit, and his work in the chorus is one of his most expressive, utilising his wide range of cymbals fully. The rhythm in the break is also classic Barker, as he employs a set of snare triplets before bringing us back in for one last chorus.
‘Up All Night’
The lead single from Blink’s long-awaited return Neighborhoods, whilst ‘Up All Night’ isn’t hailed as a classic by diehard fans of the band, it does feature some of Barker’s finest drumming, and is one of his most locomoting to date.
His work during the introduction channels a swaggering hip-hop beat, then during the main riff, it switches to the thunderous, evoking his hero John Bonham, before getting highly emotive for the chorus, where he slows it down and accentuates the measure.
An underrated drumming moment, this was Barker entering a different stage of his career and taking it to a different level entirely. Check out the off-beats he uses during the song’s closing seconds for confirmation of this.
To many, ‘Adam’s Song’ is Travis Barker’s finest moment behind the kit, and it’s not hard to understand why. One of the band’s most emo songs, it was only fitting that Barker delivered a flawless performance to help elevate the dark themes of the lyrics, as well as the crushing music of DeLonge and Hoppus.
Creative is the best word to describe Barker’s performance here. In the verses, he utilises a basic beat, but the first measure is noted for his use of the kick drum and splash cymbal played on the downbeat, as well as his hit on the bell and the ride cymbal on the “and” of the second beat, reflecting his propensity for creating beats that are unconventional and technically challenging. It’s a performance that every aspiring drummer should be familiar with.