Travis Barker has been through some shit. The drummer (of Blink-182, Transplants, etc.) has survived a plane crash, the death of his good friend DJ AM, gang-related shootings, substance abuse, and two tumultuous marriages—one of which was documented in the reality series Meet the Barkers (2005–2006) during his marriage to model Shanna Moakler. While drummers are notoriously overlooked in rock bands, people have always been fascinated with Barker's private life, making him one of—if not the most—famous drummers today. He's never had much trouble finding himself under the paparazzi lens, in large part due to his romantic involvement with tabloid favorites, like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Kim Kardashian.
Now, the musician is more revealing than ever before, thanks to his open-book of a memoir, Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums, which he co-wrote with Rolling Stone editor Gavin Edwards (out now). With so many stranger-than-fiction tales and juicy celebrity gossip, Can I Say is a guaranteed page-turner. Complex caught up with Barker to get more insight into his candid stories, dating history, and that Blink-182 drama.
You’ve had a lot of near death experiences, like the plane crash especially. Was that hard to revisit to put down into words?
Yeah, I mean definitely the plane crash and the passing of my mom. They were things I would always try not to talk about, or I could choose how much I’d go into it. [Co-author] Gavin [Edwards] would be like, "How do you feel? How does that make you feel? Or how can you describe that?" So there was times I was just bawling. He would just sit there and say, "I’m sorry," and we’d try to work it out. Then there were times Gavin would laugh like a hyena and we'd just crack up.
So it was therapeutic for you in a way?
Oh for sure. I would’ve never talked about any of this unless there was the task to write a book. None of this stuff would’ve been talked about, and it’s kinda crazy, even hearing my friends. I wanted my friends to be interviewed 'cause I wanted people to know that my book was real and give their opinions even if they were humiliating on behalf of me. I always read memoirs and I’m like, "I wish books could make eye contact so I can know if the person’s lying." [Laughs.] So many memoirs or biographies, or autobiographies, are so, I don’t know if I can believe them. So I just wanted to do everything I could to make mine as real as possible.
You had so many different people talk in your book, including your ex-wives, and it wasn’t always in a favorable way. Was it tough getting them to write for you?
Melissa, my first wife, is still my great friend. Shanna [Moakler]—we do our best with co-parenting, but we’re not the closest. Everyone from people I grew up with when I was like 7 are interviewed in the book to people like Skinhead Rob. I wanted them to tell the stories, and a lot of the time they had stuff to say that I didn’t even remember, and I was bummed I didn’t remember. They would say something and I’m like, “Oh my gosh I remember that, and I also remember this, this, and this," so it was really nice having them be a part of it.
You write about a lot of women that you’ve been with, and you even also admit that you’ve been an asshole to some. After having children, has your outlook on dating changed? Especially after having a daughter?
Completely. I mean, even from the time my son was born my life changed. When I was living so recklessly in the beginning where I just lived day to day, I didn’t really care what happened, and then out of nowhere it was like, boom, my girlfriend at the time’s pregnant, and I’m having a son, and I didn’t even think. When I had my son I was like, “God, what did I do that you would give me something so amazing, like, I don’t deserve this," you know? It was just crazy, and then it changed. I taught my son from a young age to treat girls correctly. Then I had a daughter, and I treat girls how I’d want my daughter to be treated. So much has changed. Someone said it in a past interview, "Maybe it had something to do with your mom passing away at a young age." I have no idea if that gives people mommy issues. I have no clue, or like female issues. I think I was just living recklessly, and I didn’t really think I had to take account for anything I had to do the day before.
Having a pregnancy scare at 13 is kind of intense.
Yeah, that was a little intense, but I was absolutely being reckless though.
Do you want your kids to eventually read your book?
Yeah, there was a sample of my book that came to the house, and Landon and Alabama already started reading the first chapter, but everything’s so transparent with my kids. They’re old enough to the point where they’re like, “Dad I see pictures of you on the Internet smoking while you’re playing the drums. What’s that about?” “I see a picture of you and Snoop, and you’re smoking weed. What’s that about?” They know like, “Hey Dad, you’ve made some really crazy decisions when you were young, and you learned from them.” They’re at the age where they know stuff, and I have to be nothing but honest. That’s kind of the point of the book—it's to be honest and take something away from it from whether you’re dealing with a loss, like how I was when I was so young. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my parents weren’t rich, they weren’t in the music business yet. I was determined to be a musician and not take no for an answer, all the way to surviving a plane crash to coming out of being a drug addict and being sober. I was so fortunate for there to always be a brighter outcome.
Speaking of having your pictures being all over the Internet, there are a lot of juicy details. At one point you were involved with Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Kim Kardashian. That’s like the tabloid trifecta.
The worst chapter in my book. I’m like, "Can that chapter just go away?" I mean it was a chapter of my life.
And that was a point where I feel like you didn’t want your dating life out in the open.
Oh I didn’t. It was the weirdest thing. It was actually a sad time 'cause my wife and I had just split up, and literally the weekend after we split up Paris and I met each other, and we were having the time of our life in every country, flying from country to country. Shanna and I had to deal with that a little bit, but we almost asked for it by having a reality show. The way I dealt with it with Paris, I was not ready for that. Everywhere we went there was someone documenting something, but it was a time of my life, and I figured out really quickly that it wasn’t for me. It was a little much even though I had fun with Paris.
I love Kanye. F**k what everyone says. I think he’s a musical genius. —Travis Barker
Are you still in touch with any of them? You described Kim Kardashian as a closet girl.
Well, at the time I met Kim she was with Paris like basically being her assistant, and her professional job at the time was she would go into peoples’ houses and organize their closets. I don’t know what the deal was, but that was the easiest way to describe it. To this day, I don’t see Paris for whatever reason. I just don’t see her. I saw Lindsay last time I was in Europe—in London—and I said hi to her. What happened with us was so innocent. We kissed, we made out one night in a club full of people like children. Kim and I, we just became good friends. When Shanna and I broke up, I was very clear in my book saying that [Kim] was nothing but a sweetheart, and I have the utmost respect for her, and I can’t say anything negative about her. She was dope. Everyone was like, “Why didn’t you ever hook up?” I couldn’t see myself being anything but a gentleman to her. She was just always so cool. I was on Jimmy Kimmel like a month ago, and she was on the show. I had no idea. I was walking down, and I heard someone call my name, and it was her. I haven’t seen her in forever. She’s awesome. I’m happy for her.
Would you ever do something with Kanye?
I love Kanye. Fuck what everyone says. I think he’s a musical genius. I think he’s so honest, people don’t know how to fuckin’ deal with it. He is great, his music’s fuckin’ great. It’s undeniable. He’s done so very well in learning how to express himself and be creative outside of just music.
I thought the book would focus a lot more on Blink-182. I couldn’t help but notice that Tom DeLonge’s name is noticeably absent from the acknowledgements section. I’m aware of the beef. Is that relationship irreconcilable? Have you guys talked about the book or otherwise since?
Tom’s interview of the book was done over a year ago. I didn’t mean to leave a couple people out of thank you. I left my own publicist out, and I feel like a fucking asshole for it. I didn’t mean to. I went off this list that was from something else I thanked people on, and I meant to add everybody else. I meant to combine two lists together, and I didn’t, so in the next re-issue of the book the right thank you’s will be there. I’m not trying to like diss anybody. If I wanted to diss, I would just diss somebody. I could honestly write a whole book about Blink-182. I just thought, "Why would I tell the Blink 182 story?" To me, Transplants, my time with DJ AM...all of those were equally important to me as Blink was. Blink might be the biggest, most successful, but it doesn’t mean I’m gonna dedicate more time to it in my book.