It would be unfair to say that Travis Barker traded drums for turntables. The 39-year-old made his claim to fame as the drummer for San Diego pop-punk band Blink-182, and eventually moved on to other endeavors including bands Transplants and Box Car Racer. But he soon took interest in DJing with the help and inspiration of some of the best DJs in the world, including the late DJ AM, A-Trak and Mix Master Mike. To that end, Barker’s new residency at Hyde in Bellagio features a drum set and turntables. We chatted with Barker just hours before he took the stage on August 18 about how he’s going to pull it off.
Do you see any parallels between DJing and playing drums?
A bunch! My son is 11. He’s been playing drums since he was 5 or 6, and I’ve shown him a few things on the turntables, and it just clicked. It’s very percussive—everything. Scratching is percussive. I also think drumming will help you mix records together. Overall, anything you do musically will help the next thing you learn: Drumming in some ways will help piano [players] if you already know note values. They all help each other.
In your sets, how do you divide your time between the drums and the turntables?
Right now, I’m probably drumming more than scratching. I do both during the set—sometimes at the same time.
Are you drumming over tracks?
For the most part. What I do is create a mix of songs that I want to do. I’ll have 7-12 songs in one part of my Serato and they’ll play in their entirety. Then I’ll set up the next seven. It’s kind of hard to get back and forth between drumming and DJing. It would be kind of a mess. [Laughs]
You will be kicking off your Las Vegas residency tonight. Do you have any favorite spots in the city?
I love Hyde and Bellagio. This is kind of my home. We’ve done a lot of events here; we did something with Kid Ink a while back. I like the Cosmopolitan. Obviously, I’m in town anytime there’s a big fight: UFC, mixed martial arts, boxing … and you know, [DJ] AM and I used to play Pure at Caesars Palace. We kind of had a residency at one point. It feels pretty comfortable to debut it here because, literally, besides AM and my first shows, the idea of a DJ/drummer routine—the majority of them took place in Vegas.
What’s next for you musically?
I’m working on my solo album right now, and I’m probably halfway through. And I have a lot more of these shows coming up. I believe I’ll be back in the studio with Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba (of Blink-182) at the end of the year. I just got done working on The Game’s The Documentary 2 album, which was amazing. It’s something new every week, honestly!
Can we expect to see Skiba and Hoppus on your solo album?
Well, I’m doing a couple of projects over the next year, and this album is predominantly hip-hop. I have a couple of other things coming out. I’ve got a really cool record with Afrojack, but that’ll be on his album, and I did a record with LOUDPVCK that just came out last week.
Who else did you collaborate with on your album?
The Game, Lil Wayne, Problem, Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, Iamsu!, Kid Ink, Ty Dolla $ign, Run the Jewels …
So totally hip-hop.
Yeah. I put out a hip-hop album four or five years ago called Give the Drummer Some, so a lot of people are still like, “Yo, I didn’t know you did that!” I grew up listening to both [hip-hop and punk]. There just wasn’t enough room for a drummer in hip-hop—like, when I was growing up, listening to Run-DMC, N.W.A, Whodini—it didn’t exist. I grew up on both, but I definitely got best known for being in Blink-182.
Do you prefer playing the faster, punk stuff, or a steady hip-hop beat?
I get bored of both. I need it all, and I’ve always done it all from the time I came up in Blink. When we were on our second Warped Tour, we were out with Black Eyed Peas, and I jumped onstage and played with them everyday. With drums, it’s so universal. There’s drums in everything. I played the Country Music Awards in Vegas one time with Dwight Yoakam—it was a big Buck Owens tribute. It’s like giving you a paint and canvas and telling you, “You can only paint one way.” But then you’re like “Oh, my God! I can do so much with this paint and canvas!” That’s how I feel about drums. I still have marching drums at my studio, and I dork out on those for hours. I just love drumming. I’m still learning, I still love it.