Travis Barker's drum setup
Travis Barker is a drummer on a mission, and that mission is to move you and make you feel. He’s accomplishing this by being involved in an incredible amount of projects of varying styles and worlds.
He’s a producer. He’s a remixer. He’s a clothing designer. He juggles all these things by adhering to a vigorous work ethic and maintaining a razor-sharp focus on whatever his current project is. Right now, his focal point is his solo album, Give The Drummer Some (released 15 March 2011), which Travis recorded in his private studio.
Mid session last year, Rhythm had the chance to visit this creative oasis, located on a nondescript street in North Hollywood for a one-on-one interview with the hardest working drummer in the industry. Among the exclusive shots of Travis’s setup you’ll see in this gallery are snippets from Rhythm’s interview in which the drummer talks about the Give The Drummer Some recording process and his love of playing to the click.
- Find your next setup with our guide to the best drum kits
First up, though, let’s take a closer look at Travis’s kit. And who better to talk us through it than his drum tech of 10 years, Daniel Jensen…
Travis's drum tech Daniel Jensen
Given the variety of projects Travis is involved in, ranging from punk to rap to hip-hop, is it a challenge to get the right equipment and meet the demands of the material?
"You always have to be one step ahead, you have to be prepared. It’s the old Boy Scout motto, be prepared! At this point, the nice thing is we’ve worked together so long, and done so many different projects together, that I know a lot of the stuff he’s going to want ahead of time. I always have stuff pre-rigged and ready to go.
"We have a ton of drums, we have a ton of cymbals, we have a lot of stuff stored in a lot of places around here. We keep things ready to go. Anything that’s going to be a variance, we communicate that with each other."
Next: Travis Barker’s kit
What was the most unusual drum or piece of percussion that Travis used for the upcoming solo album?
"He really got into the cocktail kit. He uses it in a very different way than you would traditionally use a cocktail kit, so he’s had a lot of fun with that."
Is that something that happened accidentally?
"That’s exactly what happened. He got behind one and was, ‘Hmm, this is a lot of fun,’ and it just went off from that. With the cocktail kit he has a marching snare and with his marching background, it sounds more like a marching band the way he’ll put stuff together.
"You can get drum’n’bass out of it, a lot of interesting ways to play it. It’s designed for a small band playing in a corner somewhere, but Travis gives it a much different vibe."
Next: the kit spec
What are the specs on the cocktail kit, and will OCDP be making it available to the public?
"It has a 15"x24" bass drum/floor tom made of 8-ply maple, a 10"x6" tom that’s 6-ply maple mounted on a R.I.M.S. system and a 8"x6" snare that’s 10-ply maple also mounted on R.I.M.S..
"Heads are Remo clear Emperor on top and clear Ambassador on bottom and the snare has a coated Emperor on top with an Ambassador snare bottom. Bass pedal and all hardware is DW and the finish is Tangerine Glass Sparkle. The kit is available through Orange County Drums & Percussion."
Does Travis use the same head configurations or does it vary from project to project?
"Size-wise stuff changes but headwise we’re pretty consistent. Smooth white Emperors on the tops of toms, smooth white Ambassadors on the tom bottoms. White P3 front and back on the bass.
"We’ve also been using the Starfire heads for the bass drum front. We used them on the last tour on the tom bottoms and the front of the bass drum."
"We use an Emperor X on his main snare, which is usually 14". The Emperor X is a life-saver because he beats the sh*t out of the snare!
"On the hip-hop projects we’ve done and the stuff with the DJs, both AM and A-Trak, we use a 13" as a main snare and a 10" side snare. On the 10" we use a regular coated Emperor. Ambassador weight snare bottoms on all of those."
"Tuning-wise, the hip-hop stuff is going to range higher - tighter tuning, smaller drums. For rock, we’ll tune stuff down, get it big and fat. Studio-wise, we’ll work with it and decide what works best for the song."
How about cymbals?
"We use all different kinds of Zildjians. Usually 14" hi-hats. On the hip-hop stuff, we’ll use 12" or 13". A lot of splashes, a ‘drier’ ride. Rock or otherwise, two crashes, 14" hats, Sweet ride and a china is pretty much standard.
"Once we have a project, we’ll go through everything and know what we’re going to use. It doesn’t change up once we get the sound that works for what we’re doing."
What kind of format and platform do you use for recording?
Travis Barker: "Mac and Pro Tools, but a lot of the album is live."
Everybody in the same room throwing down?
Have you ever experimented with vintage recording gear?
"Yeah. I’ve recorded Blink records, Box Car Racer records, Aquabats records, a lot of albums to tape. But the way my album is, there’s just so much crazy instrumentation and stacking of drums and stacking of everything else, it would have been really time-consuming recording to tape."
Do you mix up beats first on the computer or do you sit down at the kit?
"It depends. A lot of my album is my new cocktail kit. It may have been something I felt on the MPC. I just did a 10,000 mile bus ride from Miami, so I’ll just bring a mini studio and sit there and write on the MPC and have everything from horns to synths to live drums, guitars, guitar stabs, vocals, everything and I’ll just write for hours and hours. As much as I can.
"Then I get home and a beat may evolve from me playing a cocktail kit on it or me playing my drum kit or electronic pad. I exclusively use Roland but I’ve collected a bunch of vintage stuff for this album just so I could use old synth sounds and old electronic drum sounds."
Next: gogo station
Gogo station: bell, jam block, cowbell, marching snare
"On the cocktail kit I have this little gogo station. It has the a gogo bell, jam block, cowbell. I have my marching snare off to the left. I have everything on there. I can’t wait for a situation where I can play that live."
That’s something you’d tour with?
"Yeah, maybe the next Blink album and the next tour that we do this summer we’ll find a way to use it on the mellow stuff like I Miss You. For sure when I tour my album or I go out with DJ A-Trak again, I’ll probably bring something like that."
Next: experimental recording
Did you use any experimental or unorthodox recording methods for your album?
"Yeah! My album is probably going to consist of 12 songs on the regular copy and 15 or 16 on the exclusive gold edition. I’ve recorded my ’63 Impala’s trunk! That sounds amazing! It’s like a skip for this song I have called Jump Dow’ with The Cool Kids.
"We’ve also recorded drums with just one mic - like old school. One room mic. We recorded loads of marching drums, quints, live hand claps."
Marching band and traditional grip
How has that whole marching band element from your life impacted on your playing?
“I love that stuff! It still comes out in my playing. When I’m on tour and I don’t have a lot to do except be around my drums, I sit on a practice pad and I’ll play for two hours before we go on.”
Do you still do a lot of traditional grip?
“Yeah. I have to stop myself, ’cos I’ll warm up like that, traditional, and I’ll be like, ‘That’s not even how you’re going to be playing.’ I don’t even think there is a correct way to warm up for the way I play!”
Next: Travis’s private studio
Travis's own studio
How has having your own studio helped you with the recording, not just in terms of the technical aspect, but personally, the feeling of knowing that you could just live here if need be?
"I couldn’t imagine it any other way, you know? A couple of years ago, I didn’t have a studio and I would just come home from touring and I wouldn’t play drums. I would get heavy into cars. I didn’t have kids then. I would do something completely different. I would come home from long tours and just want to do something else.
"Then, something snapped a couple of years ago and I wanted to be here at the studio any chance that I get. Like I said, there’s always something going on here. I’m doing the soundtrack to our skate video from Stars And Straps that comes out later this year, right around the same time my album drops.
"So that’s going on. Between that and my album, and finishing up the Paul Wall album, it’s crazy!"
Did you have a specific collaborator or a specific individual that you worked with more on the album, or has it been you and then calling somebody in?
"Besides MCs and vocalists that are on the album, it has mainly been myself, James Ingram, my engineer, and Kevin Bivona, my other engineer, who both play other instruments. They play a little bit of everything, so they’ve been very helpful.
"They’re fast engineers. I have zero patience. If you can hear the drum and it sounds as good as it does in the room, then let’s go! That’s how they are too.
"Transplants’ world is like that, a lot of the worlds are like that and I love it. You can tell in a recording when it’s spontaneous and you feel the energy. Plus, James and Kevin know me and have been around for all sorts of stuff. It’s good having people around that know you instead of you just being some self-indulgent dude. It’s cool to bounce ideas off other people."
Playing hip-hop and lovin' the click
What is your approach to playing hip-hop?
"I do whatever they’re doing. I have to hop to different situations all the time and I’ll do whatever, you know? A lot of times I’m playing to a backing track. When we did the Grammys, it was a backing track. They would switch tempos and stuff, but you just felt the tempo change and it was easy.
"I love a click. With Blink, we’re always to a click. I love, love playing to a click. For the Mary J thing we just did [performing Stairway To Heaven on American Idol with Steve Vai, Orianthi and Randy Jackson], it was no click and it was completely live, so it always changes."
Do you try and nail the click and play right on top of the beat?
"I don’t even hear the click. That is my goal. I feel comfortable with it. The click was like a demon when you were a kid. When you’re a kid you’re like, ‘Aww, man, I don’t wanna play to a click.’ It was hard and it was tough at times. Now, you get to the point where you feel more comfortable with it, you know?"
Practising, fills and improvisation
Is there a particular area of your playing that you want to develop?
"I get to a place on tour where I can do it and then when I’m home I’m more in a creative environment and it’s more making music instead of playing music or practising.
"So, when I’m on tour, I like to be in the mind frame where anything I think of in my head while I’m playing I can pull off. I’m not like, ‘Oh s**t, I’m going to try this for the first time tonight and I don’t know how it’s going to work out.’
"I change my fills every night. I don’t play the same thing. I improvise. But I’m not going to confuse Mark [Hoppus] or Tom [Delonge] or throw anyone off. I just try to get to a place where I can pull off whatever idea I have in my head.
"I think that’s the win-win. That’s the ultimate goal, to be able to pull off what you want to play without really thinking about it."
Now check out Rhythm's current issue 187 fronted by Stone Sour's monster sticksman Roy Mayorga. Or subscribe to Rhythm here for a monthly dose of new gear reviews, kit buying guides, pro drum lessons and all-star interviews.
Liked this? Now read: The Gaslight Anthem's drum setup in pictures
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter