Toward the end of The Transplants' newest album, Haunted Cities, drummer Travis Barker breaks out a gunshot-speed beat to lead Rob Aston's scratchy-scream lyrics through a song called "Hit the Fence." The drums are so complicatedly fast that they sound fake-the kind of rhythmic thumping that usually means a computer helped out. The song rolls and sputters for a brief two minutes before it fades out to Barker's unconscious thwapping.
"Oh, man, it's not electronic," Barker kindly clarifies. "That was recorded on the tour bus on the Foo Fighters tour. I recorded that drumbeat in a hallway of the bus with [Aston] holding my drums on his hands and knees."
Consider yourself impressed.
Barker would be intimidating if he weren't so easygoing, almost brotherly. The 29-year-old is a teddy bear covered in tattoos. He fields CityBeat's questions from Kansas City, where the Warped Tour is currently stopped. More specifically, he's riding shotgun in the car of a stranger who offered him a ride from the gym back to his hotel room.
"It's become a daily routine to meet random new people every day," Barker says. "I get rides everywhere. It makes me feel real."
Barker's attention is fully devoted to The Transplants for the first time since the band's 1999 inception. With blink-182 on permanent hiatus and his side projects-Box Car Racer (with Tom DeLonge), Plus 44 (with Mark Hoppus) and a new collaboration with DJ AM-on hold for now, all energies are focused on Haunted Cities.
"Three years ago, when the first [Transplants] record came out, I was doing this same thing," Barker says. "I went from playing arenas with blink to playing clubs in a van with The Transplants. I feel like when we were playing arenas, I couldn't really keep up with what my fans were doing. I never ran into them or saw them and I didn't meet them. [Warped Tour] is cool for me now, reconnecting with those kids."
For a kid who left home at 16 to become a drummer, being a Transplant is a perfect outlet. The hip-rock-punk trio ripped Aston out from behind the AFI merchandise table, gave Tim Armstrong a conduit outside of Rancid and lent Barker the legitimacy that blink-182 was too TRL to attain. It doesn't hurt that he and his wife's MTV reality show, Meet the Barkers, has been a hit.
"I was at the gym today and this 40-year-old lady said she was coming to see The Transplants," Barker laughs. "She doesn't even know who we are-it's just because she's seen [Meet the Barkers], you know? I love that show. It's me and my family, and I love my kids and my mama.
"There's one thing I always tell my friends: Don't ever trip on having kids because it's the best thing in the world. Go fucking make babies!"
Touring straight through the end of August, the band is supporting Haunted Cities' release on Barkers' La Salle Records, a vanity arm of major label Atlantic Records. Armstrong pulled off all the production on the disc and the band is joined by B-Real and Sen Dog from Cypress Hill, Rakaa from Dilated Peoples and the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. The resulting collage of styles is a balls-out homage to the thug life.
Barker's life is pretty far from thuggish, what with his clothing label, TV show, record company and former beauty-queen wife. But he still talks about being a rock-star drummer like it's a far-off dream.
"I know there's guys all over that would die to be doing what I'm doing," he says. "But at the end of the day I still go, "Fuck, I would still die to do what I'm doing!'"The Transplants headline Warped Tour at Coors Amphitheatre, at noon on June 30. $25.25. 800-594-TIXX.