LA hook-ups and hang-outs played a major role in the forthcoming release (March 15) by Travis Barker, Give The Drummer Some, his hip-hop heavy solo debut featuring a who's who of rap superstars: Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco, Pharell, RZA to name a few. At a listening session in Santa Monica yesterday, we got to hear the release in its entirety and talk to the busy drummer about the over-2-year-long process of making the record, as well as what's up with his other projects, namely Blink 182 and The Transplants (the much-missed punk-ska-hip-hop hybrid with Rancid's Tim Armstrong).
On the whole, Give, isn't the self-indulgent vanity project it could have been. It's a monster hip-hop record with intricate production and an orgy of flows. Barker oversaw the production himself. Highlights, for us, include the repetitive yet rapturous “Can A Drummer Get Some,” the brutal groove of “Carry It” with RZA, Raekwon and Tom Morello on guitar, the frantic freakbeats and rabble-babble of “Let's Go” featuring Yelawolf, Twista, Busta Rhymes and Lil Jon, “Saturday Night” the buoyant Transplants track, and “Beat Goes On” a embellished take on Cypress Hill's stoner rap rock.
After a head-bobbing listening session packed with press and a posse of hoodie-garbed Barker pals (in case you're wondering, yes, it is strange to listen to a new record with the artist sitting right there in front of you, checking your reaction, especially with a rhythmic disc like this… do ya chair dance … air drum?) Barker took questions conference style before his one-on-ones, answering queries both serious (about his plane accident, the loss of his friend DJ AM) and silly (No, he is “not dating Rhianna!”).
By the time we got to speak with Barker ourselves, we'd already got the gist of his plans: Blink's new album will be released this Summer, The Transplants are working on material now and have about 15 completed tracks, he's judging Guitar Center's “Your Next Record” competition, and he will tour the record with a stage set-up much he like did with AM, himself on the kit with a DJ (and one of hell of DJ too): Mixmaster Mike, best known for his work with the Beastie Boys. Emcee guests from the disc will pop in.
Barker continued his live drum/DJ duet thing with A-Trak (Kanye's turntablist) for some shows last year, but he tells us that partnership became difficult because A is in New York (and busy with Ducksauce), while Mike lives here.
“A lot of everything went down right here,” says Barker, who shares a studio in Hollywood with Blink's Mark Hoppus. “Not only the people who live here – and we probably already knew each other or whatever – but also everyone coming through. Also all the mastering and production was done here. I recorded a lot of it on a bus while touring with Blink too.”
Though the record feels geared more towards blunt and bling fans than Blink fans, there are some rockin moments. Slash adds some gorgeous guitar work on the mid-tempo Transplants track and the deluxe version of the CD (which Barker says best represents him as an artist) has some even more diverse offerings, a song featuring Slipknot's Corey Taylor (whom he met playing with Camp Freddy at The Roxy) and a dancey banger with Steve Aoki (whom he got to know through AM).
Collabs/guests that didn't work out? Linkin Park's Chester Bennington (“I couldn't find a track that was suitable for this voice”) and the one artist he wanted most but didn't get: Willie Nelson. Would he have had Nels busting rhymes? “Nah, it would've been something suitable, something country,” says Barker, who played the Buck Owens Tribute on the Country Music Awards a few years ago. “Willie's the last rebel in country. I grew up on him. My dad raised me on him. “
Punk, pop, hip-hop… could country slammin' be next for Barker? “Sure, I'd do more,” he says earnestly. Here's hoping Big Willie and Barker make it happen in the future.