It's a well known fact that Travis Barker's obsession with tattoos is more than skin deep. Since his teenage years growing up in Fontana, the Blink 182 drum god has spent countless hours under the needle. Even in the years since he survived a fatal 2008 plane crash, the layers of skin grafts on his back and legs haven't stopped him from taking another run at coloring them up again. The man is addicted to ink. It's no surprise then that he'd be the perfect guy to present the 7th annual MusInk tattoo and music festival in Costa Mesa, March 21-23. Aside from hand picking the lineup–including Descendents, Techn9ne, and Gorilla Biscuits–he'll also behind the kit on Day 2 with his all-star band the Transplants. We recently caught up with Barker to discuss his curation of the fest, his multitude of upcoming musical projects, and why getting a tattoo on your head is not as bad as you think.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): This year's lineup has its fair share of punk and hardcore bands with the Descendents, The Vandals, Gorilla Biscuits, and also incorporates hip-hop with Techn9ne in the mix. What were your guiding principles for choosing the talent on stage?
Travis Barker: I really wanted to be involved with the musical acts, and I'm a huge, huge Descendents fan. That band changed my life. I love that band, same with the Vandals. With the second night, I wanted to do something different. I feel like MusInk in the past and a lot of tattoo conventions always leave out hip-hop. And I always wondered why. I grew up loving hip-hop just as much as I loved Slayer or punk rock or whatever and a lot of my friends growing up and to this day who love hip-hop love getting tattoos as well. So I feel like making that a part of it, and not excluding it, is a big deal and it's really refreshing and it brings something new to the festival.
Of course, tattoos are just as much a part of hip-hop culture as they are in punk and rockabilly.
Without a doubt. And for the Transplants, we felt playing on that night with TechN9ne and RIITZ. In the past we've done stuff with Paul Wall, stuff with Bun B, all the guys from Cypress Hill. We've always done stuff to mix it up with other genres s I felt like that would be a good fit for us.
Are there any artists at the festival this year who you've gotten tattoos from over the years or are really excited to see come set up shop at the convention hall?
There's a lot of artists I've worked with before like Franco Vescovi, Chuey Quintanar, Mark Mahoney,and they're great friends of mine. Dan Smith who's a great friend, Jack Rudy, Bob Tyrell, Oliver Peck–people who I haven't been tattooed by but I'm a huge fan of. It's an honor to have such great artists be a part of it.
Do you remember being a fan of convention-style tattoo work? Did you go to a lot of them growing up?
Yeah, we used to go to this thing called Ink Slinger's Ball back in the day. Growing up we'd go to all those tattoo conventions, me and all the tattoo artists I grew up with–John Sanchez, who did a lot my work early on. As a kid I would always wanna go to those. So for me, being a part of MusInk, which the whole goal is to go a step further with the tattoo convention and add a great music element, a car show and skateboarding, it's just everything that I love and grew up with. It's awesome to be a part of it with Goldenvoice and Bill Hardie.
Talk about your recent project with Psycho White with Yellawolf came about and what you're doing with it these days?
Psycho White was Yella and I getting together every time he came to town and we would just make records and we didn't really have a goal of where those records would end up. We would just get in the lab and create stuff. He would come to L.A. and we'd listen back to everything we had done and there were five or six songs and we just said "fuck it man, let's put this out." It's a cool EP, different than what Yella does on his own, it's a little different than my solo albums. It's a fusion of rock, hip-hop, and ska punk. We worked with Tim Armstrong on one of the songs, I produced everything else myself, made it a point to only use marching drums and 808s in the entire record, which really hasn't been done before on a hip-hop project. So, Psycho White was just that, we just sat there one day and came up with five songs and kinda on a whim decided to make it a project. Any time he plays in L.A. or Southern California I'll always join him, we hit it off from the time we met, about 5 or 6 years ago.
Anything happening with Blink 182 that you can talk about?
Honestly, we haven't really started on anything new at this point. We have a couple shows booked but that's it. Until all three of us get in the same room and other people's schedules clear, it's kinda outta my hands. So I keep myself busy in the studio. I'm in the middle of rehearsals with the Transplants for MusInk and we're recording a covers album. So we're recording a bunch of our favorite songs. We just recorded "Gratitude" by the Beastie Boys, done Transplants style. Did a bunch of stuff for Bad Lucc, his album's about to drop, playing a drums. Until my big projects like Blink are happening and everyone gets their shit together, this is what I do. This is what I know, making music and playing drums and creating in the studio. So I have a lot of things to keep me busy in the meantime.
What's your most recent piece of ink and what's the story behind it?
Probably the last group of tattoos I got was my back. I lost quite a bit of tattoos in my [2008 place crash], my back and my legs are all grafted, I have pieces of the tattoos still. And on my back I just started on in the last six to eight months and I finally found the right picture of my mom who passed when I was like 11 years old. It's a tribute to her that Chuey Quintanar did. And Franco Vescovi did a picture of my daughter, Chuey did a picture of my son, Franco did a picture of my dad, they actually tattooed my at the same time so it's like a collab. And I'm almost finished with my back, I have a couple pieces on the side that I need to fill in to make it complete. But I don't really like getting tattooed at shows because I sweat so much, I hate when they heal like shit. So I'll probably wait until after MusInk.
Then of course their was the collaboration of Chuey, Franko and Mister Cartoon on my head. I had the side of my head done about 12 years ago by Mister Cartoon, then Franco did a piece on it and Chuey did a piece on it and then finally I just shaved my head. I was sick of having a mohawk for half of my life and I finished my head tattoo.
A head tattoo probably hurts like hell, right?
It sounds bad, but it's not bad at all. Your skin is really tight on your head, it wasn't really painful, and I owe it to all three of those artists being great tattoo artists, being light handed. Getting your ribcage done, or the tops of your feet or your hands and stuff like that is way more painful than your head. It's more of a statement if you're really willing to do that. That's what hurts more. Committing to walking around with a head tattoo for the rest of your life. That's the only thing that's risky about it.
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.