Within a few strokes of Travis Barker’s opening solo to “Feeling This” — from Blink 182’s new self-titled CD — you can tell something different is happening. Instead of the band’s jittery punk-pop bounce, Barker lays down a fat, syncopated beat that combines elements of John Bonham’s monstrous blast with the funkiness of James Brown’s drummers.
Whatever you want to call it — it sure isn’t typical Blink 182. “Originally the verse part was supposed to be all drum ’n’ bass and the song was way faster,” Barker explains between bites of kung pao tofu (without peanuts). “It’s just like a drum ’n’ bass beat played slow with open hi-hats. It’s crazy.”
Good way to put it. And how did he come up with the idea? “We were kind of messing around with the verse. It’s like, ’Well, I want to do a four-bar drum intro and just see how it works for the song.’ And we never second-guessed it. We were like, ’That sounds rad.’ It was super in respect to John Bonham.”
The biggest Bonham kicker comes when Barker pumps eighth-note triplets on his bass drum within the first few seconds, a tip of the hat to Bonzo’s right foot on “Good Times Bad Times” [from Led Zeppelin]. “Yeah, totally,” Barker agrees. “And it’s kind of triplety at one part [measure 2], and then it goes back to being straight four [measure 4], with the eighth-notes accenting the snare and the hi-hats.”
But as far as Barker is concerned, his real coup came with the cowbell clave that crops up in the fourth bar on page 125, and recurs on every chorus throughout the track. That’s right. We said “clave.” “I got away with a cowbell,” he says, sounding utterly flabbergasted. “I did it as a joke while we were playing that part, when we were rehearsing the song and writing it. I was thinking, ’There’s no way it’s going to happen. They’re going to hate it.’ But Mark and Tom loved it.”
We’ve grown used to chasing little black notes around the page whenever we transcribe a Travis Barker drum part. But with voicings that include hi-hat, snare, bass drum, and cowbell all played at once, how exactly did Barker pull off the clave sticking without growing a fifth limb? “My left hand is playing the cowbell [which is mounted to the left of his hi-hat], and my right hand plays the beat between my snare drum and hi-hat. So I’m playing the beat with my right hand and my left hand is fully open.”
As you work through to the end of the following transcription, you’ll see that Barker turns up the heat a notch with a flailing fill that crisscrosses between toms, beginning with the thirteenth measure on page 127. “We wrote the song in one day, and I just made up drum fills as I go,” he says. “I think if I sit there and try to analyze everything, what would be cool here or there, I just feel like I get so far away from what I would do, and I think your gut instinct is usually the best thing.”
We’ll take Barker’s advice. It feels like the article should end right here. But that doesn’t mean you’re finished. Time to grab your sticks and dig into the next four pages of pure Travis Barker mania.