Pandemic be damned, Travis Barker managed to stay not only active, but extremely busy this year. He kicked off 2020 playing a handful of shows with Blink-182 in support of the band’s latest effort Nine, before the world went into lockdown and he was forced to slow things down just a tad and raise a few million dollars for charity covering Nirvana songs with Post Malone during a livestream, co-produce a No. 1 album by Machine Gun Kelly, and officially launch his new label. You know, nothing too intense. Barker’s final 2020 accomplishment? Winner of a custom build-off for a Polaris Slingshot, the eye-catching three-wheeled vehicle that lands somewhere between a motorcycle and a car.
In an East Coast vs West Coast competition, Barker faced off against Teyana Taylor to create a one of a kind custom Slingshot suited to each artist’s specifications. While Taylor opted to create a flashy closed-top vehicle, Barker leaned into the Slingshot’s design as a motorcycle-car hybrid and keep the top open for free-flowing ideas and connection. Together with custom car publication and manufacturer Dub Publishing, the team transformed the vehicle into what Barker calls a Concert On Wheels, an all-black ride featuring a state-of-the-art sound system.
“I’m super into black cars right now,” Barker tells me over the phone. “I actually got rid of everything in my fleet except one car because they weren’t black. When I went to go meet with Miles from Dub, he was like, ‘I have this idea it’s gonna be burgundy, like this rich burgundy, and we’re gonna do these accents in this cream color.’ And I said, ‘Miles I hate to break it to you but it’s gonna be all black and matte black.'”
To celebrate finding success in a difficult year, I spoke with Barker about everything from his custom Slingshot to the best up and coming artists, and the possibility of new music from Box Car Racer. Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the sound system in your Slingshot and the vision that you had for exterior speakers?
Yeah, we actually found a few places in the car where we could add these panels and add these speakers. So we created a couple of other places that are actually outside the vehicle that point to almost the car next to you or outside the vehicle. The system is really loud, and we got twelve-inch speakers behind the seats so we have like a good subwoofer behind there. For me it was like, “let’s find that cross between listening to rap music, punk rock music, you know just everything to where you have a system that sounds accurate.”
When you were driving it around, did you use those exterior speakers to blast anyone next to you?
Absolutely. [Laughs] Not only was the system really loud and everything, but those cars are just eye-catchers. People don’t know what they are when they see them on the road. You get a lot of people breaking their necks to look at it.
You’re a punk rock legend, but you also have your hands in a lot of hip hop adjacent projects. Who is your favorite punk act and hip-hop act that people might not know yet but they should?
As far as a new pop-punk act that not a lot of people are hip to, his name is Kennyhoopla; he’s really, really talented. He would have to be my pick for a new pop-punk artist. And for a young rapper, I actually just signed one to my label, his name is 637Godwin. He’s really talented, as well.
Are there any other artists that you have your eye on that everyone should know about?
I can’t tell you. [Laughs] Someone else will sign them immediately. But, there is a lot of young talent out there, there are tons of talented kids. There’s like this whole genre of hybrid-pop music that’s coming out right now. Music’s in a good place. It’s really innovative and different and people are really mixing a lot of genres together and it’s cool.
For me, one of the silver linings about the pandemic has been that I’ve been able to sit down and explore a lot of music that I might not have heard otherwise. I actually have the time to listen to everything.
Yeah, it’s true. And I feel like artists have the time to make great music and they’re not forced to be out on the road, or worrying about touring, or rushing albums. I feel like with music streaming and video streaming, people are making some of the best videos. I just did an MTV Movie Awards, and they went above and beyond for that show. The quality of what people are making for streaming, whether it be video or audio, is better than it’s ever been.
Do you think that the pandemic mindset encourages more experimentation?
Oh for sure. What’s happening in the world is unfortunate, but it’s definitely affected music, it’s affected art. I think it has a long-lasting effect on everything, from art to music to video, just creation in general.
To that end, what album or artist did you discover this year that you couldn’t get enough of?
Jean Dawson. That record is amazing, and he’s still kind of slept on. Not that many people know about him, and hopefully you and I talking about him helps get his name out there even more. He made an incredible album.
It’s funny you say that — Jean Dawson is one of the artists that I had in mind earlier, when I said I’m hearing things that I might not have before.
Yeah, he’s someone that’s really taking genres and throwing them all together and doing something different, in a time where so many people determine what their sound is gonna be like by whatever’s popular on the radio. And then you have a fresh breath of air like Jean Dawson. Like, thank God, you know?
When I was playing in bands, I was basing my music off Blink-182, pretty much exclusively. But kids these days are pulling from a lot of different places and it’s resulting in some really cool new stuff.
For sure. I agree one hundred.
Okay, one last question: will there ever be new Box Car Racer music?
So, there is a Box Car song that’s unreleased. I think whenever the time’s right or it makes sense, we’re gonna release it. I would just love for the fans to hear that song.
Is that track from the archives or newly recorded?
I can’t say. [Laughs]
Okay, fair enough. Thank you so much Travis, it was so nice talking to you. Like I said, Blink-182 had a huge impact on my life, so it’s really been an honor to speak with you.
Yeah, nice talking to you too man! I appreciate your time.