From gang-related shootings to near overdoses, Travis Barker has consistently cheated death. The 39-year-old drummer, a human metronome who has manned the kit for Blink-182, +44 and The Transplants, has survived armed robberies, pill addiction and a plane crash in 2008 that killed four and left him with burns on 65 percent of his body. After the accident, he battled post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt and, at his lowest point, suicidal thoughts. (Ailing in his hospital bed after the crash, he begged Transplants vocalist Rob Aston to bring a gun and end it all.) Less than a year later, the only other crash survivor, Barker’s best friend Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein, was found dead from a suspected drug overdose. Barker’s past still haunts him, but today, he’s in a better space: He’s eight years sober from hard drugs and is focusing on his career and raising his three children as a single father. The California native recounts it all in his riveting, brutally honest memoir Can I Say (HarperCollins, Oct. 20), co-authored with Gavin Edwards. Barker touches on his two divorces, flings with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, substance abuse and that fateful day that changed everything.
You openly discuss your substance abuse in the book. What was your lowest point?
When I was 19, playing in the band Aquabats, I was drunk at my manager’s house and told him I was going to die in a plane crash, which is really weird. Fast-forward to being in a successful band [Blink-182] where you fly two or three times a day. I had to medicate myself to get on flights. And to stay gone for three months at a time without my kids, that was hard. That lead to extreme abuse. In Australia [in 2004], it was to the point where I was so addicted to OxyContin that I had security that would sleep during the day and then stay up at night to make sure I was breathing. That was pathetic. I identified myself as a dumpster, and I wasn’t proud of it.
You wrote that on the day of the crash, you had reservations about getting on the plane. Do you trust your gut more these days?
One hundred percent, yeah. We got [to the airport], and I did my normal thing: I’m medicating. I called my dad. I don’t know what it was, but I said, “Pops, I have a really strange feeling about this one. Something just tells me it’s not right.” And I’d walked off planes before. But I said, “I love you, and if anything happens, make sure the kids are taken care of.” And then, sure enough…
What made you get sober after the crash, even though you were prescribed painkillers?
My bones were so brittle from so much painkiller use. I paid the price for it, self-medicating for so long. I woke up during 11 of my 27 surgeries [after the crash]. Adam would always say, “If you died today, would you be the man that you would want your kids to look up to?” Once I was clear-headed, and I hadn’t been clear-headed in so long, I was like, “I can never go back.”
How did the death of DJ AM affect you?
[He] was my best friend. We were each other’s support systems. It was like there was only one other person in the world. And then losing him and wondering, “Is there something I could have done?” Unless you’ve gone through something like [the crash], you don’t know how it feels. For a long time, I’d see people walking through their day and they don’t realize they’ve never looked death in the face. Even on the tour bus, I wait for impact sometimes, and people are like, ”Everything’s OK, man, chill.” Every day since the crash is another day I walked away from death.
How are you doing now?
I have the best support system. I have the most amazing kids. I’m not on any medications. I get so much love and happiness out of music, playing the drums and my kids. There’s nothing better.