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All the Not-so-Small Things That Happened in Travis Barker's Life Before Kourtney Kardashian

Sarah Grossbart
·13 min read
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After years of friendship, all the small things added up to romance for Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker.

There were platonic dinners out and hang-outs with their kids. The Calabasas home Kourt shares with sons Mason, 11, and Reign, 6, and daughter Penelope, 8, is just down the street from Travis' pad where he hosts son Landon, 17, and daughter Alabama, 15, when they're not staying with their mom, Shanna Moakler.

And, eventually, there was enough chemistry for Kourtney to pen a love note toasting "to lots of fun adventures," adding, "may we destroy each other completely." Though for now they're in the fun and flirty phase, their bond just recently turning romantic.

"They have a lot in common, and Kourtney has always been attracted to how Travis is as a parent," one source told E! News in late January. "They love relaxing at home with their kids, and everyone gets along. It's going well, and they aren't putting pressure on it being super serious at this point."

Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker Get Playful on Date Night

But should their long game prove to be winning, they've already got the full support of Kourtney's preternaturally close clan and her so-cordial-they're-constantly-debunking-romance-rumors baby daddy Scott Disick. "Scott has been around Travis on several occasions and thinks he's a great guy," shared another insider. "He's really happy for Kourtney and is not surprised they are dating."

Really, few in their circle are shocked by the heavily tattooed punk rock drummer's connection with the eldest Kardashian, 41.

The California native's wide-ranging appeal has led to romances with former Miss USA Shanna, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Rita Ora and the briefest of crushes on Kim Kardashian that thankfully never went anywhere "because God knows when you hook up, s--t gets awkward," Travis told Us Weekly long before he realized just how uncomfortable things could have become.

Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest Of All Time, Red Carpet Fashions
Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest Of All Time, Red Carpet Fashions

In fact, Travis has built an entire career out of his ability to jibe with personalities from all walks of life, the founder of DTA Records enjoying a second act as a rap producer more than two decades after bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge recruited him to join their pop punk trio Blink-182.

In addition to playing with a whole host of other bands (Transplants, Box Car Racer, +44, Yelawolf, Antemasque), the 45-year-old has collaborated with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross for a recent single, produced Machine Gun Kelly's latest, "Tickets to My Downfall," and prides himself on an ability to pair more established artists with his roster of up-and-comers.

The best part of his current gig, he told Billboard last April, is "being creative and being able to work with different artists every day. Yesterday I was in with grandson and Rico Nasty. I love Rico Nasty and we were making some straight up Slipknot-sounding songs with her. My life today is with Goody Grace and Machine Gun Kelly, and tomorrow it might be with Fever 333. Being able to jump around just keeps me fresh and keeps me feeling like I'm constantly able to hit the reset button every day. I feel so blessed to be able to do that."

Really, Travis feels blessed, full stop.

Having overcome losing his mom just three days before he began high school, an abuse of prescription pills that had his security monitoring his breathing all night, the unspeakably horrific 2008 plane crash that killed two of his closest friends and the pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt that followed, he understands quite acutely the concept of having a new lease on life.

"I think back, and I was this little punk, someone I'm not proud of, that's abusing pills every day and taking all this s--t recreationally. And then you look death in the face and you almost die in a plane crash, and then you're actually forced to be on morphine for four months or whatever. It's like 'Oh, how did the tables change?'" he recalled to Billboard in 2015 while promoting his memoir Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums. "Every day since the plane crash is another day I walked away from death. I'm very fortunate."

Early on, Travis knew he was in for a wild ride.

He got his first tattoo at 15 because he was curious if it would hurt and once his dad threatened to kick him out if he got more, "I just started testing the waters," he told GQ in 2016. "He said something that resonated with me: 'You'll have no Plan B. You have tattoos like that, and you're f--ked. You won't be able to get a job.'"

Meant as a warning, "To me it did the opposite, and a light bulb went off in my head," Travis continued. After a childhood spent banging on drums, the piano and even taking trumpet lessons, "This is exactly what I want. I don't want a Plan B. I don't want a fall back."

Blink-182
Blink-182

There was no need. His ska punk group the Aquabats was opening for Blink-182's 1997 tour when the veteran group suddenly found themselves without a drummer. Travis slid in without missing a beat and within two years they were releasing Enema of the State.

Selling more than 15 million copies worldwide (no less than The New York Times said it was "among the catchiest music of the time") the light-hearted, adolescent joke-filled disc paved the way for other groups in the genre and catapulted the trio of twentysomethings to superstardom.

Travis Barker, Shanna Moakler, Meet the Barkers
Travis Barker, Shanna Moakler, Meet the Barkers

"It was surreal!" Travis told Us Weekly of suddenly living that rockstar life. "It was popular at a Blink show to have girls topless on top of their boyfriend's shoulders, or throwing clothes on stage, underwear whatever. It was a trip!"

Having simply hoped "to play music and somehow make enough money to have food and to sleep somewhere," as he put it, "it was just beyond a dream come true."

Then he met the beauty queen he thought might fully flesh out the picture. "The first night we hung out, we stared at each other for, like, seven hours," he recalled of connecting with Shanna at the Rock & Roll Hyatt. "If we'd had sex, I probably would've never talked to her again, just being the complete idiot I was." Instead, he continued, "We had a wild six months, then we had Landon. It was some fairytale s--t."

In the model-actress, previously engaged to Oscar De La Hoya, "We both met our match," Travis said. "At the time I would meet someone, or before that I think I'd meet someone and I would just lose interest very quickly. And I think she had enough to really keep me interested and keep me intrigued."

On Oct. 30, 2004, they wed in a gothic-style affair at a Santa Barbara resort and the following Christmas Eve, Alabama joined her big brother Landon. By then, the newlyweds had signed on to MTV's Meet the Barkers, an all-too-real reality show that would chronicle the roller coaster that was their four-year marriage.

"We shot 24/7 to see what we got," he told Us Weekly. "The beginning was awesome, but then it got crazy. Shanna was sleeping most of the day, and when she did get up, she was pretending to do something."

In August 2006, Travis filed for divorce, he and Shanna each taking to their MySpace blogs to give their side of the split. "It got a little weird," he admitted. Though, one insider told People the potshots they exchanged were fairly standard. "The relationship was always dysfunctional, they were always love and hate," said the insider. "It was volatile. He's a rock star, and she likes to go out. They both love and fight hard."

'90s Musicians, Then and Now

Touring became a struggle as well.

"Back then I was living very much day-to-day," he recalled to Billboard in 2015 of surviving armed robberies and pill use. "My attitude was like, 'Shit, I could be dead tomorrow.' I grew up losing my mom at a young age, being shot at at a young age. Doing lots of drugs. If it was my time, it was my time, but then it wasn't until when I had my kids—everything changed. Then it was like, 'Oh my gosh, what did I put in my body? What did I do that for?' I loved being a father. I want to stay home with my kids, but I'm a musician, and I have to tour. That's how I make money. It was this push and pull."

Though Blink announced their indefinite hiatus in early 2005, Travis was still consumed with other groups, including +44, his rock supergroup with Hoppus, and TRV$DJAM, a collaboration with close pal DJ AM that saw Barker providing the beat for AM's selection of classic mixes.

It was the latter of which that saw him self-medicating for a 2008 trip to South Carolina, what he called his standard "breakfast" of four blunts, four Vicodin, one Valium and one Oxycodone cultivated to help temper his extreme fear of flying.

Ahead of that Sept. 19 return flight, his anxiety was particularly heightened, he recalled in his memoir. Alabama, in particular, was nervous about her dad's travels and "kept saying, 'The roof's gonna come off, Dad, the roof's gonna come off,'" he wrote. Before he boarded the Learjet 60 with AM, security guard Charles "Che" Still and longtime assistant Chris Baker, he called his father, confessing that something about the trip didn't feel right.

Within minutes of takeoff, the tires blew out and the plane's pilots struggled to regain control as the jet bounced through a fence before crashing into an embankment.

DJ AM, Travis Barker
DJ AM, Travis Barker

"The plane's on fire and my hands are on fire so I unbuckle my seat belt and I jump right into the jet, which holds all the fuel," he recalled on Good Morning America. "I basically ignite my whole body in fire. I'm so soaked in jet fuel, there's nothing I can do to put the fire out."

As he ran for his life, he stripped off his clothes "but I couldn't get the fire off me," he wrote in his book. "I was naked, moving as fast as I could, holding my genitals—everything else was on fire—and I kept running, hoping that would put out the flames. At that moment, I felt like I was running for my family."

Finally, AM caught up to him and helped pat out the fire. "About 60 seconds later, the plane exploded," he continued. "I was lying next to AM, screaming, 'Are we alive!?'"

Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest Of All Time, Show
Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest Of All Time, Show

He was, despite third-degree burns that covered 65 percent of his body, requiring four months-worth of procedures. Though Che, Chris and the two pilots aboard all died in the crash.

"I was suicidal in the hospital, masking everything from the pain of thinking, 'Are my friends dead? Do you have to amputate my foot?' I was completely done," he told Billboard. "And I paid the price for it, self-medicating for so long. I woke up during 11 of my 27 surgeries. That wasn't fun. And you wake up, and you don't know what's going on. You just feel extreme pain, and I'm trying to sock doctors and hit 'em. It really exposed what a mess I was."

At one point, he confessed on GMA, he was asking loved ones to help him die by suicide. "I would call friends of mine and go, 'You know, I'll deposit a million dollars into whoever's bank account. Like, I'm done."

The Black Women Who Ruled Music in 2001

As painful as that period was, there was a giant silver lining.

"After that it was like I had a second chance at life and so much changed," he told Billboard. "There was no more drug abuse. I already spent a lot of time with my kids, but they were all I hung out with, especially afterwards."

He reunited with his Blink-182 bandmates, the trio setting off on tour with Fall Out Boy, Weezer, All-American Rejects and other groups. Which is where he was not quite a year later when he learned AM had died from an accidental drug overdose on Aug. 28, 2009, Travis riding four days straight on a tour bus from their stop in Hartford, Conn., to make it to his funeral in California.

"He was my best friend," he told Billboard. "It was beyond friendship. It was like there was only one other person in the world. And then losing him and just wondering, 'F--k, is there something I could have done?' It was like the one thing that will never stop resurfacing in my head."

Travis Barker, Alabama Barker, Landon Barker, Atiana De La Hoya, 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards, Arrivals
Travis Barker, Alabama Barker, Landon Barker, Atiana De La Hoya, 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards, Arrivals

Still, he remains proud of his progress. "I went from being a little punk abusing stuff to having a second chance at life," he told Us Weekly. "I didn't want to take advantage of it. Being sober is the best thing that's ever happened to me."

The crash almost brought about another reunion: He and Shanna getting back together for a spell before returning to their volatile ways. Though they even attempted the ultimate in conscious uncoupling behavior, living under the same roof for the sake of the kids, things ultimately devolved in a December 2014 incident that saw Shanna call the police, both sides claiming the other had threatened them with violence. (Ultimately, neither was arrested.)

Six years on the exes have reached a détente of sorts, an insider insisting to Us Weekly they "are in a very good place coparenting their children."

Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, VMAs, Arrivals, Widget
Travis Barker, 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, VMAs, Arrivals, Widget

For the past decade, really, Barker has made good on the promise he scrawled out in the last line of his memoir: "I'm only halfway done. This book isn't the end of my story."

Still performing with Blink and other bands, using his tour bus to travel to U.S. concerts and making the weeklong trip across the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner for European shows, he's leaning hard into his role as industry elder.

Launching his own record label in 2019, "My whole point of even exploring this project is to look out for the artists, protect the artists, and guide the artists," he told Billboard last April. "I want to develop my artists way before bigger labels throw it against the wall."

Having the opportunity to work with a wide range of musicians, "The more my career has gone on, people have started to realize that I live in different genres. I'm able to produce some new genres and you can't really box me in or hold me to one genre of music," he continued. "Finding out how I fit into the rap world is one of the most awesome things that has ever happened to me."

Though we're guessing now he might be able to think of a few others.