Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums
By: Travis Barker, Gavin Edwards. Reviewed by: Grant Bailey
Travis Barker has spent too much time on fire. The plane crash that claimed the lives of everyone on board besides the famed Blink-182 drummer, causing severe burns to most of his body, forms the traumatic focal point of Can I Say. It is another period of breakdown in his life; the death of his mother in his teens, the early struggle as a working musician, then the long months recovering in a burns unit fostering a painkiller dependency. Travis turned these tumultuous events into a catalyst for his drumming, using his kit as rehabilitation, feeding his preternatural drive to be a world class musician.
While fans of Blink-182 may find the backstage insight presented here a little light, drummers looking for techniques, configurations and advice will find plenty to work with. Travis has many passions; his family, his business (the outrageously lucrative Famous Stars and Straps apparel), restored Cadillacs; but drumming is the one constant. Can I Say takes us from toddler Travis’s first pots and pans set, through his formative years drilling rudiments in a marching band, before his leap into the relentless life of a punk rock musician. We learn that at the core of his success is an insane work ethic, driven in part by a personality prone to addiction. Every aspect of his life is characterised by excess, regardless of his social or financial standing. When he was young and poor, living in an impoverished area of the Inland Empire, his addictions were sex, drums and shows. Finding success only extended this list to include all the trappings of rock star life, from a prodigious weed habit, a playboy bunny wife and a fund-guzzling entourage.
Just as in other notable rock star autobiographies – Scar Tissue and The Dirt spring to mind – the fall is as pivotal as rise, only this time the burnout is literal, covered in flaming jet fuel and blistered flesh. Can I Say’s greatest success is the tone it achieves. Travis’s mannerisms, lingual habits (everything is ‘dope,’ from his first batch of stickers to his newborn son) and personality are faithfully captured (by ghostwriter Gavin Edwards), which makes his slightly absurd obsession with practice pads and a rusted-out Cadillac more endearing than off-putting . In fact, his more deplorable behaviour, particularly Travis’s attitude towards women, is given an innocent sheen, vital to dull the emotional havoc he causes all around him in pursuit of paradiddles, penetration and painkillers.