Travis Barker has been secretly dealing with the loss of his former business partner over the past year after he took his own life.
In case you didn’t know, streetwear designer Johan “Yo” Esbensen founded the California-based clothing brand Rogue Status/DTA in 2005 and later brought on the Blink-182 drummer as an investor and partner. While the business shut down at one point, Travis ended up bringing back the DTA name – which stands for Don’t Trust Anyone – for a record label he created in December 2019. However, he did so without Johan by his side. Oof. Now, The Sun revealed on Wednesday that the fashion designer sadly died by suicide at 45 last year — something, friends shared with the outlet , that completely shocked Travis even though they seemingly weren’t close anymore.
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And while it sounds like the pair had been on the outs over the business, Johan’s mom Cattis Esbensen fired back at the claim to the outlet that the failure of their company was what led to his death. She said:
“It was not a business thing. That wasn’t even at the top of his list. He gave me like 10 reasons in his journal that he wrote about and that was not it. Let’s talk about mental illness. Let’s talk about a lifetime of not feeling like you fit in with the rest of the world, like you were out of step with the rest of the world. Let’s talk about a failed relationship. I want to encourage people to reach out and don’t turn your backs on people. I would urge anyone to seek support if they feel that they have a need for mental health counseling.”
Although Cattis shut down that the business had anything to do with his death, the 70-year-old noted that Johan and Travis were no longer close after her son was not involved in the new venture of DTA. She explained:
“Johan moved back to Canada in 2019. He left LA and that whole scene probably in around 2014. He could not stomach LA. (After that) he did not have anything to do with Travis Barker. He lived in Ojai for a while and because of other circumstances, he decided to return to Canada. I don’t want to say anything about the way it went down.”
“I just know that that relationship and that friendship kind of went by the wayside. Maybe they still had some contact, but I doubt it very much. I think Travis’s life went in a very different direction than my son’s. The oomph of DTA disappeared when my son left DTA.”
Despite still grieving her son’s death, Cattis stressed she was not “angry” with him and just misses him all the time:
“I’m not angry with him, I miss him, but he did what he needed to do to fulfil his life. He left me a big, long journal, so I know why he did things the way he did.”
Another close friend, Buttsy Butler, believed a recent breakup had “affected him more than anything business-wise.” Meanwhile, a fashion industry insider who had been closed to Johan also told The Sun his death agreed with Cattis that it was a “culmination of a lot of things” that led to his death, adding:
“DTA originally was one of the coolest streetwear brands in the world. But once the company partnered with Travis the focus shifted more into volume. The firm was selling at big box stores and then the 2008 economic crash happened. The big box stores weren’t buying as much. On top of that, the company had lost its core market because fans accused it of selling out to the establishment. And Yo also had personal problems. He ended up moving back to Canada.”
The friend claimed Johan was living on a ranch and working as a carpenter for a while, while Cattis claimed he was a construction worker. The pal went on to say:
“I spoke to him a couple of weeks before he died and he was talking about moving back to LA. And then it happened.”
So, so sad…
Even though Travis and Johan had been estranged at the time, no doubt this must have been hard for the 46-year-old musician as he already went through an immense tragedy when he was involved in a 2008 plane crash that left him seriously injured and killed four people. Less than a year after the accident, his best friend Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein – who had been injured in the crash – passed away from an overdose.
Our hearts go out to Travis and Johan’s love ones as they continue to mourn this loss.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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