Atlanta music: Travis Thatcher

Travis Thatcher has been on the Atlanta music scene since 2000 as part of the local-turned-international band Judi Chicago ( ) and founder and member of Recompas ( ), a collective of live and electronic music. Thatcher is also the designer behind the Voice of Saturn line of electronic musical instruments, a perfect vehicle to combine his two life loves: music and technology. The Georgia Tech grad takes that techie love a step further by indelibly inking himself with tributes to some of his scientific heroes.

As a kid, I lived in a northern suburb of Philadelphia, so, of course, I grew up hearing about Benjamin Franklin. My grandfather worked at IBM as a systems programmer for 30 years. He was also a car mechanic and a jet mechanic in the Air Force and even taught me some basic programming and computer stuff back in the day when nobody had a computer at home. We did all sorts of science experiments, and we would build things. At that point, I was about 4 or 5 and I really got into it — I was a super nerdy kid. As I got older, I got more into electronics and making things and always had [those early experiments] in the back of my mind.

In high school, my friends and I got third place in the International Science Fair, which oddly enough was in Philadelphia that year. I went on to go to Georgia Tech for computer science and programming and really fell into science and technology. I decided I wanted to get a tattoo [to honor that] and had it in my head that Ben Franklin would be a cool tattoo to get.

That was the first one I got — I was about 21. It’s taken from an old commemorative stamp from 1920 that’s based on a painting in the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. It’s this giant painting of him holding a key. I saw it and knew it was exactly what I wanted to get. I went to Phil [Colvin], who now owns Memorial Tattoo, and got it as a half sleeve on my right arm. A couple of years ago we played a show in Philadelphia and we went to the Franklin Institute and I [pointed to the tattoo] and said, “Where is this?” They were like, “Oh, my God, it’s on loan, but that is amazing!”

I wanted to get one on the other side, if just for the symmetry, and was thinking about other scientific stuff. I’d always been interested in Leon Theremin. He was a Russian scientist who had a super interesting life. He wanted to travel the world and make these instruments [the Theremin is one of the first electronic musical instruments in history], but he was also this Russian spy who invented the first wiretap bug. I found a picture of him playing one of his Theremins as a younger guy and I have that on my left arm.

I have one other tattoo and that one is a vacuum tube on my left arm, which is totally a science/music nerd thing. Once I started, I saw that a theme was developing here.

I’ve had a lot of people suggest ideas for more. Something like Tesla — which would be pretty awesome. I want to keep it like a hall of fame.

As told to Alison Abbey, for the AJC