Travis Hough. Illustration by Claudia Escobar/KQED
Travis Hough. (Illustration by Claudia Escobar/KQED)

Travis Hough, Synth Composer and Singer Who Inspired East Bay Students

Travis Hough, Synth Composer and Singer Who Inspired East Bay Students

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In the days after his son's death, Brian Hough shared of a photo of Travis Hough in a Facebook remembrance. It shows Travis as a young man with long hair and a wry smile.

The story Brian posted perfectly matches the photo.

Travis Hough
Travis Hough.

He remembers taking Travis and a high school bandmate on a trip to Reno. “They strode into the Reno Hilton with guitars on their backs, Doc Martens, and rock star attitudes,” Brian writes.

Soon after checking in, Brian says he, “got a call from security that they had been seen ‘smoking’ and were in the basement. I went down and with righteous indignation told these security guys to leave them alone... Rock on you crazy diamonds.”

Hough, who died at age 35 in the Oakland warehouse fire, rocked on as a member of Ghost of Lightning, an electro-synth group that regularly played in Oakland. With the thick textures of his analog synthesizer, Hough wrote and performed intricate, goth-pop originals and, in some cases, David Bowie covers.


“Brilliant, for one,” says Michelle Campbell, founder of the Oakland-based artist management company, Mixtape Artist Management, describing Hough and the two other artists she also worked with who were lost in the fire. “Extremely, extremely talented. They were experimenting always with the different sounds they were able to create.”

Travis Hough
Travis Hough.

“Travis believed that healing through music is not only possible, but also necessary, and shared that belief with others in everything that he did,” reads a message about Hough on the Mixtape Artist Management website.

One fan wrote on the band’s Facebook page: “I knew your sparkling spirit through your really great music and you bringing together the synth community in your neck of the woods, and bringing therapy in the form of expression.”

In addition to his life as a musician, Hough also worked as an expressive arts therapist at the West Contra Costa Unified School District. The school district also lost Sara Hoda, another teacher in its community. Superintendent Matttew Duffy echoes many: “The loss," he says, "is heartbreaking."


Hear Hough's music in Ghost of Lightning here.

See Hough performing here.

For more of our tributes to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, please visit our remembrances page here.

For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.