Zillion Happy Volts takes its name from the surreal 1989 art house film Dr. Caligari. “It’s one of my all time favorite cult movies,” says singer Davit Buck. “The phrase is heard in the scene where Gus Pratt, the cannibal, is asking Dr. Caligari to give him shock treatment, saying he already implanted needles in his own buttocks.”
Pratt: “Juice me, I’m a shiver boy. I got secret needles in my pokey globes. Pins and needles, the shiny kind. I’m riding a zillion happy volts…”
Founded in late 2010, the experimental punk-prog trio also includes drummer-turned-guitarist Greg Gerardi (Swore, Challenger Deep, Architect Sketch), and drummer Andrew Bracken.
“I talked them into the name by playing them Dr. Caligari clips over and over and over,” says Buck, who recruited the duo via Craigslist. “I said in the ads that I was pretty much stuck in the 1990s, and hated almost every band performing these days. They’re in their mid-30s, so I figure they know were I’m coming from.”
“Greg lived in New York City and is a huge fan of noise and no-wave bands. He plays guitar through a bass amp, and the sound is crazy, like some extremely drunk old funk guitarist picked up a broken guitar and tried to play some dance grooves. Andrew used to intern at Touch and Go Records, so he’s familiar with ‘90s noise rock, and he mixes in some odd time signatures with Brazilian-style drumming.”
Another influence behind the band is Tragic Mulatto, who Buck saw in 1987, at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. “I sat on the stage watching this band with two dirty dreadlocked girls with hairy armpits and no underwear under their dresses. Off to the right, the male guitarist was also wearing a dress, doing wiener windmills as they sang Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with a tuba and trombone. I was mesmerized by the show; it changed my life, as well as my expectations for live rock and roll shows.”
For their live shows, “I’ll be singing through a CB microphone,” says Buck, “and using bent circuit toys, a loop station, an Atari console, a coyote distress call, a kid-flute recorder, and I do this thing with toilet paper rolls…we may use all the noise devices for this instrumental we’re working on, which usually runs about seven minutes.”
“Maybe longer, if the audience isn’t into it.”
Buck previously fronted the Homeless Sexuals. But, “After trying to keep the band alive for almost fifteen years, I just let it die.” He says those were some lean times. “I lived in a car parked in the Food for Less lot, so I’d have twenty-four hour bathroom access. I ate SpaghettiOs straight from the can. I had to sell my original Dischord seven inch records, like Minor Threat, SOA, and Teen Idles, just so I could buy insulin.”
Their 2011 7-inch “Bruise” includes cover art hand-colored (each of 500 copies) with crayons and colored pencils by singer Davit Buck.