If there is anything more heavy metal than a man in a chainmail suit chugging out Iron Maiden riffs between two seven foot Tesla Coils while lighting bolts lash his body and guitar, I’ll eat my shoe.
Joe DiPrima, founding member of ArcAttack, an Austin, Texas-based performance group, has been riding the lighting all weekend long at 2013 Maker Faire. Donning his Faraday suit of armor in web of voltage, DiPrima has been truly shocking Faire attendees all weekend long by performing along side his Singing Tesla Coils.
Steve Ward, one of the long-standing members of ArcAttack who helped develop the coils in 2005, told Make Magazine he was playing around with sold state Tesla coil technology, which was pretty new at the time. “I could control the pitch with a potentiometer,” he said. “The first time Joe saw this thing, he immediately wanted to control it musically.”
A standard Tesla coil traditionally had two knobs to control the pulse rate and pulse width. “I got ride of the interrupter circuit, made a pulse rate modulator out of a keyboard, and played it like a piano,” DiPrima said.
The current version of the coils ArcAttack brought to this year’s Maker Faire are 14 kilowatts coils that output 600,000 volts and shoot out 10-foot bolts of lightning.
“Each time the air is energized it heats up and makes a pressure wave, producing ticking sounds,” Ward said. “We control the rate, the audio pitch, like 440 snaps a second corresponds to concert A. Anything that can source MIDI will work, whether a computer, keyboard or MIDI guitar.”
He added: “Joe brewed up some custom hardware, a MIDI player/MP3 player and controller. We compose a MIDI track to be played on the coils while the audio tracks play on the PA system.”
For their performances, ArcAttack also likes to invite audience members onstage to dance in a Faraday cage, which keeps them safe. On Day One of the Maker Faire, a clear standout of audience participation was a 10-year old boy named Marcus who flashed some impressive robotic moves as ArcAttack drudged through a rendition of Darth Vadar’s theme, “The Imperial March.”