(Article by Dominik Salter, originally published in the June 2006 issue of Shanghai Talk)
On a dry Sunday afternoon in May, artists from Asia, America and Europe took over the Yu Yin Tang venue to celebrate Shanghai's growing Noise Art scene. I left that evening with an armful of new records, as well as what felt like several flies buzzing around inside my head. "Was there a noise scene in Shanghai before you guys?" I asked Junky, of locals Torturing Nurse (TN): "Never!" he replied proudly.
One of the first acts up that afternoon were 10: Marqido from Japan, and Itta from South Korea. Bizarrely enough, 10 base their sound on the color red. Dressed in an outfit that would send a bull over the edge, Itta used her voice and various toy instruments to create shrill bursts of sound, set against layers of pulsing feedback from Marqido's laptop.
Ben Houge, a sound designer from Seattle, America, graced the stage in a tuxedo and bow tie. To the glee of the predominantly Chinese audience, Ben began by reciting a speech made by Mao Tse Tung in 1943. He then programmed his computer to erratically spit snippets of the speech, eventually resulting in a thick mesh of jumbled dialogue.
Hosts of the event, Torturing Nurse performed an eardrum bursting set of their trademark sound: screaming feedback, screaming, and more feedback. Pioneers of Shanghai's noise scene, the origins of Torturing Nurse can be traced back to members Misuzu (Fan Qiang) and Junky (Cao Jun Jun). In 2001 they formed Junkyard, a nu-wave band influenced by Japanese avant-rock legends Boredoms. Then, according to Junky: "In 2002, I downloaded tons of Japanoise (Japanese noise) via Soulseek." This led Misuzu and Junky to form Torturing Nurse in 2004, a band "dedicated to noise art and performance" (Junky).
2004 also saw the establishment of Sasha, a label run by TN. Finally Shanghai's growing scene, supported by artists such as Wang Changcun (originally from Harbin) and Hang Zhou's D!O!D!O!D! could release its efforts.
Although having a fan base that spans all over the globe, TN attract a relatively small audience in Shanghai. A far cry from the wet-the-bed indie rock that some prominent bars exhibit, they sound extreme even when paralleled with Beijing's most savage punk bands. Though it is not only TN's intensity that sets them apart: Junky, TN's front man, spends the duration of a show throwing himself around, screaming and committing heinous crimes to an already battered Sony tape player. As the bands aural assault is reinforced by his frantic onstage antics, it is Junky who transforms TN from just harsh noise to an act of performance art.
Torturing Nurse's next performance will be on July 9th, at Yu Yin Tang. Citizens, beware.