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The Pain Factory (1995-1997)

For about three decades, Michael Contreras has been one of the most consistently intriguing artists in the Industrial Noise scene, beginning under the name Trucido, then as Death Squad, and most recently as MK9. Anyone who has followed his prolific output through the years has recognized Contreras’ versatile use of multi-media elements, including text, photography, performance, and video. Another major piece of his body of work was almost lost, however, nearly forgotten since the mid-1990s: The Pain Factory.

In 1995, Contreras, then an employee at Channel 53, San Francisco’s Public Access TV station, decided to curate and produce a monthly TV show showcasing Industrial/Noise/Experimental music and film. It is difficult to understate how subversive The Pain Factory series was. In the pre-internet era, public access TV provided the only platform by which controversial imagery and art could be broadcast to the world at large, and Contreras maximized the use of this peculiar medium, pushing the boundaries in ways that were unfathomable at the time. Contreras, and the artists whose work he projected over the airwaves to often unsuspecting viewers, were unconstrained and confrontational—so much so that the show was threatened with lawsuits and featured in local papers due to the extremity of the imagery.

The Pain Factory is also notable because it offers a snapshot of the mid-1990s Noise scene. The years 1995-1997 arguably represented the scene’s peak output, in terms of quantity and quality, and yet, it was strikingly underdocumented. The Pain Factory offers a unique record of the musical and visual activity of some of the era’s most significant figures and captures the aesthetic breadth of the Noise scene at large in that era, before rote adherence to self-imposed rules and sub-categories became the new norm in the 2000s. The quality is also impressive. These aren’t basement camcorder videos; The Pain Factory was a legitimate television broadcast program, and many of the performances featured here were recorded live in the Channel 53 TV studio.

Unless you lived in the Bay Area during the mid-1990s, it was impossible to see The Pain Factory. Only a single set of U-matic and S-VHS tapes exists, which Contreras himself kept safe through the years. The show was never widely tape-traded and has never made its way onto the internet. Contreras has spent nearly two years restoring and digitizing the entire series in an effort to rescue them from analog oblivion. It is, therefore, a major revelation to finally see an official presentation of this material, jointly released by Contreras’ own Spastik Kommunikations label and Influencing Machine Records.

This 4-DVD set features 16 page full-color booklet with original flyers and artwork and liner notes by G.X. Jupitter-Larsen, Scott Arford, J. Campbell, Jeff Gunn and Michael Contreras. It contains approximately 13 hours of footage, including nearly every performance and video submission broadcast as part of The Pain Factory series:

Live Performances:
Killer Bug
Crawl Unit
Flat Tire
Spastic Colon
The Haters
Big City Orchestra
Not Breathing
Dr. Crystal Mess
Anal Sadist
Hungry Ghost
Chris Cobb & Yael Bartana
Moe! Staiano
Death Squad
Frank Moore
Glass Crash

Taped Submissions and Performances by:
The Amputease
Scott Arford
Genetic Death Cell
The Haters
Death Squad
Rotten Jesus
Electronic Karma Sutra
Frank Moore
Death Keeps Me Awake

Short Films and Video:
The Digger
Snuff Balloon
Holes On The Neck
Institutional Broadcast
TV Homicide
Dahmer Spectacle

Additional information

Weight 0.188 kg
Dimensions 19 × 13.5 × 1.7 cm