Kompleksi ("complex" in Finnish) are Mike Not and pHinn, two ex-suicide candidates from Tampere, Finland, who ride in a red Lada through the gloomy streets of their rainy post-industrial town; the home of ice hockey fanatics, world's last working Lenin Museum and countless sex shops. They started making music together in 2002. Kompleksi's music is black with splashes of day-glo. Since 1996, pHinn (vocals, keyboards) has maintained the sprawling pHinnweb
MN: Mike Not
pH: We are Kompleksi, also known as Mike Not and pHinn. Mike produces, engineers, programs, plays keyboards and so on. I write lyrics and some melodies, sing (or something), and fiddle a bit with keyboards, though I can't actually play much of anything, but gladly Mike will patch up any of my own technical shortcomings (so much about my "musicianship").
MN: "I'll let Napoleon answer this question first" -- oh, first I ought to let you know that I'm a schizophrenic myself... Only kidding here: just a joke and choking on my own sarcasm.
Yeah! pHinn just had it all to the point.
pH: We both originate from Kaukajärvi, a suburb of Tampere, Finland. It's an area consisting of Soviet-style concrete blocks mostly built in the 1970s, surrounded by lush greenery, forests and Lake Kaukajärvi which gives the suburb its name, so there's a lot of breathing space too and it's not totally angstful there. I spent the whole of my childhood and teenage years in Kaukajärvi, and Mike still lives there, just opposite our old school -- which can be quite weird at times. Actually, we got to know each other much later on when I wanted to write something to my website about Mike's Noise Production project.
Mike Not has produced music since the early ‘90s, having collected a considerable home studio together. Alongside his own musical projects, Mike has also engineered and mixed music of other acts, such as the hip hop posse Nuera and their spin-off comedy act Petri Nygärd which actually reached Finnish charts. Furthermore, Mike has produced a local goth rock band called Suruaika. I guess I'm probably best known for the pHinnWeb.org WWW site I maintain about Finnish electronic and leftfield music. We have both also worked as DJs, and we had in 2005 our own club called Eclectro Lounge at a local Iranian bar called Apadana.
MN: I'm originally from a musical and artistic family, and as pHinn said, we both come from the same area.
pH: Well, I guess Mike Not is more a technical-minded type who knows computers and musical hardware like his own pockets whereas I'm more a bleeding-heart humanist myself, with a love for all things bookish and arty. I suppose we both share a sort of an interest in all things mystical that go bump in the night.
MN: For me, it should be the interest and pleasure of everything weird.… As said, I actually handle the technical side to my best abilities and understanding. And of course the beauty and quiet of nature and my interest in everything "super"-natural or strange, which -- in the end -- is all quite natural... Heh!
MN: The answer to this is really up to pHinn. I just offered my own skills and hardware for the project, which provided for me something else to do when I felt creatively burnt out myself. And I guess I wanted to see if I can collaborate with anyone else since I've always worked on my own, so now a chance to try something different came along.
pH: Kompleksi was started in summer 2002 to create a remix of a track of my previous project, called Club Telex Noise Ensemble, a short-lived electronic/improv act. Actually I would have liked to continue with CTNE but the other members were not too excited about that, so I thought it might be better to start a totally new project and collaborate with Mike, who had helped me out a lot with my own CDR label called pHinnMilk and other things. Hoping that our project together also would help Mike to get his own thing through: after all, for over a decade he has created tons of great material that should absolutely be heard by people but remains to this day archive-only.
Well, the resulting remix of ours was called “The Only Star In My Sky”, which was released for the first time in 2003 on a remix compilation called "CTNERMX". Then more Kompleksi tracks gradually came along; some of them 100% our own material, some others in collaboration with such artists as Polytron, Unidentified Sound Objects and Citizen Omega.
By the way, Kompleksi ("complex") got its name inspired by an early ‘80s Finnish synth-pop act called Stressi, and also a student paper my father edited in 1960s, called Neuroosi: I thought Kompleksi would nicely fit in this line.
MN: ... Contro corrente -- we won't retreat. As M.A. Numminen, one old musical teacher of ours says.
pH: Our motto is "We don't follow trends, we make them". Now, "who the hell those Kompleksi nitwits think they are?" you may say, but we'd really like to create music which would be more than a derivative retro pastiche of something which was created decades ago already. So many people these days seem to be content being like that, with all those fashionable genres recycling the music of the past, like it was still 1969 or 1979.
I know some of these "Finnish forest folk" people myself, for example, but unfortunately most of that stuff doesn't do much to me (except perhaps for Kemialliset Ystävät, which I absolutely love). No disrespect to these people but musically or lyrics-wise those don't say anything to me about my own life; a lot of that stuff to me sounds like a regression-to-childhood-fairytale-land trip, away from the ugly real world. Whereas in our own songs I try to embrace that world.…
Of course we are also influenced by various different music styles of the past; for example, a song of ours like “(I Ain't) No Lovechild” pays tribute to Iggy Pop and the early Stooges or ‘60s garage rock, but the difference is that our track is created electronically, not with guitars. You have to find a new approach, a new twist so that the things would keep progressing.
But seriously, in the end our goal is to perform in Las Vegas -- like Sinatra, Elvis and Billy Idol did before us -- wearing gold lame suits, doing duets with Dolly Parton, leading that Hugh Hefner
lifestyle and stuff.
pH: In that case we want to be abducted by aliens, taken off this planet and spend the rest of our lives in some other solar system as the musical and cultural ambassadors of Earth.
MN: I'll do just what I can; that is, I "UFO".
pH: Kompleksi, in English the word "complex", has multiple dictionary meanings such as "an intricate or complicated association or assemblage of related things, parts, units, etc.", or "a system of interrelated, emotion-charged ideas, feelings, memories, and impulses that is usually repressed and that gives rise to abnormal or pathological behaviour; a fixed idea, an obsessive motion", and being synonymous to "involved, perplexing, knotty, tangled, labyrinthine", a "network, web, maze". It can refer to a building complex, a psychological complex -- or the military-industrial complex.
Therefore, Kompleksi is an outcome of some very diverse and probably not so obvious elements working together (and you have to remember we have done musical collaboration tracks with other people too, so that brings on yet another level, of working as a complex/loose collective), although trying to find the end result through electronic sounds. I like all sorts of rock 'n' roll, guitar pop and some folk things, and am really influenced by them, for example, but I personally can't figure out guitar as an instrument, and find the idea of starting another electric-guitar-bass-"real"-drums-based band only redundant for myself. If someone else wants to do it, fine for them, but my own interests lie somewhere else, and I refuse to accept all those stupid cliched ideas some people have about "cold", "unemotional" and "false", "unauthentic" electronic sounds – because those are exactly the means through which I search for my own self-expression and identity, my own "truth" and even that emotional warmth that makes us human beings. In fact, I consider myself just another old-fashioned "singer-songwriter", even though I don't go around strumming an acoustic guitar.
Personally, it was the example of Chicks on Speed which gave that decisive spark for me to try my hand with making music; to give a form to those long unpronounced dreams, fantasies and vague ideas that had been lying dormant there for years. That if those girls with no musical training but with enough guts and just having a sort of vision could do it, then why not me too? After all, that kind of approach is what punk was all about. And what John Lydon further explains in his autobiography: "You don't need to be technically proficient at your so-called art to write songs. If you are musically proficient, usually you won't be any good at writing songs because you won't be able to express your feelings. You'll be bogged down in the technology of note perfections, set patterns, and set ideas". In other words, freedom to find your own way, your own idiosyncratic expression, and not care about what the "rock police" might think.
Incidentally, about the same time as we started, summer 2002, I wrote for my Website a satirical text called "The Great Electroclash Swindle"
, making fun of the music and fashion trend currently in vogue then. Ironically, Kompleksi could be called my own take on the "Electroclash Swindle", Mike Not being the producer guru to my more or less pretentious and air-headed pop star dreams. In the end, though, "electroclash" -- which potentially might have produced something interesting -- was mostly shallow, derivative (an uninspired blend of electropop, disco, glam styles, etc.) and unoriginal; just a fashion accessory at the end of the day. I hope there's far more substance and depth of emotion in what we are doing ourselves.
pH: Technological fantasies have been prevalent in electro music but Kompleksi are not robots, androids or cyborgs -- we are human beings who laugh, cry and feel. Yet, as a species our continuing survival depends on our constant adaptation to the ever-changing environment. That environment is inevitably shaped by technology, the effects of which can be both utopian and dystopian, Heaven and Hell. We can respond to this by being either machine-smashing Luddites or flesh-despising Transhumanists, but I think both approaches basically represent a sort of unrealistic tunnel vision. For us technology is an everyday common tool to be used, not something to worship. We keep evolving through a process of hybridization and miscegenation but most of all --mutation. Kompleksi explores and celebrates this (post-post-post) modern mutant identity through a carnival of music and imagery which includes both comedy and tragedy (does this sound pompous enough?), the beauty, sadness and ridiculousness of it all.
pH: Do your exercises, eat your vegetables, be nice to little old ladies, keep watching the skies. And give us a record deal.
MN: Zardoz has spoken.
-- Jani Hellén (31 July, 2006)