An interview with The Complications!
by Oliver Sheppard
What would it sound like if Killing Joke and Motorhead had collaborated in 1982? You know, when Killing Joke were working on their apocalyptic, postpunk Revelations LP and when Motorhead were coming off the ungodly high of having finished their Ace of Spades masterpiece? You could argue that Montreal’s The Complications (named after a Killing Joke song, in fact) are one possibility. Post-punk d-beat? Whatever it is, it’s awesome.
This is an interview I did with The Complications in 2006 at my now-defunct Cultpunk site. But it’s still as timely as ever. At that time, in 2006, The Complications were billed as a side-project of Canadian d-beat monsters Born Dead Icons, a great band that I had the good fortune to see (and photograph) a few years before that, in Texas. In fact, The Complications did start as a more postpunk-oriented side project of Born Dead Icons. The Complications did eventually succeed the Born Dead Icons, however, and their self-titled LP finally came out in 2010 on Feral Ward, though it was recorded in 2007. I was lucky enough to get to interview them during that period.
A little backstory, first:
The Complications circulated a full-length demo in CD-R format in 2005. That demo has yet to be released officially, but I was lucky enough to hear it and was definitely blown away at that time, expecting as I was more of the same Born Dead Icons-style hardcore that the band’s principal members were known for playing. Instead, the Complications’ 2005 demo evinced a more mid-tempo, experimental, postpunk sound. In retrospect, in 2005 a few things were happening elsewhere, but in tandem, that all were driving d-beat bands to explore newer, more postpunk territory: The Observers/Red Dons were making waves in Portland, Oregon; Remains of the Day had spawned The Estranged; and bands like The Spectres and Deathcharge were beginning to explore a more deathrock sort of sound in their own sonic evolution. I think this post-d-beat exploration of postpunk territory has culminated in the modern deathrock resurgence.
I would never call The Complications a deathrock band, even though they cite (below) Killing Joke and The Cure and Siekiera as influences. There is still too much of a Motorhead/Inepsy/Born Dead Icons vibe to them. What these Chaos in Tejas vets did (do?) play is great, original, no-bullshit, modern rock and roll. Buy their LP at Feral Ward and support good modern punk rock and roll.
OLIVER: Is Complications a side-project of Born Dead Icons or is it a completely different band? What members are in Complications and what instruments do they play?
PETE(bassist): Complications was started when Born Dead Icons drummer Alex went to live in Germany for close to a year. Me (Pete) and Francis decided to start Complications to continue playing together and to try playing something a bit different. I play bass (as opposed to guitar in Born Dead Icons) and Francis sings. I guess you could say it is a side-project. Alex also started playing with us to replace Edouard, our old drummer.
OLIVER: How many releases do Complications have, and what are they?
PETE: We only have one release, a 10 song cd demo we released last year (in 2005 at the time of this interview). We also sent a song for a Slug & Lettuce benefit compilation but as far as I know it never came out, which is too bad because Christine (Slug & Lettuce editor) is an awesome person, and her zine totally deserves all the financial help it can get. (Obviously, this info is now outdated. Go to the Feral Ward site to buy their 7″ EP and their full length LP! – Oliver)
OLIVER: Did you get the name “Complications” from the Killing Joke song of that same name off the first Killing Joke self-titled LP from 1980? Does the band like Killing Joke at all?
PETE: Yes, I got the name from the KJ song. We’re all big Killing joke fans.
OLIVER: What are the main musical influences of Complications. To me it’s almost like Killing Joke-meets-Motorhead. Is that accurate? If not, what are your favorite bands to listen to?
PETE: I guess because of Francis’ voice we will always be compared to Motorhead! With this band though the influences are more varied. We’re all into new wave. I’ve been into Eastern European new wave for a while now (Klaus Mittfoch, Siekiera, Deuter…). We also like Killing Joke, of course. New Model Army, The Cure, Depeche Mode. The list goes on….
OLIVER: I’ve noticed the pace on most Complications songs is mid-tempo, and there is greater variety to the song structure: For example, the guitar will often be playing different notes than the bass. This gives the Complications sort of a post-punk sound. Would you say Complications are post-punk? If not, what style would say you play?
PETE: Hmm, the term post-punk makes me cringe. Some people have said we are post punk, but I don’t like to put too much emphasis on a label. We play what we play because we like it.
OLIVER: Politically, I understand Complications have some strong convictions. What are your feelings about capitalism?
PETE: Well, as an economical system capitalism does not really work. The 1929 stock market crash clearly show this, as well as the need for government intervention in the economy. Corporations have way too much power since by law they are considered a moral individual, just like you and me. They create needs the way drug dealers lure kids into “trying it a little,” just to see how it feels. At least half the products on the shelves in stores are completely useless to our well being, yet we need to buy, buy, buy — endlessly. Why? To feel good about ourselves, to reward ourselves for shitty days spent at work. The quest for more profits all the time has a huge human and environmental cost. I could go on for a while but I think I’ll stop here!
OLIVER: What can people do to resist capitalism and oppose wars that the US is starting in other countries right now?
PETE: Being conscious of what we buy. What companies we choose to encourage/boycott is a good first step. Capitalism is here to stay, unfortunately — at least until the world is made unliveable. Then we might realize what we have done wrong. We must be conscious of our choices as consumers, of their impact not only locally but also on a global scale.
OLIVER: Will you play the USA any time soon? I saw Born Dead Icons play with La Fraction in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2003 and it was a good show. Maybe we can see something like that again?
PETE: We have no touring plans so far. We might be recording some new songs this winter, but no dates have been decided yet.
OLIVER: What are the most important issues in the world right now, do you think? And can being in a punk rock band affect that in anyway?
PETE: Hmm, that’s a hard one. I think religious fundamentalism is the greatest danger right now. We see it popping up everywhere, not only in Muslim countries. It’s always easy to point the finger elsewhere. We have religious lunatics in our own backyard; the US right now [2006 … heh…*cough* – Oliver] is led by such fundamentalists. Women’s rights will be gone soon if they have their way. I think as far as society goes, this is the biggest problem. Being in a punk band will not do much to help solve that problem.
BUY The Complications’ 2010 LP here.
The Complications have a Facebook page here.