about me

About the complex engine.

the complex engine is the project of audio nerd and musician mike stoodley, previously bass player in the Verlaines and the Broken Heartbreakers. After playing in those bands, mike set out with goals to a) make music he wanted to hear but wasn’t, b) have as little harmonic movement as possible, and c) have as few words as possible. The phrase “lyrical scarcity and melodic primitivism” was coined.

In the interests of making the music at least marginally listenable, these ideals are strayed from, but the complex engine has no interest in aligning with current norms. The complex engine has been variously described as:
– great layers of sound, pumping beats, sweet gats and moody laconic vox
– flickers of cabaret voltaire
– jabs early 80s gaelo-celtic geetar melody generously wrapped in an Eno-esque crust with undertones of post-industrial industrialness
– like Rob Zombie meets Elvis Costello at the Magic Roundabout

Very broadly, the complex engine project was inspired by the Associates “Fourth Drawer Down” – an unusual collection of b-sides and oddments. It is one of my favourite things.


I hit Dunedin in late 1984, after an unfortunate year as a trainee studio operator at what was then the NZ Broadcasting Corporation. Formative experiences were growing up watching the Skeptics in Palmerston North, hearing the Gordons first mini LP in I guess 83, hearing the Dunedin Double while in Wellington in early 84, seeing the Chills and Childrens Hour at Victoria Uni in early 84, and later that year hearing Death and the Maiden (I threw it out), Pink Frost (I kept it) and 10 O’Clock in the Afternoon (I kept it). It should be self-evident that I went to Dunedin because of the music scene, and I can confirm that it was every bit as exciting and wonderful as legend has it.

Between late 88 and early 94 – about 5 1/2 years – I played bass in The Verlaines. I wrote about this at http://www.grimalco.com/ but the site is down (I’ll try to retrieve it from waybackmachine sometime). During that time we recorded Some Disenchanted Evening, Ready To Fly and Way Out Where, toured the US several times (the last supporting Buffalo Tom), played in Australia quite a bit (where we met the mighty Crow), and recorded RTF & WOW in Sydney and LA respectively. It was a privilege to play with those guys, and when I look back on it I think thank god I spent my 20’s doing that instead of sitting in an office.

I left the Verlaines when it became apparent that money would be required to sustain a reasonable life, so I went to university and ended up with an IT degree, specialising in IT security. During all of this time in Dunedin I did a fair bit of audio engineering, primarily at the student radio station Radio 1, and live sound as well. I engineered a heap of local recordings in the tiny Radio One 8 and then 16 track studio, most of course never heard beyond Dunedin. There was plenty of good stuff that never made it to Flying Nun. Some that I recorded and were sort of released were the Tin Soldiers “Crush the Dream”, Glove Puppet’s “Someone Else’s Dream”, My Deviant Daughter and The Puddle’s “Songs for Emily Valentine” (now available from Fishrider Records). Most of the Flying Nun recordings were done by Tex Houston and Stephen Kilroy at Fish St Studios.

I made a very dubious attempt to play big band jazz with Kiri and the Musagees. Kiri is Paul Winder’s sister, and I played with Paul in the Verlaines. Jeff Harford, ex Bored Games, The Rip, The Weeds and My Deviant Daughter, now freelance  journalist and public service radio coordinator, was fellow conspirator in the Musagees. Jeff currently drums in Die Musikband, with John from The Broken Heartbreakers on guitar.

Post-degree, after a year tutoring, my wife and I upped sticks and went to Auckland to chase the big career $…hmmm. I returned briefly to help (with Stephen Stedman) record Valve’s “E Minor” which IMHO is an unheralded classic.

10 years later, I joined up with ex Dunedinite and former Tin Soldier John Howell and his band with Rachel Bailey, The Broken Heartbreakers. I played bass with them for about 3 years, playing on Wintersun, also featuring Sam Prebble and Myles Alpress, before J & R went on their world tour together via Melbourne, Ireland, Melbourne and then finally to Dunedin. They have written some magical songs and playing with them was often a fantastic experience, equal but quite the opposite in so many ways from the Verlaines.

In 2011 I helped my friend and ex-Verlaine Paul Winders record his second full cd Boy Dust. I played bass on it, and really for the first time I had the freedom to do what I wanted, so it was very satisfying from that perspective. I also did a lot of the guitars, giving (I think) a bit of a different sound/feel to Paul’s songs from what he expected…..We played 3 gigs – Dunedin, Riverton, and Queenstown. Not surprisingly, Kiri sang and played keyboards on the cd and the gigs. Riverton in particular was an amazing community experience, quite unlike a rock gig, as the wider Winder’s clan is in the Southland area and all generations turned out.

In 2015, I helped the Broken Heartbreakers record another great cd, How We Got to Now.

The Complex Engine it is simply me making the music I want to make instead of fitting in with other people’s ideas. I’m not trying to be anything or sound like anything in particular, although doubtless my influences will be spottable. I do however get sick of sensitive singer-songwriters, banjo’s and alt-country music.  I believe I have succeed in avoiding those things, and in fact have coined the term “lyrical scarcity and melodic primitivism” to help keep me on track.

I still live in Auckland, a place which I have to work hard to like,  and I have a day job as an IT security consultant because music doesn’t pay the bills.

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