THE BURNING HELL is the alter-ego of Canadian songwriter Mathias Kom, and the band has been on the road in one form or another since 2007, playing everywhere from the chaos of Glastonbury to the loneliness of the Arctic Circle, popping up in bars, festival tents, living rooms, abandoned bunkers, and a mental asylum in rural France along the way.
Musically, the lineup and sound of the Burning Hell has been ever-changing, running the gamut from introspective folk to hyperactive rock and roll; meaning no two Burning Hell records sound alike.
In the company of incredibly witty, humorous lyrics and a real knack for storytelling, listeners are treated to a vivid adventure through hooky, upbeat pop songs, dark ballads about pet euthanasia, and anthems for barbarians, economic conferences, and love.
As The Burning Hell prepare to release studio album #8, they have embarked on a ferocious tour across Europe & N. America, and this Saturday, September 23, they roll into Newbridge town, for an intimate and special Broken Home show, with support from local indie merchants Fresco Future.
Ahead of the weekend’s show I caught up with The Burning Hell’s Mathias Kom, to chat about the project, touring and all things music.
Tell us a little bit about The Burning Hell. How did it come about? Where did the name come from?
“Ages ago, some lunatic religious zealot handed me a tract with a shitty-looking devil on the front that said “The Burning Hell” on it in fiery letters, and it was all about how good deeds won’t save you from Satan’s jaws, et cetera. At that exact moment I had been wondering what to call this new folky recording project I had started; the name seemed perfectly inappropriate, and it’s been that way ever since.”
Your lyrics are all incredibly witty, humorous and you’ve a real knack for storytelling? Is that something that’s particularly important for you to get across when writing the songs?
“Thank you, and yes—I find it amazing how many songwriters treat lyrics as an afterthought, since to me there’s not a lot of point in singing intelligible words if they’re not going to be compelling or at least not completely asinine. To paraphrase Thumper the cartoon rabbit: if you can’t sing anything interesting, don’t sing anything at all.”
Similarly, there is a big Hip Hop presence within your music, how big of an influence has it been on you and your music?
“Hip hop has been a fairly large influence on me, mostly because for the last three and a half decades most of the great lyricists have been rappers.”
In the run up to the release of your 8th studio album Revival Beach can you tell us about some of the inspirations behind it?
“Revival Beach is an album about the apocalypse, or more accurately different kinds of apocalypse, and different perspectives on the experience of an apocalypse. So there’s a song that’s a letter from an editor to the author of a post-apocalyptic young adult novel, a song about crashing a wedding and hiding under a table with the bride while a nuclear blast happens in the distance, a song about spending your last night on earth working at a boring martini bar, a song about the apocalyptic scale of police brutality in recent years, and so on. Something for everyone! As for inspiration, I don’t know, must be something in the air these days…”
As someone who has been touring so vigorously for the last number of years, what is it that attracts you to life on the road?
“The romantic answer is that I love new experiences, meeting new people, hearing new music, and the thrill of sharing my own music with different audiences. The practical answer is that touring is how I pay my rent. Both answers are true.”
Let’s talk about your current tour – how has it gone so far? What can Burning Hell fans, old and new, expect?
“We’ve just started our most recent tour, and had a really fantastic time at End of the Road in the UK, followed by a two-week romp around northern Scotland with Jeffrey Lewis. It’s all been great so far. As far as expectations go: Burning Hell fans will see a different version of the band, as we’ve reformed as a trio, with Ariel on bass clarinet and drums, and Darren on bass and bouzouki. So a lot of old songs have been reworked in what I think are interesting new ways, and we’ll be playing a lot from our new record as well.”
You don’t get very many bands from Canada coming to places like Newbridge and it’s great to see an artist/musician visiting smaller towns as well as the big cities. Is getting the opportunity to perform in lesser known haunts something you enjoy about touring?
“It depends on the haunt, but generally, yes. I love playing in places where we have almost no idea what to expect.”
I’m guessing you’ve never been to Newbridge before, what have you heard about it and its reputation?
“I don’t know a thing about Newbridge, but the fact that you mention “its reputation” is ominous already—a reputation for knife violence, maybe? Religious cults? Car theft? Of course I realize you may also be hinting at “its reputation for being the friendliest town in Ireland” or something like that. The unknown is so exciting!”
Similarly, with the Broken Home shows, what have you heard about it its reputation? Is that something you’re looking forward to?
“Again with the “reputation” – now I’m getting worried! No, really, our friend Donal McConnon recommended it very highly, and Donal is right about everything. I’m looking forward to it indeed!”
What are you listening to at the moment? And are there any lesser known Canadian acts flying under the radar you would encourage us to check out?
“Right now I’m listening to a band from Dundee, Scotland, called Spare Snare. They’re great! As for Canadians under the radar who deserve to be heard: Wax Mannequin, Steven Lambke, and Construction & Destruction are three of my favourites.”
And lastly, in all the interviews you’ve done is there anything you’re eager to address but no one ever asks you?
“One thing that no one has ever asked is “how do you deal with stage fright?” To which I would answer (honestly, by the way), “When I get really nervous, I have a trick I do where I relax my eyes in such a way that the faces of the audience blur just enough that everyone looks like a fuzzy smiling blob.”