Incoming: A Quick Chat With The Burning Hell

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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.”

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2015 According to Mr Huw

Mr Huw Du Llun

One of my proudest achievements on the blog this year, or any year for that matter, is the release of GruffWuff; a 19 track compilation of new, previously unreleased and exclusive recordings from some of my very favourite acts over the past 5 years of blogging.

It was a truly fantastic way to mark 5 years of BarryGruff and I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved and the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response. As 2015 draws to a close, I have enlisted help from people who made the compilation what it was, to chat about their favourite moments and sounds from year, and up next is Mr Huw.

Welsh maestro Mr Huw is an artist to be treasured, cherished and of course, enjoyed. Welsh lends itself to music rather well, regardless of whether you can understand it or not, and he is one of the most prolific and finest exponents of Welsh language music out there. Huw’s rough and unpolished, DIY style indie/post-punk has a glorious Half Man Half Biscuit aesthetic to it and generally packed with powerful rhythms, pointed riffs and broached with some infectious melodies and peppered with hooks you could hang your hat on. Mr Huw is an absolute gem! 

Before we take a look at his 2015 sound selections, you should check out his sublime Du Llun EP (which roughly translates as ‘Black Monday’), and Mr Huw’s GruffWuff inclusion, ‘Bai Neb Ond Fy Hun’ – of which you can download here for FREE.

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Cian Ciarán | Interview

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Last week the wonderful, the magnificent and the legendary Super Furry Animals, announced they shall be gracing Vancouver in the new year, when they play at Imperial on February 4th, 2016. I for one, CANNOT FUCKIN’ WAIT!

With that in mind, there’s no better 0r more apt time to share this, an interview I did with SFA’s Cian Ciarán, earlier this year. Originally published with GoldenPlec on July 5th, 2015 – here it is:

Cian Ciarán is best known as Super Furry Animals’ resident electronic and keyboard wizard. Aside from illuminating our lives for the best part of two decades with one of the most enigmatic, creative and downright brilliant psychedelic pop bands of our time, he busies himself with various other stellar side-projects.

Most recently he has released two superb solo albums, ‘Outside In’ (2012) & ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’ (2013), an LP with his other band Zefur Wolves, a stack of collaborations and remixes, and all the while running his own Strangetown Records label. That’s no mean feat by any anyone’s standards.

Ciarán is currently in the midst of intensive touring with SFA and readying his third solo-record, which he hopes to release later this year. Taking time out from his hectic schedule he spoke to Barry about his solo plans, running his label, politics and the small matter of the SFA reunion.

The amount of musical activity you’re associated with is staggering – Zeruf Wolves, solo work, running Strangetown Records and the small matter of Super Furry Animals. How do you find the time and balance between different projects?

Cian Ciarán: “I don’t to be honest – I have to put things on the back-burner constantly. I document everything or try to and revisit things when I have the time. I have to go with the flow, it can be frustrating but I’m happy as long as things get done eventually. There’s an outlet for the music, that’s the main thing, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented musicians and creative people that keep me busy and on my toes. I never stop learning and the buzz is still there when I go to the studio so there’s no complaints. The only pressure, if that’s the right word, is self-inflicted. It’s still a labour of love.”

The new solo record [‘Hero, Leader, God’], is another protest album. Does it follow a similar path to ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’? Talk us through what we can expect.

CC: “Again this is music that’s been bubbling for years, but I wanted to bring on board other lyricists and vocalists. The music is completely different to my previous two outings, or the Zefur Wolves album. It’s mostly electronic-based and down-tempo so it lends itself well, I hope, to spoken word, poets etc. The intention was to release it around the UK election but the content is still relevant here and everywhere else in the world. It will probably, unfortunately, be more concerning as our situation becomes increasingly driven by the powers that be and their blatant disregard to the rest of us and the world we live in. It’s too depressingly long a list of issues that we’re subjected to but we have to persevere. As was shown during the water wars in Bolivia, there is strength in numbers.”

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Villagers sing loud and proud: An Interview with Villagers’ Conor O’ Brien

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Having provided us with one of 2015’s finest records in ‘Darling Arithmetic’, it goes without saying that I’m very excited to see Villagers again, when they perform in Vancouver next week, at the Commodore Ballroom with Paul Weller (Tuesday, September 29th). 

It is Conor O’ Brien & Company’s second visit here this year, following their wonderful and absorbing show with Calexico back on July 12th. It  provides a perfect opportunity/excuse to share an interview done with Conor, prior to the last show.

Originally published by the Vancouver Observer on July 2nd – not long after Ireland’s Marriage Equality vote passed – here it is: 

Few, if any, recent Irish act commands as much respect as Villagers, the musical project of Dubliner Conor O’Brien.

Released by indie powerhouse Domino, Darling Arithmetic is a more stripped back affair to the two previous records, both of which were nominated for The Mercury Music Prize; it is Villagers’ most personal album yet. Recorded over eight months last year, with O’Brien putting in eight-hour days, at a barn by his home in Dublin, it is an intimate experience as O’Brien bares his soul on its nine songs.

“It just kind of evolved” that way, O’ Brien says. “I just started writing and tried to let it take me where it did. As it became more personnel and intimate, I realized that was the way it was going, so I was sort of conscious about finishing it of like that. It evolved and then became a conscious thing, and moved into a kind of little project for me to make.”

The fruits of this seclusion are breathtaking, as we’re treated to a delicate and tender, universal album of love and humanity. Previously shy about expressing his sexuality in his music, O’Brien has embraced it on Villagers’ third album.

Amid the softest of musical touches, O’ Brien tackles some of his personal demons, speaking openly about the difficulties that arise with being a gay man in Ireland, and having to deal with “homophobes” and “bigots.”

Previously uncomfortable with discussing his sexuality outside of his personal life, O’ Brien offers candid insight behind change of heart.

“I guess, looking at it objectively, growing up in our country (Ireland), I was 10 years of age when it was made legal to actually be me. I have felt the implications of that since I was born. You learn very quickly not to show people who you are really and how to hide. It’s just something I had to deal with, like most the gay people growing up.”

“When I came to my coming-out journey I guess, a lot people don’t have to come out to potentially hundreds of thousands of people at one time, so it took a little while. I was always writing about it but in a more oblique way, I was using my experiences of it to express more universal themes and this time around I just got a little bit more specific”.”

Fittingly, the album’s release coincided with the run up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum, in which the Irish electorate delivered a resounding ‘Yes’ vote to equality. The result wasn’t always a sure thing, something that played on O’ Brien’s mind. “A few days before the vote I was saying my friends that we couldn’t get too excited as there was a huge possibility that it would be a No. If you look back at the divorce referendum, everyone thought it would be a landslide yes but in the end, it was passed by half a per cent or something. I just had that in my head. I’m really aware that I surround myself with very liberal thinking types and artsy folk, and you can think that’s the world, when it really isn’t.”

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Rise of Super Furry Animals: An Interview with Ric Rawlins

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The wonderful, the magnificent and the legendary Super Furry Animals, make their return to Irish shores, with their first Irish show in many a year, at Body & Soul this weekend. As one of my all-time favourite acts, I can honestly say that there is more than a hint of jealousy toward those of you who will get to see them this weekend (or any other time in the not so distant future).

With all that in mind, here’s a chat I had with author and authority of all things SFA, Ric Rawlins about all things Super Furries and his book, ‘Rise of Super Furry Animals’.

Originally published for GoldenPlec, March 8th 2015, notably prior to SFA’s reunion. Enjoy!

Throughout their long and fascinating career, Super Furry Animals have proven themselves as one of the most enigmatic, creative and brilliant psychedelic pop bands of our time.

They had an army tank equipped with a techno sound-system, caused national security alerts with 60-foot inflatable monsters, went into the Colombian jungle with armed Guerrilla fighters, and drew up plans to convert an aircraft carrier into a nightclub. Yet SFA’s crazed adventures only tell half the story. Most importantly, there is their music.

Originally, an electronic music collective, Super Furry Animals started out playing raves across Europe before evolving into an experimental rock group in 1993. Signed to Creation Records, they shot to fame and thanks to the record sales of label-mates Oasis; they found they suddenly had a vast budget to play with. By mixing up electronic beats, surf rock, Japanese culture and more, the band produced some of the most exciting and memorable records of the past two decades, in their own uniquely surreal way.

Written with the band’s participation, new book, ‘Rise Of The Super Furry Animals’ tells this remarkable story and ascent to fame. Barry Healy caught up with the book’s author Ric Rawlins, to delve into the weird and wonderful world of Super Furry Animals.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK ON SUPER FURRY ANIMALS?

Ric Rawlins: They’re one of the most radical, creative and catchy bands of all time, but for some reason pop culture hasn’t quite embraced SFA’s legacy yet. Anyone who’s really explored them knows that they’ve created a multidimensional universe… at their best they’re like a crazy Mario-style game, with miles of palm trees and ice mountains to explore. In the ’90s they were labelled ‘Britpop’ by some, but they actually had more in common with stateside acts like Beck or the Beastie Boys; it was this sample-based, upbeat approach to fusing beats with guitars that really marked them out as a cutting edge pop group. So I wanted to kind of visit Furryworld: go behind the scenes of their fantastic songs, find out why they’ve had these radical flourishes, and meet Pete Fowler’s monsters up close. When I met the band for a magazine article in 2009, it sort of green lit the idea.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK AND WERE THE BAND ENTHUSIASTIC/HELPFUL ABOUT THE BOOK?

RR: It took about five years of slowly piecing it together in my weekends and evenings, and that was propelled forwards by a sort of annual ‘Gruff summit’ whereby I’d meet him in Cardiff and scribble down few more notes. The band were helpful although Bunf was strangely AWOL for about a year… the band didn’t know where he was… it was as if he’d been abducted.

HAVING SPENT TIME WITH THE BAND, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES AND THE DYNAMICS WITHIN THE BAND?

RR: I guess for Furry fans this might not be news, but Gruff is considerate, originally minded and obscurely hilarious… Cian is a kind of evil genius without the evil bits… Bunf is surreally hilarious but I only ever realise this after considering what he’s said for a few minutes, Guto is a real pleasure; he’s generous, considerate and has good manners and Daf is kind of like their star footballer who’ll slide through to score the goals!

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