Monday, 14 November 2016

Interview: The Burning Hell

The Burning Hell are a Canadian band fronted by Mathias Kom. We caught up with Mathias as they prepare for their big final tour across the UK and Germany in their current form including a visit to Leeds where they’ll be performing at the Brudenell Social Club on 8th December.

What can people expect from your live show?
We’ll be doing a lot of songs from our new record ‘Public Library’. This will be the last full rock band tour of ours for a little while. We’re going to switch things up in 2017. We’re going to dig deep into our back catalogue and pull out some older numbers that we’ve never before played live. So there will be some new ones, and some songs from our records like ‘People’, but then also some much older songs from eight or ten years ago that we’ve never played. It’ll be a real mixed bag, with some real seasonal favourites, some holiday songs (not really, there won’t be any Christmas songs!). It’ll be a mixed bag but a lot of fun!

What’s it been like rediscovering that older material and performing it live; has it been fun or nerve-wracking?
Both, totally nerve-wracking but a lot of fun! We did it relatively democratically and everyone picked a few songs that we’d never done before that we wanted to try, and we got together and started rehearsing them. With some of the songs it was quickly obvious there were reasons we’d never done them live but for others we wondered why we’d not been doing them for years, and we should have been playing it all the time. But it’s been a lot of fun digging back into the catalogue. There are seven full-length records with well over one-hundred songs to choose from so it’s been a lot of fun.

Have you found a particular favourite that you’ve found?
It still remains to be seen if it still remains my favourite song after we play them as we still haven’t played them live, this is still just in preparation for the tour. We’ve just been rehearsing. There’s a song called ‘I Love The Things That People Make (Part 3)’ which we’ve been working up, and it was never meant to be a full band rock song, so we’ve never done it live. But I’ve had so much fun rehearsing it, so that’s an early contender.

You mentioned your new album ‘Public Library’. Could you give us a flavour of what that’s like?
It was recorded in Ramsgate two years ago. We’d finished a tour in Europe and we popped over to a great studio called Big Jelly in Ramsgate where Al Harle works at the Ramsgate Music Hall. He helped us put it together. It’s the wordiest record we’ve ever done, which is saying something. It’s also the loudest record we’ve ever done which is also interesting to do. It’s all story songs, that was the idea of it; [like] different kinds of genres of book that you might find on the shelves of a public library. Mostly it’s a continuation of the tour for that record so we’ll be doing a lot of songs from that.

Did you set out to make the album with that theme or did it come out during the making of it?
It came about through the songwriting. I do the same thing for every record. I sit down over the course of a few weeks or months and write a batch of songs then usually after I notice, or someone else notices, there’s a linking or defining theme. So with ‘Public Library’ it seemed like they were different kinds of writing – one’s a murder mystery, one’s sci-fi. Like the record before it became pretty obvious early on that the songs were really about different types of people, so that sometimes that shapes the way the songs are titled or the way they are collected together on a record.

As a writer, do you set out to go out in a particular way or let it happen?
I’ve tried to do that before – go on a particular course – but it never works, I’m terrible at that. I usually just let it happen and see what comes out.

As well as making music you’ve had success in fashion with a t-shirt based on one of your tracks…
Yes. Unfortunately the reason for that particular t-shirts popularity is the not-so-wonderful political situation for the world to be in right now but yes, absolutely!

You’ve also released a video for the song ‘The Stranger’. What was that about?
I was excited when I was writing ‘The Stranger’ because I’ve always wanted to be a villain. As the character in the song I always wanted to play a villain, so it’s told from the perspective of an evil priest, and the video was a lot of fun to do. We filmed a lot of it this past summer and the film-maker cobbled it together with a lot of old public-domain found-footage from old films and advertisements, and things like that. It’s definitely a strange one, so to speak!

You mentioned earlier that this tour is going to be the last full out rock tour for a while; what are your plans going forward?

The band is going to change. All I can say right now is it’s going to get a little stranger, a little weirder, and a little more stripped down. 2017, we’ve decided, is going to be the year where we try and explore places we haven’t explored before. Anyone who has any suggestions about where the Burning Hell can go that we haven’t been to before, that would be great. At the moment I’m desperately trying to book a tour to the Faroe islands, for example! We’ll see what happens; I’m really excited about 2017!

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