FOR THE POST
The Burning Hell
When: Thursday, May 31, at 7:30
Where: Klub 007
Tickets: 150 Kč, available via venue
The Burning Hell is a Canadian band comprised of 15 different musicians. Or sometimes just five. Truly, though, The Burning Hell is the unique brainchild of front man and ukulele player Mathias Kom, who started it in Ontario, Canada, in 2007.
Rather than following the customary, fixed line-up formulation of a traditional musical group, Kom instead is the only consistent member, surrounding himself with a shifting cast of various musicians that modify between live performances and recordings. Kom says that the multitude of musicians actually makes The Burning Hell work better because he songs continually have new life and new ideas, and every tour has a different energy based on who contributes to it.
“I think the most people we ever had on stage was 15 or so,” explains Kom, “but usually it’s just five or so, like on this tour, though they change frequently. There are just too many great musicians in the world to play with and I want to play with all of them! Someone recently described The Burning Hell as a project instead of a band. I like that, because it emphasizes the fact that a lot of people contribute to something fluid, something we work on, something in process. The band started as a recording project named after a religious pamphlet and film, and I never intended it to turn into a band. It just did.”
To date, The Burning Hell has five full-length releases to its name, plus two exclusive releases found only on cassette tape via Canadian independent cassette label Ticker Tapes. The latest, Flux Capacitor, released in May of last year, is 11 tracks of romping rock and roll punctuated by clarinets that sound like they may have been pulled directly from traditional Hebrew folk songs and Kom’s hilariously faithful lyrics. Opening track “My Name is Mathias,” for example, is candid and upfront: “My name is Mathias, I came to say this: I’ve got a big, bushy beard, and kissable lips. I carry all my fat in my ass and my hips, the rest of me is skinny as a stick.”
A few tracks later, Kom tells the poignant tale of a girl named Cheryl and her dog, Skip, in “Kings of the Animal Kingdom.” “Cheryl had a dog named Skip that she loved to bits,” he sings. “He had big sad eyes and he was gentle around the kids. He could do tricks that would amaze you, but he developed hip dysphasia. The veterinarian said, ‘It’s surgery or euthanasia.’ Cheryl asked how much would it cost to get Skip sorted. The vet said, ‘If you have to ask then you can’t afford it.’ Well she could barely make the rent. She said, ‘Skip, you know you’re my best friend,’ and she made sure he couldn’t see the needle at the end.”
Much has been said about Kom’s lyricism, and the group was even a finalist at 2009′s CBC Radio 3 Bucky Awards for Best Lyrics. There are certain themes that recur in Kom’s songwriting that seem to appeal to
him: namely, life, death, and the apocalypse. The Prague Post couldn’t help but wonder why.
“Well, it’s cheating, really,” says Kom. “Life, death and the apocalypse pretty much cover every subject you can imagine, including love. I’m especially interested in the way people perceive and organize themselves though, hence the interest in conferences, I suppose.”
Kom, who names songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Richman, and David Berman among those who most inspire him, also has an affinity for the European continent – especially for Poland, which he expressed in an article he wrote for online magazine Comrade (http://www.comrademagazine.com/2010-11-15-mathias-kom-addicted-to-polska/en).
It’s not entirely common for English-speaking or singing bands to find such success in Europe, yet The Burning Hell has toured Europe extensively multiple times already and currently is in the midst of another go-around.
“I have no idea how to explain it, but it’s true, I do feel like European audiences (very generally speaking) respond better to us than Canadian audiences,” says Kom. “I don’t know. I wish I knew! But I think we also keep coming back because touring in Europe is just generally nicer than it is at home, in so many seemingly trivial but important ways: drives are short, the beer and coffee is good, the food is often delicious… And, if you have a bad show in Prague, you can leave the venue and say, ‘Well, at least I’m in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.’”
Kom and four other multi-talented musicians, Darren Browne (guitar), Ariel Sharratt (clarinet), Nick Ferrio (bass), and Jake Nicoll (synth and drums), will be collectively recording a new album in June in Berlin. Currently, however, the quintet is in the midst of making its way to Prague, with a stop at Klub 007 on May 31.