The Burning Hell – Interview – Thanks for Asking
Written by Staff on January 17, 2024
The Burning Hell – Interview – Thanks for Asking – by Liam Sweeny.
I caught up with Mathias Kom of the band “The Burning Hell.” We had a fun talk. Let Mathias bend your ear.
RRX: Every comic book hero has an origin story. What is the origin story for the band? (points if you tell it like a comic book origin.)
MK: I was doing some home recording around the turn of the century and felt uncomfortable with the idea of sharing it with anyone other than my pets, so I was casting about for some sort of alter-ego or pseudonym to hide behind. A religious fanatic handed me a pamphlet called “The Burning Hell,” all about why I was going there, and the name stuck. It didn’t really become an actual band until seven or eight years later, when I quit my teaching job and went on tour for the first time. In those early days, the band consisted of pretty much anyone that wanted to get in the van.
RRX: Every band’s first song is a milestone. But so is the latest song. Describe the first song/album you recorded, and also the latest song/album you recorded; what are the differences?
MK: Technically, the first album I recorded under the name “The Burning Hell” was called Here Comes Evil, and I have spent the last two decades hunting down every single one of the 50 copies I made and throwing them into an active volcano. A few more home-recordings followed, but in many ways the first ‘official’ album (official in that it was released by a label and distributed) was 2007’s Tick Tock. It was recorded by my bandmate Jill in her bedroom, on an old ADAT machine. It was fun, and I like aspects of it still, but boy do I ever hate how my voice sounds. I was still figuring out how to sing – not that I’ve actually discovered this yet, mind you. I’m always sort of half-considering re-recording Tick Tock, since I still play a lot of the songs on it. The last album the band recorded was Garbage Island, and was actually a return to home recording. The main difference is that on Garbage Island I don’t sound like a mutant duck drowning in a radioactive swamp. At least not completely.
RRX: Like songs, every band has a unique feeling about their first show. What was your first show like? Was it your best show? If not, what was your best show like?
MK: I don’t have any idea what the first Burning Hell show was, but the first show I ever played was with my high school band The Laundry Dogs (it was the 90s, give me a break) at our school gym. I think we played four songs, maybe, including a cover of the Dead Kennedys classic “Holiday In Cambodia,” which you really haven’t experienced until you’ve heard it played by a bunch of teenagers who have no idea where Cambodia even is or what the lyrics are referring to. As for a best show, it hasn’t happened yet. I’ll let you know.
RRX: Music genres are difficult for some bands. Some strictly adhere; others not so much. What is your perspective on the genre you play, or the genres you hover around?
MK: Genres are a convenient way to organize sound, and I can’t stand it when bands say things like “we don’t really fit into any genre.” Musically, The Burning Hell has had very different instrumentation over the years so it’s hard to call it all “rock” or the increasingly meaningless “indie;” to my ears, everything about us is playful and a little rough around the edges, like a garage band might be, but lyrics are the main focus of many of the songs, as they are in a lot of “folk” music (in the North American sense). So I always say we’re a “garage folk” band.
RRX: It’s a lot of fun living in the present, but we all collect memories and give birth to dreams. We’re talking dreams here. Where you see yourself next year? In the next five years?
MK: Well, I started answering these questions in 2023, and I definitely didn’t see myself still answering them in 2024, but that’s just down to how scattered my mind has been lately. So I’m not going to be too ambitious here, and say that by 2025 I hope to have finished answering these questions and recorded and released a new record which I feel at least as good about as Garbage Island. Five-year plans are easier, because they are less tethered to reality. So I hope that in five years’ time I’ll be playing shows exclusively on my own Waterworld-themed floating atoll, drifting slowly around the South Pacific. Or at the very least, on a houseboat sailing around the Great Lakes.
RRX: We all get a little support from those around us. And we also can be impressed by our fellow bands. Who do you admire in your community, and why?
MK: I’ve had the good fortune to live and play in so many musical communities over the years, from Peterborough (Ontario) to St. John’s (Newfoundland) to Berlin, and now at home on Prince Edward Island. The people I admire most are those that collaborate most freely and openly, those that support fellow musicians and recognize that we’re all in this together. Truthfully, that’s almost everyone.