The Burning Hell's Apocalypso
"There are three themes that I've always written songs about," he explains: "Fear of life, prolonging life, and the end of the world, or at least the way we have built a society and a culture obsessed with the end of the world. All cultures have a beginning of the world myth, and every one talks about the end of the world. Every year there are a thousand new descriptions of what we should be afraid of today or what we will be afraid of tomorrow. The campiness of the end of the world is what interests me."
The Burning Hell's third album, Baby, opens with a track about a toddler who longs to be back in the womb, when he was busy "drafting plans for my own benevolent state." After the triumphant anthem "When the World Ends," the album ends with a tonic promising that "Everything Will Probably Be Okay." That finale is a duet with the Hell's omnichord player Jenny Mitchell, who plays Pangloss to Kom's Candide in both the song and in real life. She's the eternal optimist; he's the ball of anxiety. That dichotomy manifests itself in many ways, but never more so than when Mitchell and the band's engineer, Andy Magoffin, discovered she was pregnant while on tour with the Burning Hell.
"I'm firmly committed to not having kids," says Kom, unequivocally. "The process of watching Jenny go through pregnancy was fantastic. I just don't personally understand what's so great about bringing a child into the world." To say that Kom is a fatalist is an understatement. He admits to being an incredibly anxious person, convinced that disaster lurks around every corner - a tone he manages to convey easily with his occasionally morbid baritone voice, which is offset by his buoyant band of ukuleles, accordions, trumpets and banjos playing carnivalesque cabaret with a Modern Lovers approach to innocent, primitive punk. If you were going to hire a band to play "the apocalypso" at your doomsday party, the Burning Hell would be at the top of your list.
Kom comes to his cheerful fatalism through the world of academia, after getting a master's degree in ethnic and migration studies at Trent University earlier this decade. That's where he gained an odd interest in world conferences that changed the course of history. The Burning Hell's 2006 debut album Tick Tock featured a song called "Bretton Woods," about the founding of the World Bank, and Baby features "The Berlin Conference," about the late 19th century meeting of European leaders that carved up their African colonies.
"The challenge I've found so far," he says, "is that historians have not paid enough attention to how the people at these conferences interacted. No one was at these things as a social anthropologist, and that's what interests me. Not so much what came out of the conference, but imagining the real people and what their personal politics were like."
Oddly enough, he hasn't read Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919, which is exactly the kind of book he seems to be looking for. But he has literary ambitions of his own. "My secret ultimate ambition is to produce a coffee table book about important conferences throughout the ages, with an accompanying soundtrack."
FeaturesJul 03, 2015
Leon BridgesInstant Vintage
She was like, "Is this secular music?" I told her "yes ma'am," Leon Bridges recalls. The playing of or listening to secular music was ve...
FeaturesJul 02, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireFlorence Welch (of the Machine)
Florence Welch has been on top of the charts ever since her band Florence + the Machine burst onto the scene in 2009 with the breakthrough a...
FeaturesJun 05, 2015
Where I PlayKathryn Calder
"To be honest, I don't know what half this stuff does, but that's okay." Kathryn Calder laughs, sitting in front of the sprawling console in...
FeaturesJun 04, 2015
Brandon FlowersIs A Retro Killer
"For the first eight or nine years of my life all I heard was '80s music, so it's a part of me, I guess." Brandon Flowers is known as th...
FeaturesMay 28, 2015
Patrick WatsonBlinded By Science
An album about robots may seem suited for the kind of experimentalism seen in science fiction, but Patrick Watson — the Montreal-based...
FeaturesMay 26, 2015
Samantha Savage SmithSteps Outside the Box
It took four years for the release of Calgary singer-songwriter Samantha Savage Smith's follow-up to her 2011 debut. In that time Smith has ...
FeaturesMay 26, 2015
High EndsClass Act
There's a line at the start of "Working Man's Blue," the last song on Yukon Blonde frontman Jeffrey Innes's debut LP as High Ends, that goes...
FeaturesMay 11, 2015
Mikal CroninStories We Tell
In a lot of ways, gifted garage rock songwriter Mikal Cronin's MCIII feels like the culmination of the last decade of his life. "About t...