In the past 12 months, St. John’s musician Darren (Boobie) Browne has ridden camels, played mandolin in Verona and set a musical world record.
“I’ve almost recovered,” he laughs.
Browne — “Boobie” was a term of endearment that his mother used, and his friends caught wind of — plays bass, guitar, mandolin and just about anything else you’d like him to play.
He’s played with Duane Andrews, Sherry Ryan, the Subtitles, John Lennox, the Forgotten Bouzouki, Al Tuck and the Newish Jewish Klezmer Ensemble.
Though he boasts near-legendary status as one of the city’s best musicians, he’s an affable, laid-back guy.
These days, Browne plays with The Burning Hell, who play an extensive European tour each year.
“I’m sure most bands would think we’re crazy,” he says. “Typical Canadian bands go over for two or three weeks, and then that’s it. But we go for two or three months and seriously play every night.”
This year, they set the world record for playing the most shows in the most countries in 24 hours. Beginning in Aachen, Germany, on July 6 at 7 p.m. and ending in Šmartno, Slovenia, 6:30 p.m. July 7, The Burning Hell played 10 shows in 10 countries in just under 24 hours.
“We actually had 17 minutes to spare,” he laughs.
“I knew we could do it, I was all for it,” he says.
“We have this amazing booking agent in Berlin, and he really knows how to plan things, so if it’s in his hands then it’s going to happen.”
The band played 30-minute shows in each country, and drove from place to place in a van. They’d pull up, run in with their instruments, play their songs, run back out to the van and peel away.
“They were all acoustic shows, we didn’t have time to mess around with gear,” he says.
“But we had a driver, so we got little naps in. There was a four- or five-hour-long drive between France and Switzerland, so that was a good nap.”
As veterans of the European tour circuit, The Burning Hell has a strong European following. So their fans at each stop on the tour were waiting to receive them, no matter what time they arrived.
“In 24 hours, obviously some shows are going to at odd hours,” he says.
“In Trogen, in the Swiss Alps, there’s this amazing bar called Viertel that we had played three or four times before. People had been there all night waiting for us to show up. We rolled in around 5:30 a.m. and the place went crazy. They had made us a hot breakfast and personalized T-shirts and care packages. A lot of places did that — people would chase after us with a round of beers and cookies for the band.”
The tour ended in a medieval castle in Slovenia.
“That last show was a total blast,” he says. “They had a four-course meal and wine waiting for us, and they made a two-day festival out of it.”
Though the tour was gruelling, Browne says it was definitely worth the sleep deprivation and the inevitable stench in the van.
“By the eighth or ninth show, it was a bit gruelling,” he says.
“But the end was in sight. And still, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m in Italy, playing a show outside, in Verona, where ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is based. And when it was done and we beat the record, well, I’m one of five people in the world to ever do this.”
He arrived back in St. John’s in time to play at the Folk Festival, and now he’s plotting his next move.
That will probably be to Morocco.
“Some old friends from Montreal that I used to play in bands with started doing this Top 40 circuit,” he says.
“They’d play hotels around the world, spending two months at a time at each hotel. So last winter, I played with them. I spent two months in Agadir and two months in Marrakech, living in these big, fancy hotels. It was a lot to take in, it’s a different world over there, but I’m over it now, and I’d love to go back.”
And after Morocco?
“Carnegie Hall,” he laughs. “One of these decades.”
A documentary about The Burning Hell’s world record-breaking European mini-tour will be released this fall. The documentary was made by French photographer Antoine Doyen and editor Cyrielle Thélot. Keep an eye on www.wearetheburninghell.com for announcements.