I’ve known Ben Ward and the guys in Orange Goblin for sixteen years and I’ve been writing for The Sleeping Shaman for four of those so I guess it was only a matter of time until our paths crossed in a journalistic sense. In those sixteen years Orange Goblin have gone from being a ragtag collection of freaks with their whole future in front of them to one of the country’s finest and most respected heavy metal bands. Time may have changed the band but it hasn’t changed the guys in the band at all…they’re still a ragtag collection of freaks and some of the most awesome chaps you could wish to meet. I fired a few (but if you ask Ben a lot) of questions over to the big guy to tell us about the new album, the past and the future of Orange Goblin.
Please tell us the histo…oh fuck that, I hate that question and if anyone wants to know it they can look on your website!!! You guys are now in your 17th year as a band and some of you have an association as friends that goes back beyond that. How do you manage to keep things fresh and interesting given the diverse and deviant mix of personalities in the band?
Well, to be honest I think it’s that diverse mix of personalities that keeps us all going! Nothing ever gets boring in this band and we are still having as much fun now as we were when we started 17 years ago. Obviously the main catalyst is the music but outside of the band we are all very different people nowadays and that means that we enjoy getting together and sharing stories, having a laugh and finding out stuff that we may not have known the other was up to!
To the outside world you guys are a fun band but I know you’ve had various trials and tribulations over the years…Pete’s departure, punishing touring schedules (when I saw you guys in Exeter a few years back you were at the end of a gruelling tour and seemed pretty broken, yet still turned in a killer performance), increasing demands from home and work. How have you met these challenges, how close have you come to splitting up and what stopped you?
Over the course of 17 years you are going to have to go through some tough times, no matter what you do. I think as a band we have learned to appreciate that we are in a very privileged position in that we get to tour the world and meet friends new and old whilst getting paid and drinking free beer. We really don’t have too much to worry about compared to the likes of Nurses etc so after a while you learn to just get on with it and stop whining. That outlook has held us in good stead and allowed us endure whatever our career throws at us. If the time ever comes when it’s unbearable then we’ll split up, but for now everything is just great! We are very lucky to have understanding wives and girlfriends that probably prefer to have us out of the house! It’s hard not seeing our kids when we’re away on tour but it makes you appreciate the time with them a lot more!
So the new album “A Eulogy For The Damned”. It’s been 5 years since the previous album “Healing Through Fire” and we’ve been teased by a bit of “will they or won’t they do a new album” in the meantime. How come it took so long?
Just a case of life getting in the way really! Joe and Chris both became Dad’s again so wanted to be around to help out at home. Chris and his family moved out of London to Hove and that meant that rehearsing became a bit more difficult. Combine these things with the fact that we are generally a lazy band when it comes to writing and you realise that 5 years wasn’t really that much of a wait at all! We spent a lot of time touring the previous record around Europe, the UK and the USA and we also had to find a new label following the collapse of Sanctuary Records so after all that we didn’t want to rush the album and put out the first thing that we came up with.
“Healing Through Fire” had a loose concept running through some songs around the Great Fire of London. Is there any kind of conceptual theme on the new album or is this just a collection of songs? What themes do you explore this time? I know you’re a big fan of horror movies and also interested in history, how have these interests influenced the lyrics this time?
There is no concept at all this time and that was a massive relief for me. After Healing Through Fire I realised how hard it is to write a whole album based loosely on the same theme so just wanted to get back to having fun with the lyrics on this album. I was reading a lot of different stuff, especially HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard and also a lot of books about the Hells Angels in the 60’s and 70’s and the whole episode surrounding the drug scene in Northern California around that time and the ultimate demise of the ‘hippy’ scene at Altamont, the Rolling Stones Concert in 1969. All this fed my imagination and I find that I don’t like to lift directly from what I’m reading but rather use it and add my own imagination to it to create something quite warped. Obviously there is a theme regarding personal abuse and issues I may have put upon myself in the past that I wanted to address too, so throw in some horror movies and mix it all up and you have a pretty weird, twisted cocktail of ideas.
You were still writing the album right up until you went in to record, did this approach help to create a sense of urgency and nerves when recording? It’s certainly an album brimming with energy that comes across when listening.
We always tend to write better when we are under pressure so we set ourselves a deadline to have everything done and it spurred us all on no end. I think the energy that comes across is down to the fact that the recording was spread across the weekends of a two month period so we had a chance to recharge the batteries each week and go in with fresh ears each time. It’s a great way to work cos it gives you the chance to breathe and evaluate everything that you’ve done so far. If Joe wasn’t happy with a solo or something, he had a week to work on it and then re-record it. As a vocalist it obviously had its benefits because I got the chance to rest my throat from week to week and that allowed me to give it everything I had each take.
In the past you’ve worked with some pretty well known producers…Dave Chang, Scott Reeder, Billy Anderson…etc. This time it wasn’t the case, who did you work with and why?
We chose to work with Jamie Dodd because we had done a Black Sabbath cover with him at the same studio a year before and it sounded great. He’s a young, very talented and enthusiastic producer who is a fan of the music first and foremost. He wasn’t afraid to get involved and for the 2 months we were in there he became the 5th member of the band. Also, the way we wanted to work, over the succession of weekends, meant that it was impossible to pay for a ‘name’ producer to come over and sit around twiddling his thumbs whilst we all went back to work all week. Jamie and the folks at The Animal Farm were fantastic from start to finish and played a major role in this album coming out as well as I think it has.
Judging by your working diary on The Obelisk, the recording seemed to be a pretty quick and painless process. Is this the norm for the band or did things just fall into place this time?
Well, it wasn’t quick but it was very painless. There was a very laid back atmosphere in the studio and everyone just had fun doing the album. Because we were so relaxed it meant that everyone turned in the best performances they have ever recorded. We have had circumstances in the past where it wasn’t quite like that and I believe that you can hear that in the final product.
You guys have always had a strong, catchy melodic edge but on this album tracks such as “Stand For Something” , “Save Me From Myself” and the title track really ramp up the melodicism and take it to a new level. Was this a conscious decision or a natural progression?
I suppose it was a bit of both really. The song that inspired me to want to write something like ‘Stand For Something’ was ‘All For You’ by Motorhead. That song is incredibly catchy and Lemmy’s vocals are very touching and you can feel the honesty and meaning in them. When Joe came up with that riff, the lyrics and the vocal melody pretty much fell into place so that was a natural progression. We are all at an age and a stage in our career now when we don’t really care if what we do isn’t deemed to be ‘heavy’ enough or ‘dark’ enough or whatever. We simply have the approach that if it sounds good and we all like it, then it is going into the mixing pot. The reason we started the band in the first place was to make music for ourselves first and if anyone else liked it then that would be an added bonus, that’s still the case today and none of us have a problem with having catchy, melodic songs.
When you started out you were clearly rooted in the stoner meets doom side of things but as time has gone on you seem to have developed your own sound that to me sits pretty squarely at the heavier end of classic rock mixing those initial influences with a more diverse range that includes thrash, trad metal, southern rock and 70’s rock. Am I a cunt for saying this?
You’re obviously a cunt……….but not for saying that! 🙂 I agree with you 100% here and the reason for this is that when we started we were very young and naïve. I think it takes any band a few years to really find their feet and their ‘niche’. That said, we have always had those eclectic influences, from the punky riffs on ‘Magic Carpet’ to the Southern-Rock of ‘Time Travelling Blues’, we have always had a wide and diverse range of influences. It’s just that since we lost Pete on 2nd guitar we have honed our sound and by ripping off everyone, we seem to have created something quite unique!! Ha ha!
Now that the album is out the cycle of gigging and promo has kicked in. You’ve just completed a successful UK tour. How was this for you guys? Did any of the gigs stand out for you good or bad?
The whole tour was great (apart from the choice of support act!) (Ben displays some signs of jealousy here as Grifter display such a level of sexual charisma from the stage that they had flocks of attractive women approach them after the shows whereas Goblin attract sweaty young boys!!!) Our UK fan base is awesome and they are extremely loyal but this time around it really seemed to step up a notch. We had pretty much sold out shows in London, Bristol, Manchester and Oxford as well as very respectable turn-outs in Newcastle, Glasgow, Swansea and Plymouth so that was great for us. Since the release of the album we have sensed that there is an increased interest in Orange Goblin so that’s encouraging after all this time. I couldn’t really pick out a best show from the tour as I had a blast every night!
You’re never short of gig offers around the globe. How do you decide what to do and what to pass on? Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet you’re all burning to play?
Money obviously! Ha! No, seriously, the main thing is that we need to make sure that it’s going to be worth our while. We all sacrifice ALL of our holiday time each year to tour with the band which means that none of us get to have a holiday with our family so we need to be very selective about what we do each year. Last year we went back to the US for the first time in 5 years and it’s not that we don’t like going there, it’s just that we physically do not have time to do it all. We would love to get to some territories that we’ve never played, specifically South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as anywhere else that will have us!
You all hit the stage with a real urgency and energy, even when you look like you’re ready to fall asleep in the dressing room. How do you maintain this energy on a nightly basis, particularly on the longer tours?
No matter how drained you feel during the day of a tour, that 5 minutes before you hit the stage is always the same adrenaline rush, at least it is for us, so we always seem to go on with the same level of enthusiasm. It’s still exciting to go out and perform because no 2 shows are ever the same! Whether we are playing to 20 people or 20,000 we have the same intention which is to enjoy ourselves and try to make sure that the crowd go home happy having seen a great rock show.
Watching you on the tour every night we (me and Phil, Grifter bassist) decided you are the Ozzy Osbourne for a new generation…Ozzy when he was on good form that is not the shambling wreck he became. Are we cunts for saying this?
I would take that as a compliment as Ozzy when he was at the top of his game was one of the greatest and most engaging frontmen of all time. He is definitely someone that I have spent a lot of time watching and try to replicate the enthusiasm he displays and the way he tries to make sure the crowd are enjoying every minute of the show. He never lets up and that’s what I like to do. I don’t think I can compete with Ozzy in the partying stakes though, there are so many stories but I guess that means I’m less likely to become the shambling mess that he is today!
You’ve had a bit of bad luck lately with labels. It all looked really hopeful with Sanctuary but quickly went tits up so how did you hook up with Candlelight and how has the relationship been so far?
We have been unfortunate with certain timing but generally we’ve been lucky in that there have always been labels interested in signing the band. The whole Sanctuary issue was bizarre as they had been very enthusiastic and were doing a great job. Then one day Universal came along and swallowed them up and we were left out in the cold again. But, like I say, it was only a matter of days until Candlelight came knocking and from the very start we were impressed by their ambition and professionalism.
Is the relationship with Candlelight a long term proposition or a one off? The album seems to have done brisk business so I guess they’re pretty chuffed right?
We have been over the moon with how everything has worked out with Candlelight. We are very happy to be signed to a 3 album deal, the first of which we have just delivered so we look forward to a long and successful relationship with them. They are a label that has a fantastic team of specialised individuals, all of whom have great experience and skills in their specific fields so everything has been handled so well that we genuinely couldn’t wish to be with any other label. They have also shown great patience with us as it took us the best part of 3 years to deliver them an album and yet they never pressured us and gave us the comfort of knowing that we could continue to work within whatever time frame suited us.
How do you feel you sit within the Candlelight roster? It’s pretty heavily weighted towards death and black metal bands so you stand out a bit. Is this a help or a hindrance?
We get asked this quite a lot as the label is obviously better known for its work with Black and Death Metal bands but they also have a great track record of working with bands more in line with what we do. Bands like Crowbar, Entombed and more recently Corrosion of Conformity and Sourvein. We certainly do not feel out of place with Candlelight as the staff there are all genuine fans of the bands that they work for so we all get equal treatment and support.
Now that the band has its momentum running high at the moment, will we have to wait another five years for the next album?
I hope not! The relative success of this album means that we have been able to sit down and realistically look into the possibility of doing this band full time and being able to earn a living doing it! That has been our ambition from day one so we look forward to spending a lot more time on the road and hopefully doing in the region of 200 shows per year all over the world. This will obviously mean that we also have a lot more time to concentrate on writing and recording new material so I believe that the next OG album will come along a lot sooner than we first thought! It’s also good for us to try and capitalise on the momentum that you mention, we need to strike whilst the iron is hot!
If you were pushed what would you say is your favourite Orange Goblin album? More contentiously, what’s your least favourite?
I genuinely love them all and am very proud of everything we’ve done. The current album is definitely my favourite because its fresh material and I think it sounds better than anything we’ve done before. If I had to choose my least favourite then I would probably pick the first album but that’s only because we were very young when we made it and were complete novices in the studio. We were all like kids in a sweet shop when we went to do that and on reflection there are certain bits that I think could’ve been done better or changed slightly. With that in mind I suppose I could probably say that about all the albums though as there are always little bits that you feel could be improved. On the whole though I am very proud of our catalogue and I think it covers a wide and diverse spectrum of rock and metal music.
Who is the biggest cunt in the band…metaphorically speaking that is, it’s obvious who it is physically?
We are all precisely 57% cunt. There is nothing anyone can do about it, we were just created that way. Because I am physically bigger than the rest of them it means that the levels of cunt in me are more diluted which makes me a nicer person. Joe is smallest so his cunt levels are more pure!
Who’s the band scapegoat and butt of the jokes?
All of us! I’d like to think we all have a decent sense of humour and can all take a joke so we all give and take some stick quite a bit. If that wasn’t the case then the band wouldn’t work!
How does Martyn keep his hair in such lovely condition? Is it Timotei?
I neither know nor care!
Chris now bears more than a passing resemblance to King George V, does he suffer from delusions of grandeur?
Not at all. He just knows that if he shaves that beard off then his wife will leave him and he seems to be quite fond of his wife so looking like an ex-monarch is a small price to pay! Isn’t George V the King that went mad?? Perhaps that’s a sign of things to look forward to! (No, that was George the Third, he looked like Nigel Hawthorne!)
If you were only allowed to drink one form of alcohol for the rest of your life what would it be…lager, ale, Guinness, whiskey, cider or wine? (This is a roundabout way of asking what your favourite booze is!)
Have you ever seen the film Sophie’s Choice? Meryl Streep has to make a decision about which one of her children she will save and which one she will send away to be gassed. This question is a similar dilemma! It’s so hard to choose because all booze is seasonal or is suited to different moods. I need cider and lager in the summer when it’s hot. I need whiskey and ale in the winter when it’s cold. I need wine all year round with my dinner! It’s an impossible choice and I hate you for making me think about it!
Assuming you weren’t happily married with a beautiful wife, what song would you choose to seduce a woman and try to get your end away?
It would have to be something by AC/DC! Possibly ‘Big Balls’, ‘Sink The Pink’ or ‘The Jack’. I’m a classy guy!
Tell us a song you like that would surprise everybody…a kind of guilty pleasure.
It’s not really a guilty pleasure but it may surprise people to learn that I love the song ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight & The Pips. If you’ve never heard that then stick it on and tell me that it doesn’t rule!
Your love of football is well known but not so many people will know that you and Martyn were apprentices at QPR (Queens Park Rangers for the foreign readers). How did music take over from football?
We spent 2 years as TYTS apprentices at QPR and all day, every day was consumed with football, we had no respite from it. During the 2nd year we both knew that we weren’t going to make it as full time professionals due to injuries and other factors so we’d kind of decided to move away from it. We became really good friends as we both liked Metallica so Martyn got me into heavier stuff that he was listening too. Stuff like Obituary, Napalm Death, Entombed, Slayer etc and we both started attending more and more concerts and I guess we both just figured that we preferred the music lifestyle to the football one. It gave us the opportunity to drink more too!
Walking into your dressing room it’s not uncommon to find a bunch of hairy guys all glued to their phones…has the iPhone transformed touring in the 21st Century?
It’s made it easier for bands like us to keep in touch with our wives and kids whilst were away! Things like Facebook, Skype and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with what’s going on in the outside world. When we are on tour we spend our whole life waiting around for that 1 hour and 20 minutes on stage each night so you have to fill the time doing something and phones nowadays have access to everything! Embrace the technology Ollie!
Is Al Riddell (Age of Taurus guitarist and Orange Goblin roadie/general bitch) the Viking God of Chips?
He is! When he dies there will be a Viking burial but he will be placed on a giant chip that is then set aflame and cast out to sea! He is also the Norse deity of Marmite on Toast, cheese, Nando’s chicken, chocolate and diet coke!
Finally, enough of my random bollocks, here is your chance to rant, abuse, promote, tell a joke…whatever you want.
Fuck off…….I’ve already said far too much!
So there you have it. Hopefully we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of Orange Goblin in the years to come. If you see them on tour, don’t buy them a drink…they have plenty back stage but do go and say hello they don’t bite!!!
Interviewed by: Ollie Stygall