Doom & Gloom In The UK- An Interview With Ben Ward Of Orange Goblin

January 8, 2012 by Chris Grosso

Heavy Metal is not just about music: it’s a way of life, a motivating mind-set, a positive force and an inspirational belief system. It’s the most exciting, life-affirming noise that exists on this planet of ours, and London’s indestructible masters of the furious form are Orange Goblin. Not just the UK’s reigning champions of balls-out, party-starting, booze-fuelled metal, but one of the very best live rock bands of all time, the mighty Goblin have been a permanent and universally admired fixture on the British metal circuit for the past 16 years. And now they’re back, with A Eulogy for the Damned, their seventh and best studio album. A thunderous tour-de-force of gargantuan riffs, subterranean rumble and electrifying energy, it is the album the band have been threatening to make since they first crawled, with crumpled beer cans in hand, from the grubby Soho shadows back in the mid-90s.

Inspired by the gods of hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock and underground extremity, from Sabbath, Motörhead and Thin Lizzy through to Celtic Frost, Danzig and Black Flag, Orange Goblin were initially seen as major contenders amid the mid-90s stoner rock explosion, but it soon became apparent that this band had much more up their collective wizard’s sleeve than red-eyed boogie and flapping flares. In fact, over the course of their roller coaster career, the band have proved themselves to be one of the most consistent and persistent forces in modern heavy music, amassing a catalogue of albums that rivals anything released during the same period. From the rambunctious, heads-down exuberance of their Frequencies From Planet Ten debut in 1997 through to the multi-genre bonfire of insanities that was 2007’s Healing Through Fire, Orange Goblin have always kicked arse, always written songs that hit home like a stage diver’s boot connecting with your forehead, always delivered the rampaging heavy metal goods while meaning every last riff, beat, solo and bellow.

But it is as a live band that Orange Goblin have founded their formidable reputation. Long renowned as skilled crowd-pleasers and party masters, the band have toured all over the world and shared stages with countless big names, including Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Down, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dio, Monster Magnet and many more. They have headlined sell-out shows at New York’s revered CBGB’s, Los Angeles’ notorious Troubadour and the legendary Underworld in Camden, London. They have also blown fields full of minds at such prestigious festivals as Sonisphere, Download, Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, Roadburn, Dynamo, Maryland Death Fest, and High Voltage. An Orange Goblin show is a guaranteed good time…all you need to do is get the beers in, prepare your neck muscles for maximum punishment and surrender to the sound of a grand heavy metal institution letting rip at full throttle.

A lean, mean hard rocking’ machine…the eight-legged tag team of frontman Ben Ward, bassist Martyn Millard, guitarist Joe Hoare and drummer Chris Turner have reached a new peak of creativity and one-two-fuck-you intensity on A Eulogy For The Damned. This is the album that deftly encapsulates everything that is exhilarating and admirable about this most dedicated and humble of British metal wrecking crews and that deserves to propel Orange Goblin to the front of the British metal queue.

The following inteview was conducted via phone on 1/17/12.

The Ben Ward Interview

TIS: Orange Goblin is now in its sixteenth year as a band, and after recently listening to your upcoming album A Eulogy for the Damned, it’s safe to say you guys are as strong, if not stronger than ever. What do you attribute your continued success and ambition too?

BW: Well it’s tricky because it’s not what we do for a living, we all work day jobs to provide for our families and pay our bills. The band however is our release valve. Whether we’re working in an office or driving in a van, whatever the 9-5 is, it’s nice to get together in a rehearsal room on the weekends or go off and do a show somewhere and let off a bit of steam and have fun doing it. When we go out on tour for example, it’s like being on holiday with my best friends. We’re out drinking beer, playing music we love and getting paid for it. We still haven’t come across a band that makes the exact music we want to hear so I suppose we’ll keep doing it ourselves in the meantime.

TIS: And I’m very glad you do. So you’re releasing your 7th studio album, A Eulogy for the Damned on Feb 14th which also happens to be the date that Black Sabbath released their self titled album in 1970. Is this a coincidence or homage?

BW: It’s definitely an homage. February 14th is a day we always celebrate and spend listening to Black Sabbath albums. When we sat down with Candlelight, they gave us a list of options for the date of release and when we saw February 13th, we knew right away that was the one. It’s even more fitting with the recent news about Tony Iommi which is quite tragic really and we wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.  

TIS: Yes, that’s very sad news indeed. I think all of our well wishes go out to him in the rock community. So it’s now been five years since you released Healing Through Fire and I’m curious if that was a conscious decision or was it due to like you previously mentioned, everyone working day jobs and having families etc?

BW: It’s a mix of different factors really. The family thing was probably the major reason. Since our last album, Chris and Joe have become fathers again so they needed to be home looking after the newborns along with the other kids. Chris also moved out to Brighton, which is an hour and a half south of London so we don’t get the opportunity to rehearse quite as often as we used too. Everyone was just sort of off doing their own thing at various times. I went and played with Ravens Creed for a couple of years and enjoyed doing that but after a while, I didn’t have enough time to commit to both so had to leave. I really don’t think there’s any harm when Orange Goblin goes away for a bit. I actually saw last year when we toured the states that the anticipation was almost our fever pitch, it was great. We had such a great response during that tour and I think a part of it was because we had been away for a while so maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder. We’re definitely riding the crest of the wave at the moment. I feel like we’re at an all time high and it’s great and I look forward to it continuing.

TIS: That’s great. And I know it’s difficult for you guys to make your way here to the states but do you have any plans on returning in the near future in support of the new album?

BW: It’s definitely in our plans. Most likely won’t happen this year but at the latest, 2013 for sure and hopefully for a bit longer so we can hit some of the places we didn’t last time. When we were there in 2002 we did six weeks. This last run we only did fourteen shows and had to be strategic in such a short time. We didn’t get to play places like Florida or Denver, places that have always been good to us in the past. I’d also love to make it across the border to Canada and play some shows there as well because we’ve never been before.  

TIS: Nice, I look forward to it. So this is your first release on Candlelight Records. How’s your experience been with them so far?

BW: They’ve been absolutely fantastic. I’ve actually been blown away with them to be quite literal. There’s no disrespect to the labels we’ve worked with in the past like Rise Above, but when you compare that situation to now having 70 people working for us at Candlelight, we’re obviously going to get some different results. They’re very professional at Candlelight and they’ve shown quite a bit of patience with our band. We signed with them in 2008 and we’ve only just delivered with them now. They never put us under any pressure, they didn’t moan and we appreciate that very much. I can only hope that we repay them with our efforts.

TIS: Sounds good. In years past, Orange Goblin have embarked on some amazing tours including Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Dio, and many more. Is there a particular tour that stands above the rest as memorable for you?

BW: Well through playing for sixteen years, you’re going to have quite a few really. We’ve never had a bad tour, we’ve never not gotten along with a band or anything like that. I’d say in hindsight, the experiences we had with Alice Cooper and even more specifically, with Dio really stick out. The first arena tour we did was with Ronnie James Dio, God bless him, was such a sweetheart to us and really took us under his wing. He made it a point every night to wish us luck before we went on and after the show he would offer us some beers and that sort of thing. I feel very lucky to have seen firsthand what a really great man he was and why he is considered a legend. Alice Cooper was great to us in that respect as well. Supporting Black Sabbath in Poland was special too. I also love playing festivals. We did Sonisphere last year, which featured the big four and that was really great. Hellfest in France was a great festival as well. And coming to America and playing some legendary venues that as kids we thought we’d only ever read or hear about. We played the Troubadour in LA, we played CBGB’s in NY and it’s cool that now we can tell our kids about those experiences.

TIS: That really is very cool, from one generation to the next. So I know you’re a fan of old school horror movies and I was wondering if you could tell me a few of your favorites?

BW: Off the top of my head I’m a big fan of Euro-Horror, late 70’s and early 80’s stuff from Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. I consider Suspiria and Inferno by Argento to be complete masterpieces. I also loved Zombi 2, as I think it was called in the states, but over here, it was called Zombie Flesh Eaters. The Beyond movies and other things like that are great too. I also like obscure British horror, Pete Walker films like Frightmare and Die Screaming Marianne. My horror fascination comes from a very early age. It’s sort of my Moms doing really. I would sneak up to the top of the stairs when she was watching video nasties, things like The Exterminator etc. Horror was great when I was young because there were groundbreaking movies all the time. Things like The Shining had a very profound effect on me as a kid as well as An American Werewolf in London and The Fog, so it was instilled in me from a very early age and I’ve followed it ever since. I’ve always loved the thrill you get from those movies. Then as a teenager, I was lucky enough to live through the years of video nasties and was able to acquire a crappy copy of Evil Dead on VHS and other movies like that. If I had to narrow it down to just one favorite though, I’d have to go with Suspiria, although I do also really like Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price as well.

TIS: Well that is a stellar list of exceptional Horror films if I do say so myself. I’ve also read you’re a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiam and wondered if you have a favorite episode or particular situation Larry David got himself into?

BW: (Laughing) There’s so many. The first one that comes to mind is when he has to get to the baseball game and in order to use the carpool lane he has to pick up a prostitute. I’m a fan of a lot of American comedy actually. Seinfeld is another one of my favorites. I love George Costanza. He’s such a loser and is just a comedy hero of mine and there’s obviously the Larry David connection there too. As for comedy movies, I grew up loving Mel Brooks films like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles etc.

TIS: All of which are amazing. We also share a common interest in the writings of Charles Bukowski & Hunter S. Thompson. Could you tell me what it is about their writing that attracts you to them?

BW: Well with those two in particular, they’re men’s men if you know what I mean?

TIS: I’d say I do.

BW: Right. They’re guys that all men would consider badass. The style of their writing, their attitudes towards everything, the way they conducted themselves and their lives, just everything about them. They smoked hard, they drank hard, they took a lot of drugs. I wouldn’t say they necessarily abused women but they certainly got what they wanted from them and I think most men envy those things in Hunter and Bukowski. Beyond all those wonderful attributes, they were fantastic writers as well. Take a book like Post Office by Bukowski, no one can come up with something like that anymore, you don’t get authors today who have the balls to write like Bukowski or Thompson did. Hunter wasn’t afraid to go over the deep end. Look at the time he spent with the Hell’s Angels to write that book and the experiences he actually went through. I mean, just pick up a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he really did do all of that.

TIS: Nice, I definitely share your sentiment regarding them. So to wrap things up, what’s 2012 and beyond have in store for Orange Goblin?

BW: The first thing on the agenda is to play a one off show in Croatia. For whatever reason that area has eluded us so we’ll be going there and we’re excited about that. Then we have a UK tour, which kicks off in London on April 7th and takes us through Scotland, Whales, Ireland and elsewhere. We’ll be doing Hellfest in France again this summer. I think the general plan is to have our agent get us on as many big European Festivals as possible this summer. Like I said before, we all work so I’s hard putting together six week tours, so festival season is the perfect opportunity for us to play for a lot of people in one show rather than trying to tour around the country and playing club shows to 300 or 400 people. If you can do one show for 20-30,000 people that will cover all the bases right there, so that’s the plan. In the long run there’s no reason we won’t want to start working on a new record as well. I’d also like to get to some territories we’ve never been like South America, Australia, Canada and like I said, a more extensive tour in the US is in the plan as well.

TIS: Sounds great. I look forward to your return. Thanks so much for your time.

BW: Thanks to you Chris. Cheers mate.

Visit Orange Goblin Online Here!
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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.