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A Conversation With Ben Ward From Orange Goblin
Finding good music to listen to these days seems to be somewhat of a rare discovery for me and most music junkies I know. The average listener is more apt to find a new band to trend with and listen to while waiting for something new and better to come out, but not me. In my search for good bands to listen to I have travelled quite the distance. I came to discover Orange Goblin through my buddy Tony Kill. This had to be around the time that their album Healing Through Fire was released, maybe it was earlier, but we were definitely driving back from a white water rafting trip when he played the album for me and he was telling me they’re the best band that I hadn’t discovered yet. At the time, I was still freelancing a fair bit of articles and had moved into restaurant and club reviews, but, heavy metal and rock music had always been my passions and love. For me as a music journalist, to be able to find a great band to write about has always been part of what has always driven me to write and showcase great talent and music. This band has been one that I continue to listen to and still get excited about.
For those of you that have no clue who this band is, Orange Goblin, who were previously known as Our Haunted Kingdom, are some of the hardest rocking Brits I’ve heard since Motorhead. They’re a heavy metal band from the United Kingdom that formed back in 1995 and can be considered the “reigning champions of balls-out, party-starting, booze-fuelled metal”. This band has headlined sold-out shows at New York’s famed and now closed CBGB’s, at Los Angeles’ notorious Troubadour and of course the legendary Underworld in Camden, London. They have also blown away fans playing outdoor music festivals such as Sonisphere, Download, Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, Roadburn, Dynamo, Maryland Death Fest, and High Voltage.
The band’s current lineup consists of singer Ben Ward (whom I interviewed for this piece), guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, and finally drummer Chris Turner. When they originally formed in 1995 it was under the name of Our Haunted Kingdom, they released a split 7″ single with the label Electric Wizard in 1996 on the label Rise Above Records before finally adopting the band name Orange Goblin. The band’s first three albums were in the stoner/doom metal niche. 2002′s Coup de Grace showed where the band evolved and decidedly added elements of punk, doom metal, and other influences to their musical sound. The first five releases by the band were issued by the label Rise Above Records. Sadly, their lineup changed when rhythm guitarist Pete O’Malley left the band in 2004 to pursue a career as an artist. Their 2007 album, Healing Through Fire was released on the record label Mayan/Sanctuary Records. On September 3rd, 2008 the band announced that they had signed with Candlelight Records and were working on material for a new album with a tentative September 2009 release date. In March of 2010, a statement was issued by the members stating that while they were not necessarily ever going to release a new album ever again, the prospective forthcoming album was going to be postponed for the next foreseeable future. The band then announced they would be recording some new material in August of 2011. The recordings were completed in September 2011 and set for a release in early February of 2012 under the album name A Eulogy For The Damned on the Candlelight Records label.
In my line of work the best part of the job is being able to get the musicians I love listening to, agree to interviews and to give me a better perspective of the people behind the music. I was lucky enough to get Ben Ward to agree to this interview and without further waiting here are the contents of it:
Eulogy Of The Damned is your latest release. How long do you normally tour for an album?
We don’t really have a set plan for this sort of thing, we just keep touring until we’re ready to do another record! In the early days we were stuck into a groove of delivering a new album every couple of years but recently we’ve taken a bit longer. I guess that’s due to the fact that as you get older you have other things in your life that take priority such as family and work, et cetera.
Was the five year wait for Eulogy Of The Damned due to anything in particular?
As I say, it was just a case of life getting in the way really. Chris (drummer) moved out of London to live by the coast so that meant we didn’t rehearse as much as we used to. Then Chris and Joe (guitar) both became fathers again and wanted to spend some time at home with their wives and babies. In the meantime Martyn and I went off and did a band called Ravens Creed for a while. We all work and are approaching 40 (Chris is over 40!) so we don’t get to do stuff with the band as much as we’d probably like. We knew that when we did deliver the new album it would have to be our best yet due to the longer wait which inevitably leads to higher expectations. I think it was worth the wait!
What heavy music are you into?
I like a bit of everything really, from classical music right through to extreme death and black metal. My favorite music is classic rock and metal and I like to dig for obscure 70’s rock bands that a lot of people may have never heard of. My favorite bands of all time are the likes of Black Sabbath, Slade, Status Quo, Lynyrd Skynyrd, that sort of thing but I also listen to country, soul, and anything else that moves me. Everyone in the band has a broad range of musical tastes so I think that’s why we’ve never been afraid to try something new.
What festivals have you been a part of?
We have played with some killer bands at such prestigious festivals as Hellfest, Sonisphere, Metalfest Open Air, Bloodstock, Sweden Rock Festival and the first ever Desertfests in London and Berlin.
So you guys have day jobs? What do you do to pay the other part of the bills?
The other part of the bills? The day jobs pay 100% of the bills! Pretty much everything we earn from Orange Goblin goes back into the band being able to exist. It would be great if that would change but we’ll see. For now I work in an artist management office looking after various acts and clients. Joe works as a gas engineer, Martyn is a delivery driver and Chris works for his local council. Nothing very glamorous at all but you know – it pays the bills!
Do you have any plans to do shows in Canada? There are some very eager fans that would love to see you.
We would love to come and play in Canada and that’s something we are desperately working towards doing in 2013. It’s been frustrating that we’ve never made it there and we can only apologize to our fans over there but as I say I hope we can work something out.
You recently changed labels. What prompted it and is it allowing you to work less in the real world and more on the music?
The label change was purely down to the fact that Sanctuary folded and it left us without a home. Bear in mind that this all happened in 2008 and Candlelight snapped us up immediately so it was great to feel wanted by such an esteemed label. Candlelight have shown us great support and patience and we are very grateful for that. Hopefully, in the future we can start to concentrate more on the music and less on the day jobs!
Other than Pabst Blue Ribbon beer what other brews do you guys look for in the States? And which certain places did you want to eat?
Whenever we’ve been on tour in the US we have been absolutely broke so we’re always satisfied with anything that’s free. I’m a big fan of the IPA’s over there but we’ll pretty much drink anything. We’re used to drinking very good European beers so it takes quite a bit to impress us over there. As for food, the first couple of tours we were quite taken by the novelty of eating at places like Waffle House and Taco Bell. Nowadays we tend to look for something a bit healthier that falls within the budget!
How has being a family man inspired your music?
I think I can say that it hasn’t changed me at all. I’ve always been very committed to the music we make and that hasn’t changed. My family appreciate that the music is my release so they encourage me to continue doing it and they are proud of what we do. I guess since becoming a father I try to be a bit more responsible and grown up about things but sometimes the beauty of rock and metal is being a bit silly, naughty or childish so I still have that side to me too.
What kinds of bands are you influenced by?
I think the biggest influences on Orange Goblin are fairly obvious. Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Trouble, Led Zeppelin and Black Flag really. Those are our favorite bands but we also throw in some Skynyrd, ZZ Top, CCR, Mountain and more recently bands like Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Cathedral.
How did you lose your other guitarist Pete?
After the 4th album Coup De Grace we went off and did headline tours of the US and Europe extensively. It was a really grueling schedule that saw us play something like 80 shows in about 86 days or something like that. By the end of it Pete just felt that he had achieved everything he set out to do with the band and wanted to concentrate on his career as an artist. He’s a very talented designer and felt that he could utilize his skills at that to make a living so it was all very amicable and he’s a good friend of the band to this day. We never wanted to replace him as it just felt right to continue as a four piece.
Who’s idea was it to sample ‘Satan’s Sadists’ on the album?
That was me. I love that movie and that quote just fitted the theme and attitude of the song perfectly. There are so many 60’s and 70’s biker movies that you could use as they all have some awesome quotes and dialogue.
Football or cricket?
I like cricket but I’m definitely a football man. We are all huge football fans (except for Joe!). Martyn and I used to play together at quite a decent level, which is how we met, and we still follow the game avidly. I’m a big Liverpool fan and try to get to as many games as possible. Martyn supports Queens Park Rangers and Chris follows Wolverhampton Wanderers as that’s where he is from.
What would most surprise your fans about you?
I’m not sure really. I guess I have a different persona on stage as I’m like this big mountain beast that belts out these heavy metal songs but off stage I am just an average guy that likes beer, football, horror movies and great music. I suppose people would be surprised that we have a drummer that has a degree in Astrophysics too!
Being from London what was the experience of the Olympics like? That is unless you were on tour while they were going on.
The Olympics happened pretty much on my doorstep (I live about five minutes from the Olympic Park in Stratford) and for the last seven years it has been a complete pain in the arse with all the road closures and preparations to get the stadiums and arenas built but actually as soon as the games kicked off, London was like a ghost town. It had the complete opposite effect on what everyone expected as the majority of people either went away on holiday or stayed indoors! I wouldn’t want it here again in my lifetime though!
What is the strangest thing a fan ever did?
A few things spring to mind. Japan has the craziest fans. The first time we went there it was like being in the Beatles for a few days. We took the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo and when we arrived in Tokyo there were a crowd of young girls there to greet us and they just burst into tears! I’m sure they must’ve thought we were someone else! We’ve also had fans sneak onto the bus and shit in the toilet, fans that make weird things for us and one or two have even gone as far as buying all our albums!
And finally here are my two questions that appear in every interview I do. What is your take on porn?
Being a family man I don’t really have a lot to do with porn anymore but in the early days of the band it was a tour essential, in both film and magazine form.
Secondly, what was the first porno movie you saw and do you remember what it was called and who it starred?
The first I remember watching was called ‘Pretty Peaches’ and it starred Desiree Cousteau. There is a particular scene that involves a hosepipe that sticks in the memory!!
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