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Orange Goblin

Orange Goblin
We Don’t Consider Ourselves A Stoner Rock Band


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Orange Goblin, alongside with Alabama Thunderpussy, were the band that showed me the way to the weird world of stoner rock 10 years ago. Since then I have listened to and played a ton of stoner-related music, seen many greats of the genre quite a few times (for instance, the Goblins I have been lucky to witness twice), and here I am now, interviewing Orange Goblin singer Ben Ward. Over the course of 30-something minutes we discussed the new album "The Wolf Bites Back", as well as the band’s early days, the phenomenon of Swedish “desert rock” in desrtless Sweden, and, of course, the expectations that both of us have about Orange Goblin’s first visit to Russia, which is due shortly, with the St. Petersburg gig scheduled for March 22 and the Moscow gig for March 23.

How are you Ben?

I’m very well. Just got home from work, trying to relax and enjoy talking to your good self.

So are you in the UK now? How is the weather there?

It’s cold, it’s been really cold, nothing compared to what you’re supposedly used to, but… (laughs) We’ve got some snow recently, and when you get a little bit of snow in London, everything comes to a standstill, nobody knows how to cope with it, so it’s been ridiculous. But it’s alright, things are good here, we’re all anticipating what’s gonna happen with Brexit and all that crap, but we’ll see.

You are now touring with your most recent album, "The Wolf Bites Back" (2018). Could you please introduce it to the fans?

“The Wolf Bites Back” came out last June via Candlelight / Spinefarm Records, we did a lot of summer festivals last year around its release – Hellfest, Summer Breeze, a few others here and there, all over Europe, kind of. Then in December we did a UK tour to support the album, a co-headline thing with Corrosion of Conformity, and that went really well, too. This year we’re just continuing and going to some places that we haven’t been, hence coming to Russia. But the album’s been really well received – nine albums into our career, 24 years into our career it’s something that we’re used to, but we’re really happy with how this album’s gone down since it came out. We feel that – I know every band says it, but we feel it’s the strongest album we’ve done in our career so far. Yeah, we’re excited by it.

Why did it take you so long to release this album? I mean, the gap between two previous albums was like two years, and this time it took you four years.

Yeah, it’s that all our lives changed, really. When we did “Back From The Abyss” (2014), we were a full-time band, we were all living from doing Orange Goblin, and that didn’t continue, because we weren’t just earning enough. None of us are really spring chickens anymore, so we had to make a tough decision – we all went back to work, and Orange Goblin was no longer the priority in our lives. We all had to find employment, take care of families and that sort of thing. We’d never been a band that likes to kind of rush making an album – if it doesn’t feel like it’s the right time, then we don’t bother. I’d rather wait a little bit longer and do something you can be proud of than rush into something and do it half-hearted. Four years between albums is not a great deal for us, we had five years between “Healing Through Fire” (2007) and “A Eulogy For The Damned” (2012). We like to concentrate on making sure that we’re ready to record an album, that we’ve got the material and ideas there to make it as good as it can be. And during those for years between “Back From The Abyss” and “The Wolf Bites Back” there was no point where we weren’t doing stuff; we were still doing shows and going off and doing festivals, we toured the U.S. with Down, we toured all over Europe with Saint Vitus; we kept ourselves busy, we just didn’t have the urge to write new material. That worked in our favor, I think, because that makes people hungry to hear more.

What about the songwriting and recording process? Did it also change since the previous records?

Yeah, the previous two were both recorded by a guy called Jamie Dodd at Animal Farm Studio in London, and this time around we went in and recorded with our good friend Jaime Gomez Arellano, a really well-known producer that has worked recently with bands like Paradise Lost, Ghost, more recently he did Grave Pleasures… He’s got such a broad spectrum of influences and bands he’s worked with. We wanted to do something a bit different, and when it came to thinking about who we’re gonna work with, his name came up. He’d just opened a brand new studio up in the English countryside, really remote, so when we went in there, we had no distractions. The last two albums were recorded in London, and obviously we could go home every night, or we could go to the pub, this kind of thing, whereas this time we were stuck in the countryside, and there’s nothing to do there but concentrate on working on a record. And Jaime just fits really well with the band - the way he works, the methods he introduced us to, experimenting with different sounds and different instruments and different equipment. We were really pleased with the job he did, and we think it really benefits the album. For me personally, “The Wolf Bites Back” is the strongest Orange Goblin album, it’s got the perfect mix of every instrument, it’s got the perfect blend of all of our influences stylistically, and we’re really happy with what Jaime did with the production.

And what is your favorite song off the latest album?

Ehm, you know what? It’s hard for me to say. It seems that it’s so long ago that the album came out. I like “Suicide Division”, because I’m a big fan of more upbeat extreme stuff, I love Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Bathory, Discharge, Motorhead especially, so I like that uptempo stuff. I also like the fact that Orange Goblin can do songs that have a strange… like “Zeitgeist”, obviously there’s a lot of classic influences in that, and we’d like to have a career of the likes of Black Sabbath and Motorhead. The album is a good combination of everything, but if I had to pick just one song, it would be “Suicide Division”.

As long as you’ve just mentioned Motorhead, could you say a few words about your collaboration with Phil Campbell?

Phil’s a good friend of mine, I work as his booking agent, and obviously he’s a bit of hero to all of us because of his 32-year playing with Motorhead up until Lemmy’s sad death. When we were writing “The Wolf Bites Back”, we had this idea for a solo, and we thought about who would be the perfect person to get in as a guest. We considered some of the other people we know, like Bill Steer, his name came up, but when we mentioned Phil Campbell, it was a no-brainer, it was like “yes!”. We got in touch with him, we asked him, and he was really up for it. He said, “Yeah, no problem”. We sent him the tracks, he played on two of them, sent them back, and we were really happy with them.

What tracks were they?

He plays on “Zeitgeist” at the end of the album, and he plays on the song “The Wolf Bites Back”. Recently he’s been working on a solo album, and he asked me to go down to his studio in Wales to record a song with him, which I have just done. He’s got a solo album coming out later in the year, it’s gonna have guest appearances by the likes of Alice Cooper, Dee Snider, Rob Halford, Chris Fehn from Slipknot… I was lucky enough to get asked to do a track, so I’m gonna be on there as well. It’s a really cool friendship we have with Phil, I enjoy working for him and hanging out with him.

Your spring leg of the tour starts in Estonia and then you're coming to Russia - for the first time, if I'm not mistaken. So how do you feel about it? What do you expect from the Russian fans?

We’re really excited. As you said, this is gonna be our first time there, and every band that we have ever spoken to said they had such a brilliant time in Russia and a great response from the crowd. If you look back over recent years, not so many bands used to go to Russia as part of their touring schedule because they had so much paperwork to do, whereas now it’s a little bit easier. We’re really pleased to go there, it’s one of these countries that I’ve always wanted to visit, whether that was with the band or as a tourist. I’ve always wanted to go to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and I’m getting the opportunity to do that with the band, so it’s really exciting. We’re really looking forward to see what the Russian fans have to offer us over there. It’s gonna be a great time. No disrespect to Estonia, but I think we’re more excited about going to Russia.

And what should the Russian fans expect from you? I mean, did you prepare anything special?

I mean, we consider every show that we do to be special, whether it’s playing to a small club in the UK to 200 people or playing to a massive festival in Europe to 20,000. We try and put everything we can into our live show, and we’ve always considered ourselves to be more of a live band than a studio band. I think the Russian fans will really enjoy the energy we bring to the stage. We’re in a fortunate position that we’ve been doing it so long now that we’ve got nine albums’ worth of material that we can choose from, and we like to try and involve songs from every album of our career in the setlist, so it’s gonna be a little bit of everything. And I’ve always considered us one of those bands that kind of cross so many different genres – we’ve got a little bit of blues in there, we’ve got a little bit of extreme metal, we’ve got a little bit of classic metal, we’ve got some 70s rock, we’ve got southern rock in some songs. Hopefully it is something for everybody. I’ll just say we’re gonna come well-prepared, well-rehearsed and giving you 100 percent.

I’ve seen you twice at festivals, but bands usually play shorter sets at festivals…

We haven’t really worked out how long our set is gonna be, but I think we’ll be prepared to do like 90-minute shows, if that’s what the promoters want. I mean, I’m not sure who’s gonna be a supporting act in Russia yet, I haven’t heard anything from the promoter. But yeah, I have to say that in these 90 minutes you’re gotta get a little bit of everything from Orange Goblin, and it will be the best show that we can possibly put on. We’re bringing our own crew with us, our own front-of-house soundman, so it’s gonna be pretty cool.

As I said, I saw you twice - in 2017 at Wacken and last year at HellFest. I even met you at Watain show here and we made a photo. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the reception at Hellfest was warmer - I mean, I never saw such crowd surfing and moshing at a stoner gig. Do you feel the same, is the audience different in Germany and France?

Hellfest is a bit special to us because that was the fourth time we played there, we’ve got affinity with that audience. Germany can be good to us as well, depending on where we play. We get a good response everywhere, I think. What surprises people about Orange Goblin is that our live show isn’t like that of a typical stoner rock band. We don’t consider ourselves a stoner rock band, we consider ourselves just a heavy metal band. We don’t go out with the intention of playing long slow drawn-out riffs, we go on stage and try to get the energy up, and try to get people to enjoy it like it would have been a Motorhead show or something. That’s why, I think, Hellfest was particularly special. The crowd response was amazing, and it’s really cool for you to witness that. Hopefully that will kind of give you an insight to what the people in Russia can expect from an Orange Goblin show when we come.

What is your favorite country to play in?

I don’t think I can really pick one, there’s been so many over the years. We toured Australia, that was a really nice time, we went to Japan, and that was amazing, we’ve been all over the U.S. and Canada. Everywhere we’ve been has got some pluses and minuses. Finland is great to play, but it’s cold up there as well. Spain’s great, Greece is always fun. We have a really good following here in the UK obviously. Germany, Scandinavia… France has always been particularly good to us. We’ve got a strong following everywhere. Last year we went to places like Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, all these countries, and we always get a decent welcome. I mean, if a band is respectful and appreciative of where it is they are and willing to embrace different people’s culture, local food, local music and things like that, you know, have an understanding of that, then everywhere can be fun. I think a lot of English people get bad rap around the world because we get associated with a kind of football hooligans that travel everywhere and just wanna smack things up. But the majority of English people are not like that. As a band, Orange Goblin are always trying to come to new countries with an open mind and wanna show respect and embrace the new cultures that we can discover, so it’s gonna be nice coming to Russia for the first time. As a child growing up reading history books and watching TV shows, it was always a place that fascinated me, I’ve always had interest in Russia, so I’m looking forward to it.

I love your live album "A Eulogy for the Fans" (2013) a lot but you have recorded some great songs since then. Do you plan to release another live album?

It’s something that we’ve discussed with next year being the 25th anniversary of the band, which seems incredible in itself. We wanna do something special, there are plans to start putting something together, and that might include another live album. We’ve got 20 years’ worth of footage that we filmed on the road across America and Europe, and maybe at some point we’ll get around at putting that together and do a DVD with backstage footage and onstage footage. I think a lot of heavy metal fans like to see that other side of the band when they’re not onstage – what they get up to on the tour bus, what they’re doing at the hotel, what they’re doing backstage in their dressing rooms, that kind of thing may be quite interesting, so we’d like to put something like that together maybe.

Yeah, I’d love to buy a DVD like that from you, with backstage footage and crazy stories from the road. By the way, could you share a couple of such stories with me now?

Oh, there’s been so many! The tour we did with Cathedral in 1999, there was madness on that tour! We’d get into service stations on German autobahn causing chaos, stealing bikes, stealing mechanical pigs, taking mushrooms and tripping out, getting into fight, getting into trouble, drinking too much, doing everything that you could imagine really. The problem is that most of the best ones you never remember, because you’re too drunk.

By the way, what do you do to keep your voice in shape on tour? You’re talking about drinking too much, taking mushrooms and stuff, and that obviously affects your voice…

We don’t do so much of the drinking and drugs anymore, because, as I said, we’re not spring chicken, I’m gonna be 45 this year, I need to take care of myself when I’m on the road. I always make sure there’s lemon and honey on the rider so I can make tea, because that’s a drink that soothes your throat. I do vocal warm-up before the show and when I was on tour with CoC Pepper Keenan was teaching me a good thing – you’re supposed to warm your voice down as well after the show. There’s all these little things we do, we try to keep ourselves healthy, we eat well - rather than junk food like McDonalds all the time, we try and get some healthy vegetables and other stuff that’s beneficial. Yeah, we calmed down a lot in the last few years, we need to look after ourselves.

But have you ever lost your voice before or during a concert?

No, never to the point where I absolutely lost my voice and we had to cancel a show. I’ve been very lucky in that respect, that’s never happened. I don’t consider myself a classically trained singer, I’m not like Rob Halford or Ronnie James Dio or Bruce Dickinson, but I can stay in tune, and people tell me my voice is quite powerful, and that power in my voice what people regard me for, I’ve been lucky.

Have you ever had any singing lessons?

No! None in the band have ever had any lessons for any of our instruments. When we first started in ’94, we were just friends sitting around a board listening to our favorite metal records and wanted to start our own band. Martyn (Millard) had never played bass, he picked it up alone from scratch, I’d never sung before, and when we started off, I was more death metal, because I didn’t have the confidence to sing but that sort of changed as time went on. No, I’ve never had any lessons or anything like that.

Who are your favorite singers? Who inspires you?

Obviously Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne are two of the biggest influences, but also Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio are great singers, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, I really like John Fogerty from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ronnie Van Zandt from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I love Rod Stewart, his voice in The Faces was great, Steve Marriott from Humble Pie and Small Faces, Paul Stanley had a really cool voice on the early Kiss records. And as a frontman, I’ve been really influenced by people like Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost and Lee Dorrian from Cathedral, Cronos from Venom. There’s a little bit from everyone I look up to.

Your first three records were much more psychedelic than the music you're playing now. Was it natural evolution or did you have some specific reasons for it?

It’s just kind of natural progression really. The first album, “Frequencies From Planet Ten” (1997), was definitely more psychedelic, and I think that was because we were young, we were smoking a lot more pot then. (everybody laughs) We wanted to have that sort of Pink Floyd influence in our music as well, and when we went into the studio, we had all these bits of equipment around that we wanted to play around with and added that to the sound. And then we slowly but surely started to have a bit more punk influence, I guess, because Chris (Turner), our drummer, he’s from a punk rock background, he grew up listening to the likes of Discharge, Heresy, Concrete Sox, Napalm Death, and all those early English punk bands – The UK Subs and that sort of stuff. We all love Motorhead as well, so it seeped into the music. We’ve never been afraid to do something a bit different, we don’t feel that it’s good for the band or healthy for us if we just try and sound like one style of music all the time, we need to progress and everything. Over the course of our career that’s what you’ll find: “Time Travelling Blues” (1998) has got that kind of southern rock feel to it, you’ve got songs like “Crown Of Locusts” that was a bit more extreme with its death metal kind of feel. There’s bits of everything throughout our career. That natural progression has taken us all the way to “The Wolf Bites Back”, which I think is the perfect combination of all of it.

Keeping with the theme of progression - you used to have very colorful album covers (for example, on "Frequencies From Planet Ten") and now you tend to make the puritan ones. Is it the consequence of musical changes?

Yeah, I think so. Again, the covers kind of reflect the music, and if you look back at “Frequencies From Planet Ten”, as you said, it’s got all those colors, and it’s kind of reflected in the psychedelic feel of the music, whereas “The Wolf Bites Back” is a lot darker and a lot more serious, so we wanted the album cover to reflect that. We’ve always done that throughout our career, I think. Album covers have always been a really good indication of what sort of music you can expect.

A kind of stupid question but I really wonder - why did you change the band's name from Our Haunted Kingdom to Orange Goblin? And why is the Goblin Orange?

Obviously you really need to ask why we changed that, because Our Haunted Kingdom was a terrible name. It was with the change in style, because, as I said, we started out as a death metal band, and we were more influenced by the Peaceville scene of that time, with Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride, even Autopsy and stuff like that. And then we started discovering a lot of early ‘70s proto metal and ‘70s rock, stuff like Captain Beyond, Bang, Sir Lord Baltimore that sort of stuff. We wanted to have a name that kind of reflected the style of music we were changing into. As kids, we were all really into Tolkien and “The Lord Of The Rings”, and that’s where the “Goblin” came from, and because all or favorite bands had a color in their name – Blue Cheer, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple – we went for “Orange”, and Orange Goblin was born.

Your line-up remains constant since the departure of Pete O'Malley (guitar) in 2004. How do you manage to keep the line-up for so many years?

We all still enjoy doing it and we all still get on. There’s no kind of egos in the band, we’re all still good friends, we were always together this past weekend as we were playing shows in England, and next weekend we’re all gonna be out socializing in the pub together. It’s not like we only get together through the band and stuff, we’ve always been really good friends. We enjoy each other’s company, we enjoy making music together, and we’ve always said that the day it ends and it stops being fun and we’re not getting on or seeing eye to eye on our music together, then we’ll call it a day. At this stage, I don’t see this changing anytime soon, so we’re really lucky in that respect. A lot of bands go through a lot of changes, people come and go, they say, “My wife wants me to settle down and won’t let me tour”. We’ve been lucky enough to have really understanding people around us, and we’ve managed a quarter of a century with the same four guys. We should be sick at the sight of each other by now and hate each other, but we don’t! (laughs)

I don’t even remember another band who’s had such a stable line-up for so long.

Yeah, we’ve been thinking about this before, Chris and I, and we think Clutch is the other one.

As you said, you don’t consider themselves a stoner rock band, but you are still regarded as a part of that scene by many people, and as far as I understand, you have a lot of connections with it. For instance, in 2000 you released a split EP with Alabama Thunderpussy, a band that I like a lot. Do you know these guys personally?

Oh yeah, we toured America with Alabama Thunderpussy in 2002, we did like a seven-week tour with them. They’re awesome guys, we still keep in touch with them now, even though they’re not together anymore. Same with Cathedral and Electric Wizard, we always see each other at festivals, hang out and have a good time. We’re really good friends with the guys in Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet, because they were coming over to Europe in the mid-90s when we started, and we were getting on shows with them in the UK and playing with them. We’re very lucky to get to know and see those bands back then. We still follow them, we keep in touch now, that’s why we had John Garcia and Scott Reeder on our “Coup De Grace” album (2002). Scott came over and produced it, and John came over and sang on two songs. Yeah, we’re still surprisingly fitting with the stoner rock scene. I don’t know, it’s that all of a sudden around 1999 or 2000 everybody was doing the same thing, and there was nothing fresh about it, which is why we tried to sort of move away from it and do something different with “Coup De Grace” and went a bit more punk and a bit more raw Motorhead sounding. It was a time when in a lot of bands in places like Scandinavia were calling themselves “desert rock”, and I was like, “Hang on, there’s no desert in Sweden…” It was the right time. Nowadays we still do get called “stoner rock”, and I accept that’s something that’s gonna stick with us, although we don’t really consider ourselves a stoner rock band, and it’s not that I really listen to that music a great deal anymore. If I do, it’s very rare. Black Sabbath is the ultimate band that brought us all together, they’re the godfathers of that scene anyway, and I still listen to them on a regular basis.

I agree with you here, I don’t like all these lazy and boring bands that play the same riff for ten minutes either…

There are too many bands these days that are more concerned with their equipment and their guitar tuning than actually writing songs and riffs.

Maybe you could bring some really good riff-oriented bands with you when you come over to Russia next time…

We’ve been really lucky that over the course of our career we’ve toured with major bands that we look up to. I mean, we toured with Down, we toured with Saint Vitus, we toured with Clutch, we toured with Witchcraft, Grand Magus, Cathedral, Roadsaw… there’s too many to list. We’ve played with Black Sabbath, we’ve played with Motorhead, we’ve played festivals with the likes of Iron Maiden, we’re really lucky, and we’ll never forget that.

Now, to round up this interview, could you please tell something inspiring to your fans here in Russia?

As I said, this is a massive opportunity, this is a dream come true for Orange Goblin to come to Russia. We don’t know really what to expect, we’re hoping it’s gonna be amazing, and we’re hoping this is the first visit of many. We hope that people will enjoy the shows so much that in the years to come we can keep coming back and playing to the Russian crowds.

Orange Goblin on the Internet: http://www.orange-goblin.com/

Special thanks to Kaleria Mutabor (Madstream Booking) for arranging this interview

Interview by Pavel Vlasov
Photos by Margarita Stefankova
February 13, 2019
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