"some music was meant to stay underground..."


A Conversation With Orange Goblin Vocalist Ben Ward

Two days ago in Cardiff, I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the most exciting tour packages of the year, as Corrosion Of Conformity hit the road with Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry and Black Moth. Needless to say, the show was incredible but beforehand I had the pleasure of speaking not only with Corrosion Of Conformity guitarist Woody Weatherman (which can be viewed here,) but also with Orange Goblin vocalist Ben Ward. During the interview, we discussed the band's excellent new album, "The Wolf Bites Back," balancing day jobs with being in an established metal band and what makes them so relatable to British rockers. You can check out the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: Well straight into it, the new album, "The Wolf Bites Back" is out now, which is a great and quite typical Orange Goblin title if you like. Very simple but very effective. The same goes for the artwork, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ben Ward: Well, we wanted something simple but striking. A lot of the classic album covers aren't really over elaborate, think "Dark Side Of The Moon" etc. When the title, "The Wolf Bites Back" came up, it was just a case of a simple striking image of a snarling wolf. We asked our mate Roland (Scriver of Familiar Ink) who's done a lot of artwork for us over the years with t-shirts and other things and he did a great job.

Oz: Well you did a great job on the album yourselves. Without going too far, there's a little bit more of a death metal influence on this record, a bit more doom...

Ben: Yeah, I think it's a melting pot of what the four our collective tastes. Myself and Martyn come from a more extreme/heavy metal background. Chris comes from sort of a more hardcore/D.C. punk scene background and Joe's always been into the blues and classic rock so I think that mixture is what defines Orange Goblin. It comes together to create something unique, although we always joke that we've ripped something off to create our own sound. It's almost impossible these days to create something completely original, everything's kind of been done before, especially with this kind of music with the Sabbath and Motorhead influences. Tony Iommi wrote the book.

With this album we wanted it to sound short, sharp, aggressive and have every song possible to play in a live environment. Not do much with overdubs, guitars etc. We wanted it to be about what we want to take to the stage and we've been playing about four or five songs from the album, mixing it up too. After nine albums you tend to get a bit bored playing the same songs over and over again so when new material's available it's something fresh.

Oz: Absolutely, like you say after twenty odd years you must get tired of songs like "Scorpionica" but then that's kind of like your "Ace Of Spades."

Ben: Yeah, Sabbath couldn't get away without playing "Iron Man" so it's part and parcel of the job I guess.

Oz: It's a great (tour) lineup tonight. Seeing yourselves with C.O.C., Fireball Ministry and Black Moth...

Ben: We've been really good friends with all of these bands for a long time so when the opportunity arose to put this together it was a no brainer really and I'm the promoter for three of the four bands so it's an added bonus for me!

Oz: Well I know you're also the booking agent for Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons and obviously Phil makes a guest appearance on the album. Was it simply a case of picking up the phone and saying, "Alright Phil, are you busy?"

Ben: Yeah, I picked up the phone, asked him if he'd be into it and he said, yeah. He sent the tracks over instead of recording them with us but he didn't hang about. He sent them over in a few days and we were blown away by what he'd done. You know this is the guy from Motorhead, he played with Lemmy for thirty years so he's a decent guitar player. Unfortunately he can't make it tonight. It would have been great for him to come up and play the song with us.

Oz: Such is life. There's always been a bit of a gap between albums, about four or five years. Obviously this is because you've all got day jobs and that sort of thing, but I know next year you've got some festivals coming up like Graspop for example. How are you able to balance day jobs with the festival circuit?

Ben: Festivals are a bit easier because they're at the weekends so you can fly our Saturday morning, play Saturday night and come home the next day but occasionally you'll have to book off a Friday or Monday so you can do two. But as you say, with us having day jobs, going on tour for lengthy periods just isn't possible anymore. Certainly not six or seven weeks like we used to do, so the festivals are our opportunities to play to ten/twenty thousand people, which would take weeks to do playing to three hundred or so people in a club show so it's an ideal way for us to market the album.

Oz: Absolutely. Well, Orange Goblin is a band which to me has always felt very British...

Ben: That's because we're very British!

Oz: (laughs) But for example the phone call at the end of "The Big Black" ending in, "Come on you Rs!" (a reference to bassist Martyn Millard's support for Queens Park Rangers football club,) you wouldn't get something like that from any other country.

Ben: During the nineties with the "stoner rock" scene and there was obviously bands like Kyuss and Fu Manchu from the States and we just thought that there's no need to try and be like them. That's why I love bands like Cathedral and Electric Wizard, everybody had their own take on it. Just like when heavy metal started. US sounding bands like Blue Cheer, MC5 etc. but then when Sabbath and Deep Purple came along you could tell they were definitely British artists. We've all grown up listening to bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and there's no doubt Britishness in their music so we're just a natural progression of that.

Going back to the stoner rock thing though, there was a lot of Swedish and Scandinavian bands coming out calling themselves "desert rock" and it's like "Hang on, where's the deserts in Sweden?" It's like Lee Dorrian said, "Fu Manchu could sing about the deserts and California highways but I sing about things that I see out my window is a council estate in Coventry with burnt out cars."

Oz: Well, like I said you're doing some festivals next year, I would imagine there's a few gigs lined up too.

Ben: Yeah, we'd like to do as much as we can. We're going to Russia for the first time and we'll going back to Italy and playing in Sardinia. Plus Portugal, Germany, Denmark and there's offers coming in for the possibility of going back to Australia and our first time in South America, a U.S. tour is something people are always asking us about. We're open to everything as long as it fits in with our schedule and families. We still get a buzz out of it and playing live.

Oz: And that comes through, even on "The Wolf Bites Back."

Ben: Yeah, we're genuine guys and you could tell if we were faking it. You can't get away with that. You need to have that honesty with the crowd.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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