Orange Goblin - Interview

From one of the best underground british stoner-doom metal bands, Orange Goblin, we get a look at the band's inspiration behind their "Healing Through Fire" album, released in March 2007. The band's frontman, Ben Ward, speaks to us about things that have happened, things that are happening, and things that will happen. Get yourself a beer, sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy this long-ass interview and in-depth look at Orange Goblin. Questions and thorough research about those bad-ass stoners - courtesy of Kubiccy.


I must begin with congratulations. Your last album is great and this is definitely not just a courtesy of mine. Are you satisfied with the final result?

We are very satisfied, thank you! There was a lot of hard work and effort that went into the album and we definitely felt a certain amount of pressure on this record but we are confident that it's as good as it could have been.

Could you tell us in a few words what are the main differencies between "Healing Through Fire" and your previous albums?

It's just a progression of the band as a whole. We put together all the influences of the previous 5 albums and through 12 years of experience we have grown together as a band and we all know how to work in synch with each other to achieve the best results.

Perhaps I'm wrong but "Healing Through Fire" seems to be more diverse than your earlier records. What do you think of it?

Orange Goblin has always tried to incorporate a lot of different influences on every record. There is the obvious Sabbath reference but we like to lean in on punk, southern rock, metal, doom and other things too. I don't paticularly think that this album is much more diverse than any of the others. Even on the first record you had the upbeat rock like 'Magic Carpet' and then the tripped-out Doors like 'Star Shaped Cloud'.

On the other hand "Healing Through Fire" starts more or less in the same place where "Thieving From The House of God" ends. So the latest album is just a natural development of your music style. Do you agree with me?

Yes, definitely, as I stated before this is the signs of a band progressing and evolving naturally. I'd hate to think that every album we've made sounds exactly the same.

As early as "Coup the Grace" your music has become more and more aggressive. "Thieving From The House of God" is a proof of it. "Healing Through Fire" is another step forward and at the same time it has been your strongest material so far. Am I right?

Yes, I wanted to infuse a bit more of a traditional metal aggression into this record, hence the almost Death Metal vocals in 'Hounds Ditch' and the Thrash riffs in 'They Come Back'. People may say that it's not what Orange Goblin is about but we say 'Fuck that! If it sounds good, use it!'

Let's look at the track "They Come Back" which contains a part of nearly Death/Trash Metal wallop - there weren't such elements in OG's music before. What are the reasons for these changes?

Just us trying to express our influences again. On stage people might think we've only ever listened to Black Sabbath, 70's rock, Doom and Motorhead, but my favorite music is Death and Black Metal, so I obviously wanted to do some of that.

You're an active member of Ravens Creed, in which you play oldschool death metal. Don't you, by any chance, try to smuggle some playing of this kind into Orange Goblin's music?

The reason that I do Ravens Creed is because there is a limit to the amount of more extreme music we can do with Orange Goblin. Joe, the OG guitarist, might not want us to go too far with it because he is more interested in old blues and classic rock, which is great because we balance ourselves out. Ravens Creed is more chance to let go and sing songs about war, death, satan and blood and I love it!

By the way, could you tell us something more about Ravens Creed?

It's me on vocals, Martyn from OG on bass, Steve from Iron Monkey on guitars, James from Cudamantra on guitar and Jay, Tony Iommi's ex-session drummer. Steve and Jay formed the band and asked if I'd be interested in doing something mixing up old Bathory, Venom, Celtic Frost, Exodus and Kreator. It's a lot of fun that has had to take a back seat this year as Orange Goblin has been so busy, but next year we will be releasing new RC material and touring quite a bit, so it should be fun!

Correct me if I'm wrong but in my opinion your vocal has also changed lately. On the latest two albums it's a little bit more aggressive.

I prefer to get up close and shout at the mic rather than stand there trying to be all soulful. My voice is not good enough to be classified as a singer so I just try and belt it out the best I can.

Let's go back to your recent material. On "Healing Through Fire" I can't hear too many Punk influences. But they were still clearly audible in "Tosh Lines" of "Thieving From The House of God" or in "We Bite" which is Misfits' cover placed on "Coup de Grace", weren't they?

They're still there. They just get manifested in different ways. The same way that the recent Darkthrone has a real punk edge to it and Nattefrost etc. Punk is hard to define audibly, to me it's more of an attitude of not giving a fuck and doing whatever you want. I think that if you listen to most Heavy, Death, Thrash, Black and Doom bands, there is a Punk influence. Black Sabbath were punk in the respect that they didn't care that people thought the music was too loud, too heavy and too evil!

"Healing Through Fire" refers to one of the most important events in London's history: to Great Plague of London in the years 1664-1666 which killed over 20% of the citizens and the Great Fire of 1666 which ruined over 13 thousands buildings.

It's a fascinating subject for writing an album with so much scope for dark, morbid and depraved stories. It was a really harsh age and it was a real well of inspiration to write both the music and the lyrics for the album.

Even though the Fire ruined the substantial part of London but still it killed rats carrying the plague germs and made possible to build a modern city. Is this the healing through fire?

That is correct. The city was devastated by the fire in terms of damage to buildings but in actual fact, only 6 deaths were recorded due to the fire. But it was the fire that healed the city and rid the streets of the plague-infested rats.

The title of the first track - "The Ballad of Solomon Eagle" - refers to the character who appeared in "Journal of a Plague Year" which is a literary account by Daniel Defoe of the events mentioned above. Did you base your lyrics on that book while writing them for your latest album?

I certainly read that book, as well as many others. I just thought Solomon Eagle sounded like a funny character. He was a Quaker who prophesised about the end of the world and was convinced that the plague was sent from god to punish mankind for all it's sins. To get his message across he used to run around the streets of Southwark in London naked with a vat of burning fat and oils on his head. Eventually, his wife died of the plague and he was last seen heading across Southwark Bridge on his way to the cathedral.

Before "Healing Through Fire" was released I found your statements on the Internet that the forthcoming album would refer to those events not only lirycally but also musically. Do you think that you managed to achieve your aim?

Loosely! It's not really a concept album as it doesn't tell a story in a sort of chronological order. I also like to include a fantasy element with the lyrics, which is why there are tales of zombie plague victims returning to life to hunt the living!

The last track on the CD titled "Beginners Guide to Suicide" is a continuation of a certain tradition - each of your albums ends with the longest track of the whole set. This is a great song, much different from the rest of the material. Could you tell something more about it?

It's about someone that has just had enough of life in London around that period. First the plague, then the fire, on top of that there was the filth, the crime, the poverty, the overcrowding etc. It's simlar to London today!!! We knew that song should finish the album and we got our friend Johnny, better known as one man band Honkeyfinger, to come down and add harmonica and slide guitar to it. He really gave it that bluesy feel that I think it needed.

"Healing Through Fire" was produced by Mark Daghorn. Why did you decide to change the producer? You worked with Billy Anderson before. What are the differencies between them and their styles of work?

Mark owns the studio where we did the last 2 albums so he has always been around our recording sessions and therefore knows how we work. Billy was unavailable and we had always wanted to work with Mark anyway because I'm a fan of the other albums he's produced. This was the first album we have recorded entirely digitally, and Mark is a wizard with technology, so we were really happy with the results.

The Artwork is a piece of work of Hugh Gilmour. You had already worked together on "The Big Black". Gilmour created covers for e.g. Bruce Dickinson, Venom, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Grand Magus and Electric Wizard. This Artwork superbly refers to the subject matter of the album. Did you meddle in his ideas or is this only the effect of his independent job?

It was a case of us having a few meetings with Hugh, usually in the Crobar! We would give him our ideas, he gave us his and then you get the final result. Hugh is very talented and because we've known him for so long he can almost read our minds about what we'll want.

Was the cooperation with Frank Kozik, the author of great graphics on "Coup de Grave" only a one-time incident?

No, not at all. Frank had done the 'Time Travelling Blues' album cover for us, as well as a couple of releases on his Mans Ruin label a few years ago. When we had the idea of a horror comic for 'Coup de Grace' Frank was the obvious choice and he said he'd always wanted to do something like that, so it was perfect!

The latest album is the first fruit of your cooperation with Sanctuary Records. How did the cooperation start?

We were looking for a record label. They were looking for a British metal band. We had a few meetings and voila! It really is as simple as that.

Why did you decide to leave Rise Above? You fit perfectly with this label's profile. Besides, together with Electric Wizard, you were unquestionably the most important band of their catalogue. Aren't you afraid that in Sanctuary (which is a sub-label of Universal) you'll be only one of many bands and perhaps you'll get lost in the crowd?

After 5 albums and ten years we just felt that it was time for a change. We are still very good friends with Lee and Will at Rise Above and we'll be forver grateful for everything that they did for us, but we just wanted a change. I'm sure the door at Rise Above is always open to us if we wanted to do another record with them, but we'll see. We are more than happy with the year we have had with Sanctuary, so there's no worries!

The history knows a lot of cases where bands signed their contracts with huge music companies in the hope that they will stretch their wings but the cooperation ended with a total disillusion. I guess you shut out the thought that this situation might happen to you?

It never crossed our minds. We just told Sanctuary what we want, how we like to work and they were totally cool with all of it. The marketing and promotion has been great so we're happy!

Did Lee Dorian try to hold you somehow in Rise Above? How do you assess your cooperation looking back and bearing in mind that Rise Above have released five Orange Goblin's albums?

As I said before, we love Lee and he's been like a mentor for us. He was disappointed but at the same time gave us his blessing to try new things. Lee is a fan of music and not finance so he was not concerened with losing us to another label.

Not so long ago I had a chance to see you in Wroclaw during your first concert in Poland. Your gig was really phenomenal! What are your impressions of it?

We had a blast. The Polish fans were crazy! It's a shame that it took us so long to finally play in Poland but it was worth the wait. The people were very friendly, it was well organized and the beer and vodka were great!

Admittedly, the attendance at this concert wasn't particularly impressive but you must confess that Polish fans gave you a really royal welcome :). Perhaps I'm wrong, but you seemed to be a bit startled with this kind of reception?

Not startled but very impressed. Guys in Poland know how to make a band feel welcome and I hope we can come back there someday!

You wore "Evil Dead" T-shirt there, a shirt in which you appeared also at some other live gigs. I know that you are a fanatic of horror movies. Could you list your three favorite films of this genre?

There are so many but I'll go for:

Lucio Fulci's 'The Beyond'
Dario Argento's 'Suspiria'
Jorge Grau's 'Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue'

I don't know if you've heard that press has coined a new term "gorno" as a combination of two words: "porno" and "gore". "Gorno" concerns films, where acts of violence are shown with almost pornographic precision. What do you think about the films like "Hostel" or "Saw", which were made not too long ago? Do you think they match up to the horror classics?

I don't think they compare to classic horror movies, but I enjoyed those films. Hostel is just a variation on a theme that was perfected in films such as 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' , 'Last House On The Left' or 'Island of Death'. Herscell Gordon Lewis was doing that kind of stuff in the late 60's, mixing bizarre ritual killers with Russ Meyer style schlock. You should check out his movies like 'Blood Red', 'Wizard of Gore' and 'Gore Gore Girls'.

Have you ever thought about making a horror movie by yourself, following Rob Zombie's example?

I would love to someday. I have a few ideas that I could use but it's the finding your way into that industry that's hard. People always assume that everything has already been done!

OK, let's return to the concerts. The show in Wroclaw wasn't the last chance to play a live gig in Poland. Two weeks later you supported Heaven & Hell at two concerts - in Warsaw and in Cracow. How did it happen? Some time ago you supported Ronnie James Dio. Has this fact any influence on it?

We were very honoured that Metal Mind asked if we would be interested in doing the shows, of course we said yes and that was it really. We did tour with Dio in 2000 on the Alice Cooper tour, so it was great to see him again. It was also great to be back in Poland so soon and have a chance to get to play in larger arenas. It was a bit of a dream come true really. We can say that we played with Black Sabbath!

Unfortunately, I had no chance to see this gig. But I've heard that people that were impatiently waiting for the star of the evening weren't especially interested in your show. Is that true?

When you play with bands like Heaven & Hell, people are never there for the support acts so that's fine with me. I think we won a few people over by the end of the set though. I remember going to gigs to see my favourite bands when I was younger and I couldn't care less who the supports acts were, because I'd be too busy getting drunk. It could have been worse, we could have been opening for Slayer and have to deal with the Slayer fans!

Where do you feel better playing concerts - in huge halls or rather in small music clubs?

I much prefer smaller venues where you can get up close to the crowd and make the walls sweat. Those kind of gigs are always great fun.

You pass as one of the best concert rock bands. And the editors of such metal periodical like e.g. Kerrang! spare no praises to you. How did you make this mark? Have you got a cure for a good rock concert?

Actually, Kerrang! have been very good to Orange Goblin over the years. They have given us a lot of good coverage as well as the other British metal press, so our reputation has been helped by these people in a big way. We don't get as much attention as some bands but that's because we don't cut our hair or wear eyeliner!

Why was your concert from London's Mean Fiddler released only as a bonus CD added to "Healing Through Fire" limited edition not as a complete but separate DVD?

It was a last minute decision by the people at Sanctuary to give the fans a little extra with the DVD. We are planning to release a full length DVD sometime in the future with lots of extras and fun backstage antics, etc.

I have a nagging doubt as to the origins of Orange Goblin's name. Could you explain it to our readers?

Obviously there is a Tolkien influence, hence the Goblin part. We also thought that it would be cool to have a color in the name like our favourite bands did: BLACK Sabbath, PINK Floyd, BLUE Cheer, Deep PURPLE etc etc so Orange sounded good. That's pretty much it!

I often hear the opinions that your best album is "The Big Black". I won't point to my favorite because in my mind, they all are outstanding. Which is your favorite? And which is the most popular among your fans?

I think The 'Big Black is definitely' the fans' favorite, but for me I'd have to say the new one, 'Healing Through Fire'. It sounds like what I think the band should sound at the moment, but I am extremely proud of every single one of our records and I'd stand by every one of them.

Why did you place in the booklet of "Thieving From The House of God" Winston Churchill's words - "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals"?

It's a great quote from a great man in history. I agree with it totally and we are all big fans of bacon and pork!

On your website you quoted words of a Metal Hammer journalist who said that you were still the best underground band in Britain. Orange Goblin is the band whose latest album was released by a major music company, whose records can be bought in every music store and who plays a dozens of concerts in many countries. Do you really think that you are still the underground band? To be underground means something different I think.

You read too much into things!

You often admit to be fascinated with Black Metal. In the booklet of "Healing..." you sported Watain T-shirt. Next on DVD you appeared in Mayhem T-shirt. What do you like most in Black Metal?

I like it's raw honesty and passion. Real Black Metal cannot be faked and I appreciate that. I also think that a lot of it is overlooked and there is a lot of amazing talent in the BM genre. Bands like Bathory and Venom obviously started it, then bands such as Emperor, Immortal, Mayhem, Satyricon, Carpathian Forest, Gorgoroth and Darkthrone took it up a level and now there is a plethora of bands all over the world making great Black Metal. The BM scene is always evolving with bands like Deathspell Omega, Drudkh, Leviathan, Cobalt, Xasthur and many many more. Ever since I got 'Transylvanian Hunger' in the early 90's, it has been an exciting form of music for me and it still is.

You are often called the legend of stoner rock. Do you feel like a legend? What is in your opinion a real Orange Goblin's contribution to the progress of this music genre?

I would never consider myself a legend but thanks for that! I'd like to think that Orange Goblin will be remembered as being a good bunch that played decent music with honesty and integrity. If we can help a certain scene by inspiring a few new bands along the way, then that's great.

Do you think that as the first Black Sabbath albums changed the face of metal music and influenced a dozens bands, someday you too may be listed some day as one of those bands which significantly affected other stoner rock bands?

Maybe, but that really isn't for me to say!

Entered: 2/6/2008 5:44:43 PM

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