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 Orange Goblin have been a permanent and universally admired fixture on the British metal circuit for the past 16 years. Mark Dean sat down with lead singer Ben Ward to reflect on a trailblazing career.
► Let’s bring it all the way back to the start of your jounrney into music. What would you say you were like at school?
Ben Ward: I was quite good at school.Went to a grammar school and wasn’t too bad academically. I got a lot of GCSEs.
► Was there an interest in music back then?
I was interested in music. It was only later on that I became interested in Heavy Metal. When I was at school I was more into the sort of music my dad brought me up on. The Beatles,The Kinks and that sort of stuff.
► What was the most difficult decision that you have had to face since the band started?
I think we’ve just made it! To properly do this as a profession then all of us had to leave our jobs. It obviously was a big step.There are no financial guarantees. After having a very secure office job for so long it was tough to make that leap and do this full-time.
► What is the one piece of advice that you would give to a young Ben Ward just starting out in the music business. Any life lessons learned?
I don’t know. I am one of these people that doesn’t like to look back and have any regrets. Everything happens for a reason. Enjoy yourself. Look after yourself a bit better that I did, haha. Don’t look back and don’t regret anything! That sort of relates to the question that you asked before,regarding most difficult decision. It was one of those things that we all said “If we don’t do this now we never will, and we will never know.” Lets enjoy it!
► What about career high and low points so far ?
To be fair the low points have been very few and far between. I think when Pete left the band it was a case of wondering if we would continue or whether we would replace him. It is a case that with all of us that Orange Goblin is in us and we needed to do it. It wasn’t so much of a low point. High points have been everything really. As you go through the stages. The first album appearing in the shops. Then touring Europe meeting a lot of our heroes and having them say kind words about the band – that is very rewarding.
❝Dio was actually one of the nicest guys I ever met. He really took care of us.❞
► There was an uncharacteristic long break between the releases of “Healing Through Fire”and last year’s “A Eulogy For The Damned” release. A total of five years. Are you already working on new material? Or still focusing on the promotion of “Eulogy…”?
There are new ideas. Joe writes constantly,as does Chris. We have already started working on the next one. We don’t want a similar five year gap.That came about basically,as life got in the way for all of us. Chris and Joe became dads again and wanted to spend time at home. We toured constantly and did as much as we could. We just didn’t want to rush into anything. Whereas this time it will be in our own interest to follow up all the success of Eulogy. It’s it’s our job now. Strike while the iron is hot hopefully.
► How do you define the Orange Goblin sound today as it has evolved from that debut release of “Frequencies from Planet Ten”?
Don’t know, for me it’s just a natural progression. We just try to make music that we all enjoy. We are not afraid to put anything in. Even if we think that the fans may not like it or be what they are used to. It’s our band and we want to make music which first and foremost we want to hear.
► Orange Goblin are widely regarded and have built up a strong reputation as a live band. You have shared stages with many heavyweights of the rock industry. How do you maintain that status?
I think that you have just got to treat every show with the same respect really. Whether you are playing to two people or twenty thousand. You go out there and you try to put on the best show that you possibly can. Especially at the stage where we are at now, headlining tours and things like that. You have a responsibility to the crowd to perform every night. We have always maintained that throughout our career I think you can count the bad shows on one hand. It’s not really for us to say, we just go out to do the best that we can and If people enjoy it then that is a bonus. That’s why we keep doing it and try to build on that reputation.
► Any particular highlights with meeting some of your musical heroes?
Getting to hang out with Lemmy and people like that. I have met Ozzy last year when we did Sonisphere in Spain. We got to meet Metallica and spoke to Slayer. You are kind of just in awe, even now at 38 years old! I don’t think that I would be like that around footballers, but musical icons are a different thing. Dio was actually one of the nicest guys I ever met. He really took care of us on that tour that we did with him and Alice Cooper. He really took us under his wing – gave us beers off his rider for example. He knew that we were a young band just starting out. He actually offered us advice. He was one of those that steered us on the right path.
► What motivates you to still do what you do?
I think that anybody that does this sort of thing will tell you, it’s just in you and you have to get it out. Any form of art. Wether it is music, painting or writing. Anybody that does something creative you need to get it out. I don’t know what I would do with out the band.
► Is it difficult to combine that with parenthood?
That is the toughest thing about the job really. Missing your son. But in this day and age with phones and skype for example its not too hard to call home and see him on a regular basis.
► Are you generally somebody that embraces technology?
I think yes that you have to really.With the band side of things ,social networking is an important part of marketing.
► It helps to break down barriers between fans and bands.
Yes we are now much more accessible to the fans. You can talk to them on a daily basis! Fans like that they can feel that they can talk to the band.
► Finally, what are Orange Goblin’s plans for this year?
This is the second date of the UK /Ireland tour until 15th February. Then 5 days off before we head down to Australia where we’ll do the Soundwave festival. That is going to be amazing as we have never been there before! We are looking forward to that. Five festival shows then two sideshows with Kyuss and Red Fang. That will be fun. From Australia we go straight to America and do several weeks around the US and Canada supporting Clutch. That will be our first time playing in Canada. That is important if we do want to make a living at it. We have got to tap into other markets. Im hoping that we can get to South America maybe later in the year. A return trip to Japan and there is a growing scene in South East Asia and India!