by Louis Hauguel
Candlelight Records recently confirmed October 7th as the North American release date for ORANGE GOBLIN's new album, Back From The Abyss. Recorded earlier this year in London, the album reunites the band with producer Jamie Dodd. The band will kick off the Autumn with a European tour alongside doom legends St. Vitus. We had a chance to catch up with vocalist Ben Ward on all this and more...
OccultRock.com: Hi Ben! First, thank you for accepting this interview! So one month from now, your new album "Back from the Abyss" will be released and you'll be going on tour with doom legends Saint Vitus, could you tell us a bit more on how all that happened, pretty exciting I guess?!
Ben Ward: Hi Louis, thanks for the interview! Yeah, we are all very excited to be heading out on tour with Saint Vitus. They have been heroes and friends of ours for a long time and touring together is something that we've always wanted to do. It's as if the planets have aligned and just as they are about to do their 35th anniversary tour, we have a brand new album to promote so the timing is perfect. I think it's a great package and has something for every fan of doom/stoner/metal or whatever you want to call it. Obviously for us it's an important tour as it's the first of the new album and we can't wait to get out there and start playing this new material live.
OR: Couple weeks ago, you unleashed a new number "The Devil's Whip" that sounds like a killer Motorhead track. Is Lemmy and his crew, a big influence on you and the rest of the band?
BW: Of course. I think Motorhead are a big influence on EVERY metal band and that is why they have stood the test of time. But this is nothing new for us. We have always worn our influences on our sleeves and we've always had a strong Motorhead connection in the past, stretching back to the first album with songs like Magic Carpet and so on. We're lucky enough to have met Lemmy a few times in the past and he's a really awesome, down to Earth guy that is exactly how you see him on screen or stage. There is no bullshit with Lemmy. There is no bullshit with Motorhead. I just hope Lemmy is happy with what he's doing right now as the last time I saw them, he seems to be slowing down and his health is obviously in decline. Us fans want him to know that he doesn't owe us anything these days, he has given us a lifetime of great music and entertainment!
OR: "Back from the Abyss", what's the story behind the title? What can we expect from the new Orange Goblin album in terms of sounds and themes?
BW: Sound wise, I'd say that it's a continuation of the last album. I think by now people know what they are going to get from an Orange Goblin album so you won't be surprised to hear that it's a mixing pot of classic rock, metal, stoner and doom. If anything I'd say it's a little harder than 'A Eulogy For The Damned' and more straight up rocking. The themes are all pretty familiar too, nothing serious or political. Just me having fun with the lyrics as a form of escaping the mundane existence of real life, bikes, space, demons, you know the deal! The album title is a kind of reference to the past couple of years for us. Since the last album came out we have been able to take the band on as a living and that meant spending a long time on the road and kind of heading into the unknown, the abyss. This album is just letting people know that we are back and ready to do it all over again!
OR: How went the writing/recording process of the album?
BW: It was very last minute, in typical Orange Goblin fashion. We always tend to work better under pressure so we started writing in January and set a date to start recording in April. I was away working as a tour manager for a great deal of that time so the band wrote all the much with me gone and then I added lyrics at the end, just as we started recording. In fact some of the lyrics were written in the studio as we recorded! I have to give a lot of credit to Joe on this album as he really put a lot of hard work into it and I think that comes across on the album, his guitar playing and the riffs are amazing. Chris and Martyn also contributed and I think everyone really raised their game again!
OR: What are your thoughts on the Occult rock scene revival these days? Any other bands that you enjoy to listen to?
BW: Well, occult rock is a term that I'm not very familiar with and initially I'd think of older bands like Coven, Black Widow or Black Sabbath as occult rock but I know that there has been a resurgence in bands influenced by that kind of stuff and i like bands like Blood Ceremony, The Devils Blood, Bloody Hammers (there is a strong 'blood' theme here!). I'm not so sure that they are 'occult' but I also dig bands like Orchid, Blues Pills, Graveyard and a lot of the new 'retro' sounding bands that are keeping it exciting.
OR: You've been on the road for a long time, do you have any striking memories that comes to your mind now and that you'd like to share with our readers?
BW: We get asked this question a lot and the problem is that all the best experiences on the road mainly happen after a few too many drinks so it's hard to recall them! Obviously there have been a lot of career highs like touring with Alice Cooper, Dio, Clutch, Down etc as well as a lot of great festival appearances along the way. We are very lucky to have toured all over the world and had a great time doing it. It's been a real journey but something none of us take for granted and we appreciate how lucky we are.
OR: Looking back at Orange Goblin's discography, what are your favourite efforts so far?
BW: I'm very proud of everything we've done as it's been a marker for what has been going on in my life at that time. Each album is like your own baby so it's hard to pick a favourite but looking back you can always hear parts that you know could've been done better. we are band that has evolved over the course of a 20 year career so the first album sounds a lot different to the latest one but we see that as a good thing. It has afforded us the chance to keep trying new stuff and going on the road with new and varied bands. Every record has a special memory attached so I really couldn't pick a favourite.
OR: Are you more of a stage or studio person?
BW: Stage definitely. I like being on tour and I think as a band Orange Goblin are far better in a live environment. We like to interact with the audience and feed off their enthusiasm and energy. We tend to get a bit bored in the studio so it's nice when that side of things is all done and we can get back to touring.
OR: For someone trying to get to know you, how would you describe your musical, cultural influences?
BW: I'm pretty straight forward I like to think. I'm a big fan of horror films and literature. I grew up watching horror movies from an early age and then discovered the works of writers like Lovecraft, Poe, Blackwood, Howard, Wheatley, M.R. James etc which really opened up my mind. Now I like to collect films and books from every period of the horror genre. As well as collecting those I obviously keep a close eye on what's going on in the music scene. I'm pretty open minded about music and like everything from classical, to rock, metal, soul, funk, blues right through to black and death metal. I seem to find something in any music that is played with heart and soul, not like corporate pop music or TV created crap that seems to dominate the charts these days. My influences musically are probably pretty obvious. Black Sabbath is the band that changed my life and as a frontman and vocalist I admire people like Ozzy, Lemmy, Dio, John Fogerty, Noddy Holder, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Marriott and many more.
OR: What is your favourite H.P Lovecraft's novel/book and why?
BW: That's a tough one as there are so many but I's probably go with the first one I ever read which was 'At The Mountains of Madness'. I read that not really knowing what to expect and the insane pictures that the details created in my head just blew me away. The beauty of Lovecraft is not the outright terror that a lot of horror writers rely on but the slow building sense of madness, doom and other-worldliness that he can create. You can find yourself lost in unfathomable lands within your own head as the descriptions are so vivid yet open to your own interpretation at the same time.
OR: Records, gatefold covers, colourful vinyls, fantastic artworks... How important vinyls are for you and do you collect them?
BW: I love them but wouldn't say I'm a massive collector. I have a few gems that take pride of place (like my first print of the Captain Beyond debut album and an original Quartz 'Stand Up & Fight') I don't even know if these rare particularly rare but I love to have them anyway. There is still a lot to be said for listening to music on vinyl, that warm crackle when the needle hits the record and the hours you can spend studying the artwork and the lyrics as you listen. Unfortunately it's an experience that seems to have bypassed a few generations as they now want everything via downloads or CD.
OR: The world is doomed and you have to flee to a desert island, what would you take with you there?
BW: Music and a means to play it on, my close family, some books, toilet roll and a decent supply of food of beer. If I was to start choosing particular music and books we could be here all day!
OR: Any last words you'd like to share with us and your loyal fan base?
BW: Thanks for the continued support and interest in our band. We appreciate it as much as ever and hope to get to a town near you in the next year or so. Cheers!