Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward Gives an Exclusive Interview for Bear Stone Festival

Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward Gives an Exclusive Interview for Bear Stone Festival

1. The long story short from Our Haunted Kingdom to Orange Goblin. What are the origins of the Kingdom? How come and why did you ditch the original name? What or who in God’s name is Orange Goblin? Describe a bit those pre-Internet / no social media / no smartphone early days (in the mid 90’s) when you came up to the underground scene as a full and ready-to-go band? Did you think it was going to last this long?

Well, we all got together and started rehearsing in 1994. This was born out of the fact that we were all friends that were out of work and listening to similar music, so we decided to give it a go ourselves. Martyn and I knew each other from playing football and he had gone to school with Pete, who knew Joe so the four of us decided to form Our Haunted Kingdom, a death/doom metal band named after a book about ghosts and hauntings in the UK. We wrote a few songs and recruited a drummer and eventually went on to record and release ‘The Eternal Dream’ demo. After this we started playing live shows in our local area and then in central London where we started to develop a following until eventually Lee Dorrian of Cathedral saw us live and offered us a record deal with his label, Rise Above Records. By this stage we were evolving as a band and our sound was changing from death / doom to more 70’s rock inspired stoner / doom so we decided that we wanted to change the band name to something more suitable. We had recorded our first demo for Rise Above (Aquatic Fanatic) as Our Haunted Kingdom and that got released under that name as a split 7″ single with Electric Wizard. I came up with the name Orange Goblin as all our favourite bands had colours in their name (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Pink Floyd etc.) and we were all huge fans of JRR Tolkien and The Lord of The Rings so we opted for Orange Goblin and it soon stuck and seemed to suit us. By this time Chris had joined the band on drums and become one of us right away so we set about recording the first album. It was all different back then and we did a lot of tape-trading with other bands and had to go and stand outside London shows handing out flyers for gigs etc. but that helped us make contacts and saw our popularity grow. We never really thought about the future and just wanted to play as many shows as we could and maybe release an album so to still be doing this almost 28 years later is incredible and we are very grateful to the fans that have stuck with us and helped us to travel the world, doing what we love.

2. Who were the contemporaries (musically and band wise) with whom you felt a strong sense of kinship and camaraderie? What did the first tours look like? Were bands such as Acrimony, Electric Wizard, Iron Monkey and/or Cathedral a part of your inner/outer circle of people you shared common interests with?

Well obviously our main influences when we became Orange Goblin were the likes of Black Sabbath, Trouble, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Pentagram, Cathedral, Danzig, Monster Magnet and Kyuss etc but there was a great scene in the UK around then and we played a lot of shows and became great friends with bands like Electric Wizard, Mourn, Solstice, Iron Monkey, Acrimony, Sally, Shallow, Hangnail etc. as well as bands like Solstice, Anathema, Decomposed, Paradise Lost. It was a great time and a really strong scene back then and Cathedral were kind of at the forefront of it and really took us under their wing, taking us on tour and giving us advice etc. It was also the birth of the whole ‘stoner rock’ thing and when bands started coming over to the UK we would get to support them so we played with the likes of Fu Manchu, Nebula, Unida, Goatsnake and Monster Magnet. We got to see bands like Sleep and Kyuss the first time around so it was a special period for us and some lifelong friendships were made back then. Then all of a sudden we were going on tour with the likes of Dio and Alice Cooper, Queens of the Stone Age and Danzig and playing arenas and bigger venues so we just went with it and enjoyed the ride.

3. How come your love for football and a possible professional career went sideways? Did Bruce Dickinson and the mighty Lemmy maybe had something to do with the decision?

 As I say, our original bass player Martyn and I were professional footballers between 16-18 years old and played together for Queens Park Rangers, who were in the Premier League back then. But at that age you are impressionable and I think we were both tired of the football lifestyle and had already started discovering heavy metal. We had bonded over our mutual love of Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motorhead etc. and had started going to death metal gigs so football took a back seat as music and drinking took over!

4. Orange Goblin’s first full-length ‘Frequencies From Planet Ten’ just recently reached a fine milestone. A quarter of a century since its original release. Damn! Do you have some cool memories to share when making it, prior to it being recorded and subsequently released? Do you think it still stands the test of time?

It was amazing for us to even be making an album in the first place, but for it to be on one of our heroes, Lee Dorrian’s label, made it extra special. We had never been in a professional recording studio before so we were like kids in a candy store and that’s why the album has all those special effects and keyboards and whatever else, we were just really excited to see what was possible but I am very proud of that record and looking back, it was a great time. We recorded in the summer of 1996 in a remote studio in the English countryside so everyday was spent drinking beer and wine, getting stoned, recording music and then going and lying in a field watching the stars at night and generally having fun! It took a long time for the album to come out so by the time it did, we had already written most of the next album ‘Time Travelling Blues’!

5. Do you think a big record label can make or break any bands’ enthusiasm and further musical development? Is it pivotal nowadays to have a backing like that? Or do you think a more DIY approach is necessary now more than ever? What are your general thoughts on the music (business) industry nowadays? In your case you had some pretty cool and somewhat cult record labels which released your music (Rise Above Records, Candlelight, Sanctuary).

Well the music industry has definitely changed a lot since we started and in this new digital age where bands can record in their bedrooms and then post their material on social media and sites like Bandcamp or Soundcloud it is far easier to get worldwide exposure than it was back then. This has meant that bands aren’t so reliant on having a record label and most things can be done by the bands themselves but for us back then it was very important to have a good label and good team of people that could promote the band and book us the right shows or tours.

6. How much did the Orange Goblin’s sound, songwriting and overall presence changed throughout the decades? Do you still feel the same passion for doing it?

We are all still very passionate about it and still have a lot of fun doing Orange Goblin, although for us it is still a hobby and we all have to work day jobs. We have always said that when it stops being fun then we will stop doing the band and call it a day but it’s our release valve, it’s our way of escaping the real work and a way to express our artistic nature. The sound has changed as we have gotten older because our range of influences is always changing but I think at the core you still have a sound that is very much ‘Orange Goblin’. That main influence of Black Sabbath and Motorhead will always be there but we have never been afraid to try different things and attempt to stand out a little bit.

7. What’s your favourite Ozzfest moment you had in 2017? You know, besides the call of The Prince of Darkness himself for you guys to join the lineup.

That was a huge honour for us, we were asked by Sharon Osbourne’s office to go over to California and open the main stage, the only band from the UK on the whole festival that year. It was huge, a massive production and a great line-up so we will never forget that particular show. We flew from London to LA, played the show the day after we arrived and then flew back home the next day so it was all a bit of a whirlwind trip but a once in a lifetime experience and we got to meet and hang out with some super cool people!

8. You’re going to headline the 2023 edition of the Bear Stone Festival in Croatia. You’ve been to our country only once before if I’m correct. It was a gig with Goblin in the capital of Zagreb. Do you remember it at all? Any crazy adventures from that particular event or the tour itself?

My memories of the show aren’t great as I was probably drunk a lot of the time but I do seem to remember that it was a great show and the people of Croatia were very warm and welcoming. It’s such a beautiful country and I’m really glad that we have the opportunity to revisit and this time enjoy it a lot more and maybe remember it a bit clearer!

9. Congrats on your big life-changing ways and leading it a super healthy way for the past 9 months. Was it a conscious decision or have you reached the point where you could no longer be a part of the rock n’ roll lifestyle mindset? Did it affect your way of thinking and how you treat people around you? Do you feel more should follow by example? qwhen reaching a certain point of age. The body and mind can only take that much beating. Unless you’re Lemmy, right?

Thank you! The whole thing is that it’s a matter of personal choice and as I’m approaching 50 years old and have been doing this for almost 30 years, I needed to change. I have done all the ‘rock & roll’ debauchery thing, many times over and it had got to the point that I was spiralling out of control so wanted to make a change. I run my own business, I am a husband and father and I have responsibilities to people that care for me so I want to repay that care and be the best person that I can be. I no longer enjoyed the feeling of being drunk, being hungover and wasting days at a time and also wasting money. I decided to get clean once and for all and now I am almost 9 months sober and don’t miss the booze at all. I feel fitter, stronger and healthier than I ever did and it feels great. I was worried about whether I would still be able to perform the same way on stage but now it’s even better and I get a buzz from the natural adrenaline on stage, rather than 2 bottles of whiskey before the show!

10. You’re the head honcho of the Route One Booking agency. How did it all come about? What is the decision making process when deciding whom you’ll work with? Does it give you a sense of satisfaction or is it just another means to make ends meet and enjoy yourself while doing it? Do you see it as an extension of your hard-beaten rock path? Any new bands we should keep our eyes peeled for?

In 2013, Orange Goblin all quit their day jobs to give the band a go professionally, which was a big leap that didn’t quite work out as it was just too hard to make enough money for us playing the kind of music that we do. We were touring for 8/9 months of the year, hardly seeing our families and children for not much money so we had to end that and all return to work. I had always worked in the music industry, at management companies and as a tour manager so in 2015 I was offered a job as a Booking Agent at The Agency Group (now United Talent Agency). I had a great 5 years there learning the ropes as an agent but when the pandemic hit in 2020 I was out of work and decided to start my own business and called it Route One Booking. I was very lucky that a lot of my clients stayed with me and joined me at Route One Booking and now the company is going from strength to strength. I am a small one-man operation with a client base of around 30 artists, which keeps me really busy so I am very particular about the bands that I work with and it needs to be beneficial for me and the artist for us to work together. I feel that a lot of the bands I work with enjoy working with me because they know that I have the experience of being in a band and know what the bands need when they are on the road or performing at festivals so that’s been a big help for me.

11. The last words are yours! 😉

Thank you for the interview and we can’t wait to grace the stage at Bear Stone Festival 2023. I’ve been in touch with Marin about this for a while now and arranged for Mother Vulture to perform there in 2022. They loved it and said the festival was amazing so everyone in Orange Goblin is deeply excited by this one. Thanks for the support and see you all in July!

Thank you for your time Ben and looking forward to your show at the Bear Stone Festival / 07 & 08 July, 2023 / Slunj, Croatia

Interview conducted by Stjepan “Steps” Kolobarić, head of Press for Bear Stone Festival