Get Through Tough Times; An interview with Orange Goblin's Ben Ward

Orange Goblin albums have a tendency to hit like an abrupt and heavy ocean wave. Raw energy with a sense of driving urgency tear out from the silence and then only let up for the short break between tracks. If that wasn’t true before this year’s new album The Wolf Bites Back, it’s certainly true now. Twenty-four years on, these long-carrying bearers of the proud English tradition started by Black Sabbath are still chugging out their version of metal. Invigorated by a resurgence in fan support over the past few years of touring, the band continues to claw out their place in a brave new world.
Ghettoblaster: You talk about The Wolf Bites Back being the “sound of Orange Goblin digging really deep into our well of inspiration,” can you talk more about where that well leads? Two decades on, what still inspires you as a band?
Ben Ward: Well, our main inspiration is still the fact that we enjoy what we do and still have that desire to keep creating new music, something that hasn’t left us since we started the band some 24 years ago. The main reason for starting a band in the first place should be that desire to create something that hasn’t been done before and you long to hear so that still drives all four of us. This album was no different in that respect but we gave it a slightly different approach in that we wanted to tap into all of our collective influences and not be afraid to do something that we may have been reluctant to do before as we felt it may not have fit with the Orange Goblin image or ethic. The results are crystal clear as I feel that we have created something far more diverse and darker than ever before.
GB: 2012’s A Eulogy for the Demand felt like a real rebirth for the band. Two albums after that, where do you see yourself as a band on The Wolf Bites Back?
BW: This is the sound of the band exactly as we all want to be represented. Everything just seems a lot more professional with this album, from the songwriting and the lyrical content, right through to the production and the final artwork. Eulogy… definitely gave us another springboard and saw the band go from doing small club shows up into bigger venues and higher billing at festivals so when you achieve that it spurs you on to keep progressing and seeing how far you can take things. I don’t think we have sold out or lost any of our ‘down to Earth’ traits that people always associated with us but we are now more dynamic and serious about what we do.
GB: When we talked to you back around the release of A Eulogy for the Damned there seemed to be a lot of surprise to how you were being welcomed back. Six years on how has this changed how you feel about people as a whole? 
BW: It’s not just the world that has changed to influence us but also our own personal situations and our place within an ever-evolving music business. We’re not particularly angry with anyone in particular but I think that after a long career like ours I guess we grew a bit more frustrated that we had never reached the levels we feel we should have. We are often told that ‘I can’t believe that you guys aren’t bigger than you are’ and I think eventually that takes its toll and we decided to collectively do something about it because we have the confidence now that we are a decent band and we write decent albums. The challenge was to prove it to not only ourselves but the public too and The Wolf Bites Back is the response.
GB: The new album is very caustic, something you’ve said is a reaction to the current state of the world. Metal can have a very bleak and nihilistic worldview, so do you see yourself channeling these feelings into your music as a way to kick back or is it more of “let it burn” acceptance to where things seem to be going? 
BW: I think it’s a bit of both here. The more political stuff that I wrote on this album came very naturally and I guess that’s a product of what is going on in the world around us. This planet is a fucked up place right now and 5 minutes of watching the news is enough to send people spiraling into depression. War, famine, terrorism and complete fuckwits running the most powerful countries on Earth, it’s only going to get worse! The lyrics I write aren’t challenging people to go out and revolt, although that would be good, they are merely commenting on what’s going on, the same way that Geezer used to do in the lyrics he wrote for Sabbath.
GB: You talk about this being the most honest album you’ve written, using themes of fantasy to address real-life emotions. How direct are the parallels? Is it more the themes and emotions you’re channeling or do characters and situations mirror or represent real-world struggles?
BW: It’s hard to describe really. Songs like ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ are about myself and people close to me that have gone through tough times, faced adversity of some kind, yet come back stronger and never given up. It’s about people that haven’t had to rely on their religion or any form of astrology or something mystical to get through tough times. It’s about having the strength of will and the strength of character to get by on your own. I have nothing against people that lean on outside forces or something that gives them the inspiration to get through but personally I prefer to focus on the personal battle.

GB: More than a lot of other genres metal unites a number of different worldviews, and not all of them positive. Does that affect how you relate to the community or maybe the crowd at a festival that isn’t made up just of your fans?
BW: A while back my fiancée and I started a fundraiser for the staff at Team Rock that had been made redundant a few days before Christmas and the way that the rock and metal community came together to help out just completely blew me away. People from all genres and all different styles of rock and metal, both bands and fans alike, pulled together and helped us raise almost £90,000 and that is perfect proof of what you are saying, that metal and rock music is the strongest bond for people compared to other styles of music. That’s the beauty of performing at festivals too. You have that opportunity to play to a completely different fanbase and lot of people that may not normally give you the time of day.
GB: It’s been four years since Back From the Abyss, going into the studio what was your vision of what The Wolf Bites Back would be?
BW: It sounds a bit cliché but the album and the artwork all came out exactly like I (and the rest of the band) envisioned. We knew that we wanted to try a fresh approach after using the same studio and producer for the previous two albums and therefore we knew that it would sound slightly different. I think we all wanted to achieve exactly what we’ve got on this new record. It’s kinda old and analog sounding but still has the modern power so the best of both world’s really. The material was always going to be an extension of what Orange Goblin have always done but this time we threw off the shackles and decided that anything goes and if it sounds good then we would use it so I think we knew it would also be the most experimental album we had done and I think you can hear that in songs like “Ghosts of The Primitives” and “The Stranger.”
GB: What led you to work with Jaime “Gomez” Arellano for The Wolf Bites Back?
BW: We have all known Gomez for the best part of 10 years and we had often spoken about working together at some point. He is a regular on the London scene where we drink and party so we’ve been good friends for a long time and we all respect and admire the work he done in the past with bands like Ghost, Paradise Lost, Cathedral, Age Of Taurus and more recently with Grave Pleasures and others too. As mentioned, we wanted to change things up a bit and Gomez had just moved his Orgone Studios to a remote farm in the middle of the English countryside,. The place has zero distractions and you can concentrate 100% on the job you are there to do so it was perfect for everyone.
GB: You talk about him being like a fifth member of the band. What did he do for the new record that you think may have played out differently with a different producer?
BW: Well, for a start Gomez is an incredible musician himself so he understands what everyone is trying to achieve from the very start. He also has an amazing selection of vintage amps, cabinets and drumkits at the studio so he would suggest certain things for us to try in order to get the certain sound we were going for on any particular song. Because we have known each other for so long and he is always a fan of the stuff he works on, he knew what Orange Goblin is all about and tapped into that from day one. He also isn’t afraid to push everyone to make them perform better. In the past we may have rested on our laurels a bit after a few takes but he kept pushing us to get the best out of us and I think the results are clear as day. The playing and musicianship on this album is better than ever!
GB: What’s next for Orange Goblin? Do you think it will be another four years before we hear a new album? 
BW: We’ll just keep doing what we do. We all still have to work day jobs so long tours are no longer an option and we all see the band as more of a hobby where we can get together when the opportunity arises and we can pick and choose the shows and festivals we’d like to do. I guess we are in a very fortunate position in that respect but that has been afforded to us by the 24-years of hard work and grueling touring we have done previously! It’s hard to say how long the next album will be. The cycle for this album has only just started really so we’ll see what happens, enjoy our trips here and there for various shows and when we all start to get that creative itch again we’ll discuss the possibility of doing another record. Who knows?
Photo: provided by Candlelight Records/Spinefarm
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