Orange Goblin’s beer drenched, balls-to-the-wall hard rock anthems and legendary live shows have made them a household name (well, in all houses that have a vinyl copy of Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 proudly displayed on their walls!) Vocalist Ben Ward spoke with M3 about his thoughts on the internet, as well as their new album and upcoming tour.
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Ben – My name is Ben Ward and I am the vocalist for the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal band Orange Goblin. When I am not doing that I work for an Artist Management company looking after artists such as Jools Holland, David Gilmour, the Syd Barrett Estate and Orange Goblin amongst others.
What inspired you to form Orange Goblin? What is your own musical background?
The inspiration to form the band came from the fact that we were all bored and out of work. We knew that a few of the guys could play guitars so we just started from scratch and immediately fell in love with the idea of creating our own music and getting out and playing shows. The whole thing just snowballed from there really and we quickly established a network of friends in the UK underground which in turn spread to Europe and further afield. Regarding my own musical background, it stems from the love of music that I inherited from my parents. My father used to play me lots of stuff like The Beatles, The Kinks, the Small Faces and great 60’s music as well as Chuck Berry, Little Richard etc. My mother also got me interested in stuff like Elvis, Motown and a lot of Soul music. I’d always kinda preferred heavier stuff and Metallica were the band that got me into metal. Then I heard Black Sabbath and that pretty much changed my life!
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
It’s pretty true to a certain extent as most bands that I know rely on touring and selling merchandise to make any money. The income from physical sales has dwindled now that we live in a digital age when everything can be downloaded either cheaply or for free. The statistics are there in black and white regarding record sales but it’s part of the industry these days so bands and people associated with them have to move with the times and learn to embrace the modern age or you get left behind.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think it’s a tragic loss. It’s not just the fact that people are downloading music but also the fact that people can’t be bothered to get off their ass and walk to the store anymore. People can sit at home and order everything they want from sites like Amazon or Play. I think that this means that one of the most romantic elements of music has been lost. That excitement about a new album coming out when you used to pre-order it in store and then be waiting for them to open on the day of release to get your hands on that record. Then rushing home to listen and sit and read every lyric and every credit! Kids don’t do that anymore!
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl, definitely! Nothing beats it. That warm crackle as the needle hits the groove and you just sit back and have an experience. I also think that a great deal of the music that I’m into sounds sonically better on vinyl as it was all recorded on analogue and was meant to be heard on wax!
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Definitely, see my point in question 4! Getting a new album and studying / worshipping it used to be an event. You could sit at home and listen alone or share it with your friends but because of the modern age I don’t think people have that enthusiasm for music anymore. The majority of people don’t even know what they like. They think they like something because it is what they are being forced to listen to by TV or radio.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
Well, like I say, bands and musicians have to move with the times or get left behind or forgotten. The positives of technology are that new bands can promote themselves to a massive number of people via social networking sites and things like Bandcamp or Soundcloud. In the past it used to be a ‘word of mouth’ affair and there was a network of tape trading and that’s how you heard about bands but now it can all be done with the click of a mouse! I don’t think you’ll ever really stop the illegal downloading because people are always going to want something for nothing but as a musician, I consider it stealing and stronger punishments should be handed out to those that are ripping artists off.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
As always with these things there are arguments for and against. Whilst I think that something has to be done to prevent the illegal downloading of peoples art, it’s a huge question of how do you go about it in a sensible manner. It appears to me that SOPA is pretty much the hard line approach in that any sites found illegally giving music, film or any media away then they will instantly be shut down. It’s such a huge thing to govern that I think the whole thing could take years and years to get right.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
I think todays bands just need to have that special something to set them apart and give them that star quality as the market is so crowded nowadays. We live in an age when everyone and his brother seems to play in a band and it can get stale so you need to have shining lights to lead the way. Bands need to be prepared to embrace the technology available today to give themselves every opportunity and be prepared to stick at it too. The music industry is so fickle and while you can be the next big thing one week, a few weeks later no one will want to know you!
Finally, what does the future hold for Orange Goblin?
We just keep doing what we’ve always done. We’ve been doing this now for 16 years and have a kind of comfort zone whereby we have a great label that doesn’t put any demands on us. We manage every aspect of the band ourselves so we just do what we want, when we want and because of that we are all still having fun doing it! We have a new album out and will be hitting the road soon for a UK tour and then a load of summer festivals right across Europe. Next year we hope to get to some places we’ve never been such as Canada, South America, Australia and wherever people will have us!! Cheers!
06/04/2012 – Camden, London (UK) as part of Desertfest w/ Corrosion of Conformity, Karm to Burn, Truckfighters & more
08/04/2012 – The Fleece, Bristol (UK)
09/04/2012 – Legends, Newcastle (UK)
10/04/2012 – The Classic Grand, Glasgow (UK)
11/04/2012 – Sound Control, Manchester (UK)
12/04/2012 – The Garage, Swansea (UK)
13/04/2012 – The White Rabbit, Plymouth (UK)
14/04/2012 – O2 Academy 2, Oxford (UK)
19/04/2012 – Astra, Berlin (DE) As part of Desertfest 2012 w/ Amplifier, Ufomammut, Colour Haze & more
20/04/2012 – The Pint, Dublin (IRE)
21/04/2012 – Spring And Airbrake, Belfest (IRE)
13/05/2012 – Rock City, Nottingham (UK) As part of Morrowfest w/ Crippled Black Phoenix, Doom, Charger, Sourvein & more
18/05/2012 – Keller Platz, Florence (IT)
19/05/2012 – INIT, Rome (IT) As part of Stoned Hand Of Doom fest w/ Doomraiser, Ghandi’s Gun & more
25/05/2012 – Getafe Open Air, Madrid (SP) As part of Sonisphere festival w/ Metallica, the Offspring, Slayer, Soundgarden & more
31/05/2012 – Flugplutz, Dessau (DE) As part of Metalfest Ost-Open Air 2012 w/ Megadeth, W.A.S.P., Kreator & more
06/06/2012 – Norje, Sölvesborg (SWE) As part of Sweden Rock Festival 2012 w/ Motörhead, Lynnrd Skynnrd, Mastodon & more
07/06/2012 – Freilichtbühne Loreley, Sankt Goarshausen (DE) As part of Metalfest West-Open Air w/ Megadeth, Fear Factory, Behemoth & more
15/06/2012 – Val de Moine, Clisson (FR) As part of Hellfest 2012, w/ Ozzy Osbourne, King Diamond, Saint Vitus, Sunn O))) & more
12/07/2012 – Alperstedter See, Erfurt (DE) As part of Stoned From The Underground festival, w/ Saint Vitus, Weedeater & more
09/08/2012 – Catton Hall, Catton (UK) As part of Bloodstock Open Air, w/ Alice Cooper, Sepultura, Testament & more
04/10/2012 – An Club, Athens (GR)
05/10/2012 – Club Stage, Larissa (GR)
06/10/2012 – Eightball Club, Thessaloniki (GR)