Interview by Avinash Mittur
British stoner rock giants Orange Goblin have been around since 1995 and have been consistently putting out hard-hitting heavy music over the years. Led by singer Ben Ward and ably backed up by guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner, Orange Goblin released what turned out to be one of the best albums of 2012, their seventh studio effort ‘A Eulogy For The Damned’. North America is getting its first taste of these songs in a live setting, as the band is currently on a North American tour with Clutch, Lionize and Scorpion Child. To coincide with the tour, they also put out a live CD/DVD called ‘A Eulogy For The Fans’ on March 12th via Candlelight Records. Their tour made a stop at the House of Blues in Hollywood on March 21st, and our man Avinash sat down with Joe and Martyn to talk about the tour, the live album and more. Enjoy the fun conversation below!
First off, how goes the tour?
Martyn: Tour’s going great, thank you!
Joe: We’re two weeks in for the US part of the tour, we’ve been to Australia as well and we had a UK tour before that. We’re kind of exhausted, but we’re getting a second wind now, so it’s great!
Martyn: It’s Day 55 that we’ve been away from home, so we’ve been away for a while. We had four days in the middle when we were able to go home, but we’re doing alright.
Joe: It’s funny, when you’re touring, you kind of go through ups and downs where every show is great, but sometimes you get exhausted. And then there are other times like now when we play in L.A. and everything is really good at the moment.
Martyn: The shows have been great, and this is exactly what we needed really. We’ve been playing to bigger audiences, audiences that surprisingly doesn’t really know us. I mean, I kind of thought that Clutch fans would be familiar with Orange Goblin, but roughly 65% haven’t heard us before. People are telling us “this is the first time we heard you!” which is exactly what we wanted- to play to a new crowd, a bigger crowd than what we’d get if we were headlining.
You guys are answering my questions before I can even ask them!
Martyn: Thanks, see you later! [laughs]
Joe: Oh, well thank you! The live album was kind of a little bit of an afterthought really. A Eulogy for the Damned did really well, better than we ever expected. It’s been a while since that came out, and we’re doing this big tour- we kind of wanted to say thank you to the people that have supported us. They recorded our Bloodstock set for the audio- it sounded alright, there are a few bum notes, it is what it is. It’s us being human, it’s how we really are.
Martyn: We thought “let’s keep the Goblin machine going” you know? The initial idea was to put out an EP with some new songs, live songs and some covers. That didn’t really work out because we didn’t have the time to write new songs again. Christ, it took five years to write Eulogy! The idea of writing some more stuff within a year was just too much. Candlelight suggested using these live recordings. It’s not just the audio, you’ve got the DVD, you’ve got the Hellfest show and there’s a load of backstage footage. We’re quite happy with it!
So during the Bloodstock gig, I guess you weren’t anticipating the recording being released afterwards?
Joe: We knew it was being recorded, but it wasn’t until a few months later when they told us “hey, we got this really good recording of you guys.”
Martyn: We also knew it was being filmed, which makes things a little bit different. We’ve never done a live recording before, so I thought we’d have people EQ’ing everything, but in the end it was like “no, no, we just took the sound off of the mixing desk”- which has been done before. It sounds alright, there are problems and I read a review where he said “if you want perfection, listen to live Dream Theater”. We know we’re not that, and our fans know we’re not that. What we offer is what we do. People like us for that, and I think people would know otherwise. There’s a lot of feeling in it.
Personally, I like hearing complete gigs like the one on A Eulogy for the Fans as opposed to having it cut up and spliced together.
Martyn: Well, I won’t mention them, but I’ve heard of a couple of live albums that were supposedly recorded totally live then years down the line it was like “actually, we went back here and did this over again.” At least ours is genuine.
Joe: You can tell. There’s some mistakes in there, tuning issues, wrong notes- we’re selling this really well aren’t we? [laughs]
Martyn: What we’re trying to say is that this album is what people know us for. They know we’re not perfect live, I mean right now we’re touring with the perfect live band. Clutch are a machine really, and they are brilliant. They are musical perfection pretty much. I’ve never heard a mistake, I’ve never heard a bum note even!
Joe: We’re just a different kind of fish you know? I like it the way it is, I wouldn’t want to go in and overdub things, unless there’s a real big mistake on there.
So why did it take so long for Orange Goblin to release a live record?
Joe: I never thought that we were a big enough band to release a live album!
Martyn: I don’t know, it never really crossed our minds to put a live record out! We had no intention of ever releasing a live album, it was just kind of something that was offered to us and we said, “yeah, okay!” I mean, these big festivals like Bloodstock and Hellfest, they film the sets for themselves anyway. As Joe said at the start of this interview, this album is like a thank you to the fans for sticking with us for eighteen years, and for those five years since the last release. We toured here two or three years ago and we were overwhelmed by the response we got even though we had no new record. It’s just things like that that made us want to put the album out for our fans that want new Goblin stuff.
A “thank you” is a great way to describe it, I loved how you guys included the CD and DVD of the Bloodstock gig in the same package so that everyone could watch it at home and put it on their iPods at the same time.
Joe: Exactly. It kind of fits everything- in that respect, it’s kind of perfect in a way. It sounds imperfect, but it came out better than I thought it would be! I played it back and thought “oh, it ain’t that bad.”
Recently, you guys got to play SXSW over in Texas- how does that smaller American festival experience compare to the big ones you guys play in Europe?
Joe: I think we got to be careful about how we answer this, because I think SXSW has changed from what we’ve heard from people who’ve done it before. This year it was really corporate- we played the first show, and a lot of fans had come to see us but they couldn’t get in. They hadn’t bought some wristband, they hadn’t done this or that- the first show was a little bit interesting because we had a lot of people there and we had a lot of people trying to get in but they couldn’t actually physically get into the show.
Martyn: My issue, not the band’s, but my personal issue was that people just didn’t know: people would turn up en masse, hundreds would get to door and would be told that they needed a wristband to get in, even though they were willing to pay to see the show. They’d ask “well where do we get wristbands?” and be told that they couldn’t get them anymore. People weren’t informed, and it wasn’t just our show. Clutch had the same problem, other bands has the same problem. You’ve got hundreds of thousands of people in the same town and they can’t get into anywhere. They can’t get into any of the gigs, it was just bizarre. I love SXSW, it’s great to walk around and see everybody. There’s a real carnival atmosphere. There’s so many different walks of life around you, I love it there. There’s a band called Hybrid Sons that we saw playing on the street. They were kids, 7 or 8 years old. The drummer was 8 years old and he was playing ‘Moby Dick’ on the street! Hybrid Sons are definitely a band to check out.
Joe: You see stuff like that everywhere you look, there’s something new or something different, something horrible or something great- have you been to SXSW yourself?
Oh no, not yet anyway.
Martyn: The wristband thing is really a personal thing, because we want to play to a full room. When hundreds of people have been turned away, people who’ve traveled 4 or 5 hours, traveled from Houston, New Orleans- when they can’t get in, it kind of makes us look bad. If people were better informed, than it would be so much better. It’s a great spectacle though, but that was just bad luck. The second gig was much better though.
Joe: That worked out much better. It was a bigger venue and people knew the situation by then. It’s a beautiful thing, SXSW, but it’s kind of been like everything that gets big, people with big money turned into something different.
Maybe a better comparison to the European festivals would have Maryland Deathfest, where you guys also played.
Martyn: It’s weird, we’ve got the big European festivals like Download and Hellfest, but America doesn’t really seem to have them. You’ve got Ozzfest maybe? Lollapalooza? Yeah, there is a big difference actually. We just did the Soundwave Festival in Australia, and that was just an incredible experience. How they moved that festival from city to city every night was just incredible. How they hauled all the bands and their equipment overnight was an amazing thing.
Overall, Soundwave was a good tour then?
Martyn: It was the time of our life! It was an exceptional experience that we won’t forget, we’d love to do it again. It’s hard, but it was brilliant as well. Actually it wasn’t hard, it was just great. We were just tired from jetlag. We kind of struggled on the first day. We didn’t want to leave in the end, it was kind of sad. Australia’s great, but it’s not as good as the states though, because the states rule! [laughs] But honestly though, the tour was excellent. We were flying in to Boston, and we were going from summer in Australia to getting our coats back on! Once you’re actually here, it’s fine.
Joe: Someone asked me earlier “how was Australia?” God, that was only two weeks ago, but it feels like months ago.
I’m sure you both have noticed, but a ton of the old stoner and doom bands have reunited like Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Kyuss- how has that affected attendance at Orange Goblin shows?
Joe: We’ve never left, we just kind of stuck around! [laughs] Yeah I mean, because the cult bands are now popular, they’re not cult bands anymore. Like Kyuss, or Vista Chino or whatever they’re called now, they were a cult band back then. Now they’re playing to enormous venues and they’re playing on the main stage of Soundwave. That never happened when Kyuss were first around. Yet, we’re playing side shows with them, they’re our friends. They’re taking us up with them, along with Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, these bands are big bands now. They were cult back then, so it’s kind of strange now.
Martyn: It helps us definitely, we’ve gotten caught up in the new wave of it. We’ve been given a new lease on life, because we’ve been around for 18 years now.
Joe: That’s what’s really surprised us with the new album coming out. We were kind of dormant for a few years- we did the album not expecting much to happen.
Martyn: We were always playing, that was one of the reasons we didn’t write much during those 5 years, because we were always playing and working our day jobs, flying to Belgium or Holland, flying back, working, next weekend Germany… we never got anything done!
Joe: That’s really true. We would literally work all week, then on Friday I would tell my wife “see you, we’re off to Greece!” We do a gig, then we come back to work on Monday morning. We did that for a few years, our families were really supportive! We just didn’t have the time to write. There was also Chris moving a hundred miles south, which for an Englishman is the other side of the world! We’re spoiled, if we have to go more than 10 minutes for anything, we can’t be bothered. [laughs].
To finish things up, what’s next on the horizon for Orange Goblin?
Joe: I guess we’re just going to keep touring this year and when we get 5 minutes, we’ll look into our box of new ideas for the next album. That will come, we just got to find the right time to take a break.
Martyn: Now we’re full time musicians, which we’ve never been. In January we left our day jobs, so we’re on the road all this year. We have May off, but hopefully we’ll be back in the states around September or October. We’re touring Europe all summer- we’re just playing, playing, playing and then maybe this time next year we’ll get to work on new stuff.
Joe: Martyn has a lot of ideas, I’ve got a few new things, there’s a lot of good stuff that we’ve got. We’re just picking a right time to go through it all.
That’ll be less than five years from now I hope?
Martyn: Oh God, yeah. [laughs]
Joe: We’re professional musicians, we can’t take five years now! We’d be broke men on the streets, so we have to put out a new record and tour on it. That’s kind of a creative relief more than anything else since it’s our job now. We kind of have to kick our asses into gear.