Ben Ward of Orange Goblin Talks UK tour with COC, And More!

When you talk about dream touring packages, very few co-headliners feel like such a glorious match as Corrosion of Conformity and Orange Goblin – the best of the US “Stoner Rock” and the UK’s finest down-and-dirty bluesy Heavy Metal troupe, tearing it up round the UK with Fireball Ministry and Black Moth in tow to warm things up.

Iconic OG frontman Ben Ward took time out from packing (and watching his beloved Liverpool FC) to share his enthusiasm with Ghost Cult about a line-up that is some 24 years in the making…

“When the idea of this came up, it was something we’d all consider a dream come true. When we first got together as a band in 1994, it was when COC had just released Deliverance (Columbia), which many people consider their best album – it’s definitely their most Sabbathy album – and they were heroes to us back then. I remember going to see them at The Underworld (in London) and it was actually the first time we met Chris (Turner) our drummer cos he was playing for the support band, Fabric, at the time, who also featured Tony Sylvester on bass who now sings for Turbonegro

And since then, we’re always crossing paths with COC, whether it’s been at festivals or tours,. Obviously we know Pepper from touring with Down and it feels like one big happy family on this tour. It’s the right number of shows, some really good venues and we can’t wait to get started. Especially with new material to play, it’s all really exciting stuff!”

When it comes those “hits”, you’re in a slightly unusual position for a band this deep into their career, in that you are on a creative roll, and your three most recent albums are amongst your best material… This far into your career, it must be difficult to pull a set list together?

“Yeah! Over the years our kind of styles have varied so that we’ve never been (able to be) pigeonholed. Doom, Stoner, Heavy Metal, Classic Rock… there’s a little bit of everything in there, so you can’t go to an Orange Goblin show and expect us to play just one type of music. We’re always trying to give the crowd a little bit of everything. We’re in a position where our catalogue affords us that. We can play something more psychedelic from the first album, something a bit doomier from The Big Black, something rocking from Eulogy For The Damned right up to the new material.

It does get harder, nine albums in and you’ve got to condense it all down to an hour. In these days of social media, you’ve got people going “Can I hear this song at that show, and that song at this show?” and while we can’t rehearse every song we’ve got in our catalogue, we’ve made a conscious decision to play a decent bulk of material from the new album, and we will include what people consider the Orange Goblin classics, or hits, or whatever you want to call them, and throw the odd curve ball in every now and then, play something we’ve not brought out for a while. There’s going to be some surprises and some new stuff. We played a couple of songs at Into The Void, and for the first time we played ‘Ghost of the Primitives’ and ‘Burn The Ships’ and both seemed to go down well, so I think they will make an appearance as well.”

It has been around a year or so since you recorded The Wolf Bites Back; which, to me is an album where there’s some different avenues explored on there… whether that’s Wild West, the straight up Motörhead stuff, and there seemed to be more bluesier stuff. How do you think that will play out live?

“Of all of our albums, this is the one we went into with live environment in mind the most. We wanted to make a record where we could take any song off it and know it would go down well. I think in the past we were a bit guilty of over-indulging on stuff in the studio, adding layers of guitars and keyboards and harmonica, (things) that we can’t replicate live. We wanted to be able to go on stage and be able to perform all of these songs, which adds to that raw Motörhead feel to the material. It’s exciting being able to do that. One night we might play something like ‘Suicide Division’ and the next, something a bit mellower like ‘The Stranger’.”

Is touring different now to 20 years ago? What’s changed…

“We afford ourselves a few more luxuries than we used to. Travelling on a night-liner is quite nice, compared to the old days of travelling up and down the country in the back of a van, sleeping on the equipment, like we did on the ’95 tour with The Blood Divine. These days, with the help of social media, it’s easier to advertise tours and shows are better attended, and there’s more interest in “underground” scene, if you can still call it underground? Social media has elevated bands that used to be underground to world-wide status! It’s healthy for the music, and the knock on effect of that is that touring is a lot more comfortable these days.

I mean, as we’ve got older, it’s a lot harder to have any sort of length of time away from home due to work commitments… kids…, so we try to pick and choose what we think are going to be the right tours and the right shows to do, and when we do, we go out to enjoy it. Next week is the only holiday I’ve had from work this year, so I’m looking at it not as a tour, I’m looking at it as my holiday as well, and with me mates!”

You mention your love for COC and in particular Deliverance as being an all-time classic album. It must be interesting now to see that Orange Goblin have albums that are seen in a similar light for some people… Twenty odd years in, some people will be coming to see you for the twentieth, twenty-fifth plus time…

“It’s a strange but very humbling thing…. We’re down to earth as people, and we’d never get ideas above our station, so we’re just thankful that there are younger bands that consider us an influence. We know what it was like for us when we were starting out to get the approval of people like Lee Dorrian, and we try and remain on that level with young bands, and offer advice. It’s really flattering and nice that people consider those albums the way they do.”

The tour starts this Friday (in Southampton). Any final pre-tour rallying cry?

“We’re excited to get out there. This is the first proper tour we’ve had to promote the new record and people can expect a bit more of a production – we’ve got our own lighting director coming with us. We’re aiming to improve the show. So… if you haven’t got tickets yet, get on and get them!”

And with that, Ben is off to see the rest of Liverpool’s 4-0 win and enjoy the remainder of one last night at home before heading off to make your heads bang…

Orange Goblin and Corrosion of Conformity (with support from Fireball Ministry and Black Moth) play:

Oct. 26 – Engine Rooms – Southampton

Oct. 27 – The Institute – Birmingham

Oct. 28 – Rock City – Nottingham

Oct. 30 – The Ritz – Manchester

Nov. 01 – Garage – Glasgow

Nov. 02 – The Plug – Sheffield

Nov. 03 – Cardiff University Great Hall – Cardiff

Nov. 04 – The Forum – London

Tickets for Southampton and Sheffield click here

Tickets for all other dates click here

STEVE TOVEY