Orange Goblin Interview
Prior to their explosive gig at Cardiff’s Great Hall on 3rd November we were lucky enough to have time to chat with Joe Hoare and Chris Turner, Guitarist and Drummer respectively from the mighty Orange Goblin. A 37-minute interview on the pavement outside the venue was filled with laughter, some serious points and several interruptions from fans wanting autographs and the band’s own sound man complaining that “everywhere is fucking shut man. I can’t get anything to eat”. It was that kind of fun which makes doing this rubbish so enjoyable. Here’s what went down.
The band had been on tour for a couple of weeks with Corrosion of Conformity, Fireball Ministry and Black Moth and pleasingly confirmed that it had gone well. “It’s gone quick” said Joe, “it always does, with these tiny little tours you just about start finding your feet about now (the penultimate gig)”, although he adds “it’s the same with a six-week tour, you start finding your legs about week five”. Chris added “the first week you are excited by it, you hit your stride in the second week , and then you hit the middle bit where you are like, fucking hell, what I am doing here, and then you get to two weeks left and you are happy because you are going home”. Joe adds “and then you are sad because it’s the last day!”
The final show of the band’s tour was at the Forum in Kentish Town the following night, a great venue and obviously it’s the band’s home town show. Joe acknowledged the challenges. “It’s hard, London, because we’ve all lived in London and the guest list is just ridiculous”. “Yeah, people who say they were in school with you or had a pint with you five years ago suddenly appear” says Chris.
We took the band back to their last gig at The Globe, at which point we were interrupted by a punter trying to find their way in and then moved on to the band back in their early days as Our Haunted Kingdom and their 7” split single with Electric Wizard. How had things changed since then? Chris started. “when you start as a band it’s a group of guys who get together and play some music in some dingy rehearsal rooms and at that stage you go, wouldn’t it be great if we played a gig and then all of a sudden you are at the bottom of a 15 band bill, and then you actually record and make some little demo and then you go and play a different town …” Joe adds “It’s so different now, back then you really had to promote yourself whereas today you can just press a button. You used to go to gigs and hand out flyers and actually, I kind of miss that”.
“Bands these days rely on social media” Chris says, “it’s a useful tool but it makes bands really lazy, you know, we’ve posted a thing on bandcamp, we’ve got 1000 followers on Instagram … We used to hang outside shows, handing out flyers and send tapes and write to people all round the world”. “It was exciting at the time” says Joe, acknowledging that whilst the band aren’t bothered about being labelled a stoner rock band at the time it was a scene that was emerging. He tells a tale of Ben (Ward, singer of OG) and him going to get homemade Sabbath Vol 4 t-shirts printed, taking the vinyl to the print shop, because you couldn’t buy a Sabbath t-shirt anywhere! How times change. Chris points out that these days “with a shitty laptop you can make reasonable quality music in your bedroom”. “It’s great that people are making music, but there are also some people who shouldn’t be making music. But back then, to have a record was something else”.
What about the best and worst times? We hear about sleeping in vans in Norwich in December. “We had nowhere to stay” Chris explained, “and in the car park at the venue was an old abandoned caravan, with no windows and it was snowing, so we literally slept in this caravan”. “At the time, it was the worst, but then it wasn’t, we got pissed, and we had a great time!” So, the worst was often also the best. On the same tour Chris tells us how the band would park at a service station and take it in turns to go and sit inside to get warm before getting moved on. The guys reminisced about their first proper bus tour with Cathedral; “seven weeks with 18 people on a double decker bus … we are so lucky now, there are seven of us, band and crew on the bus, but with 18 of us on top of each other for seven weeks it was crazy”. There were other great memories. “when you are just starting out going to other countries was brilliant”.
A few years ago, the band were on the verge of calling it a day although as Chris corrected me, “we are always on the verge of calling it a day! Basically, 2013, we got the opportunity to go full time. We had a year’s worth of shows booked and a lot of interest. We did 165 shows in that year. Australia, all round Europe, a lot of shows which meant you were away from home, and whilst we made as much money as we would have if we’d been in work, we realised that we just couldn’t keep doing that”. Joe added that if it had been ten or 20 years earlier then maybe but with the band all married with kids and the usual stuff that goes with that it wasn’t an option. Chris reckons it probably happened too late which is probably a blessing for those marital relationships. Joe is realistic. “These days if you want to make any money being in a band you must be on tour, you don’t make it from record sales. There are bands that do it, such as Clutch … “. Chris adds “they know the system. You write a good record, and you tour it for a year and a half, whilst you write a new record and then you do it all over again. They basically spent ten years working hard and built up a following”. At this point the comparison I’d brought in was Electric Six, the Detroit based rock band who are forever on tour. Bands like Six, Blackberry Smoke and Clutch work damned hard to achieve their success. Chris notes that with day jobs, it’s unusual for the band to play more than two days in a row. We may fly out to Austria, do two shows and then back”. “It’s how our weekends are” adds Joe. Being able to do this allows the band some flexibility and as Chris notes whilst there is still decent offers coming in, then the band can pick and choose to a certain extent. “It’s still fun; we agreed that when we stopped enjoying it then we’d stop. It’s still having fun hanging out with your best mates”. When your first US tour comprised 34 shows in 35 days and the day off was a 26-hour drive between venues, you really understand that this isn’t the glamourous life style that is sometimes portrayed.
We then moved on to discuss grass roots music and the impact of developments on small venues. Joe and Chris are obviously staunch supporters of the local scenes with Chris referring to the impact of the planning implications of the flats surrounding the flats at The Fleece in Bristol. We explained about the protests and marches that resulting in the saving of Womanby Street last year. Chris is adamant that the legislation is and should be designed to protect such venues and the response from Bristol City Council to protect The Fleece in the end. Of course, as Joe pointed out, if people don’t use or attend small venues, this creates bigger challenges as well. As Chris points out, “it’s a lazy generation. It’s easy to get hold of music, everybody’s in a band. Living in Brighton and there are two old classic venues; both closing. It’s fine with your 800 capacity venues but where do all the small bands start?”
About closing down, it was well known that the band and Ben in particular were huge supporters and advocates when Team Rock suddenly closed a couple of years ago. I wanted to know a bit more about the band’s involvement in this. Chris explained “it was Ben and Sandi (his soon to be wife), it was a week before Christmas, the office was closed down, they were told to leave, there was no pay and Ben and Sandi got together and said “these are the people that supported us when we very first started and to be left in that position was, bollocks basically”, so they got together and started the Just Giving thing out”. “They worked their bollocks off” says Joe, “we were really proud of Ben, you know, we did the gig, but it was Ben who sorted it all”. As Chris said, the Team Rock staff all received a pay packet before Christmas as a result and as the guys noted, due to the publicity from across the globe there was interest and as a result Louder remains in place today.
This led me on to the sad story about St Vitus bassist Mark Adams who has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and I wanted to ensure that we gave some column inches to publicising this. Joe starts off. “Mark’s the sweetest guy, one of the original members of St Vitus, quiet and gentle and lovely and it’s just so sad”. Chris continues “especially in the US, if you don’t have the right health care then to get treated is so expensive over there so the campaign is just to help him and his family out and to get him the treatment that he needs”. If you can support this in any way, then the way to donate is via https://uk.gofundme.com/mark-adams-parkinson039s-disease
As Chris acknowledged, a lot of those heroes when we were kids are now old blokes.
We moved on to The Wolf Bites Back, one of the best albums of 2018 and I wanted to know how the whole album came together. Chris starts, “we have a weird system of recording, Joe will have a bunch of riffs, I’ll have a bunch of riffs, Martyn (Millard, bassist) will have stuff, Ben will have vocal ideas but we are really lazy when it comes to writing songs, so we decided, after the last record, are we actually going to do one and we decided to book a studio, for six months down the line and then three weeks before the date there’s a blind panic. It’s literally all this time and it ends up like the Young Ones going to the exam knowing you haven’t done any revision”.
So, what happens with Goblin is that they finally get their shit together and it works out. In the case of The Wolf Bites Back, the result is one of the band’s finest albums. Chris uses the example of Clutch again, trialling songs on the road and therefore becoming familiar with songs before entering the studio to records them. As he says, Goblin are the opposite of that! Joe adds that the band were reluctant to use many overdubs in the studio this time and “wanted it to be alive”. A brief discussion about their relationship with Candlelight/Spinefarm records is probably best glossed over, although Chris acknowledges that they did pick Goblin up at a time when they were forgotten about.
Moving swiftly on to the forthcoming show, Joe and Chris promised some old stuff, some new songs and then elaborated about an incident where Ben was told off for throwing a can of beer into the crowd. It turned out he offered a fan a beer from the stage and security went a little over the top. Chris noted that the biggest problem the band face is having a large back catalogue and having not toured the new record, that they can’t please everyone all the time. They band have played The Big Black from start to finish at Desertfest a few years ago but there are no plans for ‘an evening with Orange Goblin’ yet. Given the storming show the band put in a couple of hours later, that’s a crushing disappointment although I doubt if I could have kept up with the pace of the band for longer than their hour or so set, such was the intensity.
As we neared the end of the interview it was time for a few quick-fire questions. Had the band ever read a review which didn’t refer to Ben Ward as a mountainous frontman. A unanimous “no” from Chris and Joe which allowed Joe to elaborate on a review from Sweden when the band were referred to as ‘the muppets’, with the giant upfront and the midget on the guitar. Best and worst UK Venues? The guys were diplomatic about this and despite some shocking venues they focused more on the positives which were somewhere to sit, go to the toilet and if there was a shower then it was amazing. The US venue which was both worst and best was surprisingly CBCG’s in New York. Best Joe explained, because of the history but also worst because of the absence of a door on the toilet right at the entrance to the loading in area! Chris also touched on the challenges in Glasgow where each venue appeared to be up about 18 flights of steps.
Next up was Star Wars and the best film, with Chris plumping for A New Hope because of his recollections of queuing as a young lad to see it, and then queuing to see it again straight after whilst Joe went for the classic answer of The Empire Strikes Back. A long discussion about both films ensued, something that will no doubt happen whoever we interview.
Megadeth or Metallica produced an emphatic Metallica, with Chris nailing his colours to the mast by stating that Dave Mustaine is essentially “a dick”. Cabbage or Cauliflower was more of a challenge; but both picked the more versatile cauliflower which I would agree with. “Buffalo cauliflower is the new thing”. Real Ale won over lager without a problem although Chris wants to list cream ale as better than both. Denim and leather produced a split with a discussion over whether you could wear both, the answer clearly being yes whilst both guys were unsurprisingly vinyl fans over CD. Chris reminded us that it needs to be analogue with pre-1980 vinyl only worth seeking out the original.
As we then chatted away for a few more minutes the final questions revealed that if there was any rock star that Joe and Chris could meet it would both be deceased drummers, Joe picking Keith Moon whilst Chris added John Bonham. we realised that we’d been nattering for over 35 minutes and confirming in our final question that Ben snores the most, we wrapped up one of the most enjoyable and easy interviews we’d ever done. Massive thanks to Chris and Joe, two genuinely great and lovely guys and no slouches when it comes to musicianship as they proved later in the evening.