Ben Ward of Orange Goblin: Interview

Orange Goblin are set to release a reissued and remastered version of their 2007 album, Healing Through Fire.

We caught up with the bands singer, Ben Ward, to discuss the reissue, the album, touring with Heaven & Hell and Clutch, plans for the future…and much more.

Ben Ward of Orange Goblin

Congratulations on the reissue. It’s a lovely and comprehensive package. How much of a say did you have in the formation of the package and the content? It must be great to see it in all its glory?

It’s always nice to see these things come to fruition. It’s an album we originally released in 2007 – and it’s been out of print for a while. It is also an album that our fans really like. So when Cherry Red approached us about doing this, it was nice to be really hands on and involved in it. They wanted us to do sleeve notes and had to approve the remastered audio and such. It feels like there has been proper band involvement in the reissue.

It really looks the part. Seeing all the archival pictures and posters and such is great. It’s interesting how all four of you have got different takes on the period.

When the project came up, they said rack your brain and see what you can recall! Jeez…I can’t even remember what I had for tea yesterday, never mind 15 years ago! It was kind of hazy but when you really put your mind to it, it starts to come back. I remember the back and forth to the off license to get cases of beer and getting bacon and egg sandwiches from the café.

It was the first album we’d done away from Rise Above Records. We all felt that we had something to prove. It was our second album as a four piece so writing it was unique. We moved away from Rise Above and we actively tried to move away from the stoner rock vibe – we felt that it had grown a bit stale. We wanted to be more aggressive in our sound…a bit more ‘metal.’ I think that comes across in this record.

Lyrically, we didn’t know where we were going except that we wanted to do something about London and our local history. I’d been on some of the London walks and found the historical side of things fascinating; like how the plague had completely wiped out most of the population. As far a London was concerned, it was the Great Fire that put an end to that – that is where the album title comes from. It made an interesting concept to write lyrics about. It was never intended to be a concept album…we’re not Yes…but at the time, it made sense; it gave us a lot of inspiration.

Reimagined artwork for the 2021 reissue.

Whilst some events might be hazy, are there any particular moments before, during or after from the time that really stick in the memory?

There was a lot of touring off the back of the album. We toured America a couple of times…but we did Download for the very first time. We followed DevilDriver and they had a moshpit like nothing I’d ever seen. I was thinking, ’How the fuck do we follow this?’ When we went out there, it was a sea of fans absolutely loving it and singing every word back at us. This is what it’s all about. At the Mecca of heavy metal; Monsters Of Rock, where all our heroes had played. That is an experience that will live with me forever.

Shortly after that we got invited to go over to Poland to support Heaven & Hell. Anyone that knows us will know what huge Sabbath fans we are. To be invited to go and play these huge arenas in Poland was something else. We got to hang out with Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ronnie James Dio…there was something about it that said we’re not just this little band from London doing this for a laugh any more. We’re getting somewhere and we’re moving up the ladder a bit. No disrespect to Rise Above; they were great to us, but when we moved to Sanctuary, it was a different beast altogether. Our album was advertised on the back pages of Terrorizer and the marketing in general was a step up. That helped us.

Like the step over ground?

It was a very productive time in the bands history and helped shape where we are now.

So it was a pretty vital record for you?

Absolutely. That comes from leaving a record label that had put five of our records out and making the switch. It was eye opening for us. We gained a professionalism that we had never really had. We were on a label run by Iron Maiden’s management, and we had to be. It was that record that paved the way for the longevity that we have had as a band. People still want to book us for major festivals and tours and much of that is down to the change we made.

It was a real crossroads for you wasn’t it? And it was five years until your next record.

People thought we just went dormant but Healing Through Fire opened so many doors. We were in Europe with Solace and others, and in the States with Gates Of Slumber. It was a really great time but we were flying across Europe every weekend to do shows in different countries. Everything that happened with Healing Through Fire led up to Eulogy For The Damned, which was a time that meant we could give up our day jobs.

Are there any songs on Healing Through Fire that surprised you with their longevity?

Not really. We had supreme confidence in every song on the album. I was more surprised that people like Joe (Hoare – guitarist) was writing the stuff he did as he had always come from a heavy rock/blues background. The stuff he was coming up with was really up tempo aggressive metal. Chris (Turner – drums) comes from more of a hardcore/punk back ground so we have a good mix.

Everything on that record, I was sure was going to be a staple. Of course we’ve got Ballad Of Solomon Eagle and They Come Back still in the set. We play Hot Knives Open Sores, Hounds Ditch and Alehouse Braves every now and then.

The song that surprises me the most is Beginners Guide To Suicide. I think it is our most streamed song on Spotify. That is a complete departure from everything that we did on that record. It was a real departure for Orange Goblin. There’s only Stinkin’ O Gin (from Coup De Grace) and Time Travelling Blues (from the album of the same name) that have any kind of resemblance to that. It sticks out on Healing Through Fire but I think it’s the diversity of that people like.

I agree. It’s quite a bold choice for the end of the album as well. The closing trio of Mortlake, They Come Back and Beginners Guide To Suicide is superb.

We were unsure of how we were going to end it! That’s why it’s got that freeform jam in the middle of it. It was really good fun to do with the lap steel and the harmonica on there. As we were unsure of it, we just thought we’d stick it on the end and have a bit of fun with it.

Do you think you’ll dust off any material from Healing Through Fire for forthcoming shows?

We’ve always tried to mix things up. We don’t just promote new albums, we like to make it fun for the audience. We look at album tracks we haven’t played for while and see what we can do. At the moment, we’re in a period of transition with a new bass player. Harry has a broad range of songs down already and when we tour in December we’ll be looking at different setlists each night.

I think that’s important for fans. Obviously, bands like Iron Maiden don’t switch it up so much due to the size of their production, but it provides a buzz for the fans.

We learnt a lot from Clutch when we toured with them in North America. They alternate who writes the setlist each night and have a few hours in the dressing room to ensure they know all the tracks and they’re tight. It doesn’t hurt to be able to dip into your catalogue and do things as a surprise.

Photo of Orange Goblin
Orange Goblin.
Photo: Tina Korhonen

Your trajectory as a band is a little like Clutch isn’t it? Coming out of the mid 90’s and having success in the 2000’s and then having that step up in 2012/13.

You’re not the first person to say that! Until recently we hadn’t had any line up changes either; a little like Clutch.

Touring with Clutch is inspirational and it’s something we saw as a massive learning curve. We made friends with those guys, and we really look up to them. To be considered to have any sort of similarity is great.

A Clutch/Orange Goblin tour rolling through Britain would be something special!

It has been spoken about!

Your penchant for horror films has always been evident. Are there any specific films that were a point of reference on this album?

Not so much films, but They Come Back (Harvest Of Skulls) was a play on the whole bubonic plague thing. What if the dead started to rise from the plague pits and took vengeance on the living. It’s nothing original really but that’s got the zombie vibe. Zombies in the 1600’s would have been fucking awesome!

And you had some T-Shirts using the image of the Plague Doctors too?

Yeah; it’s an iconic image isn’t it? We always try and get some of that darker imagery in. We had some other bits on there too. The most obvious horror nod was The Fog on Eulogy For The Damned.

What things have you got coming up in the future?

We’re putting new material together and talking to different labels and hopefully we can bring some more horror into it. We have Bloodstock, Damnation and Uprising Festival; it’s shaping up to be a very busy time for us. We’re doing a full Scandinavian tour and shows in Austria, then the UK in December. We’ve got more in Europe and hopefully we’re going to get into America again, as well as Australia and Japan. Not bad for a bunch of blokes into their fifties.

Age is just a number!

Exactly…look at Lemmy! He was doing it up to two weeks before he died.

We just still really enjoy it. How many people get to tour the world with their mates, have much of it paid for, free beer, great times with the fans? It’s the ultimate hobby. Anyone that says it’s hard work…don’t do it! There are loads of people that absolutely love it; meeting new people, taking in different cultures.

That’s a real testament to you as a band. It’s the heart and soul of the band.

There are no airs and graces in the band. We don’t feel like we’re any better than anybody else because we get up and play songs. We’re really fortunate that there are people that like what we do and we’re still a band that will have a beer with you at the merch stand before a show, and hang out.

You can hear that authenticity in every live set you do. It’s always gritty, and just straight up rock and roll.

That’s the way we like it.

Take a listen to Ballad Of Solomon Eagle live at Bloodstock Open Air in 2012.

Our thanks goes to Ben Ward for his time in talking to us. You can check out Orange Goblin’s forthcoming tour dates here; they are truly a magnificent live band.

You can order the reissue of Healing Through Fire, here.

Orange Goblin: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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