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Interview: Ben,Martyn (Orange Goblin)

Pure metal...interviews

It somehow seems that the Underworld is the best place to make an Interview. This time I had the pleasure of 'interrogating' Martyn (Bass), and Ben, the gentle giant and frontman of Orange Goblin - reason being the release of their amazing new album 'Thieving From the House of God'. The couch on the backstage of the venue made them comfortable enough to explain how they almost got to the point of calling it a day, and why 'ThievingÖ' is considered to be the product of the bandís rebirth!

Hi guys. First of all I want to congratulate you for a very good album, the name of which is 'Thieving From the House of God'. Why did you decide to use such a name?

Ben: The name is a reference to one of our photos on tour. We found a photo of Chris in Japan, climbing up this flagpole, trying to steal this cool flag from a temple. Then we said: 'are you thieving from the house of God?', which we later decided was a really good name for the album.

Martyn: The album was going to be called 'Progress Stops Here', which is one of the lines of a song of the album. It was a little bit negative. I think we shot ourselves in the foot by calling our last album 'Coup De Grace' anyway, so we decided that 'Thieving From the House of God' was a much better name for the new album.

I was sure that there was some funny story behind the name of the album!

Ben: Yes, thatís it really. Itís put to us now that a lot of people have thought that we called the name of the album 'Thieving From the House of God', because weíve always worn our influences on our sleeve. We have songs that sound like Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy - they are our Gods, and we thieve from them (laughs).

I personally donít think that you do, but if you insist (laughs). Many people believe that the new album is a return to the old sound, mostly meaning to the sound of 'The Big Black'.

Martyn: That was mostly the fault of Billy Anderson (producer of Cathedral, Sleep, High On Fire, etc). He is set in his ways, he knows what he wants from the recordings.

Ben: It seems to me that when we wrote the songs, it sounded exactly like a representation of Orange Goblin, with certain elements of each of our last four albums. We wanted it to sound the best that it possibly could. The best album that we had prior to this was 'The Big Black' production-wise, so Billy Anderson was the most obvious choice to go and work with him again. He came up with the goods, and heís done a brilliant job.

What about the recordings? When did you start writing material for the new album?

Martyn: When we came back from America, at the end of two summers ago. We came back and did the odd show, we did the Bulldog Bash, and Pete left (the guitarist). We were out of a record deal, because our contract was up. We decided to call it a day, splitting up and we just started jamming in the studio for fun, like we used to do. Before, previous albums were written under pressure. After the 'Big Black', we were trying to write a better album that the 'Big Black', and the pressure was on, whereas with this one there was no pressure at all. We were just jamming to songs to see what happens, and you can tell that the songs are a lot more free flowing. There was no pressure there at all, it was just what came out.

Ben: No disrespect to Pete, but without Pete, playing as a four-piece it felt natural, it felt right and the songs were just born of jamming. There wasnít a case of having to stop, for Joe to teach Pete 'that riff', and we just kept going. It was really the most perfect situation we could have had.

Martyn: Rise Above decided to put this album out. Weíre not on another contract, weíre just on a rolling contract, album by album, and if we get a better deal, we get a better deal with someone else, who knows... They decided to stick this album out, probably just as a favor.

It came across to me that you guys had fun while recording the album.

Martyn: Like we said, there was no pressure. We went back in the studio and we started writing songs for fun, and thatís the feeling that came out from the album.

Ben: When we came back from America the band was close to splitting up. We said: 'letís have a little break and get away from each other for a while'. We did it for about two weeks, but everybody was itching saying: 'letís get back in and start writing new stuff'.

Martyn: Pete left, and the four of us went back in and it felt really...natural. Some of the shows that we did as a four-piece made us realize that thatís how it should be, thatís how we should sound. That was the spur that we needed to push us on.

How do you feel about the previous album now? Iím asking now because many of your fans felt kind of weird when they first listened to it.

Ben: I donít really understand why...you know, we wanted to do something different, weíve always wanted to move on with each other and I think we have. 'Coupe De Grace' for me is a great album, and I stand by it to this day. The main concern for most people was the production, but thatís hat we wanted to go for on that album.

Martyn: Weíd had it by then with Stoner Rock. We were fed up. None of us had ever...hardly ever smoked weed in our lives, yet we were a Stoner Rock band. It started to become an issue - every time we opened a magazine, we were referred to as a Stoner band. We still are, but I think weíve gone...f*** it, who cares!

Ben: The thing that confused me was that, with 'Coup De Grace' people started to say that weíve gone in a Punky direction, because there were a few faster songs, but there arenít that many that fast songs on there. Thereís still the Sabbath influence in there, but I mean if you listen to the first albums, 'Magic Carpet' has got that short of Punk influence. The second album thereís 'Lunerville 7, Airlock 3', and on the third album thereís 'Quincy the Pigboy', and 'Turbo Effalunt (Elephant)', so weíve always had that Punk tempo...

Martyn: I think the sound was a lot more dirty, which was our decision. It wasnít polished, it wasnít like a typical Stoner Rock album. The sound was more like the one that the Punk bands were using, not quite, but it was edging that way. I think that thatís where the criticism has come from. In my opinion there are a couple of weak songs on the album, but Iíd still buy it. You know, who cares really!

You know what the funny thing is? Before I came here, I made a small research on the internet to see how people felt about the new album, and I read reviews which said that the new Orange Goblin album is nothing really new.

So on the one hand you have people who think: 'every album is really different', and thatís what they expect from you guys, seeing as youíre artists, and other people criticize you for playing the same stuff. You canít please everybody!

Ben: Any band worth their salt learns from their mistakes, and I think that the good thing that we did was to learn from the mistakes we may have made with 'Coup De Grace', and reading the reviews and the critics...you know, you stick to what youíre good at, and thatís what I think we tried to do with this new album.

Martyn: I donít know what the press in Europe has said about the album, but the press in Britain has been writing very good reviews.

You kind of help me ask the next question: How was the album received by the press?

Martyn: I donít know, I donít take so much notice of what critics say anyway! I think that I did too much of that when 'Coup De Grace' came out, but as we said, it was an album written by us four, so somebody liked it, cool. The British press have been writing blanket good reviews.

The Greek press loved it too!

Martyn: Cool.

Ben: Thatís good, because we want to go back to Greece this year, so good job itís been received well.

You donít really pay too much attention to what the press says, but you do take something on board. It does hurt you a little bit, but from the outset, weíve been a band who makes music for ourselves. We always wanted to be Orange Goblin, the band that werenít actually there (laughs). There wasnít band that used the Punk influence, the Sabbath influence and the Doom influence. All the elements of Rock níRoll we love over the last thirty years, we try to put them all that together in Orange Goblin, and I think that we achieved that. I think that it makes us sound unique, and 'Thieving From the House of God' is the perfect example of that.

Martyn: Weíre unique in our own way, there are massive influences there, you can tell, but in itís own way I think that itís unique. I donít believe that there are many bands out there doing that thing.

This album then is the product of the bandís revival, seeing that you were ready to split up and all...

Ben: To me it feels like weíre re-born again. This is like a new lease of life.

Martyn: Especially the good reviews as well...

Ben: Weíre lucky that we have a really loyal fan base. When 'Coup De Grace' came out, and a lot of people didnít like it, they never really went away. I think they preyed that we would come back with a stronger album, and we did. All credit to our fans that still love us. Thereís not a huge market for Orange Goblin - we never going to be the biggest band in the world, but the solid fan base we have got are very loyal and theyíre very, very enthusiastic. Thatís great and we appreciate that.

Which of you is going to talk to me about the lyrics of the album?

Ben: I wrote all the lyrics.

Tell me about 'Lazy Mary', one of my favourite songs of the album.

Ben: 'Lazy Mary' was a song that I got the title for, form.... Iím a huge horror movie fan, and if you see the start of the 'Evil Dead', the truck at the start pulls right up to the camera, and itís numberplate says 'Lazy Mary'. Thatís a great title for a song, so I just wrote lyrics for it. I canít actually remember what the lyrics of the song are (laughs), as we havenít played it for so long (laughs). Thatís where the title came from anyway. But there are a lot of different subject matters on the album. Weíre trying to put a little bit of everything into what we do: thereís the anger and aggression from the Punk side of things, but thereís also a bit of frustration in there and also escapism. We used to write about Wizards and space-travel and all that sort of thing, and now we do that in a different way like 'Round up the Horses', putting yourself in the position of being in a f***ing western gunfight, things like that - things that you can have fun with. Thereís songs like 'If it ainít broke, break it', which is a dig at no individual, but at the press in general, saying that the press doesnít really understand what weíre trying to do.

Martyn: This is our response to them, accusing us of sounding too old, too 80ís and we say thatís what we are. We are what we are, and its time to take the blinkers of, and not worry about how many albums have been sold. We donít get the same attention as , for example, Nebula - nothing against Nebula in particular. They get a three-page interview in Kerrang because theyíre American, but theyíre not interested in us because weíre British. Thatís just the mentality of the British press.

To me as a Greek person, it sounds really funny, since you come from the country that gave birth to Metal!

Martyn: There are some journalists who are very good and right behind you, but the majority are only interested in what selling in America. The fans in this country donít see whatís going on. They pick up magazines and then read about American bands.

Ben: Weíve never tried to do anything to fit in with trends, and I think that weíve been revered to a certain extend because of that. We sit here in our denim, like itís 1986.

Martyn: And we donít care, thatís us. Weíre Heavy Metal, weíre proud of that. A lot of magazines have written good reviews of the album, so we canít knock the press too much

Ben: As a band weíve matured, weíve grown up and you realize you do get knocks from the press but thatís all part and parcel of this business, and you have to roll with it, so when you do get a bit of praise you take it on board and you donít let it go to your head. Itís the same as when you get knocked down: you get up again and you keep doing what we do.

Tell me about the song 'Black Egg' where you have female vocals. Itís one of my favourite songs of the album, if you donít mind me saying so.

Ben: Yeah, a lot of people have said that.

What about he artist whoís doing the singing - a really good voice!

Martyn: The artist is my ex-girlfriend and we split up a week after she sang that. Six years we were going out, and children... thatís the first thing she probably recorded. We had to get her drunk to sing it. Sheís done an amazing job, so I hope she gets some more work singing. She doesnít do it professionally or anything, she just did it as a favor cause we thought it would be a good idea to put some female vocals in. She blew us all away.

Ben: When we were recording that song, I went in and did my vocals first. I have to say that I did the whole song in one take, which probably sounds like it now. Then she went in and she did things they way she wanted to do them, and she was having none of us next to her..

Martyn: She had screens, so no-one could see her...sheís very shy!

Ben: Billy Anderson was at the sound desk when Sarah started singing, and he had goose bumps. I think everybody has said to us that when they hear that song, they get the same thing! Yeah, Itís taken from what normally Pink Floyd do, but f*** it, it sounds great! It has that southern fried, like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Alman Brothers short of feel to it. I was listening to the Stonesí 'Goats Head Soup' at the time that we were recording that song, and a lot of stuff at the end of that album has got Gospel female vocals, so I thought it would be good for us to try and out something with some female vocals in it. Weíve done the Skynyrdy type of stuff before - 'Time Travelling Blues' with the keyboard and stuff, but we never actually had...

Martyn: To be honest with you, what she sang wasnít anything to do with what anyone else told her to do. She just came in and sung it.

Ben: I had an idea of what I wanted it to sound like, and what she did wasnít like anything that I had envisioned, but as soon as she did it, it sounded perfect! That song really is a standout track on the album. A lot of people have actually mentioned that, and they canít all be wrong!

What plans do you have as far as touring is concerned? I recently spoke with Magnus from Witchcraft, and he told me about a gig thatís going to take place with you and Grand Magus, sometime in June.

Ben: Weíre of to America at the end of April. Weíve got a mini UK tour from April the 22nd for four shows. Then on the 27th we fly to America, and we have five weeks there, with a band called Lamonte from Boston. Weíve planned some songs with Fireball Ministry and Debris Inc, a band which are the guys from Trouble and Saint Vitus. Then we come back to Europe and have a week off, and then tour for another month in Europe with Grand Magus and Witchcraft.

So todayís gig is like a warm-up gig for you guys, isnít it?

Martyn: Weíve planned this for ages, to do a one-off show in London. This is like the album release show.

Ben: Thereís a lot of plans in the pipeline. We want to go back to Greece this year. We also want to go to Spain, Scandinavia, Portugal. Weíve got a license for this album in Australia. Thereís talk of us going to Japan and Australia, so I think that weíre going to be quite busy. Hopefully it will be a step up for us, I mean we all have shitty day jobs, driving vans and forklifts, so it will be nice to get into the stage when we can quit those jobs and just do Orange Goblin.

Whatís your vision for the band? What would you like to achieve?

Martyn: Iíd like to make a living out of it.

Ben: From when we started, weíve achieved so much more than we ever set out to do. We thought it would be great if we got a little bit of recognition round London and playing a few shows with bands weíd grown up listening to. Then you do your first album, and your first tour and you think 'where else can this go?'. We toured the UK supporting Alice Cooper in arenas and weíve played in Japan, America and Europe, and for what we do weíve sold a substantial amount of records. Our achievements have far exceeded anything we expected.

Martyn: Whatever you achieve makes your standards change from there.

Give me the first words that come in your mind when I mention the following bands: Black Sabbath.

Ben: The quintessential Heavy Metal band. I donít think that anybody thatís in this business, wherever theyíre playing Punk music, classic Heavy Metal or Doom Metal has not been influenced by them at some point. Thatís their greatness, theyíre the kings and they did it for us and they did the best. Noone has ever equaled them up to this very day!

Saint Vitus.

Martyn: (laughs).

Ben: Again, I mean! Vitus took elements from the Sabbath sound, and they created Epic Doom Metal with so much emotion! You only have to meet people like Wino to understand that everything heís ever done is done with so much passion and emotion. This music is born from the heart. You see bands like Blink 182 and itís bollocks, thereís nothing to it, there is no feeling what so ever! Then you listen to Saint Vitus and you can feel the angst, and you can feel the emotion and everything in it. Saint Vitus are f***ing gods, thatís all that I can say for them.

Pentagram?

Martyn: I can talk about them all night, or I can choose to say nothing.

Ben: The fact that Paul Stanley from Kiss used to offer Bobby Lee with money from the Pentagram songs, is all you need to say really!

Martyn: Pentagram is probably one of the best Doom Metal bands that have ever been, then comes The Obsessed!

Ben: Pentagram for me are the most influential band on any scene thatís never got the recognition that they deserved. They never got the recognition that Black Sabbath, MC5 and the Blue Cheer got, but anybody who knows anything about Doom Metal knows how important Pentagram are! Thatís the good thing about Orange Goblin: if you ask any of us about which is their favorite band, you will probably have four different answers. Martin will probably say Sabbath, Pentagram or Pink Floyd. Joe will say Jimmy Hendrix or Led Zeppelin who are his favorite band. Chris will say Black Flag, and I will probably say Slayer, Metallica or Celtic Frost. Thereís a big mixing pot of influences that weíve got.

In a couple of minutes you will play in front of your very devoted fans. What would you like to tell them?

Ben: Just a big 'thank you' for sticking with us - we appreciate the support weíve had and everything. I hope that weíve delivered the goods with this new album. We want to get to every sort of corner in the earth that we can and do a live show, so I hope that theyíll come around and enjoy us.

Cheers guys!

Ben: Thank you!

Martyn: Cheers mate!

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Interview © 2004 John Stefanis


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