By Andy Nystrom. Published in There’s Something Hard in There September 28, 2014.
Joe Hoare and his Orange Goblin mates have a hunger for traveling the open road and ripping through their 10-ton, rock-solid songs on stages all over the world.
With a stellar new album, “Back from the Abyss” (Candlelight Records) on tap for an Oct. 7 release, the English stalwarts are set for a two-month European tour with Saint Vitus (starting Oct. 9 in France) and a three-week December jaunt in the United States alongside Down, Bl’ast! and King Parrot.
While guitarist Hoare, 39 — joined by singer Ben Ward, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner — digs his job and his pals, who all formed the band in 1995, he’s also a father and husband who relishes his home life in South Woodford in East London. (On the kid front, his stepdaughter is 15, and he has two sons, ages 3 and 8.)
When Hoare’s missing his family when he’s on tour, his wife offers words of wisdom:
“My wife, last year she summed it up for me quite well. I was having a bit of a moaning, ‘Ah, we’ve been away all year, I’m exhausted, life is terrible, I wanna come home’ … and she said, ‘Look, what are you moaning about? You’re in a band, you’re with your mates, you’re traveling the world. It really isn’t that bad.'”
Home life now is far removed from when the bandmates lived together for four years in a house dubbed “Goblin Towers.” (“It was chaos, as you would imagine,” Hoare laughs.)
They all live separately now with their wives and families — although Ben’s home is just a few streets away from Hoare’s — but with the release of “Abyss,” the road awaits and the Goblins will surely tear it up musically and share plenty of laughs along the way.
“You’ve gotta let your hair down and you’ve gotta enjoy being with the people that you’re with. And you gotta get silly sometimes,” Hoare said.
When the US tour hits Las Vegas on Dec. 3, the silliness level could go off the charts.
You see, Ward’s 40th birthday falls on Dec. 2 …
“I kind of hope we just keep driving; you might not ever see us again… could be a recipe for disaster,” Hoare chuckles.
Following is our interview with Hoare, who called in from South Woodford on Sept. 20:
You guys have got a new album coming out. Tell me a little bit about it.
We kind of just do it all last minute. A lot of the riffs we’ve got on the album I’ve had sort of floating around and Chris has had floating around and Martyn. Just for months and years and weeks and we’ll find an old riff and just say, ‘What about if this works?’
Apart from when we did ‘Healing Through Fire,’ which had a concept going through it, we always sort of make it a point of going back to why we started the band… well, because it was fun, so let’s not try to come up with a formula or ‘It’s gotta sound like this. This sounds like a Skynyrd song, but we’re gonna use it’ … ‘This sounds like a Black Sabbath song, but we’ll use it anyway.’ This album is pretty much like any other Orange Goblin album where every song’s different to the last.
(Editor: Lyrics came at the last minute after all the instruments were recorded.)
So we have no idea what Ben is gonna sing until we’ve recorded the album, which is a bit of a weird way of doing it, but it seems to work out great.
It’s just a rock and roll album like all the others, but I feel like we’ve progressed a little bit with the songwriting and we’re very, very proud of it.
As far as lyrics go, what’s on Ben’s mind nowadays?
Oh, blimey, so much (laughs). He’s gone back to more of the fantasy days where his songs are about pirates on there. There’s songs which are personal to Ben — the second song on the album, which is ‘Übermensch’: I think he was frustrated maybe one day, it’s just about him trying to be a super-man person where everybody wants so much out of him. Songs about warriors of old, gods from olden days… it’s a real mixed bag again. He always surprises me when we finally hear what he’s gonna do — it’s always fantastic lyrics. He’s got a real vivid imagination. He’s a complicated character, very talented, he’s got his eye on the ball all the time.
When finally putting the tunes together, would you say it’s an easy process or was it challenging?
It’s a bit of both, really. What tends to happen is, for example, I’ve had quite a few of these songs laying around on my 8-track, which I’ve been working on for months, and when you take it into the studio with the other guys… what initially was an individual’s idea of what a song is gonna sound like just gets completely tossed around and put in the mixing bowl and everybody adds their own little flavors to it. So it’s always fun because something new always pops out. It’s my favorite part of being in the band, writing material and seeing what the end product’s gonna look like.
Who influences your guitar playing?
I think Jimmy Page is probably the first guitarist I heard and saw on video tape and said, ‘Wow, that guy’s incredible.’ Jimi Hendrix.
When I was growing up, it was all the old blues players: BB King, Freddie King, Albert King — all the Kings. That was stuff that my dad got me into. Blues is what started me off playing the guitar. My dad would always take me to these little clubs when I was a kid and I’d be just intrigued by the things they could do with guitar. (Editor: These were all-ages shows during the day at a club next to a pub.)
And then I met these guys (Orange Goblin) and got into Black Sabbath, of course, and then Iommi took over from everyone for a while — I just wanted to do everything he ever did.
Nowadays, I’ve kind of gone back to the blues again. I think Joe Bonamassa’s an absolutely fantastic guitarist. It’s not the same sort of music that we play, but I love his style of play.
What age did you first pick up the six-string?
I was about 11 when I started really getting into it — and never really looked back.
Every kid’s got a dream of where they wanna be when they grow up. Even at 11, did you think you were gonna play in a band?
Yeah, I always knew I would. I found a book from when I was at school, probably a little older than 11, and it was a careers book and it said, realistically, what are you gonna be when you grow up and then what you wanna be? Realistically, I said I’m gonna work for a gas company or whatever… what would you wanna do? and I said I wanna be in rock band that sounds like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath… and then I actually crossed out the gas company bit. There was never really any doubt in my mind.
On your upcoming tours, you guys are gonna be playing with St. Vitus in the UK and in the the US with Down. As far as guitar players, you’ve got Dave Chandler and then those Down guys. Are you fired up to watch those guys?
Oh, man, yeah, I mean it’s like a dream come true, really. Of course, we’re all huge fans of both Vitus, Down and going to the other bands, Corrosion of Conformity and Pantera. We were lucky enough to play with Down in 2012, we did a little UK tour with them, supporting them. Yeah, it’s just amazing that they’ve asked us back. And, of course, Vitus, we’ve known those guys for a while. Touring with Dave Chandler: apart from just watching him on stage every night, it’s always just so much fun and they’re such nice guys, as well. I can’t wait, I’m really excited about it all.
And then in return, for them to be asking you guys back, they’re obviously fond of what you guys are putting out there, as well?
Yeah, we must be doing something right, I guess (laughs). I’m not sure what it is, but we’ll carry on doing it anyway. (Editor: He joked that he might have to do some “research” into how Orange Goblin can maintain their career path.)
Give me a little insight about what an Orange Goblin tour is like when you hit the open road?
We’ve been doing it so long. The olden days were more the crazy days, I suppose. We was on tour buses and we were young kids, almost, because that’s when we started in our early 20s. We were trying to be like The Who on tour — we never threw any TVs out the window or anything like that — but we certainly played around a little bit more then and got into a bit more mischief.
These days, it’s still really, really fun, but I guess we’ve kind of grown up a little bit where we’re not trying to drink as much as we can before we go on stage. We save that for after the show. We’re a little bit more professional about it now… we’re doing it full time. We’re a bit more of a sight-seer band, we like to stop and actually appreciate where we are as opposed to when do we get to the next drink? (Editor: Australia and Las Vegas are two of his favorite spots.)
We appreciate the touring and what we’re doing — we’re just so happy to be wherever we’re going. We’re keeping a bit more fit and healthy — as boring as that sounds, that’s just the way it’s gotta go when you get to a certain age. We’re more level headed … a little bit (laughs).
You guys went about five years in between albums at one point. What happened with that and how does it feel to be back, two LPs in the last two years?
During the time between ‘Healing Through Fire’ and ‘Eulogy,’ we never intended to leave it that long not doing an album… we all have families, me and Chris had little babies around that time, and we were all working full-time jobs, as well. Sometimes, the band just wasn’t enough to pay the bills, pay the rent. The band kind of took a backseat, although we were still playing quite a lot during those years, we just didn’t record anything. Life kind of got in the way and it became very normal for a while.
It’s fantastic to be back after the reception we got for ‘Eulogy,’ it’s been a real rollercoaster ride ever since then.
You see yourself with some good momentum?
I think so, yeah. We had such a big year last year — we did two US tours last year and a couple of European ones and went to Australia, as well. And when you do such a big amount of touring in one year, then you suddenly have a break, and then you’re kind of itching to get back to it again. We’ve still got quite a few songs we haven’t recorded … so I’m sure there’s a little bit of life left in us still. I hope so.
What do your kids think of the music? I’d imagine the 15-year-old is pretty clued in… are they fans of the band?
My 15-year-old, she gets more fun out of finding silly things that I’ve done and sometimes embarrass me the whole time. She’s great, she really supports it. My 8-year-old, at the moment is actually loving it. He’s learning the guitar, I’ve been teaching him, he’s got a band with his mates (Metal Gods). And my 4-year-old, he gets it, he knows that we’re in a band and I go away when I’ve got my guitar.
They still think I’m a bit cool, but when they get a bit older they’ll realize I’m an idiot (laughs).
What’s your guilty pleasure music-wise?
I really, really love early Elton John — you can’t get much better than that for the time. I love The Beatles, I love anything that’s got a good musical hook. I draw the line at Katy Perry, but I’m a real sucker for a good sing-along song, whether it be acoustic or whatever. There’s quite a few there. I probably wouldn’t mention a lot of them because I don’t want to get lynched. For me anyway, I can’t constantly listen to real heavy rock all the time — it will drive me mad. I even had classic FM in the car today, it’s just classical music. It was one of those days, the kids were screaming. I enjoy (music) like that, as well — real calming, relaxing music