A long-standing pillar of the British stoner metal scene, Orange Goblin has been banging heads and slinging their unique brand of doom metal ever since 1995. With a continuous core of the same band members and a long string of excellent releases to their name, the Gobbo has established a reputation for consistently excellent output. Not content to stay mired in the same sludgy swamp that so many of their fellow stoner scenesters are rooted to, Orange Goblin have mixed the trademark groove of stoner icons like Kyuss and Fu Manchu with punky influences from The Misfits, Black Flag, and even a bit of ZZ Top-style hard rock. The result is a deep catalog of phenomenal high-speed stoner anthems, best suited to big bikes and bigger beards.
We met with Joe Hoare, guitar player and one of the main songwriters of the band, to talk about the life and times of this legendary musical ensemble.
MB: “Orange Goblin” is considered a “stoner metal” a band, a moniker that has obvious connotations. Do you find that still applies to you?
Joe Hoare: Well, my problem with it is that when we first started the band we were more of a death metal band. My influences have always been things like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and that sort of stuff and after a couple of years that rest of the guys came with me on that. At that time Kyuss and, of course, Electric Wizard started their bands and were a big influence on us. So, yeah, we were very much a stoner band and we’re very proud to be part of that whole scene, because it’s part of our history. Nowadays I don’t think we’re so much of a stoner band and we’re more of an out-and-out rock and roll band, and I like that sort of thing anyway.
The stoner tag is great, as I said, it’s part of our history, we’re very proud of it, but every band gets sort of pushed into a category, whether it’s stoner or black metal or death metal or whatever, so if we’re going to be tagged with stoner that’s fine.
MB: “Stoner metal” goes beyond the common characteristic of heavily distorted guitars and slow tempo, being also associated with drugs the drug culture. Do you think that this is an important part as well for Orange Goblin?
Joe: Believe it or not, none of us smokes any gear anymore, this is something that we did in the past. We are by no means a clean and sober band; we have our moments where we can be bad. I guess the stoner tag comes with a bad side, since we’re always being offered joints and stuff… we don’t really smoke it, so there’s that element of it, where people assume that we must smoke a lot of gear, grass and marihuana, but we don’t, really. We drink a lot more than we smoke.
MB: Were drugs an important inspirational element at the beginning of the band?
Joe: I guess it was, because when we started we were all very influenced by proper stoner bands, like Black Sabbath. We were kids and we were in that territory so, yes, we did smoke an awful lot of drugs at the time, and the thing about that sort of drug is that it opens your mind and you can sit there and analyze music, analyze riffs.
So, yes, at the beginning it was important, but as the years went on we just dropped that and got more into the music.
MB: Do you think that you’re usually misinterpreted because of this? That if you define yourself as a stoner band people immediately assume that you are indeed stoned?
Joe: Yes. Every time we turn up at festivals one of the first things we get are “Hey, you want some marihuana? You want some weed?”, and we look like idiots because we’re like “No, we’re ok… we don’t really smoke that anymore”. We’ll all have a beer or whiskey or something like that.
It comes with the territory, it’s no problem, I’m still happy to be offered these things, but we just don’t need that for what we’re doing anymore.
MB: This is your return to Bloodstock after having been banned after your first appearance, on the first Bloodstock due to some “accidents” in the dressing room. What exactly happened?
Joe: Blimey… My memory is not as good as it used to be… it probably had to do with a lot of alcohol, being on tour and being drunk.
There are times in our past where we’ve done silly things that we’re not proud of, but we’re older and wiser now and we realize that you can’t get away with that sort of stuff. You have to pace yourself.
As to what happened that night, I honestly have no idea, I can’t remember [laughs].
MB: You mentioned that at the very beginning there was a death metal element and that, afterwards, turned into this stoner metal style. Do you think, however, that within this stoner era of Orange Gobling there have been big changes in your style?
Joe: Not really. I think that from the time that we got together as orange goblin, when we found ourselves, from the first album, really, the main thing that we always said was “we just do what we love to do”; whether this song will sound like a Lynnyrd Skynnyrd song, or that like a heavy doom type song, it doesn’t matter. The reason why we are in this band is because we love playing music… Chris [Turner], the drummer, is very much into punk music, I’m very much into 60’s and 70’s bluesy kind of music, Martyn [Millard, bass] and Ben [Ward, vocals] are kind of into everything, with a lot of heavy music as well, so we just kind of mix it up and we do what we love. And through the years I think that we have mixed up all together and eventually found our own sound, by accident. There have never been any rules, it’s just been “So, what do you reckon of this?” “…yeah, that’ll fit”.
MB: Is there a specific writing process for Orange Goblin? I know that you’re the main songwriter…
Joe: Well, you say that I’m the main songwriter but I will come up with a lot of riffs… I sit at home with my guitar… it used to be every day but now I have a family so it’s just every week, and I’ll just record a riff and then work on them through whatever matter of weeks, then take them to the studio, and then tell the guys “what do you reckon of this?”, very rarely coming with a whole song. Then Chris, who also plays guitar, he’ll also come with a lot of riffs as well. I’ve said this many times before: It’s like piece of a jigsaw. We will just come up and say “well, this will fit with that riff…”.
As for lyrics, Ben pretty much writes all the lyrics, after we’ve made a song. But we all work together to make it all work. That’s pretty much how we’ve always done it. We take it to the studio, we jam it out, try different beats. It’s fun to do it that way, as opposed to just go “ok guys, this is what you have to learn…”.
MB: Are you always composing or do you take breaks after each album?
Joe: I’d like to say that we’re always writing new songs, but not really. It is literally a case of we do an album, we tour the album and then someone will say “guys, you need to do a new album”… and then we panic a bit, and then we talk the process I talked about.
We always talk about how when we’re on tour and we’re not playing we’ll go in the van and come up with new ideas for new songs… but it never, ever, works like that. We get to the van, we get drunk or we fall asleep, but it’s not until we’re told that we have to do something that we do it.
MB: There’s a website called Metal Archives (Encyclopedia Metallum) that lists virtually every metal band around; in the case of Orange Goblin it says that your main lyrical themes are “space, romance and drugs”. Would you say that’s about right?
Joe: [laughs] Blimey, I don’t remember ever writing a song about romance, but you’d need to ask Ben about that. But, yes, Ben has a very vivid imagination, and he reads a lot of fantasy book, H.P. Lovecraft… he’s got his brains like a big library, full of information. In this album we’ve got songs about bikers, drugs, Cthulhu, and it’s all just stuff that comes out of hi brains into his mouth through a bit of paper. Romance I’m not so sure about; space and everything else you said, definitely.
MB: Your songs about drugs are just a trip through memory lane?
Joe: We’re by no means choir boys, we still have our moments. We lived together in a place called Goblin Towers for 4 or 5 years, as a band, living in the same house, back in the early days, and there were a lot of stories and a lot of things, which are now etched in our memories. I’m sure that a lot of what Ben writes about is stuff that has happened. He could write a book one day.
MB: Any messages for your fans?
Joe: Thank you to everybody that has ever bought an album or come to see us, or just spread the word about us. We were just four mates that got together, had a bit of fun and write music.
Enjoy what you’re doing. If you come to see us, have a great time, we have no political messages, it’s all about enjoying yourself.
Basically, thanks to anyone that has ever shown an interest in us!
Thumbnail Photo by Ralf Lotys