Orange Goblin have been flying the flag for British metal for more than 25 years. That’s a hell of a lot of miles covered and several oceans of booze knocked back.
Last year’s planned 25th anniversary celebrations were scuppered by the pandemic, but this summer will see the stoner metal behemoths roaring back into action. Their belated Silver Jubilee celebrations kick off with a pair of headlining gigs (opens in new tab) at The Dome in North London on June 18 and 19, which will also act as founding bassist Martyn Millard’s swansong (the shows will also be livestreamed (opens in new tab)).
To celebrate a quarter of a century of onstage mania, offstage lunacy and superhuman levels of liver abuse, we cornered singer Ben Ward to look back over the ten best – and booziest - Orange Goblin shows ever.
The Rising Sun, Sudbury Hill, 1995
We were a bunch of guys sitting around in Martin’s living room, listening to music every day and saying, “Let’s start our own band.” So that’s what we decided to do. Joe [Hoare, OG guitarist] was a pretty good guitar player and Pete [O’Malley], our other original guitarist, could play a bit, but Martyn had never played bass before and I had never sung.
The first show we ever played was at this place called The Rising Sun in Sudbury Hill, around the corner from where we all lived in Northolt, West London. It was a blues jam night - they invited people to get up onstage with their guitars. It was a bunch of blues guys, getting up and playing Eric Clapton and Cream, John Lee Hooker, BB King, that kind of stuff.
So we got up there and did an Alice In Chains cover and two of our songs, which were more in the death metal vein. As soon as we started, everybody’s jaw hit the floor: “What is this?” One, because it didn’t fit the style of the night, and two because we were shit. But we got better. Eventually.
Edwards No.8, Birmingham, 2006
There’s been a lot of bad shows throughout our career, but the worst one we played was at Edwards No.8 in Birmingham, which was this really famous rock club. We were headlining an all-day festival, and we’d had nothing to do all day but sit in the dressing room and partake in the rider. By the time we got onstage, it was carnage.
The band that played before us had left some of their props on the stage, like these fan they’d used to blow their hair. I dunno who they thought they were - it was like David Coverdale had played before us or something. I took offence to that and started throwing these fans into the crowd, just having a bit of to and fro with the audience.
Eventually the all-day drinking caught up with me, and I ended up in a pool of booze on the stage. Joe tried to sing a few songs, but we had to just cut it short and say, “Nah, that’s enough.” The next thing I know, I’ve woken up in the van back in London, with everyone loading the gear into the studio. I was, like, “What happened?”
House Of Blues, Las Vegas, 2014
We were on tour with Down in the USA in December, and we played the House Of Blues in Las Vegas on my 40th birthday. Obviously there was a big celebration going on. I was a bit of a Pantera fan when I was a kid, so having Phil Anselmo walk onstage and bring me a birthday cake and getting the whole audience to sing Happy Birthday was pretty memorable. Did I shed a tear? No, I was a bit too pissed up by then.
Jalometalli Festival, Finland, 2013
We’d flown up to Finland to do this big festival called Jalometalli, which had two stages side by side. The running order meant Slayer were on one stage, and we were on the other right after them. As anyone who‘s ever seen them knows, you do not want to follow Slayer.
We were standing in the wings watching them, all pumped up and excited. They finish their set, we get introduced and walk onstage… and everybody in the crowd just clears off. They literally just walk away. We’re left with 10 or 15 people drifting around in front of the stage. And they eventually cleared off too. You just have to smile and get on with it. We knew it was going to be an uphill struggle following Slayer. And it was.
Ozzfest, San Bernadino, 2017
We got personally invited by Sharon Osbourne’s office to fly to California to open the main stage at Ozzfest. We were the only British band on the bill that day, apart from Ozzy, so it was double the honour.
We literally flew out on the Thursday, landed on the Friday, played the show on the Saturday and flew home on the Sunday. But just to have that kind of recognition was incredible - we were on the bill with Prophets Of Rage, Black Label Society, all these huge artists. To be part of all that was incredible.
Playing to a crowd who doesn’t know you is a challenge, especially when there are 70 or 80,000 people there. But it’s your job to win them over. And I think we did.
CBGBs, New York, 2004
That was the first time we ever played CBGBs. We’d gone there with really high hopes. It’s this legendary venue where the Ramones and Blondie had cut their teeth, and you walk in and it’s, like, “Is this it?” It was an absolute dive of a place - no backstage dressing room, no seats on the toilets, no separation between the cubicles. It was horrible.
But the show itself was quite good. There’s a certain vibe to that place. The crowd can get up really close, and the stage is only half a foot off the floor - you can get right in it with the audience. And if nothing else, we can at least say we played at CBGBs.
Soundwave Tour, Australia, 2013
It was great to do that whole tour. Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax… When we arrived in Brisbane, Metallica threw this huge barbecue for all the artists, which was where we got to meet James and Lars for the first time.
The camaraderie between the bands was amazing. You’d get flights and there’d be the guys from DragonForce or Kyuss Lives in the next seat. And as part of the tour, you’d do shows on days off. We played these big shows in 1500-capacity venues with Red Fang and Kyuss Lives. That’s a stoner rock fan’s dream.
Wembley Arena, 2000
The first time we ever did an arena show was when we supported Dio and Alice Cooper at Wembley Arena in 2000. The ironic thing was that a few months earlier, Joe and I had been working in the kitchens there, making pre-packed sandwiches that they sold in the bars around the venues.
Me and Joe were sick of this, so one day we walked up to the bloke who was in charge and said, “We can’t do this any more, we’re off.” And he was, like, “Oh yeah? I bet you’re gonna say you’ll be back here playing one day.” And lo and behold, we were. Unfortunately, we never got to see that guy again.
Ronnie James Dio was such a classy guy. He made it a point to come and see the support bands every night - just put his head around the door and check we were OK, ask if we wanted borrow any of his rider. We got to know him, he knew us all on first name terms. Seven years later, we did a couple of shows in Poland supporting Heaven & Hell. We’d just finished soundchecking and I was walking back to the dressing room and I heard, “Ben! Ben!” It’s Ronnie James Dio. I’m, like, “This guy has remembered my name seven years on.” Not everyone would do that. It meant a lot to me. He’s sadly missed every day.
South Of Mainstream Festival, Germany, 2007
That was a great festival which was geared towards stoner and doom bands. One of our friends from another band finished their set and were partaking of a few pills backstage. They offered me one before we went onstage. I was, like, “Oh, go on then.”
I started to come up halfway through our set, so I can’t remember the actual chronology of what happened. But at some point I took a tumble off the monitors and into the crowd. I fell onto my mikestand, which pierced a hole in my cheeks.
I instantly thought someone in the crowd had stabbed me, so I was, like, “Stop the show! Stop the show! I’ve been stabbed!” Everyone else was, like, “No you haven’t, you’ve fallen on your arse again.” Martin's poor unfortunate wife at the time was on tour with us. She had to nurse this wound at the top of my bum. Yeah, it was fairly embarrassing.
One of the big success stories for Orange Goblin is getting asked to play the main stages at festivals like Bloodstock and Download. Playing the main stage at Download 2017 was a real moment for us - all our heroes played the Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington, and Download is a continuation of that.
Aerosmith were headlining that night, and they had a runway out into the audience for Steven Tyler to us. The stage crew were saying, “Whatever you do, don’t use the runway.” For me, that was a red rag to a bull. Five minutes into the set and I was over the monitors and down the runway, out in among the crowd. I thought, “Fuck it, I’m only gonna get a chance to do this once”, so I went for it. That was probably the best Orange Goblin gig of all for me.
Orange Goblin’s 25th anniversary shows take place on June 18 and 19, 2021. Livestream tickets (opens in new tab) are available. The album Live And Loud is out now.