Since forming Orange Goblin in 1995, Ben Ward – all six feet five inches of him – has steadily built a reputation as one of rock’s most exuberant frontmen. Fresh from a hectic weekend spent bellowing more than 700,000 punters into abject submission at Germany’s Wacken and Poland’s gigantic free Woodstock festivals, the surprisingly ‘shy and retiring’ leviathan reveals that, pierced arse or not, football’s loss was metal’s gain.
What’s the biggest public misconception about you?
People think I am how I appear on stage: a large, overbearing, confident frontman type. But when off stage I can be quite shy, retiring and like to be left alone.
What are the best and worst drugs you’ve taken?
Alcohol’s the answer to both. It gave me some of my best times and a lot of the worst. I’ve been to some dark places with booze in the past. Particularly in my early twenties when I was on the brink of alcoholism. I’ve got a lid on it now. Last year I had a self-imposed ban, two months without a drop. I never thought it possible to do an Orange Goblin tour sober, but I proved myself wrong.
What’s your biggest regret?
Most boys harbour ambitions to play professional football or front a rock band, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do both. When I left school I played football for two years at Queens Park Rangers. I had a good couple of years, but during that time I discovered heavy metal, booze and drugs, so football fell by the wayside. For the last twenty-two years I’ve can’t say I regret anything.
Have you ever been stalked?
It’s weird seeing Orange Goblin tattoos. There’s one guy in particular, who’s the proud owner of a huge chest-piece with all four of our faces in immaculate detail. When he posted it online it was like an Alan Partridge moment.
I can’t say I’ve been stalked. Orange Goblin don’t attract groupies or stalkers. Most of our fans are overweight, bearded, sweaty metalheads. We don’t really appeal to bunny boilers.
What’s the least glamorous location you’ve ever found yourself in while on the road?
A pub called the Axe And Cleaver in Boston, Lincolnshire, one of those really rough English dock towns full of stevedores and seamen. You didn’t want to say a word out of turn or you’d risk a proper right-hander. In Bozeman, Montana the show catering was the antelope the promoter had shot that morning.
What’s the most damage you’ve inflicted on stage?
I’ve fallen off stage and done myself damage. At a festival in Germany I was given a pill just before going on stage, and halfway through our set I started to come up. I got too close to the edge of the stage, fell into the crowd on to the mic stand and pierced a hole in my arse. I thought someone had stabbed me, so got back on stage, told the band to stop playing and said: “Get security, I’ve been stabbed.” The band had to point out that no one had stabbed me, I’d actually fallen on my own mic stand, causing myself serious arse injury.
What were you like at school?
I was what Americans refer to as a jock. I’ve always been tall, so I was always picked for the school football team, school basketball team and I was pretty decent at cricket. I went to grammar school, did alright in my GCSEs, but as soon as I left school I went to play football. I was planning to study electrical engineering and be an engineer in the RAF.
Where do you stand politically?
My grandad was a miner, and my uncle. I remember him being arrested during the miners’ strike. He had to leave our family home in Kent when they closed the pits and move to Yorkshire to work at Selby, so we’re traditionally Labour in my family. But I think they’re all crooks, no matter what their political leanings; lying, cheating toe-rags out to benefit themselves rather than the people they claim to speak for.
What in your life are you most proud of?
I’ve got a sixteen-year old son who is very intelligent, doing very well at school, very good at everything he does. He’s turning into a bright, funny, polite young man and I’m very proud of him and the way he’s been brought up. I’m proud of the band and what I’ve got in life. I don’t really have anything to complain about, I’m quite comfortable.
A man of your stature could get away with being a horrible bastard. Ever been tempted to exploit your physical being for nefarious ends?
When I have too many I’ve been known to turn into a horrible bastard, and probably a bit of a bully because of my size, and I’m not proud of that. There’ve been times when I’ve had to apologise to a lot of people the day after a night out.
What will be written on your tombstone?
I’ve had a decent innings, I’m a nice enough bloke, so hopefully nothing too horrible’s going to be written about me.
**Orange Goblin play HardRock Hell’s Doom vs Stoner at Sheffield O2 Academy on September 30. They have a new album due in 2018. **