The Wolf Bites Back: An interview with Joe Hoare of Orange Goblin
If there exists a band that likes nothing more than to rock out and have fun both on stage and in the studio, it´s Orange Goblin. Hailing from London, in the UK, the quartet has been largely associated with the stoner scene – of which they are a pretty big name -, but their roots and influences span other musical styles such as blues, punk, doom and, well, rock n’ roll. In fact, they see the entire heavy metal genre not just as music but also as a way of life: a positive and motivating mind-set that they follow gladly. Watching Orange Goblin perform live is like a headbanger’s wet dream: solid guitar riffs that perfectly blend in blues and metal are mixed with fast-paced drum snaps, a deep and rumbling bass and vocals that sing of aliens, booze and the Salem witch trials, making this the perfect formula for anyone to mosh around or air guitar to.
This coming August, Orange Goblin will be making their return not only to Portugal but also to SonicBlast Moledo, a festival dedicated to all things stoner that the band headlined back in 2017 and one that they will headline once again, this time with a new record, The Wolf Bites Back. In lue of this highly anticipated event, we sent in some questions to the band regarding the recording and reception of the album, the influence of Motörhead on the band and, of course, their impending return to SonicBlast.
Hello! First things first, with whom do we have the pleasure of talking to and how are things in the Orange Goblin camp?
Hello! You’re talking to Joe and I’m the Guitar player in OG and the pleasure is all mine! Things are going great, thanks. We’ve been busy playing lots of shows over the last few months and as always, it’s been a lot of fun. This is my favourite time of the year as it’s festival season, so it’s great to not only play some awesome festivals to some really fun crowds, but also to check out and discover lots of other great bands at the same time.
You released your ninth full-length, The Wolf Bites Back, in 2018. One year after its release, how do you feel about the record? What would you have done differently?
We’re all incredibly proud of it and the reception it received has been amazing. It’s always a little scary releasing a fresh bunch of new songs that we’ve all put our hearts and souls into, you never know if the fans are gonna “get it” and be on the same page as you. Luckily, it’s gone down really well and I personally think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I honestly don’t think I would’ve changed a thing!
“We wanted to make an album that was to the point, in your face, and more importantly, to be able to play any of the songs on it live, and I think we achieved that.”
The Wolf Bites Back proved to be a bit different from your previous records, a sign of your sound evolving over the years. Can you tell us a bit about your inspirations and influences then and how they have changed over the years?
The main thing we wanted from this album was to not overdo it. What I mean is keep it simple, raw, dirty and rocking! In the past we’ve recorded albums with loads of overdubs, etc., which sounded great on record, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing about them, but it proved to be hard work when trying to play those songs live. We wanted to make an album that was to the point, in your face, and more importantly, to be able to play any of the songs on it live, and I think we achieved that.
Also, I think our song writing has matured a lot over the years. A good song, for us anyway, is one that keeps the listener interested, isn’t too long and has a great chorus and a couple of killer riffs to headbang, dance, shake your booty along to or whatever takes your fancy. As for inspiration, we try to incorporate as many different styles as possible into the OG sound. From the beginning, we refused to stick to any genre. Sure, we’ve been called stoner, doom, etc., but actually we just like good old fashion rock’n’roll with metal, blues and punk all thrown in for good measure. It’s what makes it still fun after all these years, no rules!
One of the songs that struck us as being completely different from the output Orange Goblin has accustomed us to is “Suicide Division”, a considerably faster track that is almost similar to the iconic Motörhead song, “Ace of Spades”. How did the writing of that particular song come about?
Chris, our drummer, wrote this one and to be honest, I think he only wrote it to test our playing ability and to show off his drumming skills! It was actually a really hard song to record as it’s so fast and out of our comfort zone – for me anyway, as i’m a blues guy -, but we nailed it in the end! It’s a great song and yes, it’s very much like “Ace of Spades”. But we like “Ace of Spades”!
Do you see it as homage to the legacy of Motörhead and more specifically, that of Lemmy Kilmister?
Yeah for sure. We are all massive Motörhead fans and we’re not ashamed to say that they play a huge part in our sound and on how we write a lot of our songs. We have also been really lucky in the past to have met Lemmy on several occasions and he really was as down to earth and yet as unbelievably cool as people say he was. A proper, no bullshit, straight up legend. His death hit us pretty hard as I know it did for most people in the music world. Apart from Keith Richards and a few others, there’s not many proper rock stars left anymore. Lemmy certainly showed everyone how it’s really done!
In what ways would you say Motörhead influenced you and the band as a whole?
Motörhead and Sabbath are, without a doubt, the two bands that have had the most impact on us from the early days right up to today. Obviously, there are hundreds of bands that have influenced us as well. You see, we each have slightly different musical tastes, but those two bands are what glues everything together in the end. We might write a blues type song like “The Stranger” or something more progy like “A Eulogy for the Damned”, but somewhere hidden in all our songs will be a Sabbath or Motörhead moment, its almost subconscious!
Motörhead’s own Phil Campbell recorded guitar solos on the tracks “The Wolf Bites Back” and “Zeitgeist”. How did it all come about? How did you feel after having him on board for the record?
Ben has known Phil for a while as he books shows for his band, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Ben mentioned how Phil really liked the band and so he asked him if he wouldn’t mind playing a couple of solos on the new album. Thankfully he agreed and did an outstanding job, as you’d expect! We’ve played a bunch of shows with him and the band since and he’s a great, funny guy and like Lemmy, really down to earth, as are the rest of the band actually. They’re also amazing on record and live, so check ‘em out if you haven’t already!
Are there any other artists you’d like to collaborate with in a future Orange Goblin release?
Ozzy would be amazing to have but there are just too many artists out there that I admire to mention!
“We might write a blues type song like “The Stranger” or something more progy like “A Eulogy for the Damned”, but somewhere hidden in all our songs will be a Sabbath or Motörhead moment, its almost subconscious!”
The lyrical themes in your records have also evolved over the years and in this latest one they range from the Salem witch trials to alien serial killers and ghosts seeking vengeance. What made you change the content of your lyrics over the years and what do you feel most influenced by when writing them?
This is one for Ben really, but what I can tell you is what an amazing thing it is to watch him at work. Ben often leaves writing the lyrics and melodies till the very last moment before getting to work. Most of the music on The Wolf Bites Back was already recorded before Ben sat down and started writing. That’s not a criticism of Ben, its just the way he works and it makes sense really. That way he can have a listen to the finished tracks on his headphones and really get into the songs and figure out where next to take them. The rest of us have no idea what’s gonna happen, Then suddenly, you can see the wheels turning and that he’s 100% committed and throws ideas at you left, right and centre. For most of the songs he will explain to us the story behind them, where the influences came from, etc., and it’s really interesting and exciting to finally hear the songs transform, like adding the last bit of colour to a painting. Actually, it’s probably my favourite part of the recording process.
Jaime Gomez Arellano was the producer of The Wolf Bites Back. How was it working with him on the record? What do you feel he brought to the table as far as recording and production?
Jamie has been a good friend of ours for years and we’ve always talked about working together. As soon as we got into his studio, he immediately became one of the band and worked overtime to get the sound we all wanted, and wasn’t afraid to suggest ideas or to tell us if something sounded shit or if we weren’t playing well enough. He’s a perfectionist and strict but really fun and cool at the same time, which is exactly what we need as we’re all mentally 5 years old, so we need a grown up to sort us out!
With a 20-year career, you are still a band that tours extensively around the world. How do you find life on the road now compared to when you first started?
We don’t actually tour nearly as much as we did a few years back. We all have young families and completely different lives outside the band, so we mainly play weekends or do short tours. I think that’s what kept us going after all these years. It’s important for us to take some time out these days, it makes the shows we do play much more fresh and enjoyable for us, which is hopefully also evident to the people that come to see us. For me, there’s nothing sadder than seeing a band that’s been on the road for months on end going through the motions, on autopilot. I know, we’ve been there! As soon as it starts to become just a job then that’s where you need to take some time out and reflect on why you joined a band in the first place. That pretty much happened to us in 2013 – by the end of that year we were fried and it stopped being fun for a while. I think, for me anyways, this is the formula that’s brought the magic back again. In the early days, we were all young and carefree, we all wanted to be Keith Moon or Ozzy. And we sure tried to live that crazy rock star lifestyle for a while and it was fun! Now its more like when we began the band, it feels fresh again, but we’re older and, hopefully, a little wiser.
Heavy metal music isn’t a particularly popular genre when it comes to finances and whatnot – with its deserved exceptions. What do you think helped the band survive throughout the years?
We were all mates before we started the band, we share the same dumb sense of humour, love playing and listening to the same music and don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s it really! If we were doing it for the money, we’d have finished years ago. We also have very understanding wives, girlfriends kids and families that let us believe we are all still 18 years old!
“It’s important for us to take some time out these days, it makes the shows we do play much more fresh and enjoyable for us, which is hopefully also evident to the people that come to see us.”
This coming August, you will be returning to Portugal to once again perform at SonicBlast Moledo. Any particularly fond memories from your show in 2017 you’d like to share?
Beautiful, friendly people having a great time and going out of their way to make us feel welcome and rocking out! We love Portugal and always have the best time, so I can’t wait to see you guys in a few weeks!
What made you want to return to the festival after only two years?
It was a no brainer, we had such a good time two years ago that as soon as we were asked back, we jumped at the chance.
What are you most looking forward to at Sonicblast 2019?
Beautiful, friendly people having a great time and going out of their way to make us feel welcome and rocking out! I know… you’ve read that before somewhere, right?
Besides SonicBlast, you have a few Summer dates in Europe and the States. After those are done, what’s next for Orange Goblin?
Well, next year will be our 25th anniversary, so we are currently looking into doing something special, but you’ll have to watch this space for any updates on that! We also have a load of riffs and song ideas that we wanna do something with, if not a new album then possibly a few EPs, etc. Cheers guys! See you at Sonicblast!
Interview by Filipe Silva and Marta Rebelo
Photo courtesy of Orange Goblin