The World According to Ben Ward

Posted in The World According to Ben Ward on July 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one’s been a while coming, but below you’ll find the debut column from Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward. In it, he discusses a few of the band’s European gigs in support of their latest album, A Eulogy for the Damned, and a smattering of the drunken shenanigans for which he and bandmates Joe Hoare, Martyn Millard and Chris Turner are legendary. Behold:

Mr. Ward, at the London Desertfest. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

National Lampoon’s Orange Goblin European Vacation! — Part 1 — April 2012

So after 17 years of peddling my wares with Orange Goblin, somebody has asked me to write a regular blog feature. I have to say that I’m amazed for a couple of reasons! Firstly because until a few months back I didn’t even really know what a “blog” was? Secondly I’m amazed because I didn’t think there would be anyone out there that is remotely interested in anything I have to say or do… ever! So, for the past few weeks I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think of something I could talk about that people that read The Obelisk may find entertaining. After all sorts of ridiculous ideas, I have decided to write about what I know best… being in Orange Goblin. Being in Orange Goblin as we travelled around Europe playing various club shows and festivals in lots of different countries, to be precise! It’s been a pretty busy summer by our usual standards with shows in Germany (a few times), Ireland, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, France, Switzerland and more!!

A lot of bands will tell you that there is never a dull moment when you’re on tour but that’s an outright lie! There are loads of dull moments and the only way to relieve the boredom of those dull moments is to drink, smoke or make up ridiculous little games and in-jokes that the outside world would consider completely insane. In Orange Goblin we have practically invented a new language that only we understand, it’s the perfect juncture of absolute genius and utter morons!! I suspect most people would think it tends to lean heavily towards the latter.

I’m gonna start the report back in April 2012. We’d just finished a very successful UK tour (with our good friends Grifter in support) including headlining the first-ever Desertfest in London, when we jetted off for three shows in Germany, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Here’s what happened:

 

Thursday 19th April – Desertfest, Berlin, Germany

We’d already played the Desertfest in London a couple of weeks earlier at the start of our UK tour so with an equally impressive lineup of bands we were pretty sure the Berlin version was going to be just as good. Over the course of the three days the stage would see the likes of Ancestors, Colour Haze, Wino & Conny Ochs, Motorpsycho, Red Fang, Black Tusk, Ufomammut, Brain Police as well as many, many others, including us.

Our travel party varies depending on where we play for but for this jaunt it consisted of six of us. Chris, Joe, Martyn and myself obviously, accompanied by Alastair Riddell (our tour manager, guitar tech and self-proclaimed Nordic God of Chips!) and Elena (Martyn’s better half, who sells the merchandise and worships Lynyrd Skynyrd!). Joe and I were actually early for a change so we went and got a McDonald’s breakfast before we all met up at a ridiculous hour in a cold, wet car park in Southall (West London), a few miles from Heathrow (the closest long-stay parking you can get to such a retarded airport!) and boarded a bus to Terminal 1. The shocking London traffic didn’t dampen our spirits but upon arrival at Terminal 1 it emerged that we should’ve gone to Terminal 5 and now had to carry all our gear and merchandise across the airport. Not the best start to the day, but we arrived at the correct place and everyone managed to remain calm and quite upbeat about the whole debacle. I have to say at this point that I absolutely hate airports. I hate the tedious ritual of checking-in, going through various security and passport checks, but most of all I hate the people in airports. They seem to be a different species. I have an unfiltered vehemence for both the staff and especially my fellow passengers (bandmates and crew aside!), all desperate to get ahead of the next person so that they can board the plane before anyone else. The worst are the people in the departure lounge who feel the need to stand right next to the check-in gate, so they’re at the front of a nonexistent queue an hour before we’re due to take off, the ones that make all the other sheep think that something is happening and then all of a sudden you have a massive queue of people all standing around doing nothing for an hour waiting to board the plane that will inevitably be late anyway! Add to that the fact that we always seem to be surrounded by THAT family that can’t control their four screaming kids and I think you know what I mean! Thank God for noise-reducing headphones!

We all had the customary breakfast of a pint and a fry-up in Weatherspoons (all except Alastair who had about 35 rounds of toast and marmalade!) then Joe and I gratefully sampled the free whiskey being handed out in the airport departure lounge before we took off and after an uneventful flight we arrived at Berlin Tegel. From there we were driven to a very smart hostel, which seemed like some kind of travellers campus (but with Rabbits roaming free… very odd!). Luckily it was located right in the Bohemian part of Berlin (I think it’s called Kreuzberg?) so we didn’t have to walk far to find a decent café / bar selling us a cheap lunch (kebabs for us, chips for Alastair obviously!) and a couple of beers! Everyone then went back to the hotel to get some rest and/or freshen up before heading to the venue.

I really like Berlin. I think that it’s up there with New York and Rome as one of my favourite cities to visit. It’s very colourful and vibrant and despite its recent past it is very easygoing and friendly. Upon arrival at the venue, we were well fed and plied with our (very generous) rider. As it was a festival there was no sound-check, just a quick line-check before playing so after a couple of photoshoots and interviews, we all just hung out backstage and caught a few of the other bands playing. I’d heard a lot of good things about the band Ancestors so I made a point of going to watch them and I was blown away. They’re a great band that brings to mind a cross between Pink Floyd and Neurosis at their most melodic. They were killer guys too and we made light work of a few bottles of whiskey together! Our show was good, I remember the venue being very full and very hot and it was great to get such an enthusiastic response from a crowd that had been standing around all evening watching the rest of the festival bill. I always appreciate that when we headline. This was also the first show outside the UK in which we had aired a whole load of material from the A Eulogy for the Damned album, so it was satisfying to see that material go down so well with a lot of people already knowing the words to the new material.

After the show, it got a bit messy and I remember Scott Batiste from Saviours turning up before we were all shoved into a shuttle bus and driven back to the hotel. A few of us then headed out to the same bar we’d been to for lunch to get the much-needed late-night Doner Kebab and a few nightcaps! I remember trying to be clever and taking what I thought was a shortcut back to my room but I ended up getting completely lost in the hostel complex and had to phone Alastair to come and find me and take me back!! That’ll learn me!

Friday 20th April – The Pint, Dublin, REP. OF IRELAND

The next morning we had a ridiculously early start as we had to be at Berlin Airport for 9AM! Again, the airport ritual was a tortuous affair that we could have all done without so early in the morning when you’re nursing a hangover. Anyway, we had the luxury of flying via Aer Lingus (as opposed to fucking Ryanair!) and we managed to catch our flight on time, landing in Dublin just a couple of hours later. The majority of our flights have been very comfortable for me this year, bearing in mind that I am 6’ 5” tall! This is due to the fact that Alastair is one of those people that HAS to get on the plane first, even if you have designated seating! Anyway, the fact that he does this means that he has been able to procure the seats in the emergency exit rows that have the extra legroom. I can therefore take my time getting to my seat, safe in the knowledge that no one in their right mind is going to want to sit next to Alastair, meaning him and I usually have three seats between the two of us and we can stretch out! Joe doesn’t usually mind where he sits as he’s only a little fella and can sleep anywhere, which is why we call him Bagpuss! (For those who don’t know who Bagpuss is, he’s a character from an old English kids TV show, look him up.)

We were met at the airport by two very good friends, James, the Irish promoter that has booked us over there for the best part of a decade and Paul, another old friend from England that now lives in Belfast and plays in the hardcore band By Any Means, who were supporting us on these Irish shows as well as supplying us with backline (as well as accommodation and breakfast, more on that later!) We went straight to the venue and were greeted by the Republic of Ireland’s Number One Orange Goblin fan who had brought a million things for us to sign (including Ravens Creed material that none of us played on!) and we had photos with him before walking to the nearby hotel for a spot of lunch. It’s a very predictable thing to do in Dublin but we all had to sample the Guinness as well. There was talk of walking to St. James Gate to visit the Guinness factory, do a bit of sightseeing and have our photos taken with the Phil Lynott statue in the city but the pissing rain soon put us all off that idea and decided to grab a few hours sleep instead.

We managed to get through sound-check and then had a nice dinner overlooking the River Liffy, laughing and taking the piss out of everyone outside in the pouring rain, before the doors opened and the show started! First band of the night were a young Irish band called Wizards of Firetop Mountain, who were very impressive, a cross of classic rock and metal with a real AC/DC feel to it. By Any Means were next up and they were great too, playing a vicious brand of hardcore and whipping the crowd into a frenzy! By this time the small venue was heaving and the very drunk Dublin crowd gave us a great reception, as always. This was great to see, as this was the first time we’d played in Dublin for quite a few years. Again, everyone played well and the new material was received just as well as the older stuff.

The after-show was a bit of a blur but I seem to remember it taking what seemed like hours to leave the venue with more and more people buying us drinks and forcing us to stay! I also remember talking to a lot of strangers and smoking the worst tasting cigarettes in the world during the load-out, they were so bad that I had to drink neat vodka to disguise the taste! There were more drinks back at the hotel and I don’t remember getting back to my room. I was sharing with Chris and must’ve woken him up as he’d gone to bed before me but I woke the next day feeling fantastic. Results!!

 

Saturday 21st April – Spring & Airbrake, Belfast, NORTHERN IRELAND

The hotel in Dublin did an awesome cooked breakfast, which we all took advantage of. Chris was the only one that got collared to pay for his, the rest of us accidentally walking away from the table assuming that it was included in the hotel deal. Around midday we hit the road for a short drive north to Belfast, accompanied by an AC/DC mix in the van that had everyone rocking and desperate for beer. Before that though we wanted to drop in on Paul’s farm just outside of Belfast to see his pigs. Yes, his pigs. It’s a little known fact, but all of us in Orange Goblin are big fans of rural life, probably born of living in London and detesting everything about the city, and we all wanted to spend an afternoon feeding the pigs and chickens. We were due to be staying at Paul’s farm that night so it gave us a chance to meet his family, drink more Guinness and see what we’d be eating for breakfast the following morning. Paul had promised us fresh bacon, eggs and sausages that he makes himself and I for one could not wait! We spent a good hour or so on the farm and Elena made friends with a rabbit that she christened Syd Barrett for some unknown reason, but eventually we had to leave for the venue.

This was a show that I had been looking forward to ever since it had been booked. We have a lot of friends in Belfast and it always ends up as a big party every time we play there. Soundcheck was the usual boring affair and then we went to the pub next door to watch the Saturday football. Martyn’s team (QPR) were playing a very important fixture in the live televised game so he spent the next hour and a half yelling obscenities at the screen, much to the bemusement of the locals that had just popped out for a quiet pint on a Saturday evening! Anyway, QPR won and we all celebrated by sending Alastair to Nandos with the buy-out money for a load of chicken and chips, which were devoured in the dressing room – ah, the romance! There’s nothing better than the smell of a rancid venue dressing room mixed with hot, greasy chicken, stale beer and an overworked lavatory! I find it hard to believe we don’t get more groupies that wanna hang out backstage!!

The gig itself was an absolute blinder with a few girls on the front row very keen to flash their breasts. This isn’t unheard of at rock shows (actually, it is unheard of at OG shows) but I was very surprised by the two girls that had chosen to just wop them out and leave them hanging over the crowd barrier at the front for the duration of our set, like a couple of pairs of fleshy spaniels ears! Strange behaviour! Joe ended the gig being carried around the stage on Paul’s shoulders, Angus-style, much to his surprise whilst the rest of us tried to stop laughing at the boob display down the front! After the gig the real carnage began. There were many whiskeys and lots of photos with the very friendly Belfast crowd before we managed to squeeze about 27 people into the van and headed back to Paul’s farm for an all-night party! I think the entire time was spent talking utter-bollocks until it became clear that Paul and I were gonna have to head back into the city to get more “party supplies!” This involved a 4AM drive to the Shankill Road area of Belfast, not the best place for a pissed-up Englishman to be at any time, let alone as the sun is coming up on a Sunday morning! Paul had warned me to keep my voice down and but as soon as we arrived I fell out the van shouting, “Can I use your toilet, I’m dying for a piss!” Paul later told me that he thought we were gonna get shot but we managed to get out of there unscathed and I remember driving back to the farm at about 100mph down dark, winding country roads, AC/DC blasting out the stereo, thinking “I’m gonna die!” We got back to the farm and the party continued for a bit longer until everyone finally passed out at about 8AM.

After about four hours’ sleep, breakfast the next morning was everything I’d hoped it would be as Paul cooked up a treat of fresh bacon, sausage and eggs. Eventually and very reluctantly we had to say goodbye to everyone and we drove to Belfast Airport. The highlight of the day was spotting the heavyweight, British TV and Radio celeb Vanessa Feltz, who was strolling through the airport like a silver and leopard-skin clad behemoth.

I think I actually managed to sleep on the flight home and before we knew it, we were back at Heathrow and back to a world of shit. The rain was pissing down and we had to spend nearly an hour standing around in it waiting for the stupid bus to take us back to our cars in the long-stay car park. From there we all headed our separate ways, getting ready to go back to work first thing in the morning. Welcome home indeed!! I bet Led Zeppelin never had to do that!

Next month: Morrowfest, two shows in Italy and Sonisphere Spain!

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