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Orange Goblin talk 25th anniversary celebrations

There are very few certainties in life. The first eight series of the Simpsons will always be funny; that council tax is a fuckfest of broken promises; and that there will always be Orange (fucking) Goblin, baby! Celebrating their 25th birthday this year should have seen Orange Goblin running rampant on a run of shows across all the best summer festivals. But even the OG-25 juggernaut has had to put the brakes on in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, and in the ensuing lockdown the precious sight of Ben, Joe, Martyn and Chris rampaging across stages with their good time rock 'n' roll is one that's been put on hold. But it's not something that seems to faze them. Joining Dark Matter on a Skype meeting, singer Ben Ward making the most of a hot day with a cold beer, and ready to reflect on the last 25 years.

So, having released nine studio albums which are never anything less than 101% riff-laced and foot-stompingly good, and have played more fist-pumpingly good live shows across the world than can reasonably be counted, how have they managed it? “The fact we still enjoy it and it's not like a chore,” is the reply. “As you say we get to travel all over the world and been to Australia, we've been to Japan, we've been to America and Canada, we been all over Europe, and Russia. It's a dream come true really. Personally, we started OG 25 years ago because we were friends sitting around bored, and we all had a shared passion for the same sort of music, Black Sabbath being the obvious kind of starting point, and it snowballed from there really.”

It was an exciting time for music of the doomier and stonier bent. Around the time there was Electric Wizard (OG did a split EP with the Devon deviants), Cathedral (toured with the Coventry coven) and Kyuss (golden-throated John Garcia has guested on a couple of OG tunes) to name just an illustrious few. No Spotify, no Facebook, no online anything in those days either. It was all word of mouth and putting yourself about. “It used to be a tape trading scene when we first started, to trade demos and get your name out there you used to have to turn up at gigs and hand out fliers to people in queues,” Ben remembers nostalgically. “But I'm thankful we came out at a time when you had to that kind of groundwork, because it not only gave you the satisfaction you'd worked hard for it but it also helped establish a network of friends that are still there to this day.” Borne on a colourful mix of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple and just about every other cool rock 'n' roll band out there, every OG album feels like an event and every live show unstoppable, be it main stage at Bloodstock or the tiniest sweatbox that could barely pass the Geneva Convention, let alone any other conventions about comfort and hygiene.

And there was a further run of glorious shows planned for the summer season: Desertfest, Bloodstock, Headbanger's Ball Festival in Belgium, all brought to a crashing halt. But what to do in the meantime? Although we might not be seeing OG in full flight again until their Christmas time tour, 'Rough & Ready, Live & Loud' is the next best thing you can get: a rough-hewn, boisterous mix of OG shows, and one born from simply reaching into the band's archive and a simple desire to connect with those fans who would be every bit as disappointed as the London foursome at the prospect of unrung ear drums. “It wasn't on the cards at all; when we realised we had no possibility of doing shows, we wanted to do something for the fans and this was like the logical solution,” Ben reveals. “Our soundman Jez had uncovered a load of recordings he had done from the sound desk of shows over the last few years. There was Sylak Open Air Festival in France 2016, there was the KOKO show in Camden from 2016 as well, and a show we did in Athens, Greece last year. The material across those three recordings was a good reflection of the 25 years of the band, so it fell together really conveniently.”

Also a welcome distraction from the isolation of quarantine living was a live OG webcast, joint-hosted by Ben and his compatriots guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner. The foursome joined forces for a chat, a piss-up and a quiz giveaway and quotes from some of the finest British sitcoms. It was a hilarious and touching use of technology and cocktails, and if you haven't seen seen it go and check it out on Facebook now. “We've been doing those quite a bit recently, I think we done about three or four, and again it was just a kind of thing of connecting with the fans while everyone was in lockdown. The fans seemed to enjoy doing it, we enjoyed doing it, it's a good life reminiscing about old times and it's the only opportunity we get to see each other these days. It's kind of gone from strength to strength, [it] was the cumulation of the past few weeks of promoting a live album, and we decided to do a quiz we all sorted through our personal stash of the old bits of memorabilia that we'd collected over the last 25 years, and there was hand-written lyrics and posters and CDs that we had signed and stuff like that. We had that quiz, tested people's general knowledge on OG, and gave a lot of it away,” Ben reveals of an event that crammed in Bottom references and fond tales of road debauchery, and the general feeling of goodness that comes when four great mates get together to shoot the shit about the past.