The latest album from the veteran British stoner metal band Orange Goblin is The Wolf Bites Back. Bassist Martyn Millard gives us the lowdown on the record, touring, social media, underrated bass players and more.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for The Wolf Bites Back compared to previous albums?
Martyn Millard: Not too much if I’m honest. The problem has always been the four of us actually getting together in the same room. So we block booked a whole bunch of weekends and spent all day in the rehearsal room rather than a couple of hours after work once a week. We all have day jobs and don’t really live near one another so we had to plan that side of it. But the songwriting was and has always remained fairly similar throughout our 23 years. We bring in ideas and we choose what we like and run with it. We try and keep an open mind to what we want on a new record. We try not to limit ourselves to a certain style or genre. To us that would get stale very quickly.
How did you decide to work with producer Jaime “Gomez” Arrellano?
We’ve known Gomez for quite a while. We used to run into him at gigs in London or nights out. But more to the point, we are big fans of his work and loved the way he made bands we already knew sound. He puts a freshness and energy into the recordings and we wanted The Wolf Bites Back to have that.
How was the experience?
It was great! It was bloody cold but a really great experience. Gomez’s studio is an old converted barn/World War II telephone exchange. It has a great story behind it but it’s real cold up there at times. But we managed to get it heated and it worked really well. He is a real perfectionist with tone and tuning and he worked us pretty hard to get things right. But that’s a great thing because he pushes us as musicians to be better and sometimes we need that. I think there are some great performances on this record.
Did you write more songs than you ended up recording?
No, not whole songs. Loads of ideas are still laying around on people’s phones or recording devices. And maybe we will re-visit them another time but there not any more completed songs to be released or used.
How has the band’s sound evolved on this one?
We certainly used a lot more equipment. As I said, Gomez is an expert at sounds and tones and his studio has some amazing vintage gear in it. We wanted it to sound like us, and I think it does. But there is a lot more depth to our instruments and some of the sounds used this time around.
How do you go about setting goals and expectations for an album?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. First and foremost we, as the four band members have to love it. It has to meet what we want to give to the fans and be proud of it. We certainly keep in mind what our fans like about us and try not to be too drastic in change when we try change. But ultimately, we have to be into it first because if we’re not into it then we’ll be found out. It’s why we have never taken any notice of trends and fads. Our fans would see through it. So every album is us laying out our tastes and influences in our own way.
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
It depends. If it’s a really great review then of course that’s great to read and a bad review can be a little deflating. We read them and take them for what they are …just one person’s opinion. I have read bad reviews that have made valid points where you can tell the reviewer has listened and thought about his/her criticism. I think those reviews are worth taking on board and learning from, to an extent. But ultimately they won’t change what we do either way.
You have some festivals coming up. Any one in particular you’re looking forward to playing?
We are looking forward to the Stone Free festival in London a lot as we are big fans of the Scorpions. And a week later we will play at Hellfest for the third time. For us it’s the best festival in the world. Great vibe and such a great crowd.
What are the chances of a North American tour this album cycle?
If I’m honest it will be hard for us to do. Sometimes it’s hard to explain why touring the U.S. is so difficult for us. It would take up all our holiday time from our day jobs firstly, as there is no point coming over for just a week. But just the cost of visas, flights, back line hire, crew hire, vehicle hire, merchandise costs, hotels, etc. leaves us thousands and thousands of pounds out of pocket before we even leave home. However, we never say never and if the right tour comes up at the right time then we’ll jump at it as the crowds in the U.S. can be amazing. It’s such a huge place and full of such amazing people. We’ve toured the U.S. about a dozen times and have had some of the best experiences we can remember there.
What’s your favorite way to kill time on the road?
It used to be to drink ourselves stupid. (laughs) But these days with technology we watch a lot of movies and read. I like to go for walks in the area we are playing in, especially if there is a bit of history locally.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
We’ve had numerous tours in South America fall through so we’ve never actually managed to get down there. I’d love to play down there. But there other places too. New Zealand and India also appeal to me as places to play and enjoy.
Promoting albums these days is all about social media. Is that something you have embraced, or do you prefer the old days when there was still some mystique?
I think we have embraced social media as a band. I think you have to. It has its down sides too, but in general I think it’s a great way of getting info out to fans and to people who may not have heard your music. I have to admit I do still think fondly of tape trading. We met some wonderful people via writing and swapping demos etc. Youngsters these days have no experience of that.
As you look back on the Orange Goblin catalog, is there an album you think was overlooked or underrated when it was released, but in retrospect has held up very well?
I think every album has parts or songs which are slightly overlooked. There is something about Healing Through Fire that I really like. The production could have been a lot better. I remember Lee Dorrian saying as much when it came out and I remember being slightly offended. But in hindsight he was spot on. But I think the album has some really strong songs on and I love the theme of the plague and the Great Fire of London running through the album. As a Londoner myself it was great to do something slightly historical about where we are from.
Who’s the most underrated bass player in metal?
There are so many, but hands down Scott Reeder is about the best there is. He might not be underrated in our circles and genre, but to metal as a whole, he probably he is. He’s been a big inspiration to me. I think Jeff from High on Fire is hugely underrated but there are so many that I have had the pleasure to watch and tour with too. I love Dan Maines’ playing from Clutch. No thrills, but he and JP are just locked together. That’s the best modern day rhythm section around.
Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
I’m watching a lot of Netflix, a lot of historical stuff. I like to learn and then bore others with useless info.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’m listening to a huge mixture of things from old prog like Genesis and Atomic Rooster to new releases from COC, Boss Keloid and Sleep. I like to have my iPod on shuffle and just see what comes next. I Love that feeling of hearing a song that I haven’t heard for ages or hearing an album track that’s never grabbed your attention before but is actually incredible.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Only that The Wolf Bites Back is out on June 15th so go buy it and give it a listen. And a big thanks to all the Goblin fans around the world. The support over the last 23 years has been incredible and means more to us than people could know. Thank you!
(interview published June 15, 2018)