Orange Goblin’s frontman and horror connoisseur Ben Ward was kind enough to be interviewed by the ghouls at Black Sunday Magazine, dare you read on…?
Interview by Katie Doherty
Photo: Esta Segarra
Tell me, what is your earliest memory of discovering the wonderful world of horror?
I can’t pin point any particular time or age but I know I was affected by horror from a very early age. As a small child I was fascinated by the darker side of children’s tales, stories such as ‘Hansel & Gretel’, ‘The Headless Horseman’, even the troll in the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’! I was an only child so I was a bit of a loner in my youth and that led me to raiding my Mother’s book collection which was dominated by authors such as Stephen King, James Herbert and Dennis Wheatley so I soon started reading those. It was actually my Mum that used to let me sit and watch horror films with her at a young age and I distinctly remember ‘The Shining’, ‘An American Werewolf In London’, ‘The Fog’, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Salem’s Lot’ being the main films that kick-started my interest, all of those had a very deep-rooted impact on me and they all remain amongst my favourite films to this day. I grew up in an age where there was a lot of horror on terrestrial TV too so I used to watch ‘Hammer House of Horror’, old Hammer and Amicus films and I loved the show ‘Tales of The Unexpected’ due to its macabre nature. As I grew older and made friends at school, it meant I had people to share my interest with and we used to get our hands on old VHS copies of the early 80’s ‘Video nasty’ boom, films like ‘Driller Killer’, ‘The Exterminator’, ‘Anthropophagus’ and of course the original ‘Dawn of The Dead’ and ’Evil Dead’. From then on it was essential to watch all the mid-80’s classics, films like ‘Return of The Living Dead’, ‘Dead & Buried’, ‘Maniac Cop’, ‘Phantasm’ and of course ‘Day of The Dead’ etc. It’s been with me ever since and now I’m a fan of just about every genre of horror there is, from the exploitation/cannibalistic stuff right back to the early classics like ‘White Zombie’, ‘Cat People’, ‘The Spiral Staircase’, ‘The House on Haunted Hill’ and the original Universal Monsters movies.
I hear you are a big fan of the Italian horror films, tell me more about that. Please share some of your favourites for our readers to check out.
Italian directors have always been at the cutting edge of horror. Mario Bava pretty much defined how to direct modern horror and his influence has been as important as that of the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Tod Browning and James Whale. It was his films like ‘Black Sabbath’ and ‘Blood & Black Lace’ that introduced me to the Giallo genre and then in turn the work of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. I’d seen ‘Suspiria’ and ‘Profondo Rosso’ before but wasn’t initially impressed as at a young age all I really wanted was zombies and gore. It was only when I’d got older that I learned to appreciate the moods that Argento created and his amazing use of light and sound to create an atmosphere of suspense. Italy has always been renowned for classy cinematography, directors like Fellini and Bava are legendary, but the further I dug into the Italian stuff the more I found that I fell in love with, both in sophisticated Giallo and straight up gore and shock. There is such a wealth of talent with directors such as Umberto Lenzi, Joe D’Amato, Romano Scavolini, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato etc..the list goes on. Italian horror movies have also always had a certain edge due to the fantastic soundtracks created by people like Fabio Frizzi and of course Goblin. I don’t often get star-struck but a few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet both Dario Argento and Claudio Simonetti in London at a screening of Suspiria and I was like a small child meeting Santa Clause!! I alsoa got to see Goblin perform live at The Scala in London and they played all the classic movie soundtracks (Dawn of The Dead, Tenebrae, Profondo Rosso, Suspiria etc) with a backdrop showing each movie, it was an incredible experience!
As for favourites to check out, I’d have to recommend Argento classics like ‘Suspiria’, ‘Profondo Rosso’, ‘Inferno’ and ‘Four Flies on Grey Velvet’ along with the Fulci classics such as ‘The Beyond’, ‘City of The Living Dead’, ‘House By The Cemetary’ and ‘Cat In The Brain’. For great, less well-known Italian films, check out the likes of ‘Lizard In A Woman’s Skin’ by Lucio Fulci, ‘The House of The Laughing Windows’ by Pupi Avati and Dario Argento’s first film ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plummage’. These are all brilliant films but you could pretty much go for anything by any of the directors I have mentioned and you’ll find there aren’t many bad ones amongst them.
The Fog, a track on the latest Orange Goblin album was influenced by John Carpenter’s film. As such a big horror fan, do you find that it influences your music a lot?
Well, it’s no secret that heavy metal and horror go hand in hand and that has always been the case since the opening few seconds of the first Black Sabbath album. I wouldn’t say that horror is a direct influence on our music as the guys that write the music aren’t into it quite as much as me. I like to experiment with my interest in horror as far as the lyrics are concerned though. When I came up with ‘The Fog’ I listened to the riffs they had written and they brought to mind an image of a thick fog, slowly creeping inland and that instantly reminded me of the film so I went with it. I like to think that John Carpenter himself would like that song and I’m very proud of the lyrics too. I also try to draw on films that I’ve seen and add a bit of my own imagination to it to create something new. We have a song on the ‘Healing Through Fire’ album called ‘They Come Back’ (the title is actually lifted from the Stephen King short story ‘Sometimes They Come Back) That song is about a zombie uprising during the time of the Plague in London in 1665 as we’d done almost a concept album based on the Plague and the Great Fire so I wanted to add a bit of a horror twist. Real horror aficionados will notice some of the little nods to horror films that feature on Orange Goblin albums. The start of the song ‘Red Web’ features a sample from George Romero’s ‘Night of The Living Dead’, the song ‘Lazy Mary’ is named after the number plate of the truck at the start of Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ and the song ‘The Filthy & The Few’ has a sample from the 1969 B-Movie ‘Satan’s Sadists’. I also like to read a lot of classic/gothic horror writers, as do a lot of people in heavy metal, and try to incorporate influences such as HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert E Howard, Algernon Blackwood, August Derleth and MR James as well as more modern day writers such as Brian Keene and Dean Koontz and even the likes of Anton LaVey and Aleistair Crowley.
What do you think about modern horror films? Are they all out for gore and shock value or do you think they have a valuable place in film history?
It’s a tough one to answer really as all my favourite films were made before 1990 but I do think there have been some very good films made in recent years. I’m not really a fan of remakes, particularly when I loved the originals so I find it hard to bring myself to watch them. I thought that Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ sucked as did the remakes of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Last House on The Left’ and ‘The Wicker Man’ remake is the worst thing ever recorded. The only 2 remakes that I have enjoyed in the past ten years are the new ‘Evil Dead’ which I was very skeptical about, but very satisfied with, and the ‘Dawn of The Dead’, both of which seem to have been made with a lot of respect for the originals. I know that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell had a lot of input on the new Fede Alvarez version.
Ever since the release of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ there have been numerous ‘lost footage’ and ‘video camera account’ style films yet I don’t think any of them have the same impact that films like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ did years ago. I was quite impressed by the ‘Rec’ films and I also enjoyed the first few ‘Saw’ movies until they ripped the arse out of it with too many follow-ups. There are a few modern directors that I have a lot of respect for, especially Ti west and Ben Wheatley. Ti West’s ‘The House of the Devil’ is amazing film that was made in 2009 but looks like it could’ve been made in 1981, it’s awesome. He also did ‘The Innkeepers’ which is a gripping ghost story done very well. Ben Wheatley is a bit of an oddball but has made great films like the brutal ‘Kill List’ and more recently the very strange ‘A Field In England’. I guess the biggest problem nowadays is that everything has been done before, which is why I found ‘Cabin In The Woods’ really good fun and I also have a guilty pleasure of liking the ‘Final Destination’ films which just seem to be someone’s way of thinking up imaginative and wonderful ways to kill teenagers!
If you could make your own horror film and could ask anyone, alive or dead, to star in it who would be your horror dream team?
I would love to be able to assemble the dream team of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price again. To my knowledge the only film they ever made together was the Pete Walker film ‘House of The Long Shadows’ which also starred John Carradine. Those guys are the godfathers of horror, along with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Of them all I have to say that Vincent Price is probably my favourite actor as he adds that certain theatrical ‘camp’ that made films like ‘Theatre of Blood’ and ‘The Abominable Dr.Phibes’ so fantastic. And his voice is the greatest in the history of horror. I’d love to be able to follow Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson and have Vincent Price do a spoken word piece on an Orange Goblin album but unfortunately it will never happen now.
Have you ever felt the urge to make a horror film yourself? If so, what kind of film would it be?
Not really. I have absolutely no idea about film-making and wouldn’t want to turn out a piece of crap just for the sake of it. I’m happy to leave it to the experts and keep enjoying or criticizing from a distance. Being in Orange Goblin is enough like being in a real life horror movie anyway!
I suppose if I did ever venture down that path I would like to do something stylish yet disturbing. I suppose I’d try to emulate Dario Argento in his golden era. Or then again just do something really cool and trashy like ‘Return of The Living Dead’! Possibly combine the answers to this question and the last and have Lucio Dulci direct a movie starring Lee, Cushing and Price with Tom Savini doing the special effects and Goblin composing the soundtrack, now that would be something!
The hardest questions for all horror fans but I have to ask it: which is your favourite horror film?
There are simply far too many for me to be able to pick one! I could do you a list of twenty and I’d still be leaving out some of my absolute favourites. In no particular order I ‘ll pick:
1 – The Shining
2 – Theatre Of Blood
3 – Suspiria
4 – An American Werewolf In London
5 – The Beyond
6 – The Devil Rides Out
7 – The Evil Dead
8 – The Wicker Man
9 – Frightmare
10 – The Last House on Dead End Street
11 – The Bird with The Crystal Plummage
12 – The Exorcist
13 – Night of the Hunter
14 – Vampire Circus
15 – Twins Of Evil
16 – Alucarda
17 – Nightmare City
18 – Carnival Of Souls
19 – Dracula AD 1972
20 – The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue……….
I could go on for ages. I really love the old portmanteau style films as well like ‘Vault of Horror’, ‘Dead of Night’, ‘Tales of Terror’, ‘From Beyond The Grave’ and ‘Tales From The Crypt’ etc.