Prong: Shattering Barriers
A Tommy Victor interview about Prong
By Jerel Johnson
I last talked with Prong frontman Tommy Victor during the fall of 2009. Since then, Prong has released two albums and performed across the globe. I was fortunate to talk with Tommy about the new record, his mindset while recording the album and what the future holds.
The gap between Carved into Stone and Ruining Lives is the shortest in 20 years. Was Prong on a creative kick after Carved?
I signed a record deal and I agreed to do another record. I was committed to this and the priority was doing this and having a “day job with Danzig put wrench in it and that delayed it. Then there was a problem with band members. It was contractual and I agreed to that and Prong needed to do consistent records from this time now on. There are not a lot of bands from that era and this may be a purpose in my life I don’t know.
I’ve noticed that Prong has had a line-up change. Who are the two new members of the band?
They aren’t really new. Jason Christopher, the bassist, has been touring with us for two years since (former bassist) Tony Campos didn’t tour too much. Alexei got a day job as a music programmer and Art Cruz filled in for him. Money in metal these days is hard to come by so I have to adapt to these situations, and that’s how it’s been.
Did the line-up change influence the recording process?
Actually on the record, Chris Collier who is a studio cat and a great engineer in his own right did all the studio tracks. Chris is the main force on this record as is producer Steve Evetts. It was a godsend to find this guy. Art Cruz kicks ass too as did Alexei so I’ve been on a lucky streak finding these amazing drummers. It’s been fantastic.
Did you record Ruining Lives like Carved into Stone or was it different?
We did it in a different studio and worked on the songs as we went along. It was a more condensed version of how we record Carved into Stone. We did the vocal in Evetts’ studio. Evetts has made some huge upgrades with the studio and I noticed the differences on this record. It’s a more condensed version. I think we worked faster because I’m used to Steve’s method operation so I didn’t question his approach to the vocals and guitar overdubs.
What are your favorite songs on the record?
It depends when I listen to it. I listened to it on Spotify to see how it holds up with the compression of the files and I was quite pleased. I like them all, but I think “Book of Change” because it’s so intense, God! The thing that’s funny is when we did the guitar tracking, I did it really fast and didn’t spend too much time on it and [I thought] it will sound like slop when it comes out. Then when I heard I was like “damn that was hot.”
Does Prong have any major tours lined up?
Yes, we’re touring until November 15. I won’t announce the American tour until May 13, but it’ll start in September. But we’re playing a bunch of festivals in Europe. We did them before and they were very successful. After America we’ll do another European tour with Overkill.
How would you compare the European metal scene to the U.S. metal scene?
It’s definitely a long answer. It’s ever changing. Years ago there was a considerable distinction, some of that still prevails, America is still predicated on radio, media mass exposure. There is no central hub for music and it’s much more disconnected in America. In Europe it is notorious for metal, Hamburg is the central place, everything stems from there. People can get on trains and go to gigs. Things are more vibrant, there are no drinking laws and more people can come to shows. And you have the festivals where there are millions of fans going all over the place. The economy, especially in Germany is a lot better than it is over here. America is probably the most difficult in the western world and the most unrewarding place to tour in. Because the media has such control that the big bands that sell works are who people are more focused on. Mid and lower level bands suffer extreme costs to survive.
Do you think metal in the U.S. is on the decline?
I think everything is cyclical. I tend to believe that it’s hard to really be positive about it right now, but that’s why having good songs and having a record like Ruining Lives is important for metal because there’s no concentration on yelling screaming and violence. It has that, but there is a focus on songs and a positive message. I think that if there are bands making quality stuff then it can change. But if hordes of bands make garbage and the labels support it, the scene will crumble. Now the labels don’t have any control; now kids will pick up a guitar and make a record that sounds like everything else and release in their home studio using Pro-Tools then people will say “metal sucks.” The same thing with rap or RnB, because everyone has a home studio and think they’re rappers but they’re just suburban kids with money.
Now, you also play guitar in Danzig. What is going on in the Danzig camp?
He’s been trying to get this record deal. We did a cover record. Glenn is a bit of a genius and that’s why he survives so long and is an icon in the music business–because he does it his way. There’s an EP in the making that’s going to come out. He doesn’t like to divulge his secrets but he’s trying to get these things out. He’s taking it slow this year, which is great for me as I can focus on Prong. Is there a tentative release date? No, he’s working on a creative way to release this stuff.
It’s a weird market to put out a CD that won’t make it in Best Buy if there is even a rock section in that store, and if so it’s probably monopolized by other groups. People don’t have access to metal anymore. It’s been pushed out because big money people are more concerned about what can sell.
People who want to hear the old stuff with the new lineup can listen to a bootleg called Unleashed in the West on Prong’s website. It’s also available on www.prong.bandcamp.com.