PRONG by Christina Thompson
With their latest album about to drop (Zero Days), Prong has proven they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Also, the album was aptly named. There are definitely “Zero Days” when it comes to this album. With its mix of old and new sounds, it has the bangers, the anthems and the Thrash. The arrangements seem to be tighter and there is undoubtedly more of a groove vibe, and the lyrics appear to have been given more thought-provoking attention this time around. Take not only does it jump out right off the bat, but the message is clear: Step up and take responsibility for the consequences of your own actions.
Could it be that Tommy Victor, Prong’s principal mainstay of the band- as well as the founding father- is moving to a more “Zen” like approach to life in Prong’s third decade of existence? Is he getting wiser as his band enters into its fourth decade?
Sometimes I think I’m getting more “Zen”, than some bullshit comes up and I turn into my old pissed off self. Ha. I think I have better tools now to use. They don’t always work but sometimes I find a better approach to an issue or a problem. I turn to others a little bit more these days. I try to generate a little more faith. That can be really hard at times but there really is nothing else I have found.
Speaking of it Prong’s longevity, it has been quite the journey for the band. You (Mr. Tommy Victor) have said that when first starting out, you tried your best to screw things up so you wouldn’t sound like anyone else. Obviously there was something to the “screw things up approach” since there is no denying how much of an immeasurable influence on the metal scene you were during the 90’s. Through all this time, not only does Prong continue to evolve as an entity, but you do yourself as well. What keeps you motivated? What drives you to continue to move forward in an industry that can a lot of times can be very unforgiving…Where you have readily admitted that while you love the music, you certainly don’t feel the same about the business?
Yeah I don’t like the business side of things. Or at least having to sell yourself on social media or by kissing people’s asses all the time and “networking”.It’s part of the gig, I get it but I suck at it.I like relationships with people to come naturally. I think people come into your life for a reason. I like our fans, some of them have turned out to be great friends over time. I meet journalists and photographers and have some nice conversations with them. So it’s not all that bad I guess. I like having friends around in the project. I still don’t feel Prong is done because I’ve been striving for the ultimate Prong record. I want to do something of serious magnitude. Here and there you get these moments that you feel the hard work paid off. Of course that changes and then you feel you have to do better. It’s a cycle. I think artists go through this but it gets pretty painful at times. The only way out is to keep walking. I’ve never gotten any big financial successes or huge accolades so I keep striving. I don’t want to look back and say “Man you should have made one more record, that could have been the best one”. I don’t feel satisfied, I don’t know if I ever will.
You are not only the front man for Prong, but have had multiple side-gigs as well with various artists (Danzig, being the latest). Do you feel that working with so many artists has helped you keep Prong’s material fresh and aids in the evolution of your sound? Or are you able to keep it completely separate—leave it all at the door, so to speak?
Well it’s good to be busy and work on other people’s stuff. You get some education that way I suppose. I try not to pass up on opportunities. Even if sometimes they don’t pan out the way I wished, it’s probably worth it but I don’t know for sure. I really have no idea if it influences Prong material. Prong is it’s own thing.
In previous interviews, you have mentioned the negative force of ego. In your view, how destructive can this force be? Not only for the band members and how they relate to each other, but on the quality of music being produced as well as how it may even affect the fan base? Can you relate an instance where you experienced this destruction due to someone’s ego first-hand?
If you’re worried too much about popularity all the time I think you’ll go nuts. it’s a bottomless pit. In regular life too I think it’s best to try to care about the other guy. Let people cut in front of you on the freeway. It’s fine. Pride is fairly dangerous to get too wrapped up into. There’s always going to be someone better, smarter, better looking whatever. We are all the same really , some get a better luck of the draw. We are then just products of our environment.
Switching gears, what is your take on how the “live show” scene has changed since the 90’s? How does it relate to/affect Prong today?
Well it was crazier back in the day that’s for sure. I mean a lot of our audience has aged and they are not going to get in the pit and beat each other up. Even when I see younger bands, it can be different. The venue you are playing is a factor. Some places have strict rules these days and are more of a controlled environment. In some ways I think that’s okay. I don’t like when people get hurt or are disturbed by others at any event no less a concert.
Being the veteran that you are, what is your take on how social media impacts the creativity and originality of the latest generation of metal bands? Do you see it as possibly creating a fear to where bands might be stifling themselves rather than take more chances creatively? Along that thread, are there any “Up and Comers” that seem to have said “To Hell with It” and are doing their own thing that you are seeing and applaud?
I think the bands are getting better than ever in some ways. I don’t see how social media has anything to do with anything.The playing and singing have really elevated in quality, at least on record. Stuff like Wage War and Of Mice and Men are pretty darn good actually. It may be a little formularized but that’s okay. I like Despised Icon a lot for the guitar playing.Gojira of course are absolutely killer. They seem to not care too much about copying themselves or getting airplay which is great but they are so good they don’t have to worry.. There’s a lot of good bands. Some bands though sound great on record and then not so good live especially when they use backing tracks. A lot of young bands I think are afraid to be raw, at least the metal bands.
I am going to go on record and say “Cortez the Killer” just frigging blew me away. What was the motivating factor behind doing the Songs from the Black Hole tribute album? Was it hard to choose with songs to cover and include? Also, what does an already accomplished musician known to many as a “metal staple” learn when covering other artists music?
I learned a lot by doing work on that record. Getting the vocal stylings was a challenge. I like Cortez too. I really worked hard on that one trying to figure out what to do. It was a bit of an experiment. We picked the songs based upon the criteria of “was it influential?”, relative to earlier Prong. I never trained as a singer nor as a guitar player and I really just play and sing my own stuff for the most part. So to get me to figure all that out was good work. Then make the adaptations to have them make sense in the realm of Prong, that was an issue. Back to Cortez again, I went through several vocal treatments before just simply figuring out what Neil did, and just singing it. And the guitar stuff, he’s impossible to imitate so I just pulled “themes” out of his intro solo and made it less jammy. That took awhile for sure.
You have said you started playing the bass at age eleven. Can you remember that moment you picked it up and what led to it?
Yeah this kid that lived around the corner that I never spoke a word to previously, sold it to me for 12 bucks. I went right upstairs and tried to figure out “Strutter”. It took awhile but I believe I did it then moved on to “Ironman” or something. I was hooked.
When can fans expect the release of “Zero Days” and in your words describe to your fans and readers of our publication what they can expect to find on it?
There’s no filler, just good friggin Prong songs. It’s supercharged a bit. It’s kind of pissed off really. Very hard hitting and in your face. I think the record sounds pretty darn good too.
Finally with a new album about to drop, what else is on Prong’s agenda? Please feel free to let our MHF community know of any upcoming tours, concerts, Festivals, projects, world domination plans…Or any other message you want your fans to know. Thanks and cheers!
We are doing Wacken this summer plus a bunch of other festivals all over Europe. Woodstock in Poland for instance. Also club shows in Germany UK and Ireland. check out www.prongmusic.com for dates. first single “However It May End” from Zero Days is up on Spotify now. Album out July 28th. Love ya!
Christina Thompson/MHF Magazine