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Prong

Prong, de band die vooral draait rond Tommy Victor, hoeven we al lang niet meer voor te stellen. De band bestaat al sedert 1986 en leverde met ‘Beg To Differ’ en ‘Cleansing’ enkele legendarische albums af. Daarna ging het wat minder en speelde Tommy vooral bij bands als Ministry en Danzig. Sedert 2012 staat Prong echter weer stevig in eigen schoenen en levert bijna jaarlijks een meer als uitstekend album af. Naar aanleiding van de nieuwe plaat ‘Zero Days’ pakten we de gelegenheid aan om wat vragen op Tommy af te vuren.

Door: Koen W. | Archiveer onder speed / thrash metal

From the start with the first song ‘However It May End’ it is amazing how you sound razor sharp, energetic and aggressive. Is this a new breath you got?
Ha-ha, not really. I just try to write new songs with the other guys. Trying to write some good lyrics and make good riffs. Just ready to kick ass. But now I feel yeah because you said that. I personally have no idea what I’m doing here.

It’s one of the heaviest Prong albums I ever heard. You play thrash metal but also go back more to a metalcore and hardcore style. Much more than your previous albums. Was this a sound that you were looking for?
It is from touring a lot last three or four years and all the bands we were playing with. There were some real iconic bands on stage with us and it influenced us as well. Just getting on the guitar and going on stage has helped a lot. You know when I’m sitting at home, I would probably not pick up a guitar. That is just the last thing I wanted to do. Being committed to play guitar, more ideas are coming up so I appreciate the compliment. It is hard to be heavy these days without tuning down to a B or a G chord like everybody else is doing. So it was a bit of a challenge with the higher tuning on the guitars that Prong is doing. You know Slayer is also playing heavy but they always play on a E flat. I’m glad you call the record heavy. It is also the writing on the record. We didn’t write the whole record to sound heavy. We had made a lot of thrash songs so we had to slow it up a little. Just making a Prong record you don’t have to reflect on the past. We don’t want to sound like some boring old guys.

The lyrics on the album are not of the most easy ones. Did you put a lot of effort in it?
There was indeed a lot of effort in the lyrics and in the vocals. A lot of sleepless nights and trying to figure it out what the concepts were. You know the concepts were written over a lot of time. The worst was to fit it all in along with the vocal melody, the structure and the phrasing of the songs. It was a lot of hard work to let everything fit and to do that. But we were very happy with the results.

The album cover of 'Zero Days' shows a lot of messages and elements. I can see the Prong eye that you already had in several albums. And the skull weeps in the shape of the stars and stripes. Is that a reference to the American politics from these days?
Exactly. Initially I wanted to have the EU flag in there. I wanted the EU flag for the albums sold in Europe and the American flag for the American albums. But the label wouldn’t go for that. I just want to have the world consciences in it. A concept about confusion and the insecurity, it’s not a new concept but something that is significant what is going on and without being political. And the all Seeing Eye is a sort of raise in the center were its were it’s not taking a complete position of anything. It’s just a sort of searching outwards and looking for a balance in the sort of conflicts that are going on.

Like the previous one, you did the producing of the album yourself. It’s that like a ‘what you do yourself, you can’t do better’ attitude?
No, Chris Collier did a lot of work on it as usual. I did credit for more an administrator roll. But together we formulate the idea and the concept about it. So it’s coproduction. I can’t do it on my own. There is no way. I need somebody else to hit my on the head. We go back already for four albums and figured it out how we are going to do it in ways. I give him a lot of freedom and let him come up with stuff. We always say a lot of yes and no but we are working always together.

I really don’t know how you do it, but since ‘Carved Into Stone’ you just made five albums and one each year. Together with a lot of touring. And you play and recorded an album with Danzig. Are you the hardest working musician on earth?
I don’t know about that. I also have some more projects that I am working on. It is just for doing it for a really long time. I don’t practice all the time. I think other bands and younger bands are falling in some kind of problems. When I’m see that coming up, I avoid it. The main one is just like questioning all you do. I know that I did that in a lot of older Prong albums. The successful ones I don’t question. But the ones that had problems we think about. And now we think they need just some little adjustments but we just get it done. I really think that is rock n roll. You just don’t can question and think back and try to analyze all the things you do all the time.

It started all ago in 1986 when you were a sound engineer at the CBGB club, New York. That’s 31 years ago. Did you ever thought that the Prong story would take for such a long time?
To be honest with you, I didn’t think so. As you know or you don’t know. All the reason why I didn’t made consistent records is that there were moments I really couldn’t do it anymore. I was feeling stupid and didn’t make records. There were many disillusions among my career. I was looking for other avenues and nothing seem to work out. So sometimes I wanted to do this for sometimes like working for another record company. Find something else to do. But it never worked quite out of me. So there is really nothing planned.

So if you were standing backstage at a festival and some members of a recently new band would come to you to ask you some advice to avoid any pitfalls in their career. What advice would you give them.
That never happens because younger bands don’t have an idea who Prong is and just don’t care. So don’t be negative but if that happens I would say: "You can hire me to give you some advice’ because I don’t give anything for free". I’m a real asshole you know. But to be honest, I really don’t know. There is no book written how it works. I wouldn’t even know what to tell people. Because there are guys in bands who did just a little work and who a really huge. And there are guys who are amazing guitar players and amazing song writers and look great and work out every day and look like they could be great rock stars but they don’t go anywhere. So it’s like nothing is written on this day. So I can’t tell you how it works.

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You had some bleak times with Prong, but the last years it goes very well. You even play at Graspop for the third time already. Are you a bit in love with Belgium?
I really do have to appreciate this things a lot more. We did a long tour in America. Everything is a challenge for me. We did it and I did it and that’s it. We made a record and that’s it. There are not any celebrations back in my life. Every day is another challenge and every day is another day to do. I really don’t sit back to receive any glory for this kind of things. That is not really my mentality. That is a strange thing. I really try to generate for myself some gratitude but that’s difficult for me as well. I just look for the next challenges to go to the day with.

In the days that Prong started, bands were much more political and social involved and expressed that with their music. Are bands nowadays still concerned about the political situation and/ or social issues?
I think they are trying to but, I really start to be too negative about it, I don’t pay too much attention. I go on Spotify and have a sense what other bands are trying to sound like except trying to sound like everybody else. So there are amazing bands out there with great riffs and guitar work but I don’t just have the sense of any street work or political meaning what they are doing. They just want to fit in more and want to express other guitar players. Drummers want to express other drummers. Singers want to scream more than the other guy. It’s more a technical thing. I think is a generation thing. Back in those days, in NY were Prong is coming from, there was a lot more violence and drugs. The city was broke. There were burnt out buildings, you were guarded every were you go. I got pointed guns on me and was beaten off. Things are much more controlled these days. Police is more active in America. Everybody is more in their role and even they are trying to do, there is no real movement of anything that I can notice. I grew up in Queens but lived in lower Manhattan when Prong was formed. A lot of Puerto Ricans, rats, junkies, crazy people. That was the real deal. So it sounds that I had a miserable child hood. But if you really want to look how Queens was looking those days, you have to watch the movie 'Summer Of Sam'. That is a really good picture how life was those days. I’m not a Spike Lee fan but he was right how it was those days.

Through the years the line-up was changed a lot. Now you have Art and Mike as current members. What is the main condition to play in Prong?
Art is not really new of course. He is been around a while. Mike is in and out. He filled in a lot of tours. He was playing with Ministry also. If Monte (Monte Pittman, bass) could go on tour, Mike was filled in. He was part of the Prong family. We have nothing explosive crazy partying but we are getting the job done and doing very well.

You played guitar during the recording of Danzig’s ‘Black Laden Crown’ and you play on tour with him. Glen has the name to be very grumpy and every journalist I know and who had ever interviewed him, has a bad memory about it. So how is working with him?
It’s a very unusual thing. For some reason I was able to be there and to help him out. I know Glen for a really long time. I have a lot of respect for him. How he is for people outside is just a kind of thing. And then I mean journalists, promoters, that is a whole other thing. I really don’t have anything to do with his creative side. I just keep it simple. He just calls me and asks me if I want to do some guitar work at his new album. And I say: yes ok. Or hey man, can you do the tour coming up. And I say yes. It’s just on that level. I’m not that evolved with the band. It’s more we have an old friendship. Outside he is not that grumpy. He is always fooling around and laughing and we are having a good time. And that is weird. And off course he can get in his moods. But that is all based on business like dealing with other people like people who want to make advantage on him. And I know what that means because I have also a band and there are such a lot of creeps out there. You don’t know who to trust all the time.

So what do you find yourself listening to nowadays? Do you find yourself listening mainly to the classics or some new things as well? I saw you in t-shirts of classics like Deep Purple but also in a Sepultura shirt.
Sepultura is just an iconic band to me. I like all stuff and off course old stuff. So I wear a Deep Purple shirt or a Savage shirt. I bought from their last tour about for a hundred dollar t-shirts. If Cream was still around, I bought some t-shirts of them also. I adore the old stuff like if Jimmy Hendrix was still alive and touring, And Sepultura is just keep on rocking that hard. We had a great time when we shared a bus with them.

While Bush was president of the USA, a lot of musicians rallied against him. Like Ministry’s Rio Grande Blood’ with you as a guitarist and Rock against Bush. How long will it take that musicians will rally against Trump?
I don’t know. Things haven’t changed a lot the lost fifteen years. I you look back now at Bush, people would say he wasn’t that bad at all. It’s like it’s too easy to do that these days and target those politicians. It’s more the corporations of the world. We live in a controlled world, more like we ever did. Write some songs about it wouldn’t change anything. So in my opinion, you have to write some songs who are entertaining or cool. I don’t want to sort in total escapism. It has some anger in it and some solutions on personal things. It has not that much impact. Trump is so much media manipulated. That’s like our last record ‘Zero Days’. You turn on one website or one channel to tell you one thing and you go on another and that’s total opposite. I neither voted for one of them. There is not a libertarian party here in America that has no funding and they don’t have commercials or big corporations to sponsor them. So there are no real candidates. It’s just one group or corporations against or versus.

Is there still any dream or wish that you still want to accomplish on a musical level?
Yes I guess so. I’m some kind of ambitious. I don’t think that the Prong story is over yet. We had one in all these records to the average person even when we play shows somewhere in the midlands of America. Like if you have one song over here, you really have a career. So we are great we had a couple of songs that ware successful. But a couple of big anthems would be great to us. Maybe some ten new albums with two or three songs like that on it.

Thanks for your time Tommy. Do you have any last words for our readers?
I hope to see you all coming summer somewhere in Europe. Just before our gigs, I always hide myself the whole day in the dressing room. But at stage, we go full throttle. By sure to check out our new record. The first single will come soon.

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