The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Tommy Victor Prong - Interview
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Prong have been rocking out for 30 years and have been a hugely influential band on so many artists in todays metal, punk and hardcore world. While the band may not have had the same commercial success as their successors, it doesn't take away the quality of the music that they produce. While records like "Cleansing" and "Rude Awakening" are considered classics, their new album "X-No Absolutes" is just as brilliant if not more so (read the review here) so we spoke to founding member Tommy Victor about the new songs and how it all came together.



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Andrew: Obviously we are talking about the new album you have coming out, we had a bit of a spin of it just the other day and I absolutely love this album! Fantastic album, brilliant, I think it's going to be one of the best for the year I think. You must be super proud of these songs.

Tommy: Oh yeah I think it came out really good! To be totally honest with you in my demented mentality, now it's done and it was recorded and now I'm thinking about the next thing. I try not to be totally attached to them while I'm doing it, while it's being produced, written, etc, arranged. That's sort of the pinnacle of the excitement of the whole process for me and then the release afterwards is sort of like you are on the downward spiral, going down the hill after that so to speak. But yeah in this day age, to get something done is like an accomplishment for the amount of time we had to do it and for the budget on it. I don't like to say proud of this, I just feel like OK, I did it, cool man, let's see what's happening now.

Andrew: Well you guys have been so busy these last couple of years, "Ruining Lives" was only about 2 years ago and then you had the covers album last year and now this album. So you guys have been super busy the last couple of years.

Tommy: Yeah I mean in conjunction with my touring with Danzig, it's been pretty crazy. It's just fitting it all in, scheduling, making decisions in order to make it happen. The label has put these deadlines on things and I haven't been opposed to it. I had a meeting with Steamhammer while we were over in Europe and he wanted a record out in January this year and I said, 'Ok let's make it happen', and I sat there for a minute, I was sort of in shock and then I said, 'I can do it'. So when I commit myself to it, I feel obligated since it's part of the deal.

Andrew: At what point did you start coming up with ideas for these songs?

Tommy: I would say probably February of 2015 and they were very preliminary riffs. It is a big batch of them and there was a couple of them that really stood out and then a lot of them got dropped and over a period of 3 months deciding what to use and then adding to those and then finding new ideas as well. So the process didn't take that long, I mean over a period of 6 months everything was pretty much dialed in, here and there, bits and pieces.

Andrew: Just going through the tracklist here and one of the things I found listening to this album is that unlike most albums where it kinda falls off towards the end, this album keeps getting stronger and stronger. So was the tracklisting of this quite difficult to put together?

Tommy: Yeah it was. I consulted a lot with Jason (Christopher) the bass player, he had some strong ideas and Chris Collier who co-produced the record with me, management and inevitably the label had made a couple of decisions on it. We had a two-fold challenge in making records these days because of streaming and then with the influx of vinyl interest, it is having some concept of album rock going on. We have a double record single time length record so there's a double disc so we had to make sure that there was material and sort of a diversity that would enable us to have an album yet each song had to have it's own identity as a single as well because again, a lot of people pick and choose in giving a 20 second listen on streaming and inevitably we want to continue leasing singles on the record. So yeah it was kind of difficult, I think in the be all end all for all people involved came to this final sequence so I can't really complain about it.

Andrew: Is that more difficult to put a tracklist together for a new album or a setlist for a live show more difficult?

Tommy: They're both pretty challenging, it sounds like real menial work to the novice but we definitely rack our brains on it a lot. Especially in the band like Art (Cruz, drums) definitely has a lot of ideas in that realm and I trust those guys really to put a lot of their stuff together because these things a lot of times I'm way off base and I don't really know what the hell I'm doing a lot of times. But they're about as equal but I mean this is more prominent obviously, this is something that exists that you can't change. Setlists can be changed nightly.


Andrew: There are some songs on here that I absolutely love, "Cut And Dry" is probably my favorite at the moment. Are there any particular favorites that you are digging right now?

Tommy: I like "Cut And Dry", that's the next single. Hopefully by the end of 2016 they are planning on releasing 5 singles, the new concept of this was to have everything available as a single. What was inevitably picked is not really totally in my control but the concensus being "Cut And Dry" is the second single after the intial one was "Ultimate Authority" which was pre-album release. I have a place in my heart for obviously "Do Nothing" because - well not obvious to those who have not heard it - but it's the first sort of ballad attempt by Prong where intially it came out designed as a (The) Door-sy type track then was brought into a metal realm and with some actual singing on it so I really like that one a lot. It was written very quickly as well which is always appealing to me where something is that immediate and there's not a lot of brain power put into things that could possibly divert it from it's initial emotion of sorts. The lyrics came fast and was really impressed with the way that one came out.

Andrew: Yeah that one is an interesting song as it is quite different for you guys. What was the inspiration behind that one?

Tommy: Well the lyrics, at that point in time I was just feeling anything that had to do with pleasures of the flesh which were hurting me a lot, desire and all these classic evils of sort were really bugging me. It was just a period piece for me sort of in my journal and I get a little preachy on it but you just gotta watch out what you ask for. You get it and then you're disappointed which seems to be the eternal human condition where once you're satisfied then you're disatisfied and I didn't want to be disatisfied so I felt it was necessary to be abstinent from everything. Abstinence is a good word for the whole thing to collate the lyrics and that.

Andrew: Obviously you are taking these songs out on the road starting around March I think with a tour over in Europe and then over to the U.S. the following month?

Tommy: Yeah I don't know how many songs we do on there because it's a new record, I'm curious to see how many songs that we really can approach on it. We've been doing "Ultimate Authority" and that's been going over absolutely fantastic because we did do a tour already after this record was recorded and finished over here. As far as what other songs we're going to do, I don't know yet.

Andrew: Yeah it should be interesting because I can imagine a lot of these songs going out really well live with the crowd.

Tommy: I like to think so, it's just learning to sing and play them [laughs]. It's a big challenge for me all the time.

Andrew: I am interested to know though, when you did the cover songs last year "Songs From The Black Hole", did that in any way have an influence on the recording of these new songs?

Tommy: Oh absolutely! Especially on the vocal side of things where I had to go in and try to figure out my approach to Andrew Eldritch (Sisters Of Mercy) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and Neil Young and Gibby (Haynes, Butthole Surfers) and Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke) and the array of other artists that we covered on there. That was a challenge and I think it helped me with some of my chops, I had to adapt to a certain amount of things in order to be successful in the approaches coming to all these different cover vocals. I never really had any education in singing, guys like Steve Evetters who worked on "Ruining Lives" helped me on some things vocally and Chris Collier now as well. Doing the vocals with Chris Collier on "Songs From The Black Hole", we had a relationship going into this already and he saw where my vocals can go and emulating or putting my own approach on those other artists so we mixed and matched. He became familiar with what I was capable of or what kind of vocal sounds I could put into this one, not in extreme different range but it's more in the past that's for sure.

Andrew: Would you say these artists that you did cover have a huge influence on you personally?

Tommy: Yeah absolutely! Early on the concept, if you want to put it that way, the "Songs From The Black Hole" were early influences and people that we respected. Again when Prong started I guess we were sort of thrown into the whole thing and I never really sat around and did karaoke..this was pre-karaoke...but never really sang in a cover band and I had been learning as I go along so it was almost one of the first attempts I had at really trying to go in and sing other people's stuff as odd as that sounds. I'm not the one to sing in my car and do that type of thing, it's all been about Prong really so this was interesting doing this. And yeah all those people are definitely, audibly and some of it lyrically. Obviously guys like Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) and Henry (Rollins) have been influences on me, definitely Jaz Coleman. Those guys I definitely liked the way they sounded vocally and maybe subliminally brought them into my approach. There's nothing new under the sun, I've borrowed and stolen everything they've done. Discharge too, the barking hardcore thing, I think they influenced a lot of the New York hardcore and they were influential in H.R. and Bad Brains too where his approach to things is completely off the wall. Out of everybody, he is probably one of the most original guys out of the bunch.

Andrew: Yeah absolutely. Well as I said these songs are absolutely fantastic and I think it's one of the best albums that you guys have ever put out as well so congratulations. Thanks for your time today, it's been a pleasure.

Tommy: Thank you, I appreciate it man! Thank you very much for the compliments, have fun over there and I appreciate it Andrew.

Catch Prong on tour in Europe and the U.S., tour details can be found at HERE.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on January 16th 2016