I was like “you know what, fuck this, I’m focusing on Prong again”. I’m not going to give anyone riffs or ideas anymore.
Before their recent show at the Rebellion club in Manchester, Steve Fallows managed to get some time with Prong frontman Tommy Victor about the new album Zero Days, the band’s history and the other bands he has worked with during Prong’s downtime.
E&D: You are coming to the end of your UK run. How have the shows gone so far?
Tommy: Fucking unbelievable, really great. We always love coming here.
E&D: You’ve been quite regular visitors to these shores since your comeback. What had made that possible?
Tommy: I think just putting total focus on Prong again rather than doing other shit and prioritising that. That’s been a big thing for me.
E&D: You have a new album in Zero Days, that’s getting some great reviews. Could you tell me a little about that?
Tommy: We were very selective with the material for this record. I really don’t think that there is one filler on there. Every song is something we were really happy with; they are all bangers. There’s no easy instrumental section, it’s just solid rock n roll songs, I mean its not rock n roll in a Rolling Stones kind of way, but good honest music well arranged to the best of our ability to get to this point. I don’t know where it came from, but it got to three days before we went out with Testament and the whole mixing process was getting a bit crazy. Things were difficult for a time but it all just came together and now we have a record that we are all very proud of.
E&D: That’s six albums in five years, including the bootleg and covers album. How have you kept up that pace?
Tommy: Well, I’ve got help. I work with a lot of people, like Chris Collier, who I’ve been producing records with recently. He is unbelievably helpful. Making sure everything was done on time. I’ve been writing with people too. Mike (Longworth) who’s playing bass wrote with me on this record. I have worked with a lot of people on the last couple of records. I mean, I do all of the lyrics and vocal melodies and a lot of the music, but I work with other people on a lot of different parts also.
E&D: It’s not only been prolific, but also a very strong comeback. Did you have any worries about living up to such a a strong and well loved back catalogue?
Tommy: Was it? We were ever loved? I mean, I don’t know. I always think that were unloved. Maybe that’s part of my mentality, like it’s not good enough, lets try for something different, lets mix it up a bit and try to improve on something.
E&D: When you were originally around, it was a very different time for metal bands, with many different outlets and major label interest. Have you found it very different this time round?
Tommy: Oh yeah, it’s very different. Especially with the label we are on. It’s a great label, but a lot of it is about power now, you know. I mean getting on festivals, especially in America…it’s always the same acts, so to get up there you either have to be on Nuclear Blast or Roadrunner, simply because they have more pull than anyone else. Everything is centred around Corey Taylor and it’s so fucking annoying. I just go out there and do what I do, try to make the best records that I can, but yeah, apart from you guys that want to speak to us, we are certainly not getting any help on this from anyone.
E&D: You have always kept a busy schedule. Even when Prong were inactive, you collaborated with a lot of other bands and musicians. How different is it being in someone else’s band than working on your own?
Tommy: It’s totally different. I treat it totally differently. The only thing that was a problem with Ministry was Al (Jourgensen) tried to reel you in by telling you that you were part of Ministry, but when it came to getting paid, you weren’t part of it. So that’s why I was like “you know what, fuck this, I’m focusing on Prong again”. I’m not going to give anyone riffs or ideas anymore. I like Glenn (Danzig) and I go in and try to help him meet his needs. I treat him like I would like other guys to treat me, so it’s a learning process. They are great things to be involved in. I’m still playing with Glenn and fitting that into my schedule is a whole other issue.
E&D: After this tour is done, you are heading back into Europe for a few shows?
Tommy: Yeah, we are around until the end of August. We got our tour and festivals, then more shows in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
E&D: One thing I’ve always admired about the band is that despite being linked with the hardcore, thrash and industrial scenes, you don’t neatly fit into any of them. What would you say is the ideal Prong sound?
Tommy: I don’t know. I wish I did know and we could be more genre specific, as I’m sure that that would help my bank account. It definitely would, because if you stick to the same formula like bands like Iron Maiden and so many others, it seems to serve them well. I’m incapable of doing that, I don’t know why but I am. The music is just Prong! The last few albums from Carved In Stone, Ruining Lives, X-No Absolutes and the new one Zero Days, it’s just Prong take it or leave it, that’s what we are concentrating on. We have developed our own thing and that’s what it is you know. There’s been a consistency with the records, so I want to keep that running with that and not focusing on any genre. It’s tough though, especially when metal people and punk people can sometimes be so difficult. Punk fans can like just SoCal punk, DC punk, NYHC or British punk and they can be so limited to those particular scenes. People have their own agendas and their own subdivision and subcultures, and here’s us not fitting into any of that. Not that I really wan that either. If I’m drawn into any subculture for a little bit, like the Goth thing in the 80’s. I was a Goth for maybe like two weeks or something and then I got away from all the bullshit that went on around that scene where I lived, I’m an outsider and that’s where I like to be.
E&D: You’ve always brought a varied selection of supports with you. How much say do you have in who goes out with you?
Tommy: Not really. That’s mainly the business end and down to booking agents and promoters to work together. We get told about a whole bunch of band and we say yay or nay. I’m not really in touch with that many people. I have a lot of people and bands that hit me up on Facebook, but what can I do. I have friends in big bands and even they can’t help people out. The only band that really took us out was Chuck Billy and Testament. That was really cool. Bobby from Overkill helped us a few times too. Some guys did a lot, but these guys playing tonight (Nomad and Spoil Engine) are really cool. Hark are with us tomorrow, and I do like them a lot, but we are not that big a name that a lot of people want to tour with us anyhow.
E&D: You were last here with Obituary and Exodus as part of a big package tour, which I something we missed out on for years.
Tommy: That’s weird, because the first package thing we did was when we came over with Head of David, then we did the continent with Napalm Death headlining, Prong in the middle and Bolt Thrower opening. Then it just moved away from that type of show. We did do one with Life of Agony that was amazing too. Normally it’s just a two band package thing over here, which I prefer. The whole package thing can be a nightmare. Danzig does it where he has four bands. The last one was Veil of Maya, Prong and Superjoint playing with Danzig. It was a pretty chaotic tour, but fun. Sometimes it works, but a lot of times it doesn’t.
E&D: With you being so prolific and keeping busy during Prong downtime, do you get time to yourself ever at all?
Tommy: I don’t really. I have a girlfriend and I have a relationship and we go out to dinner and watch TV together. I have a couple of friends I like to meet up with when I’m home. I like to hike and jog, but all of that has been minimalised over the last few years. These last two years has been absolutely insane. Really crazy.
E&D: So what is your goal with this comeback?
Tommy: The goal is to get it done, keep doing it until its done and time to finish this whole thing. Try to make every record and every show better than the last one. It’s difficult, but that’s the only really goal I have set myself. Try to do the best you can, and try to enjoy myself while I’m doing it. People are paying to see you and they deserve to see a good show. We have that obligation to our fans and I intend to keep my side of the deal. I don’t expect any lightning bolts of recognition or anything. I’m over all of that. I laugh at all that now
E&D: With yourselves and the aforementioned Life of Agony back and on great form, which other comebacks have you enjoyed?
Tommy: Helmet are one of my favourite bands, but I’m not sure what he’s trying to do with these records. The Godflesh record was really cool, I love them and they can’t do any wrong with me. Killing Joke too. The later (Black) Sabbath records have been garbage, and Metallica is terrible now. The new Testament record was great. Swings and roundabouts.
E&D: With the talk of festivals and a brand new album to promote, you never seem to slow down. Even though the new album is just out, when do you start working on the next?
Tommy: Probably…soon. I don’t really know. There’s a little space coming up, but I need to start coming up with some shit. I like to start working early, and then I can look back when I have some downtime and I’ve accumulated things. It’s about chunking. You aren’t going to get everything written in a month, its got to sort itself out over a period of time, and that includes the lyrics. I’ve already started writing lyrics. As soon as I see something, I’ll put it on my phone, then try and elaborate on it later. That’s the hard bit, developing something and working everything together, creating vocal lines and phrasing. Making something that makes sense, something that means something. That’s the major challenge in putting a record together. Riffs can be challenging too, we live in an age with countless bands like Periphery turning out great riffs and other crazy shit that they can do. It’s a challenge, but one that I love, and one that I hope to keep doing.