Metal, it is not just a riff, it is not just a scream; it is a fucking attitude! No one quite understands that more than Tommy Victor of Prong. He has bled for this music he loves, he has worked harder than all the modern metal bands combined, and done it with more class and integrity too. The first time I picked up a Prong CD (yeah that’s right back in the day we used to buy and SUPPORT the music we love) my life was forever changed. I kept track of this guitar wielding madman through out his career whether it was with Danzig, Ministry, or Prong to the point where I could point out his riffs and chops better than Paris Hilton could remember where her next red carpet bash would be.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing Tommy for a couple years and with the Danzig tour, Ministry tour ending it seemed like a good time to catch up with him. Now remember like his baby Prong, Tommy holds back no punches and gives it to you raw and with no apologies; so if you get offended perhaps now is a good time to get that tampon because we can see your vagina from here, don’t worry we can wait up for you.
Ok now that you are back let me introduce you to my friend and one of my idols Tommy fucking Victor:
DeathWish: So it has been about a year since we last did an interview, how has things been going for Prong?
Tommy Victor: It’s hard to put a statement on that, we started to write some new material and we stopped. We kind of got interrupted with the whole Ministry and Danzig thing as usual. We are going out on tour in May, so nothing too terribly fantastic. (both of us chuckling)
DeathWish: How did the tour end up for ‘Power of the Damager’?
TV: Well we didn’t tour too much for it, we did one in Europe and one in America which was pretty much a joke. The one in Europe though was good, we had a couple of really good shows out there. It’s been kind of rough, we are with a small label right now so we haven’t really gotten too much attention or gotten on any big tours yet. We don’t really have any tour support right now, so it is hard to make it work out financially. It survives so that is about it for now.
DeathWish: You guys were supposed to play in Tucson this summer, what happened with that show?
TV: Apparently the promoter lost his sponsorship for it, I honestly didn’t have very high expectations that it would work out any how. It seems like every time we book a show in Tucson or Phoenix something goes haywire.
DeathWish: I have heard it is a crazy state, I think that maybe the sun gets to them.
TV: Yeah they started off really enthusiastic, and saying “this is going to be great.” As soon as it gets to some of the more important details like paying the band, it all collapses.
DeathWish: That is crazy man, but I do understand that you are getting ready to hit the studio in the fall to record the new album. You guys have to be stoked about that one?
TV: My enthusiasm right now has waned a little bit, the weather is so nice out here right now and baseball season has started. So I have been in kind of a procrastinate-ve type of vibe right now, but I will definitely get more excited a little more down the line. Aaron is really excited about it, Monte is not going to be involved in it as he is busy doing a bunch of other things. I am not too happy about that, but it is ok I have put together Prong records on my own before.
DeathWish: So do you have anyone who is going to step in for him?
TV: We do, Mike Longworth who has been involved with Prong on and off for awhile (though not on any of the records) will be hitting the road with us. It is really hard to find a guy that I would like to work with permanently right now. Mike is a great dude to have around but he just has so many other things going on right now. We have tried to do the whole writing process together in the past and it just didn’t seem to work out. So far it has been mainly me and Aaron working on the new material. We just didn’t need a bass player too much of the time in the past.
DeathWish: Well they do say that the bass player often times is the guy who the guitarist tells what to do.
TV: That is the case a lot of the times, but in the case of Monte and some of the other guys in Prong they have been extraordinarily good. We have always tried to get the really good bass players, it is a trio. Paul Raven was excellent, Troy was excellent as well, and Monte was great.
DeathWish: So I heard that you are going to be featured on the new game Rock Band.
TV: Yeah that is a download that is coming out in a couple of days. The tracks “Idealistic Types” and “The Banishment” are going to be the ones available.
DeathWish: What do you think about this whole generation of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero?
TV: I think the games are pretty cool. I prefer that kids play a more music based video game than any of those shoot em’ up games. I have played Rock Band and Guitar Hero and I actually enjoyed it, I sucked at it. (both of us laughing) I not particularly proud of how many days or hours I wasted sitting around playing it though, it’s not the healthiest of lifestyles. Me and a buddy of mine would play it all the time, I wasn’t sleeping very much, I was smoking about two packs of cigs a night; I was going out of my head with it. I don’t want to get too into the games, cause I would just end up sitting in front of a screen all the time, it is addicting.
DeathWish: Yeah I have known people who have been almost kicked out of bands for the whole video game addiction.
TV: Hahaha… I like that, it is pretty funny.
DeathWish: Ok so back to the music, I was surprised to hear about Prong remix album, ‘Power of the Damn Mixxxer’ never figured Prong would be a remixable band. What did you think about the idea when it was presented?
TV: Well it wasn’t the first time that we did it, it was my idea to go ahead and do it. We did an album called ‘Whose Mix is This Anyways?’ We did it after ‘Prove You Wrong.’ We figured that the record didn’t get that much attention and we decided to do a remix album. The remix for the track “Prove You Wrong” got more attention and airplay than anything on the actual album itself. We did another remix album called ‘Snap Your Fingers, Break Your Back’ which was remixes of material off ‘The Cleansing.’ It wasn’t as complete as this one is. This one has thirteen really killer mixes and every song on the album is remixed by somebody different. There is two remixes of “The Banishment” on there; one is done by Clayton Worbeck (Revolting Cocks) and the other is done by Rob Caggiano (Of Anthrax), but every song off of ‘Power of the Damager’ is represented on here which I don’t know if anyone has ever done it like that before. I do think that Prong is a remixable band, “Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck” is more of a club kind of hit anyhow. I think we always got to keep that aspect of Prong around, ‘Rude Awakening’ was kind of already a remix of Prong material built into a record already, so we didn’t need to make one for that album. ‘Scorpio Rising’ sucked anyhow so I didn’t care about that. The thing is that the remixes are not there to make it more dancy or anything it propels it into a completely other direction.
One of the things I have always been concerned about with Prong is arrangements, when Glenn Danzig was talking to me about it he said “maybe you should work a little more on the arrangement of the songs.” Which I reply with “I can’t man, once everything is there I am honestly over it.” I noticed how Al (Jourgenson) works on his music, and he really focuses a lot on the arrangements of his material. I was really excited to hear other people’s take on the material for example, I was really impressed with Jon Clayden’s version of “Worst of It” because he didn’t really change the song, but rearranged it a little and the work he did with the drums. It was almost like a better version of the song from the actual album.
DeathWish: Wow sounds like the remixes had you looking at the original tracks differently, so is this making you switch how you are going to be playing them live?
TV: No, (laughs) that is just too much work there. ( both of us laughing). I don’t see us using any kind of tracks like what Ministry uses, but maybe you never know. We just bash it out live.
DeathWish: The one aspect of the last album that stood out was how raw it sounded, I was wondering if maybe this new album is going to have a more industrial or polished touch to it?
TV: Well that is really up to Al Jourgenson and how much he really wants to do with that because he is the one that will be producing it. We will see how much he wants to mess with that and if he does we will argue a bit about it and see where it goes. I would like to keep that kind of element to a minimal. ‘The Cleansing’ definitely had a lot of those elements to it with samples and such, but I still would like to think of it as more of a rock album. There is no way though that we will have as much as Ministry. I am sure we will come up with some kind of compromise on it.
DeathWish: Speaking of Al, do you really think he is done or do you think he is kind of regretting that decision?
TV: Well I can tell you that if he did regret it, he certainly wouldn’t want to let anyone know about it. I just don’t think that he really wants to tour like he has before. He enjoyed this last tour. I just don’t think he is going to do it like that anymore; he is not going to have anything jump up in the stock market from going back out on the road. I don’t blame him; I know where he is coming from. If you have some cash that you can sit on and don’t need to tour, than don’t. You might see him out on the road at a few shows for Rev. Co. but Ministry is definitely done.
DeathWish: So what keeps you in the game?
TV: There is nothing else I can do. I was a guy working in the club scene before this, I was just a kid that just got wrapped up in all of this so I have nothing else to fall back on. I can certainly still go out there and do it, I am healthy and I am not afraid of the poor living conditions. My daughter doesn’t live with me so I do not have to worry about that and my girlfriend is pretty understanding about it so I don’t have to worry about that either.
DeathWish: Well the lady aspect always helps.
TV: That is for sure, they can certainly ruin your career. The whole thing is a constant fight, I think Al just got tired of it. You fight with yourself about a lot of shit and then you fight with everyone else about everything else. That at times can suck the fun right out of it all. I try to detach myself from as much as I can because if you do not you begin to drive yourself crazy. If I think 24 hours a day about why I am doing this I will literally put myself in a mental institution.
DeathWish: Well they do compare the music industry to a mental institution.
TV: It certainly is not a healthy lifestyle; you don’t think about that when you are a kid trying to get in it. You laugh at society’s perception of the artist’s life, but some of the clichés are true. I know a lot of guys who fell heavily into the world of drugs, it’s hard to maintain relationships, it’s certainly very easy to be an alcoholic in the whole thing; it’s just not healthy. I have always respected the guys who do keep a healthy lifestyle it takes a lot of brain power.
DeathWish: I remember we talked before about your life working at CBGB’s, and I was shocked this year to hear about the passing of Lux Interior a real veteran of that scene. I was wondering if you ever had the chance of checking them out?
TV: I saw the Cramps with Brian Gregory when I was only about 15, I don’t think that even Ivy was in the band yet. They had a chick drummer and it was just Brian and Lux.
DeathWish: How did it hit you to hear about him passing?
TV: Well it seems that the whole clan of that age has passed on, even the Ramones. I think the death of the Ramones was more shocking than anything. So many great names have passed on between The Dolls and so many more.
DeathWish: It really seems like the end of an era, are there any bands in today’s music that stand out to you?
TV: Not really as far as the punk scene. I mean there are some names from the old days that still carry on. But again I have to say it really shocked me that the Ramones passed away, they weren’t even really a drug band or anything of the sort.
DeathWish: So you just got back from going on the road with Danzig, how did that come together as I heard from you that it was originally a rough split between you and him?
TV: Yeah I guess my biggest gripe was how the whole thing was handled at the time, there was a lot of dissension then within the band. Jerry Montano was causing quite a bit of disturbances in the band. I got in touch with Glenn about six months after that and told him that I was hitting the road with Ministry and we met up and started to rekindle. I guess him and Todd weren’t getting along too well so he asked me what I was up to and I told him I was free. Aside from the tour we are actually working on a new Danzig album right now. The last tour was really successful and was a lot of fun; we did three shows in California that were just packed. The guy can still draw them in, maybe he should tour more or something, but I can tell you he is not ready to quit just yet. The shows we just did were some of the best shows I have ever done with him.
DeathWish: Yeah I really thought the show last year was good in Denver, I was so surprised at how much material the man has done over the years.
TV: Absolutely, and you can’t forget all the material that he did with The Misfits and Samhain.
DeathWish: Do you guys ever play any of that material?
TV: Not a lot, when he hits the road he like to play Danzig material. There was the one tour we did and Doyle joined us. We played about an 11 song set of old Misfits material. Occasionally we play something like “November Coming Fire.” I can tell you that there might just be another Samhain reunion tour somewhere down the line. I know that Zing is around and London is around, so they may want to do that again.
DeathWish: So now that you have had the opportunity to get out there on the road with Prong, Danzig, and Ministry; what do you feel about where the industry has gone?
TV: I don’t like it. Back in the day it was so clear to us what we needed to do and we got excited about it. We knew to go into the studio and make an album, and take it to places like Bleaker Bob’s and maybe sell a few thousand records, play a bunch of the gigs. These days it is all about looking pretty and having a cool look for kids to get interested in. Then you get the extreme metal bands, and they are all honestly starting to sound the same at this point. Prong never wrote music to be a metal band, sure it had metal in it, but we just wanted to incorporate so many different styles into it. These days you do that and you are asking for trouble, everything is so formulated.
DeathWish: Music by numbers is never a good thing.
TV: Yeah man I can’t even listen to most of the metal stuff that is out there right now it is so fucking depressing. When I said earlier that there are things I do to maintain my sanity, one of those things is not to listen to what is out there or I will end up blowing my brains out.
DeathWish: The Blackest of the Black tour seemed to feature some of the newer metal bands what did you think about them?
TV: I am glad you brought that up, because I really dug Winds of Plague live; however listening to their album I just couldn’t make it through the thing. Live though they kick ass.
DeathWish: Yeah I think that the art of making an actual album is somewhat lost with the age of downloading.
TV: Yeah I am definitely cranky about it. We really spent a lot of time back in the day to build an album, there were no Pro-Tools then. We did it on two inch tapes, we may have gone back on a few parts and did over dubs, but there was no copy and paste shit. We didn’t have the technology back then to figure out Joe Satriani solos, kids today slow everything down and then figure it out that doesn’t impress me at all. I remember growing up to the New York Dolls and even old Bowie records, and wow that stuff really had balls to it; this shit today is just flat out pussy rock.
DeathWish: Well I hate to say it but a lot of the metal bands today seem to have just stolen riffs from Prong records.
TV: Well they certainly mutated it and built on it for their success, one of which being Static X, who are friends of mine and wouldn’t mind me saying that. Then you have Linkin Park who I know use a lot of ‘Rude Awakening’ for their shit. Hell Rap Metal in general ripped off a lot of the Prong styled chords. But look we ripped off some stuff too, we ripped everything off from the Bad Brains. I guess the best way to describe what we did was Celtic Frost meets Bad Brains meets The Swans. But what I am sick of is this whole mores code shit, how much time can you spend on riding that damn E string? It’s fucking stupid, write a song PLEASE, build some kind of choruses. Sure a break down here and there is ok, but mediocre guitar riffs on top of double bass drum kicks is not a song; and that is what they are calling hardcore these days.
DeathWish: The funny thing is twenty years ago it would have never lasted or made it to begin with.
TV: That’s because in those days you actually had to know how to play it before you went into the studio. Now it’s all copy and paste, and they figure out how to play it later.
DeathWish: Well that show I caught of Prong’s in Denver, was pretty packed and I was surprised to see some faces from the younger generation.
TV: That IS surprising because usually people at Prong shows have to be brought in on a wheel chair. (both of us laughing) You have to show your social security check at the door. (laughing)
(This is where the conversation ended up taking a turn about football, the draft, and other inside jokes. I don’t know about you but a new Prong record is something I am fiending for more than Robert Downey Jr. heading for that border in search of coke. So stay tuned!)