Interview By Robert Cavuoto
In 2012 Prong returned from their hiatus with the release of Carved into Stone and haven’t stopped delivering old school thrash CDs since. With singer/guitarist Tommy Victor at the helm, the band released Ruining Lives in 2014, a stellar cover album; Songs from the Black Hole in 2015, and X (No Absolutes) in 2016.
In between touring, Tommy managed to write and record yet another studio CD of new material – Zero Days which will be released on July 28th. Co-produced by Tommy and Chris Collier, the two deliver another monster CD that utilizes the band’s formula of marrying thrash, hardcore, and industrial metal. Every track stands on its own to deliver an emotional roller-coaster ride, chock-full of massive riffage, ironclad grooves all topped off by Tommy’s signature vocals.
I caught up with Tommy to discuss creating Zero Days with Chis Collier as well as how Prong has evolved from their crude beginnings.
Robert Cavuoto: The CD has incredible energy and in a way seems like it might be a rebirth for the band. Does it feel that way for you?
Tommy Victor: I think the rebirth started five records ago in 2012 with Carved into Stone. We’ve been going at it ever since. Once I started refocusing on Prong, it was important to release a consistent run of recordings. Rebirth is really just a matter of trying to get the work done while meeting deadlines, writing and touring…and hopefully learning more as you go.
Robert Cavuoto: There is a great mix of old school thrash and rocking metal tunes, can you share your vision going into this CD?
Tommy Victor: We’ve been touring with some heavy bands like Obituary, Testament, Overkill, Exodus, Superjoint, and Veil of Maya to name a few. So we wanted to “up the dose” with the intensity of the riffs and patterns. We wanted the songs to be better as well. I think we continually improve both vocally and lyrically. There’s a good amount of Prong catalog to refer to and we wanted to give the fans what they like. I feel there is a good representation of our history engraved in these songs while being modern sounding at the same time. As usual, we took some chances yet want to remain currently viable.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “Divide and Conquer” seems to perfectly combine your innate raw guttural power with a killer riff then injected with a strong melody. What can you tell us about its creation?
Tommy Victor: My co-producer, Chris Collier initiated that song. We had a good batch of songs and then we started scratching our heads wondering, “What do we need now?” I think he went and listened to our 1996 CD, Rude Awakening and then came up with this song idea, which I initially questioned. When we got the vocal melody and lyrics, I was sold on the song. It took a while as I needed to give the idea some love and then it finally came together. It was a good call by Chris on that song.
Robert Cavuoto: How would you describe the band’s musical evolution from the bands beginning to Zero Days?
Tommy Victor: Wow, that’s an intense question.
There’s been a lot of “on the job training” for me with Prong. I wasn’t really a guitar player when the band started. I certainly wasn’t a singer nor was I a front man. I wasn’t much of a songwriter either. It’s been a long hard education. Without any training or direction, we’ve had to make it somehow work. I’ve been lucky recently getting some very talented people around to help me out. Chris Collier has been very important on the last four records. Steve Evetts who produced Carved Into Stone and worked on the vocals and mixed Ruining Lives taught me a lot. Having Art Cruz on drums has propelled the band into a completely new realm. Rude Awakening and Cleansing, for the most part, were written by me so I’ve been collaborating more nowadays. I still write all the lyrics but I’ve teamed with Chris, Mike Longworth, Erie Loch and Fred Ziomek bashing out some musical ideas more recently. I just try to get the best songs. I’ve learned to write for the garbage can. I got lucky with Ruining Lives where 99% of the ideas were used and made the record. Then with X (No Absolutes), we may have cut more songs. Zero Days had a lot more thrown out as we pushed very hard for this one. I don’t like filler. I think all the songs are strong and we made it on schedule. I’ve learned how to do this over the years. I know what not to get stuck on. Now I reach out for help in order to get the project done with decent quality, on a budget, and on time.
Over the years, I’ve put more energy into vocal melodies, harmonies, and most importantly the lyrics. For some reason, this has turned out to be a key identity for me. Guitar playing is one thing, and I like to remain a stylist with that as well. However, it’s important to get a gauge on yourself as a singer. It’s a tough role. There are no books written about it, you just have to get in there to do it and try to say something.
Robert Cavuoto: That’s a great response, has the evolution been a conscience decision?
Tommy Victor: What’s a conscious decision? [Laughing] I’ve learned that some things are just out of your control. A lot is about adapting. Writing songs and making records are more like a jig saw puzzles than any major design concept. My career has been somewhat all over the place. At many instances, I thought I knew what I was doing and then proven wrong. A lot of it has been a roll of the dice. Decisions are made as you go along. I guess an outline starts with guitar riffs but after that, it’s just implementing the proper parts to complete it.
Robert Cavuoto: At what point did you begin to understand the term producer and when did you start to produce?
Tommy Victor: I’ve produced a couple of bands years ago but have only done it with Prong for the most part. I pretty much make some final creative decisions, get the record in on time, and establish an identity for it. I put my taste on it. I let the engineer dig in and do most of the work. Some stuff I just think is a waste of time and not worth stepping on toes about. I really have to discipline myself to get the work that has to be done, which is a lot. If I worked with another band, I’d dig in with the singer and lyricist more than anything. I think the lyrics are the focal point for the identity of a record. Deciding what’s excessive is important too. I think musicians need someone to keep them frugal and economical.
Robert Cavuoto: Chris Collier has produced some great bands. How did the two of you connect and do you feel that Chris brings more of a “riff rock” aspect to the band?
Tommy Victor: Our mutual buddy Justin Manning from the band Crowned By Fire hooked us up. Chris has a lot of great ideas in the riff realm for sure. He’ll sit with me and show me things to make a riff more interesting. Or he’ll figure out a transitionary part that will just make the song slam harder. He leans a little bit “djenty” at times, which is cool. He also has a good sense of what’s heavy. He’s been doing more flat out writing with Prong like with “Divide and Conquer.” A lot of the work is done in pre-production and Chris is a master at that. I needed a guy that worked that way and Justin told me Chris was the guy.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you still have the same passion for Prong you did when you first started the band?
Tommy Victor: Oh, I don’t know. How can one have the same passion from when you were 19 years old in any sense of the word? I just try to wake up and survive these days. I was way crazier back then.
Robert Cavuoto: What is it that makes Prong endure?
Tommy Victor: Does it endure? I guess so. I don’t truly know if that’s the case and if it is I still don’t know. I’ll leave that up to journalists, fans, and psychotherapists to figure out.
You can view the lyric video for the single here: https://youtu.be/4jAV2-