Prong is currently touring with their latest album “Ruining Lives” under their belt. I had the opportunity to sit down with Tommy Victor the guitarist, vocalist and mastermind behind the band when they stopped at the legendary Thee Parkside in San Francisco. It was few hours before the show time and Tommy was in very good mood and happy with how the tour was going.
The audiences had been reacting really well to the new material. “They love it. Everyone loves the new record. We just do two songs from the record and we are going to start doing three. Mainly the set still has lot of the old Prong songs but it fits right in. The response to the songs we play which are “Turnover” and “Ruining Lives” has been great” says Tommy.
The new album has definite Prong touch to the sound but at the same time it sounds very contemporary and organic. Tommy explains: “It’s very natural. I didn’t really know what was going to come out and it wasn’t really conceived that much. Whatever came through me was really natural. All I wanted to do is to have good songs, have a continuous progression in the vocals and lyrics and it’s kind of a record I wanted to do with “Rude Awakening”. Every song has sort of a hook and was catchy but they have heart at the same time. And then we have some technical stuff, some good guitar and drum finesse in it as well. It’s hard to try to make an album for certain people. Hipster metal people who just want to hear re-generated doom/Black Sabbath riffs. Then you have your technical metal people who just want to hear guitar calisthenics which means just highly technical guitar. I just do what Prong is. It’s just me and how I feel about it.”
The writing process for the album wasn’t much different from the way “Beg to Differ” was written. But the access to modern digital technology makes recording process fundamentally different. The album was written really fast. Tommy explains: ”We didn’t make whole bunch of demos like previous records because we didn’t have to play to A&R people which we used to do. We didn’t question this part and do that differently, we didn’t do that at all. It was more like ‘OK, that song is good now, I’m going to work on vocals.’ We just did it.”
Tommy has had on the job training with Prong. This was the first band he ever played in and has been learning as he goes on. Over the time you learn you learn what you shouldn’t be trying to achieve, know your limitations. “Based on the last two records that have come out pretty decent it seems that I have gotten better and it’s improving.” Tommy says. Being in a band for over 25 years changes people. You don’t carry on for the same reasons you start with. Tommy ponders: “Attitudes change a lot. It’s not consistent. If you ask me the same question in two weeks you might get a different answer. Right now, after being on the road I don’t think there is a lot of bands doing this. I think it’s unique. And I have my place in it and I might as well enjoy that and I do enjoy that. When you get into the legacy years and people say we just listen to the old records and no-one really cares about the new stuff, we are still shocking people by putting out records where people react like “oh my god, this is really good”. That creates a lot of excitement for me and the ability to keep going. This is still moving ahead it’s fun.”
Prong has had it’s personnel changed more than your average band. Mathematically you could form eight bands from the musicians that have at one time played with Tommy. This has a big effect on the band and the music according to Tommy: “That’s a big thing. Now I have really great guys playing with me. It’s just obvious and common sense that it’s going to make you feel better. You are able to challenge yourself and come up with more challenging things on your side and makes you keep up with the other guys too who are really excellent players.”
Because of the big number of players going through Prong it I was interested in knowing how Tommy saw the band. Was it a melting pot or springboard for musicians? The band is more to Tommy than just the music and the musicians are more than just people he plays with. Tommy explains: “People come together for certain reasons beyond the scope of music, doing your job and playing songs. It’s important when people cross paths and learn something or have disagreements and rekindle after that. It’s great to talk to some of the older guys who who were part of Prong and to see how are they doing now. I was very close with Troy and Ted. On the other hand I love those guys and on the other hand those guys aren’t doing anything anymore.”
He doesn’t see Prong as the reason people come together. Rather people come to his life and some end up playing with him. “Good things come together naturally. I have done things like with “Cleansing”. Troy quit the band when we were formulating that record. We were looking for a bass player and we had a huge audition and we had all kinds of people coming down to the audition. Ted and I thought that a number of guys played well, but nobody felt right. The guys who we wanted all along, the guy who was perfect, was right there in front of us; Raven who was working on a remix of “Prove me wrong” for us. Me and Raven were just talking casually when he asked what was going on with the band. I said “We are trying to find a bass player” and he was like “Why don’t you ask me?”. I was like “You would do it?” and he was like “F*** yeah”. These things happen like that.”
By now Prong is already touring in Europe, for the third time this year. Tommy sees some differences in touring between Europe and US. “There’s something I really like about the American audiences. When they show up there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm. But people show up to shows more over the pond in Europe. When they care over here people are more crazier. Over there even if they like you they are more reserved.”