Interview: Prong Frontman Tommy Victor on New Album, Carved into Stone, "electro metal," and Knotfest
Metal iconoclasts Prong recently released their acclaimed ninth album, Carved into Stone, and the band will play the Slipknot-curated Knotfest in August. In celebration, the group--which also feature Tony Campos of Static-X-- is giving away a Schecter guitar signed by main man Tommy Victor (enter to win right here). Victor spoke to us about his band's current goings-on below:
REVOLVER There have always kinda been two sides to Prong: the more thrash side, and the more industrial-metal side. What made you want to embrace more of the thrash side on Carved into Stone?
TOMMY VICTOR I believe there's been more that simply "two sides" to Prong. When Prong started, we were interested in all sorts of styles. I personally was into a lot of original "Goth" rock, even before the term was coined. I loved Joy Division. Then Sisters Of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Sex Gang Children, and on and on. Killing Joke has always been a massive influence and I really don't know what genre to put them in. I liked a lot of old "Oi"like Angelic Upstarts and the Business. Discharge and GBH were listened to a lot. In those days, the metal band that was cool was Motörhead, whom I loved and that played into our sound. Then American bands like the Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Die Kruezen came into effect. These are still my main influences amongst the ones I had as a little kid, which were anything from Tull to Sabbath and Kiss. I never pay much attention to the classifications. We picked the best songs for the new album. If they aligned with any contemporary classification, that's fine. We didn't point in any direction other than the best songs to represent Prong and it's wide-ranged history in 2012.
You've been quoted as saying that you "hate nostalgia". How did that feeling influence your approach on Carved into Stone?
I think what I meant with that comment is a little misunderstood by some folks. I've always noticed that there have been a lot of bands that completely and directly copy a vibe of a popular pre-existing one. Very recently I went to see a very popular new band that sounded exactly like D.R.I. Of course, I 'm a little jaded because I loved that band when they arrived , but this copy really annoyed me. These kids, their fans were obviously completely unfamiliar with D.R.I. and it annoyed me. Back in the day, we strived to do something different. We didn't want to sound like anyone else. That was the essence of rebelling against all the record company forces and radio. That's why Godflesh and Swans and Black Flag were so cool. After Prong's success with our record Cleansing, the label wanted carbon copies of our successful single "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck." It was really difficult to do that. It always been ingrained in me to try to push the envelope a bit and take new approaches. In the making of Carved into Stone, we went back into time and made a record unlike any I've worked on in decades. Every part--vocal, solo, whatever, we played and doubled to precision without use of Pro-Tools. No grid, quantizing, plug-in over use, etc. To me, that was different. We made a record with 11 quality songs with no filler. For today's standards, that was different. We spent all our money on a quality producer, Steve Evetts, to be apart of every aspect of the making of the record, which was new to me as well.
It seems musicians tend to test-drive their music with other musicians. Are there any particular musicians outside of Prong that you ran Carved into Stone tracks by before the album's release, and what was their reaction?
No, not really. Some outside guys were collaborated with. Mike Longworth from MEST and I wrote "Revenge...Best served Cold." I trusted Steve Evetts, our producer, with helping with some arrangements. This is a guy who has worked with countless bands. He knows the ropes. You have a guy, like me, who has played in a couple of bands throughout the years, regardless of talent, he's going to have a limited view. Experience really wins in these situations. A broad mind and technical know how. This is the type of guy I can trust.
You've played with both Ministry and Danzig. Has your work with those groups had any influence on your own music?
When it comes to actual music, not much influence that I can detect has been implanted. Playing the songs of those bands, that's different. I'm the kind of guy that if inactive, I won't pick up the guitar. If I get called on to write songs or tour, I'm all over it. Recently Glenn has done Legacy shows where Misfits and Samhain songs are performed along with Danzig material. I've had to prepare a large amount of material on the guitar. It has been fun and challenging at the same time. Then you get to go out and perform these classic tracks live with the guy who created them. It's not like being in a cover band, it's something more special. And GD never wants me to imitate the old songs. He wants my take on them. That's pretty rewarding. I've learned a lot from GD on the attitude front. He trusts his instincts. He writes a song, and doesn't really care what anyone thinks. I tend to write a bunch of songs and throw a lot away, because I feel they are not that good. I'm not anywhere near the vocalist he is, so I guess that's in order. As far as Ministry goes, I guess this refers to the last question a bit. After being involved in, like, five computer records, I was dying to get in a sweaty studio and jam out riffs with a great live drummer like Alexei Rodriguez. A guy that can figure out his own parts and has a lot of impact on the songs. Playing the Ministry songs live was always a blast. But there wasn't a hell of a lot of soloing going on. With Danzig, I'm the only guitarist and I've been able to get my solo chops up to an okay level from that. I think Carved into Stone has more guitar solos on it than any other Prong record.
There was talk at one point that Ministry's Al Jourgensen, who put out Prong's previous album, Power of the Damager, on his label, 13th Planet, would produce Carved. Why did you ultimately decide not to go in that direction?
I think I wanted to keep away from being a Ministry satellite band for one thing. I feel that the electro-metal thing has run its course. I wanted to focus on bringing the songs up to a new level. Quality vocals, good arrangements, etc. I didn't want to rely on studio techniques to polish any turds, so to speak.
In Prong and Ministry, you played with Paul Raven of Killing Joke, who passed away in 2007. What impact did his death have on you, personally and creatively?
Yeah, Raven played in Prong, way before Ministry. He's on Prong's Cleansing and Rude Awakening. He and I initially made contact when he remixed "Irrelevant Thoughts" on our Whose Fist Is This Anyway? EP. We spent a hell of a lot of time together throughout the years. Raven and I would consult each other a lot. I really miss that. He was old school. A real rebel. His bass playing was the best. Nobody could come close. I miss him. I'm sort of still angry that he's gone. He was a great guy to shoot the crap with as well as play music with.
Prong will be playing the first ever Knotfest in August. How did that come about? What does it mean to you to be part of that bill?
To be honest, I don't know how we came to be on the bill. Maybe it has something to do my relationship with [Slipknot drummer] Joey Jordison, but I haven't spoken with him. It's a shock. I think it's great. Maybe it'll get Prong's name out there again. We want folks to hear the new record Carved into Stone. This should help. If anything, it will be fun. We'll see a lot of old friends and hear some great bands. It should be a good show for Prong as well. Good times!