“I think a lot of things just come down to peer pressure. I had that a lot with the early guys with Prong. I always felt left out…”
In any form of business it’s always best to put a name to a face. We all seem to work a bit harder if we actually know the person we are dealing with. I’ve been talking to Tommy Victor of Prong for a couple of years now but never actually met the man until recently.
Tommy Victor is a pioneer who is the epitome of everything that’s right about metal. The music, relationships and ‘worldwide scene’ are what matters to this style of music. Tommy understands this better than most.
Victor began his musical career as a sound engineer at New York’s famed CBGB. He even formed his first version of Prong while working there. A band which he’s been promoting on and off since 1986. Tommy has collaborated with influential artists like Rob Zombie, Glen Danzig, Al Jourgensen and Marilyn Manson just to name a few. He’s a respected musician with strong ties in both the Punk and Metal genres. Many of today’s entertainers cite Prong as a major influence. He’s a true icon, a musical chameleon, who’s managed to re-invent himself again and again.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to the Prong front man, in person, during the X-NoAbsolutes tour. Please enjoy some excerpts of our 5/18/16 interview.
David Halbe: Welcome to Chicago.
Tommy Victor: Thank you.
Dave: How’s the tour been so far?
Tommy: It’s been great. We’ve all been having a really good time.
Dave: When’s the best time to get behind an album and tour?
Tommy: Anytime really. We’ve done tours before with no album out, before the album’s out and while the album’s out. Obviously, it’s best to release an album and do a tour but sometimes you can’t do that strategically.
Dave: Have you re-considered No-Absolutes video support? I saw the Facebook post for the Ruining Lives video. Was the thought process behind that to gauge interest?
Tommy: Yes, that was “Remove, Separate Self” off Ruining Lives and it has gotten a decent number of views.
Dave: So you’re thinking about doing a new video?
Dave: Any idea what song?
Tommy: Maybe the next single, I’m not sure yet what song it will be.
Dave: “With Dignity”
Dave: Yeah, I love that song. I think it’s one of the best on the album.
Tommy: Man, with our musical changes there are so many different types of Prong fans now. It’s becoming really hard to decipher which is the best one. Some people have been a little questionable about some of the songs on the new record. Others have strictly been into the ‘thrashier’ ones.
Dave: Yeah, but you’ve got to evolve. I listen to this new record more than some of your past efforts because it has those kinds of songs.
Tommy: I appreciate your suggestion and I will definitely keep what you’ve said in mind.
Dave: I think it’s a solid track that utilizes multiple vocals styles. It has a heavy sound and the lyrics tell a story.
Tommy: Yep, they do.
Dave: Anything coming up after this current tour?
Tommy: Yes, there’s going to be a Euro tour called ‘The Battle of the Bays’, it will be happening in October through to November. The package is going to be with Obituary and Exodus.
Dave: Wow, that’s going to be cool. What a line-up!
Tommy: Yes, for sure. We’re excited about it.
Dave: Last time we talked, you were contemplating doing another album immediately. Have you come any closer to making a decision?
Tommy: Yes, we’re under contract so I’m obliged to be consistent with that. It’s contractual that the releases have to be done. I’m putting some ideas together right now, trying to figure it all out. I keep talking to people trying to get input as to what should be done and usually I don’t do any of it (laughs) and I do things my own way. It’s been a good challenge having to keep putting these records out at a fast pace. The way things are, you almost have to do that now.
Dave: I agree. Do you have any leftover material you can revist?
Tommy: No. Everything we’ve done recently has been dedicated to just the songs that are on the record. We did that instead of having a large group of demo tracks, recording ideas that didn’t make it onto the current record, which we have done in the past. We’d pick and choose what should make it on the record. It’s kind of an ego thing not to go back and re-visit what you’ve already done.
Tommy: So we did it differently this time, I sort of got the idea from Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), he said, ‘I write 13 songs and that’s what’s on the record and that’s the way it is’ so whatever is written makes the record instead of trying to second guess yourself by revisiting cut material.
Dave: Did you live with the riffs long enough to feel comfortable?
Tommy: No we did it so fast we didn’t really have time to question anything. Now that I’m thinking about it there were maybe two songs off No-Absolutes that we sort of passed on when we were making the album, we just sort of stopped working on them.
Dave: Is there a chance you might pick those up again?
Tommy: I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.
Dave: How about your revised vocal approach; do you think that’s going to continue?
Tommy: I don’t know. That’s another great question. It’s a per song decision so I guess I would say I will sing whatever is needed. You know we’ve made some big strides with the vocals on the last few releases.
Dave: For sure. Are you willing to try singing a song using different approaches now?
Tommy: The only time I had that problem was on the covers album (Songs from the Black Hole) where it was difficult trying to figure out what vocal styles to approach the covers with.
Dave: Like “Cortez the Killer”?
Tommy: Exactly! Initially, I was thinking maybe that should be a hard vocal or maybe more like a talking vocal but nothing sounded right to me so inevitably it was me covering Neil Young to the best of my ability. I was holding the reflections with my singing voice and I was pretty happy with how it all came out. That influenced how I approached the vocals on No-Absolutes for songs like “Do Nothing”.
Dave: That’s a great example!
Tommy: You know, even writing melodies has changed because sometimes you question what voice you can use. In the past it was just like ‘Do your own thing and that’s it’, you know? There really wasn’t any direction but I’m working in an environment now where I’m questioning what I do more and that’s helped me figure out what style to approach.
Dave: Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?
Tommy: Yes but that’s going to be later because I want to be truthful about things. I don’t want to candy coat my experiences, I want to be honest about them. You know how things are today you have to be so politically correct, you’ve got to watch what you say. There will eventually be a time and a place for all of it to come out.
Dave: That’s great to hear, I’m looking forward to it.
Tommy: People are always telling me these great stories, I’m going to have to start cataloging them. It’s going to require me to sit down and make a journal of all this stuff.
Dave: You should do it. What do you think about the ‘Straight Edge’ movement, does it have a place on the road?
Tommy: Oh Absolutely. I’m a proponent of that lifestyle. I just think it’s better, you know?
Tommy: I think a lot of things just come down to peer pressure. I had that a lot with the early guys with Prong. I always felt left out because those guys would be hanging out with the guys fromPantera, getting wasted, doing everything you could possibly imagine and I’d be there having to handle stuff. Inevitably, I began questioning myself and I got bitter about it. Then I got into the whole thing but that was like way later on. So I just think everybody has got to do what they do, I’m not responsible for anybody else’s actions but in my position, as a singer and a guitar player with Prong, indulgences are just going to interfere with the professionalism of what I’m doing.
Dave: I get it. Is there an update on the pending Danzig release?
Tommy: Glen works in an atypical fashion. He’ll occasionally call me up and have me go into the studio if he’s got an idea about something. I don’t know if I really have liberty to say how we’re working at the moment.
Dave: That’s cool.
Tommy: But I will say it’s Glen’s baby and I’m trying to make him happy. Whatever he asks me to do, I do and he’s generally pleased with the results.
Dave: That’s great. Has anything been planned for Prong’s impending anniversary?
Tommy: The problem I have with it is that it’s sort of like Deep Purple, where there have been different mocks of Prong and there’s been long periods of inactivity that shouldn’t really be counted towards the band’s active time. There’s been some big blocks where Prong didn’t really do anything due to my stint with Ministry or intense stint with Danzig so the real 30 year anniversary is still probably in another 10 years. I understand how it could look good for marketing and those types of things but I really haven’t been all that committed to that theme so I’ll have to think about it, I don’t really know.
Dave: Well, I hope you do something thirty years is a long time to have a moniker out there, active or not. Thanks a lot for your time today Tommy!
Tommy: No problem Dave, great to see you.
- Jason Christopher – Bass
- Arturo “Art” Cruz – Drums
- Tommy Victor – Guitars, Vocals
This article was originally published 8/17/16 by Metalrecusants.com