Another Blerd13?!?!?!? 2012 keeps bringing the hits as we managed to get Prong’s mainman Tommy Victor on the phone to talk about the latest album, making it in the music industry, and working with some of heavy metal’s more eccentric personalities:
1. To say that Carved Into Stone is the definitive Prong record is kind of an understatement after hearing it repeatedly over the last 24 hours. With the amount of albums and artists you’ve been involved with over the years, how do you manage to come up with fresh, new ideas consistently and manage still not to repeat yourself?
You’ve gotta write for the garbage pail. Keep writing and throwing stuff out if you don’t like it. Sit on it for a couple of weeks and just keep doing it. It’s a long process. Something I’ve gotta start doing right now. Just come up with stuff and keep revisiting it. It doesn’t happen overnight, y’know? I’m not that gifted.
2. Between Power Of The Damager and now, you’ve been involved in a bunch of different projects and tours outside of Prong, how long has Carved Into Stone actually been in the works?
I guess like two and a half years. I started writing some songs (and would) throw it in ProTools. Most of those songs are completely forgotten by this point and then Tony and I wrote some stuff and I wrote some stuff with some outside guys. Any chance I got, I was just continually trying to come up with new stuff. So it was about two and a half years ago. In between Danzig tours.
3. Carved Into Stone features the first non-Ministry recordings with Tony Campos and Alexei Rodriguez, why were they the best fit for Prong and what did they add to the recording process?
Alexei came in when Aaron (Rossi) quit and we had a couple of tours lined up before we solidified a record deal. Tony and I were rooming together on Ministry and I needed a bass player, too, because we had this tour with Soulfly. He said “Yeah, I’ll do it” and then Alexei came in and learned all the Prong songs and then we said we’re gonna make a record. It was really as easy as that. I always had a plan to do another Prong album. It was just who to get involved and the three of us got along really well. They’re great players. It was a no-brainer on that part.
4. Speaking of the new line-up, you’ve been through many members over the years, have you found the perfect Prong line-up yet?
It’s ever evolving because of everyone elses schedules. I end up getting guys stolen from me over the years. Whether it be Blasko (Ozzy) or Aaron Rossi, Monte Pittman….It’s endless. Prong isn’t a money making machine. Yet. We’ll have to see what happens. I love Alexei. He’s probably the best drummer I’ve ever played with. He’s out of control good. Hopefully he stays around forever. I mean, he’s amazing.
5. What made Steve Evetts the right person to produce Carved Into Stone?
He fit everything that we needed. He’s somebody that was gonna be very pro active to get the vocals up to a better level than they have been. He’s a guy that’s had a wide span of types of bands that he’s worked with like Story Of The Year to Sepultura to Hatebreed. He did a lot of engineering for Ross Robinson’s records which is Amen and Limp Bizkit. So he’s been through the whole realm, man. That was important (to not have) a straight ahead metal guy or a new wave guy or an industrial guy. We needed somebody that was versatile. He knew what Prong needed. We had a great couple of conversations and meetings. I didn’t know how much of a slave driver he was but I mean, it’s coming out great. Just pushing everything to the fullest and not settling for less type of guy. He’s a New York guy, hardworking and wouldn’t settle for anything sub standard throughout the whole process. No partying going on. Just work, work, work. Get it done. Continually. Everyday. It took a good two months of that. The thing with Prong is it’s mostly just me and him because I’m doing all the guitars and all the vocals. I wind up being in the studio all the time with him. I had to be happy with the kind of guy we needed which was, like I said, somebody that had the experience, too. It was really important.
6. There are songs like “Path Of Least Resistance” on CIS that are so outside the box for Prong because of how melodic it is at times. When writing a new record, do you try to continually expand the Prong sound or are there things you wouldn’t try because it didn’t fit the “Prong sound”.
It depends on the song. There’s probably two or three that didn’t make the record that were almost in that area or style. If that song didn’t come out as good as it did, it wouldn’t have made it on the record. It’s not a matter of style as much as the quality of how the song came out during demos and seeing the potential that it has. When I’m writing, I don’t know where It’s going. It took Steve Evetts and Tony and Alexei and two managers to go :”You know, that one could be good.” So we continued working on it. The only way to do that is to make a demo and seeing what people think about it. As far as style goes? Didn’t really pay that much attention. A song like “State Of Rebellion”: that’s the kind of song I really didn’t want on the record but the song came out good and people saw the potential of it that it eventually made it. Again, with the vocals we wanted there to be an improvement and I think you see that on a song like “Path Of Least Resistance” and lyrically, too. It takes a little bit of a different route as well. Aside from what I just said, you wanna do things differently. You wanna stretch the limits. You wanna try different things as well. If the song doesn’t come out good and it’s just a complete piece of experimental trash, you’re not gonna put it on the record.
7. Do you have a favorite song on the new album or a song you’re looking forward to playing the most live?
“Carved Into Stone” is probably my favorite one. It’s got a real headbanging mentality. I think the riff is cool. It’s modern but it definitely tips its hat to Sabbath. It’s a good old fashioned “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” style rock song and I don’t think we’ve done that that much either. It’s either strictly from a hardcore base or a dance/industrial. This one’s on a completely different tinge. Again, that one was a latecomer. We had that song written about a year ago. I don’t think Tony liked it that much and then we brought it back and everyone was like “Ok, let’s continue working on it” and it made the record and I’m pretty happy that it did. That was a chopping block one at one time.
8. You’re on the road with Crowbar at the moment and had some shows with Testament recently. Will there be a bigger Prong headlining tour after the album is released?
It depends. I don’t think Prong is at the point where we wanna do headlining (shows) right now so after this Crowbar run we’re gonna go out with them again. Then there’s two other tours that we’ve been asked to do as a support. I wanna stay in the support role until we really feel secure about doing headlining.
9. You’ve collaborated with many of metal’s luminaries over the years (Al Jourgensen, Rob Zombie, Danzig) as well as the different members of Prong. Who has been your favorite?
With Glenn, I don’t collaborate with him, he just tells me what to do pretty much. I enjoy working with Glenn a lot believe it or not. He’s got such a method to his madness and Al is a lot of fun, too. Both those guys are enjoyable in a different role. With Al, you don’t really write with him. You lay stuff down and he does his own thing afterwards. So you don’t really have that communication. With Glenn, he’s there with you staring over you. He has no patience so you have to do it immediately. It’s a good discipline. Glenn’s weird because you’ll do something precise and he’ll say “That’s absolute garbage!” and then you’ll do something sloppy and he’ll be like “That’s it!”. They’re both weird guys to work with.
I did a lot of writing with Rob Zombie for the first record (Hellbilly Deluxe) and they took all that stuff and chopped it up and made songs out of it. It’s water under the bridge but it was the same instance where it was like “Tommy, write a bunch of stuff and then throw it on tape or into ProTools and we’ll do what we want to it”. The only guy I’ve really collaborated with is Tony Campos. We sat there in the hotel room and wrote “Eternal Heat” together. Mike Longworth and I put together “Revenge…Best Served Cold”. He pretty much did most of the music and helped out on ProTools then I worked on the vocals and melody line afterwards. They’re different instances. As far as luminaries. I really like collaborating and getting together with people and doing stuff. I think two heads are better than one when it comes to writing songs. A lot of guys have big egos and don’t really wanna do that but I’m willing to get together and do stuff like that.
10.With that, do you prefer being the frontman or just playing guitar (As in Ministry and Danzig)?
Well, it’s easier to be a sideman or to just to play guitar and not run the band and make numerous decisions that have nothing to do with music. That’s where the headaches come in. You know with Glenn that’s why he’s always going crazy because he’s so active in everything that goes on with his career and doesn’t allow anybody to make a lot of decisions so I understand. That’s why we get along so well because I’m like “Dude, I know what you’re going through.” It gets really nightmarish. You roll in there and plug it in and play songs that you love ….how difficult is that? That’s just being prepared. You’re not hit with the curveballs that leading a band constitutes, With Prong, there’s a strain on vocal chords….you know, the whole thing is a lot more difficult with hardly any pay (laughs). I’d rather roll in and get the paycheck but on the other hand it’s not your thing. You like to write songs and try to relate to people in your lyrics and that’s important for me too.
11. You’re on Long Branch/SPV now and are a veteran of major (Epic) and indie (13th Planet) labels. What made Long Branch/SPV the right label for Prong?
There were other options. I left it up to management. I don’t micromanage. My manager said “I think this the right place for you guys” based on their sincere interest in the group. Their willingness to have something to do with an older band, to say the least, or even a legacy type of group for lack of a better word without us being a dinosaur and with an interest in putting a new record out and having fresh material and marketing it a something new as well. It’s a combination of all that and then stylistically there were other labels that were interested that were too grunge-y or too dirt punk for Prong or too math metal oriented or too youth oriented. We couldn’t get on a label that was just concerned with breaking younger bands, obviously. There was another option that was more of an industrial label that are trying to venture into more mainstream type groups and that was too experimental. Out of all those options, LongBranch/SPV was the one that seemed to cover the most ground for us with a decent budget for these days and so far we’ve been really happy with them. They’ve been really letting us do what we want as far as artwork, etc…
12. The gaps between Prong albums over the last 9 years has been pretty big. Are there plans for a quicker follow up to CIS or do you tend to take as long as needed regardless of the time involved?
I’d like to put one out as soon as possible, but again, if the songs are garbage it’s hard to put your name on something. Not that I haven’t done that in the past. The follow-up to this one is gonna have to be really stylized. Believe me, that’s something I’ve been thinking about every morning now. Amidst all this touring and interviews and scheduling and all this stuff I’m going to have to start looking into the next record already. It’s part of the process. Of course we’d like to put something out as fast as we could after this. It’s getting the material, man. That’s what it’s all about.
13. It’s been over 20 years since Prong’s debut was released, what’s your secret to making it in the music industry as long as you have?
Personal will. I don’t have a helluva a lot of talent. It’s like back when you’re a kid when you’re some misfit striving to have friends…it has a lot to do with your make up: This ingrained stamp of rebellion that’s in me. I always seem to throw myself into this pit of despair that enables me to wanna get out of there and that’s how you make a record or get out and tour. It’s kind of a dreadful existence (laughs) but what the hell else are ya gonna do? Sometimes I look around and see what other people are doing and that gets me a little grateful at the fact that I can still do it. “How am I gonna do this? How am I gonna put another record together?” and you go into these periods of doubt and just have to will yourself somehow and that’s character building at the same time. It’s like exercising those muscles of willpower to do it. Some people it’s unimportant to them……it’s like “whatever” and I can understand that……it’s not the way I’m wired. I made a lot of decisions early in my life in order to do this, made a lot of sacrifices…..so I’m gonna throw that all away so I can go punch a clock? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Prong’s Carved Into Stone is out now through Long Branch records/SPV. Get a copy here and then check out their latest video for “Revenge…Best Served Cold” below.