It’s not every day you get to sit down and talk to someone who’s been around the music business for as long as Tommy Victor has. Tommy has been in a number of projects, but Prong has been his main longest running project. With as many ups and downs that Prong has endured over the years, it’s easy to see how someone could just throw in the towel and walk away; but has Tommy Victor has pulled the band through all of it and came out with his head still above water – Somebody with that kind of strength and tenacity certainly deserves a lot of respect if you ask me. Now Prong is back and more prominent than ever, with the new line-up consisting of Victor, Tony Campos of Static X, and Alexei Rodriguez of 3 Inches of Blood, and they’re looking to release a new album within the next year.
Here’s what Tommy had to say, before their show while on tour with Fear Factory:
Amanda: How do you feel about three big names in metal dying in the past few weeks?
Tommy: It’s inevitable; people are going to start dying a lot more; you’ll start hearing a lot more familiar names.
Amanda: It’s sad to see them go so young, it really makes you think twice about the whole rock n’ roll lifestyle.
Tommy: Yeah, for sure.
Amanda: How do think their absences are going to affect rock/metal as we know it?
Tommy: I think Pete is going to be missed a lot, there will definitely never be another Pete Steele, he’s sort of irreplaceable, and obviously that goes for Dio as well. Those guys were icons. Paul [Gray] was a great friend and a good guy, and everybody loved him too. In a time when there may not be that many friendly people anymore, he’ll be greatly missed.
Amanda: How do you think Prong has evolved, since it first began in the late 80’s?
Tommy: It’s constantly evolving, it changes all the time. We’re constantly losing band members, and I’m the only one that really keeps it together. It always gets rejuvenated by something, and we never really get that popular, so it’s almost like incentive to it going, like maybe one day somebody will catch on to something. It may be wishful thinking, but I still think we have more records to be made, but it’s a struggle, it’s a rough ride. It evolves with the combination of changing members, and different ideas of what we should be doing at that particular time, which tend to be wrong most of the time.
Amanda: I’m sure not everybody thinks that way, I mean you’re probably you’re biggest critic, right? I personally think you guys have put out quite a bit of great work.
Tommy: Yeah, it’s almost like a journal of your life, you know, writing a song, you can really see what you were going through in your life, by the song.
Amanda: What do you think the hardest thing has been that you have had to endure as a band, since the beginning?
Tommy: Oh that’s a good question – I think the toughest point was when we had a successful first record, and there was a lot of chaos making the follow-up to that. I put a lot of time and energy, and heart and soul into the follow-up, and people just sort of scratched their heads on it, and we got dropped immediately, and that probably had to of been the hardest thing. It was hard to recover from that, and I really didn’t want to do Prong anymore.
Amanda: So things were pretty discouraging after that point?
Tommy: I think I was really immature about a lot of things. I didn’t realize how easy I had it, and how blessed I was. In those years it really seemed like you couldn’t do anything wrong it wasn’t that big of a struggle; it’s sort of like you never got dumped, and finally you do, and it’s like ‘what the fuck?’
Amanda: What made you decide to do a remix for your latest album?
Tommy: A lot of it has to do with when you’re between records and you want to keep something going, and have something to sell at shows – it’s sort of like a novelty item.
Amanda: So it wasn’t because you weren’t happy with the previous album, Power of the Damager?
Tommy: No, not at all. I was very happy with Power of the Damager; I sort of just got talked into doing this remix.
Amanda: So it was pretty much just something to do for fun?
Tommy: Well no not really, it turned out to be more of a pain in the ass than anything. I had to reject a lot of people who kept making all these remixes, because they were just horrible, and I just couldn’t allow that to happen. They would say to me ‘Well what is it that you want then?’, almost like they had an attitude about it, so finally I just told them that I’m picking the people to do it.
Amanda: Well I think taking that approach certainly worked for you – I think I like your single “Worst Of It” better on the remix, than I do on Power of the Damager.
Tommy: Well thank you.
Amanda: What would your ideal band be to tour with, if you could pick anyone in the world?
Tommy: Well it really depends on which way you want to go – Right now we’re doing this new record, and it’s a crossover between a lot of different styles again. We’re out with Fear Factory, and that has been pretty cool. I think ultimately probably for any band of that ilk, would be Metallica, I think that’s most any band’s major dream. It sort of shows that nationally you have a lot of respect, once you’re invited, just like how Fear Factory’s done. They just got back from touring Europe with them, and obviously Lamb of God, has toured with them as well. It’s how you know you’ve made it to the elite, sort of like Mastodon; now they’re reaching out to bands like High on Fire, and helping them get that extra exposure and I think that’s really cool.
Amanda: Nothing has ever been talked about, between Prong and Metallica, about going on tour together anytime soon?
Tommy: Well we’re still on this weird level, and we don’t really have that kind of big notoriety yet.
Amanda: So you wouldn’t necessarily consider yourselves national headliners then?
Tommy: We have been in the past, and we’re trying to build up to that again.
Amanda: What kind of work do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t in the music business?
Tommy: Probably with my brother, he went into finance and cleaned up, and is just unbelievably successful. Or maybe something with computers, which just started coming out when I was a kid – I could’ve been ahead of everybody on that, but I started doing this nonsense instead. (laughs)
Amanda: Well at least you got to pursue your passion though, right?
Tommy: That’s right.
Amanda: I have a bit of a weird question for you now – If you could dig up one dead person, and bring them back to life for a day, who would it be?
Tommy: Odd question, but it’s kind of cool. It weird, because I was thinking of something like that recently; I’d have to go with Julius Caesar.
Amanda: He would definitely be a cool dude to sit down and talked to for a bit, that is, if you’re on his side.
Tommy: Yeah, I’d probably be killed for looking at him wrong or something.
Amanda: What do you dislike most about how the music scene has changed over the past couple of decades?
Tommy: It’s funny that you ask that you ask that, because I was backstage with Johnny Santos of Silent Civilian, and we were talking about this band, I can’t even remember their name, but they just sold something like 50,000 copies last week alone. Ask Alexandria was the name, but I had never heard of them.
Amanda: Are they metal?
Tommy: That’s what I was asking the guys, and they said it was a scene band; I really don’t know what that means, and they said it’s something that I am definitely NOT a part of. It was like he was saying there’s no way I’d be a part of it, because I don’t pay attention to the scene, so I really don’t even know what the scene is anymore. I had my years in the scene, but I just think for somebody my age to be trying to be a part of the scene at my age, is a little bit distasteful. It’s like guys who are pretty much my age, trying to pick up girls your age, and it’s just like dude, come on. It doesn’t work, at least I don’t think it does; I would just look like a dirty old man.
Amanda: Well if somebody told me that I wasn’t a part of the scene today, I would take it as a compliment – The scene is made up mainly of kids and posers anyway.
Amanda: What does Prong have in store for the future – You have a new album that’s coming up soon, right?
Tommy: Well we didn’t finish it; we are going to start recording again real soon. I’ve got Tony Campos of Static X playing bass now, and Alexei Rodriguez, the drummer of 3 Inches of Blood; that’s the new line-up and we’ve got about 6 songs together, and we’re trying to shop for a deal right now. We also may be back touring in October again, and I have to go out and play with Danzig for a month after this. We’ll then be writing the new album, and trying again, and we’ll see what happens.
Amanda: Time wise, when do you think it will be available?
Tommy: Because of the nature of the business, we probably won’t be available for a November release like I had hoped. Once it’s Christmas, the label won’t order the distribution, instead they send out their larger artists, so I’m looking at probably late January.
Amanda: Oh ok, so definitely within the next year at least then, right?
Tommy: Yeah, and it’s about time, because the last studio record was about three years ago.
Amanda: What kind of style are you going with this time around, different from the previous albums?
Tommy: We’re actually going to be doing one of our new songs tonight, and it’s a lot like old school Prong, and a little thrashy. There’s going to be hooks on the new record, it’s not going to be all one-dimensional. We’re trying to get a few anthems going as well.
Amanda: So will it be more like the type of music that would be played on the radio?
Tommy: Ultimately we’d like that, but only if it happens naturally, I’m not going to try and force it.
Amanda: That’s something that you never really had the goal to set out and do anyways, right?
Tommy: Not 100%, but you try to do some things that are accessible, you know like “Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck”, that got airplay, and it was kind a successful song, and anybody who says it doesn’t help is wrong, because it really does. Then you have a song that people know and it really enables you to do more, and gives people something familiar, for people who aren’t really a part of the scene.
Amanda: You mentioned “Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck”; do you think that song gained so much popularity because of “Headbanger’s Ball”?
Tommy: I don’t think it hurt, but let’s put it this way; we had two major label releases before Cleansing, which that song was on, and then we kept going out to California to do shows – We had a booking agent who was adamant on booking us in L.A. more, because we were so an east coast band, and really popular in Washington, Boston, Philly, and New York. We kept going out there, and there would only be about 15 people at each show, because nobody knew who the fuck we were. We would play all the clubs in L.A. and be like, this sucks, nobody likes us out here. Then, when Cleansing came out, and “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” came out on the radio, it was being played every third rotation. After that, every show was sold out because it was on the radio, otherwise we never got any sort of notoriety really. Even though we were on “Headbanger’s” with “Beg to Differ”, and “Prove You Wrong”, still nobody showed up, and that was weird to me.
Amanda: So TV didn’t really have any influence whatsoever, it was solely because of radio then?
Tommy: Yeah, I’d say it was all because of radio.
Amanda: How different do you think things would’ve been, if you had your first album come out within this decade, do you think Prong would’ve had a better chance?
Tommy: I don’t think so; I think that Prong came from the streets. I know that sounds corny as hell, but it’s true. We just played a lot of shows – We got in the van, and just did shows. I was involved with tape trading back then, and found the fans, and hit everyone up with demos, because we didn’t have the internet back then.
Amanda: You guys went out and did all the hard work, like you were supposed to do, in order to make it back then.
Tommy: Exactly. Believe it or not, I’m friends with Adam Lambert.
Amanda: Oh yeah? I would definitely not believe that if somebody told me.
Tommy: Yeah, we actually had a band together. It’s called the Citizen Vein; Monte who was playing drums, was actually Prong’s last bass player, he still plays with Adam Lambert today, and it’s great. Monte was telling me how everybody always associates Adam with American Idol, and how he doesn’t really like it, but that’s something he’s never going to get away from.
Amanda: Well right, that’s how he made his big break.
Tommy: Yeah, and Monte I think was hoping to have the band paired up with more alternative groups, and I told him that the alternative groups and college radio people aren’t really going to have respect for Adam Lambert.
Amanda: Right, his best bet would be to focus on the group of people that voted for him on American Idol.
Tommy: Exactly. He never got in a van, and just did the circuit, and played at all the clubs, and that sort of thing, and I guess these days bands do hit it big without having to do that.
Amanda: That’s pretty cool I think – It shows that you’re a more well-rounded musician, I would say.
Tommy: When I was a kid I wasn’t necessarily playing rock music, I was playing in a phunk band, and I was doing all kinds of different stuff.
Amanda: Well Tommy, thank you so much for sitting and talking with me for a few minutes, it’s been a pleasure!
Tommy: The pleasure is all mine, thanks Amanda!