Prong is back! Tommy Victor, once again joined by Tony Campos (bass) and Alexei Rodriquez (drums) have hit the road with a slew dates for the first time in over a year and a half. And more importantly, Prong is back with new album, Carved Into Stone, to be released April 24. I sat down with Tommy Victor before Prong’s February 16 show at the Avalon Nightclub in Santa Clara to hear all about it.
The big news on the Prong front is a new record coming out in April. Tell me about it.
It’s called Carved Into Stone and it’s got 11 amazing tracks; the best songs that were written in a while at least for Prong records. We dialed it in on this one. Proper producer, great line-up, just fantastic effort all around by everybody. I’m really proud of it. It came out really good.
You’ve been busy with other projects … touring with Danzig and Al [Jourgensen, Ministry] …
I was out with him [Al] for a week but that’s the end of it. I’m not doing any more with him.
… how did you fit the new record in?
We’ve been working on songs for a while. The last time we saw you [October 2009], we were writing at that point. Then everyone was doing things individually, then we came back together and combined our ideas and put more songs together in about four different stages. Finally we had about 25 songs, knocked them down to about 15, and with the help of Steve Evetts the producer we arranged a couple of things and finally got the solid 12 which came down to 11 that we actually recorded. Yeah, it was a long process. I’ve been working on this stuff for a while. Mikey Doling [Soulfly, Snot, Channel Zero] and I wrote a song together and then Mike Longworth and I had a song that just continued to be a favorite. We kept that one in, it’s called Revenge … Best Served Cold. Looking for the best songs takes a while. It wasn’t that difficult fitting it in, it just took a while.
Do you find that it’s tough to get consistency when the process takes several years?
Not really, I didn’t see any problem with consistency. I think it’s just getting better. You realize what you need and what songs are eventually not as good as the other ones. The better ones start coming to the forefront. There’s been problems on our previous records when there’s too much work done, where we started second-guessing everything and rearranging stuff a little bit too much. I think we just had the right idea … we blasted out like six songs in three days a couple months before we went in [to the studio]. Everything went really smoothly. It was a lot of work but everyone was really experienced so we knew when to stop and knew when to start.
How would you describe the new stuff in the context of the Prong library?
It has it all in there. There’s a couple that are very definitive Prong. There are a couple of barn-burners; definitely the fastest stuff that we’ve done in a while … at least since Force Fed so it packs a big punch. Every song is good and there’s nothing that sounds like anyone else. It’s very original but at the same time it sounds modern, too … the production’s modern. A couple of years ago people were using ProTools extensively; we didn’t go that route. It’s natural sounding and it just rocks. It’s very impressive to hear … I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Do any of those other bands that you’ve been working with seep in there with any type of influences?
Not at all. It’s a whole different mindset with the way those guys work. This is completely a whole different bag. Glenn self-produces everything, so does Al. I wanted to get a guy that was going to bust my balls and say ‘no’ a lot and try to lead me in a different direction that’s in me but I haven’t really captured yet. A real producer that’s done a lot of records, successful ones, was something that I really wanted and that was important to get new music and new sounds in there to really make sure that we’re doing the right thing. If you leave it up to the band guys all the time it goes all over the place. Power of the Damager I just did with an engineer. The one before that we really didn’t have a decent producer at all. And even Terry Date records that Prong has done, Terry didn’t really get involved with the songs, wasn’t a musician, didn’t really give any direction as far as the vocals went. I was pretty much on my own, you know. The only guy that I really worked with was Mark Dodson who was a singer and he helped a lot. After listening to some of the older stuff too … he [Evetts] never said you gotta scream everything and push too hard from a vocal standpoint. He helped me accept my natural voice and just go for it instead of trying to disguise it with over-shooting things and barking and being brutal all the time. It’s unnecessary. And understanding the lyric and making sure that every line was heard is something that I haven’t really done that much of in a while. Everything is designed and really looked over with a fine tooth comb … like reflecting part of the vocal with the guitar part, minimizing the over-dubs to where they’re essentially needed and working on drum parts. Really dialing everything in the best we could with the amount of time and budget that we had.
How did you go about choosing a producer given that you wanted to have more of a musician?
We have new management. I’ve learned to trust Mike Gitter and Scott Koenig. They’ve listened to a lot of records and they’ve been around a while. With the budget we had, I took into consideration what they suggested and I listened to what this guy [Steve Evetts] did … the concentration on vocals and making sure that you get those right was a priority to me. I really wanted to get that done and this guy suited that really well. He was a workaholic. Some of his techniques I was questioning during the recording process and I was getting scared because I was trusting him so much but he was right about a lot things and I’m pretty happy about that.
So you’re doing some shows right now and then you’re going out with Crowbar on a more extended tour. What’s the thinking behind going out on tour before the record comes out?
That was a managerial decision. I was really hoping to take a couple of months off. I was pretty burned out after the making of the record and, as you know, I was doing a lot of Danzig stuff. The Legacy shows took a lot out of me. It was a very stressful thing. We were on tour with the Bad Brains before Cleansing came out … I really just want to do as much work as we can. Just stay out … that’s the only way you can do it really. I mean, what else am I going to do? I wanted this time off but what do you do? You sit home and get fat and watch TV and get lazy. To go out and do shows, it’s harder these days but if you have the opportunity you might as well go out and do it.
Are you going to play some of the new stuff live on these tours?
We’re trying to fit them in. Until people really know them, we chose to center in on the standards. With Al, you put out a record that no one really knew about like The Last Supper and on a farewell tour he’s playing 70% of the new album and no one even knows the songs. When they [the fans] get the record and they hear what’s going on you can see which ones people want to hear and hopefully we can fit them more into the set.
Any plans to tour after the record comes out? Have you thought that far ahead?
Yeah, of course. Since this record was done correctly, we’ve already set it up as best as we can. We want to take advantage of that and continue working. It’s not like the last couple of record cycles where I really didn’t dedicate any time to it and we were really disappointed with the labels. A lot of the business side wasn’t really together that much. I think that now things are set up properly where we could keep going on it until people know the record and know that we’re still around and that we’re whooping ass.
It’s been 4 ½ since the last record came out.
Nobody knows that record still. That’s almost a good thing. It feels fresh now in a way.
And the business has changed quite a bit over the course of those years.
How did you think about things differently for the new record?
You know what? It’s really gone full cycle. It’s not that much different [from the early days], really. When you have a major label and you have A&R people and this huge team of people like a metal department that was at Epic back in the day, everyone was putting their two cents in … the stress level was unbelievably high. You tend to have to listen to people. I don’t think we were natural back in that period. Initially it was sort of like this … we’d go out and knock some songs out and you just do what you do. You don’t look at the charts, you don’t try to match what other people are doing. For me at least, it’s sort of gotten back to that, where I really don’t give a fuck what anyone else is doing. I really don’t care. That’s how it was initially. When you get everyone pulling out Billboard and pointing to what Soundgarden is doing and how come we’re not like that, you start getting all paranoid about what you’re doing. Prong was always misunderstood, it was a hard band to market on a big scale and it definitely wound up making the band disintegrate back in those days.
Do you think there’s more of a place for Prong today?
I don’t know. I try to keep my nose out of the things I don’t care too much about. I was almost forcing myself to be aware of what other people were doing and really be concerned about these things that had nothing to do with me picking up a guitar and writing songs. That’s really what I’m supposed to be doing, right? Writing lyrics that are true to what I feel and coming up with riffs that I think are meaningful or cool … whatever cool means. And not worrying about copying anybody or what other bands are doing. Let it be as it may. I think that’s the problem with a lot of bands and kids today … they’re copying what guys like Avenged Sevenfold are doing. It’s cookie cutter music. Production is real cookie-cutter. Guys like Glenn and Al, they don’t give two shits about what anybody else does. I really need to embrace that too. That’s where we come from and whether the audiences today understand that, there’s nothing you can do. You really just have to be true to where you’re from.
So how did Prong sound live, you may be wondering? They stuck to the tried and true, only throwing in one tune from the upcoming release, Carved Into Stone. The only noticeable flub was a bit of a disconnect on when to end Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck made light by the band in their recovery. And despite an apology from Tony half way through the set for sounding rusty after a year and a half apart, it sounded pretty damned tight. Surprisingly so, in fact. Welcome back Prong!
Supporting acts: Rivals, Psychosomatic, Toy Called God
Upcoming Tour Dates:
3/21: San Diego (Hillcrest) @ Ruby Room
3/22: Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room
3/23: Las Vegas, NV @ LVCS
3/24: Tempe, AZ @ The Clubhouse
3/25: Fresno, CA @ Starline
3/26: Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar
With Crowbar and Witchburn:
4/5: Dallas, TX @ Trees
4/6: Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
4/8: El Paso, TX @ House of Rock
4/11: Hollywood, CA @ The Whisky
4/13: Gallup, NM @ Slopshot Billiards
4/14: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
4/16: St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
4/17: St. Paul, MN @ Station 4
4/18: Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
4/19: Louisville, KY @ Phoenix Hill Tavern
4/20: Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge
4/21: Detroit, MI @ Harpo’s
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