Photos by: EvAl
Tommy Victor is one of those musicians that has withstood the test of time. Emerging from the New York punk scene to start Prong in 1986, Tommy has gone on to work with such names such as Ministry and Danzig while keeping Prong alive (or at least on life support) all the while. A few dates into his tour with Soulfly finds Prong at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, a 100 year building which was originally constructed as a Masonic lodge. Tommy and I were afforded an impromptu tour of the areas once used for Freemason rituals which include a 1909 pipe organ, scenes from hell and a trap door used for mock hangings. With this and the stories of haunting as our backdrop, Tommy and I sat down for a chat which started with the sun setting through the stained glass windows and ended with us in darkness.
EvAl: Thanks Tommy for taking the time to sit down with Crypt Magazine. Much appreciated.
TV: Thank you.
EvAl: In terms of Prong, the band, what’s the status? I know you’ve been kind of on and off and I guess my question for you is, is this something that view as just always there regardless of whether you’re active or not? Or is it something that you choose to activate when you’ve got some time or you think there’s interest for it?
TV: Well, I have to be honest, I ask myself that question. I don’t know what my own feelings or attitude about it is. It’s strange. You know my phone rings to do certain things and I usually like to accept offers for doing things. So as long as the phone keeps ringing on behalf of Prong I’ll still do it.
EvAl: So it’s more in response to people looking for something versus you saying, hey it’s time to get Prong active?
TV: It’s been that, yeah. I’ve been kinda passive about it which is unfortunate but when the phone rings I become passionate. I try to get it done, at least. How fanatical I go on that route, I don’t know. It is a lot of stress involved in the whole project. It’s been going on for a really long time and money is sparse. I’m tracking down money from … it’s caused me a lot of grief, the project. So a lot of times I should be saying no but I continue to do it. I tell people, I gotta be a masochist sometimes but then, you know, experiences like this … this is a great day for me [I assume that he is referring to being able to sit down with EvAl]. There’s a lot of fun involved in the whole thing too. Things apart from the band that are enjoyable and meeting new people. It’s kind of a spiritual experience too because … the travel conditions are kinda rough and it’s really going back to page 6 and it’s almost like being a kid again.
EvAl: Do you enjoy being on the road?
TV: Uhhhhhh … again it’s one of those things that it can be really really hard and really bad and it can be semi-enjoyable. I mean, I don’t have those crazy times any more. You know it’s just not a part of my life. It used to be where we’d do the show and then I’d be looking for thrills after it in some way. I just don’t go through that any more. Now I just like to get a good night’s sleep and that kind of thing.
EvAl: Put’s a damper on the partying
TV: Yeah, right. My priority is definitely now … I’ve had some reality checks health-wise and I try to maintain myself. That’s what I mean about spirituality. Spirituality isn’t like voodoo, it’s more about maintenance, personal maintenance.
EvAl: I know what you mean. When you get our age you start thinking about that stuff more.
TV: Yeah. How long I’ll continue with this mentality I don’t know.
EvAl: And is there a difference going out with Prong where you’re really the front man and it’s kinda your baby versus going out with Ministry or Danzig or some of the other bands you’ve played with over the years?
TV: Yeah, it is. I think I’m coming to realize that I like doing Prong better than anything else. That’s basically … there’s a really long answer in that because it’s not just yes or no. I thought with Ministry I did put a lot of time and energy into it but I didn’t feel like I reaped the rewards from it because it’s all Al’s thing. So I probably shouldn’t have devoted that much time to it. With Glenn it’s sort of like that too, but he doesn’t expect you to devote that much time to it. Like I worked on the new record that’s coming out but I didn’t have to be creative about it. He’s really easy to work with. He’s more of like a slam-dunk guy. You know, you go in and he’s like, “that’s fucking awesome. That’s it, we’re done. See you later, let’s go get something to eat.” Where Al I was putting in these long long hours and had to go to his place where it was sort of like … I wasn’t really getting what I thought was put into it. Still in the end it was the Al Jorgenson project, you know.
EvAl: And Glenn seems like a guy who knows what he wants. You probably walk in the door and, whether he can play it or not, Glenn probably has it in his head.
TV: Yeah, he totally has it in his head. He knows exactly what’s going down and he doesn’t like to waste your time or doesn’t want to sit around and doesn’t beat you up on the whole thing. Rehearsals are pretty easy with him. He’s particular about things but I’ve worked with him, now it’s going on … gee whiz [yes, Tommy Victor actually said gee whiz] it’s like 13 years now in and out of bands there so I’ve been working with him for a really long time.
EvAl: Any comments about the latest album? I know people are anxiously awaiting the next thing.
TV: You know what? It’s that much his project that, I laid the guitars down, I heard vocals on two tracks and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. So I haven’t heard what he’s doing lyrically and vocally on some of the tracks that we’ve been working on. From what I’ve heard, I think it’s going to be really good.
EvAl: Any idea when it’s going to come out?
TV: You know what, I don’t know yet but it’s soon. He’s probably going to be wrapping it up, if not right now, then in the next couple of months. I’m think it’s probably a March release or something like that but you can’t listen to me …
EvAl: Glenn’s the guy…
TV: Yeah, I mean maybe he’ll go back and wanna redo some things.
EvAl: And he also seems to work to his own schedule. He doesn’t have some record company pounding on him to get it out.
TV: Nope . It’s all him.
EvAl: And do expect a tour after that?
EvAl: And do you expect to tour with Glenn?
TV: Yeah, I do. If there’s any Prong momentum going then I’ll probably go do Prong before Danzig which I’ve always tried to do. We have a couple shows coming up, like one-offs, so I’m doing those. I’d like to go in and do another Prong record eventually. So wanna do both things here and I don’t want to blow off Danzig at all.
EvAl: It seems like relative to some of the other line-ups I’ve seen Danzig to play with, you guys seem to mesh really well. Do you agree with that?
TV: Yeah, man. It’s been really good. Johnny [Kelly] and I are really cool together and Steve [Zing] is great. Glenn is really happy and when he’s happy the whole thing works better because when there’s tensions he tends to not respond too well to that.
EvAl: Well thanks for the update on Danzig, let’s get back to Prong since that’s why we’re here. Part of the reason that you’re out right now is to promote your last record. Do we still call them records?
TV: [laughing] I do.
EvAl: It’s kind of a departure from what you’ve done in the past in that it’s remixes of existing songs with the inspiration of other people.
TV: You know what, The Power of the Damn MiXXXer is one thing, but I think that we’re still touring on Power of the Damager. That sort of was like a label throw in thing. I enjoyed working on it and I like the way it came out but it’s sort of like a novelty item or something. I don’t know how else to describe it. We did a promotional tour for that in Europe and it was kind of distasteful. I really didn’t like promoting that CD.
EvAl: It almost is like it’s someone else’s vision of what your music is supposed to sound like. I don’t know how you make that work live.
TV: Yeah, it didn’t really make any sense. The Power of the Damager is what we’re doing. We didn’t really tour too much on that record in America. I think it still has some more longevity and there’s a lot of kids that don’t even know it’s out.
EvAl: That’s on Al’s label right?
TV: Yeah, it’s on 13th Planet
EvAl: How’s that going? You were on Epic for a while. How is it being on an independent label?
TV: It’s cool. It’s been a good experience because the record companies these days and the way everything is, it’s been so hard and I think that they do a good job considering what’s going on now, you know? It’s so difficult to even think about putting out a record now because of what’s going on. You’re almost making record, hoping somebody will hear it in order to put in on a video game or something or in a movie. I don’t know how many people have been exposed to the last album … how many Limewire and Piratebay downloads there is. I don’t know. Who knows? It’s hard to say.
EvAl: Metal in general … I’ll talk about San Francisco because I live here … but there’s really not much radio play except for weekend, 10 o’clock and night so to see kids lining up out front at 6 for the show it’s pretty cool.
TV: I don’t think that it’s a dying genre. It’s just that there’s too much going on and too little exposure. This is a cool old-school thing. Hopefully bands like Soulfly and Prong can continue in some way because we put out records in the time that it was fresh. I don’t think it’s fresh any more, what’s going on. I think that the kids today that were putting out music or trying to do something that’s different.
EvAl: Do you see anything out there that you would consider new?
TV: I’m misinformed on that one. I’m not on top of it that much. I know that there’s great players and great bands out there; I’m just not on top of it. Satellite radio is good exposure for stuff. Whether I can sit through it … I can’t, to be totally honest with you. It’s just part of my age and I’ll find myself going to a different channel rather than Liquid Metal. I just can’t sit through it.
EvAl: So what do you listen to when you’re not listening to Liquid Metal?
TV: Oh god, I listen to talk radio and sport radio. Other than that … I go through phases like anybody. Definitely a lot of old stuff, late 60’s stuff, like Cream I’m really into, Mountain, the old stuff like that. As far as progressive rock like Tull, Yes. As far as extreme metal goes, I haven’t been listening to anything in a while.
EvAl: So in terms of your inspiration … when you got started in the 80’s you were coming out of the New York punk scene, right?
EvAl: What’s your inspiration these days when it comes to music? Is it the same things it was back 25 years ago?
TV: It is a little bit. Lyrically it is, but as far as playing, it’s like I gotta start getting back into playing a lot of guitar then that’s how I start writing. Right now, I haven’t been really tackling it that much so when I start getting into that then I can start figuring out what I want to do. It’s sort of in me, most of the stuff is still the stuff I always liked which is Killing Joke, post-punk stuff, Bauhaus and countless bands. Big Black I like a lot. As far as what I reach for? … Prong has never been a band that picks out stuff and we try to copy stuff. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s mostly getting in on the guitar and start being creative from that end and jamming out with a drummer and stuff. That worked on the last record; we didn’t listen to anything on Power of the Damager and I think that was a pretty good record. I wasn’t really studying other people’s music or listening to anything.
EvAl: In terms of Prong’s sound, you guys have viewed by some as being the instigators of that industrial metal genre, whatever you want to call it. I hate putting labels on music. Do you view that as your legacy in the music industry?
TV: In the interview prior to yours the guy was saying, he didn’t say industrial metal, he said something about groove metal. We went through different stages. A lot of the young bands look to Megadeth as a huge influence … Maiden. I don’t really know the bands that take Prong as an influence. I’m sure they’re out there but … I know Static X was one of them … but other than that I’m not really sure. Legacy … that doesn’t really interest me that much. It did probably years ago, you know … “oh it’d be great to be some kinda legacy” … but now …
EvAl: … you don’t think about it?
TV: Not really, no.
EvAl: So you touched on this a little earlier … new material from Prong, what’s the status with that?
TV: There’s been songs written we’ll see what happens. I need more songs. I gotta start playing more guitar and start jamming more and then come up with some more ideas.
EvAl: So open-ended at this point?
EvAl: Still through Al’s label?
TV: I don’t know yet, we’ll have to see. That would be nice but we’ll see what happens.
EvAl: Any closing comments? Anything you want to say before we wrap up?
TV: Follow me on Twitter.
EvAl: Are you really on Twitter?
TV: Yeah, I do. It’s prongmusic.
EvAl: Well thank you Tommy, it’s very much appreciated.
TV: Thank you.
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