Prong's tommy victor
By Jay Oakley
Tommy, thank you so much for taking a little bit of time to sit with me.
Thanks, Jay. I appreciate you coming down here to the Maryland Deathfest. Prong’s playing tonight so it should be good.
Absolutely, so you’re playing here at Baltimore Soundstage with Helmet as well and you guys are currently on a co-headlining tour.
Yeah, we’re just finishing up tonight. We’ve done three and a half weeks and tonight’s the last night.
Oh, it’s the last night for that tour. What do you currently have planned once you break off tonight?
I’ve got to go home and write some riffs. We’re going to try to put out a record in 2019 and then we go to Europe for a couple of weeks and then we’re going to go out again in November. With that tour, I don’t know who we’re going out with yet but we’re trying to get on a couple of things. So, we’re going to continue touring for the Zero Days record and meanwhile, at the same time, prepare for a new record.
So, since it’s about a year or so since Zero Days got released so far how has everything been going with the reception, how do the fans dig on it and what are you feeling as a band?
The reception’s been unbelievable. A lot of people don’t know about the release so we didn’t really tour that much with it. The last tour we did was just at the tail end of X – No Absolutes and Zero Days came out right after that so we really haven’t toured America until this. So, this is sort of the beginning of it. A lot of people consider it a brand new record so now we’re getting a lot of the feedback. Jose (Mangin) on Sirius was playing the hell out of it and that was the big push on that and now the tour is just starting for that record. So, that’s the way things have been rolling with Prong is by the time we make another record and the records have been coming out so rapidly since we have six records in the last six years that have been released, that the touring has been happening after the record is out. So, that’s probably going to happen on this next record.
So, when Zero Days dropped, the last time you were in Baltimore you played Rams Head Live with Sepultura so that was right before the album came out.
Exactly, we were still pushing No Absolutes which people didn’t know about that one. So, it’s really difficult these days unless you have a lot of money for it to get in people’s faces, pay for special placement on iTunes and other added promotions so you just have to get out there and tour. It’s important to do that and the response has been amazing. We have a couple of really good, solid hits on the new record. One being “Divide And Conquer,” it’s doing really well on Spotify. “However It May End” and “Forced Into Tolerance,” we did a video for which you can check out online, on YouTube or whatever.
You mentioned earlier about putting out six records in the last six years. What would you attribute this explosion of writing and creativity to for you and your boys? Six in six is a pretty impressive feat.
Well, we had to do that. I was gone for a while, playing with Ministry and I still play with Glenn Danzig in between sporadic releases for Prong. But this time, bringing it back, it was important to show some consistency with the band and have us continue into releases. It just had to be done. If I get told what to do by somebody who says, “You have to make a record in three months.” I’ll do it, ya know and that was part of the strategy or the plan to do that and the records have been coming out great. Once I get in a room and start working on riffs and getting in a room and trying to do lyrics, I get in that mode and just get it done. I’ll work on a schedule and make it happen.
Do you tend to do the whole “shut off all outside distractions” thing when you really want to get down to writing or can you juggle pretty well?
I have to juggle because in other periods where I was completely shut off from everything I felt the records suffered because of that. It’s good to maintain some kind of balance with things that you have to do to get inspired and to feel good. The whole “depressing artist” thing doesn’t really apply to Prong that much. I try to have a good time doing it. Ya know, wake up in the morning and have a good outlook on life and make it fun.
How do you feel about doing tours with Helmet, with Sepultura where you’re really out there with longstanding peers like your band?
That’s an interesting question. I think it applies to Prong because of the legacy aspect of the band. We’ve been around a long time and I think it’s good to have a veteran presence in these tours and teach the kids and show them that there is something to refer to in the back that spawned the new generation of bands. I think it’s great, especially with Helmet, those guys have been really, really nice and easy to tour with. Same thing Sepultura, we were sharing a bus with them as well. This tour makes a lot more sense, I think, with us because both bands come from a similar place and we need to show that there is a legacy there with Helmet, Prong, lower-east side music and CBGBs and where a lot of the groove metal and New York hardcore and second generation of that came out. Which were basically bands like Prong and Helmet really that spawned it. Biohazard a little bit during that period and countless other bands that I’ve come across from that center point of where it all started in the lower-east side of Manhattan. There’s a theme to this tour and I think that’s what makes it so strong.
I really liked what you were talking about when it comes to veteran presence. With something like this, something like Maryland Deathfest and I really have to give the MDF people credit where I really feel it’s due because I think they really do an excellent job bring in something for everybody. Like, your sound is much more my particular style and I’m also a Danzig kind of guy where the heavier, black stuff is not really for my ears but I do enjoy it because I can appreciate a good show, I can appreciate good playing. So, something like Deathfest which is so eclectic, with so much stuff, how do you feel about it? Do you enjoy it? Do you like being around something like this or do feel like it’s not really for you?
I was intent upon coming in here and checking out a couple of bands. I came in earlier and the band that was on sounded smoking good and everything from reports, everything has been good. I’m sure they’re very selective in who they’re picking for this festival and then from texting you because this is our last show and it’s my drummer’s (Art Cruz) birthday today and then I had to go on the bus and it’s become this mad shuffle of trying to catch a flight in the morning I feel bad that I haven’t been able to appreciate a lot of these things but I’m a big fan of Satyricon, they’re playing and I’m going to check them out and it’s too bad that it’s tomorrow, Godflesh is one of my all-time favorite groups and they’re playing tomorrow but the band that’s on right now sounds smoking good. It seems like there’s a lot of people here and it sounds like they do a really good job on it and I’m glad that they had us as a part of this. Hopefully we fit in somehow. [Laughs] But, our show is pretty hard. It’s pretty aggressive and its alternative metal but it doesn’t seem to disappoint. We play all the festivals in Europe and we always get a really good response.
With Prong, you’ve got so many albums out and a lot of history of such great songs. Is there a song that you wrote and put out that really blew up or even just got attention that you really weren’t expecting it to get?
Not really because I’m always on the other side. I do these songs that I think are going to get a lot of attention and don’t seem to get any attention. [Laughs] That’s always a bit of a problem with me. We knew that “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” was going to get something. That’s our most popular song so we were playing it out before we recorded it and it was blowing people’s minds even at that stage. So, we were like, “We’ve got something here.” I wish we had ten more of those.
When you look back at everything, what would you say is probably the best thing that Prong has given you?
Oh man, the longevity of this thing has been amazing! It just does not end. When the band got dropped by Epic Records over twenty years ago I was sure that that was it and my career was over and I didn’t know what I was going to do. But, always something comes around like another opportunity. I’ve been in other projects, my phone rings and it’s amazing how many opportunities I’ve had based on Prong. But, I’ve paid my dues for it. Working at CBGBs, being a sound guy there from 86-90, doing all the hardcore matinees, that spawned Prong a lot and I’ve been involved with other bands like Danzig and Ministry. I worked with Rob Zombie and Trent Reznor so Prong has spawned numerous amounts of other things that I’ve been able to do. At my age, continuing touring and putting out a great product and touring as much as we do which is amazing, it’s just not ending. I always think that I’m always on this plank, ready to fall and it doesn’t seem to. I should probably have more faith that I can do this and continue to do it for another five or six years.
Absolutely, Ministry was just in town and they were phenomenal. Everybody was just super stoked because that show was great.
That whole tour was going so great for the AmeriKKKant album.
Right, Al (Jourgensen) called me to get involved with that again but I’ve been too busy with Prong to do that. Prong’s my baby. We’re not on that huge level but we just keep plugging along and getting new fans and bringing the old ones back.
Did you play on AmeriKKKant at all?
No. I play on Rio Grande Blood, The Last Sucker. I did a lot of writing on both those records and Relapse and the C U LaTour record, Adios… Puta Madres, I’m on that. So, I’m actually on four records with Ministry.
Oh right on, awesome. As a veteran and someone who’s been around for so long. For a guy who kind of has an aura around him like Glenn (Danzig,) what would you say has been so cool about working with him for as long as you have?
I’ve learned a lot about Glenn. Glenn has a lot of personal integrity. I’ve said this in other interviews; I don’t know anybody who has bigger balls then Glenn. He sticks to his guns, he’s committed to what he does, he runs a tight ship, he makes sure things get done the way he thinks it should be done. That’s difficult with people because everyone pushes you to compromise all the time. I’m a very compromising person. I’ve learned to be that way but sometimes you just have to put your foot down. Glenn puts his foot down a lot about a lot of things. That’s helped him succeed in a lot of ways, apart from the artistic stuff, business-wise of avoiding a lot of the pitfalls in the business. Like staying independent, not signing off all his rights to record labels, having control over his material, these things are really important to do what you do and put some money in your pocket.
Young bands suffer that because they have to sign to these labels, they want your merch, they want your publishing, they want everything and these days they don’t give you any money so I don’t know how anybody survives. You have to have control over your stuff. Metal bands have suffered but that’s why a lot of the indie bands have done it the right way. There really isn’t any of these themed labels in that genre and a lot of these bands just do it themselves. They wind up being these huge phenomena’s based on the fact that they’ve always had control over what they do. They play the music they want, they’re not pushed around by management and the labels and all these people that really just have their hands in your pockets. Glenn is still on that indie level, he’s like the ultimate punk rock mentality with how to run this thing and it’s hard. It’s really difficult; Prong suffered a lot with that because being on a major label we were dictated a lot throughout or careers. We did what we wanted to do but there was a lot of chaos involved in that because we did sign away a lot of our rights to a lot of stuff.
Have you been able to go to any of the four Misfits reunion shows?
No, I haven’t. I did the Legacy stuff. I was playing guitar before Acey (Slade) came in and before Jerry (Only) got involved we did a whole slew of Legacy shows and tours with Doyle (Wolfgang Von Frankenstein) and did a significant amount of Misfits songs. I, sort of, a little bit jaded about it. I’ve played the songs, I was a huge Misfits fan as a kid, I saw the Misfits back in the day and I apologize to anybody but I wasn’t extremely even interested in checking it out and I think Glenn appreciates that too. [Chuckles] It’s a total nostalgia trip but I was there back in the day so it doesn’t really make any sense to me.
Tommy, thank you so much for taking some time to hang and veg out and talk about Prong history here at Maryland Deathfest and I appreciate you, man.
Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Thank you for coming down and doing this.