Tommy Victor started Prong in 1986 on New York’s lower east side. Around the same time, he spent four years doing live sound at the legendary CBGB’s. When Prong began, they were rooted in the New York hardcore scene, but quickly evolved into more of a metal band who were influenced by industrial and experimental music, as much as they were influenced by bands like Celtic Frost. This natural evolution allowed the band to reach a wider audience than just metalheads, in fact they were among the very first “alternative metal” bands who would go on to pave the way for artists like Helmet and Static-X.
Since 1989, Prong has released 12 studio albums and Tommy Victor has collaborated with Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Al Jourgensen (Ministry), Rob Zombie, and appeared on every Danzig studio album since 2004’s Circle of Snakes. In 1994, Prong released their most successful studio album, Cleansing, that featured some of their best known material, like “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” and “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?” 2019 sees the band celebrating the 25th anniversary of that album, including extensive touring in North America and abroad.
We had the opportunity to chat with Tommy when Prong was in Dallas closing out their tour with Hatebreed, Obituary, and Agnostic Front. The band plays tonight (5/28) in Lubbock, Texas, and Thursday (5/30) in San Diego, California, prior to heading overseas in August (tour dates below).
I thought it was cool that you guys were on this tour with Agnostic Front. Going back to the New York hardcore days, I assume that you ran in the same circles with those guys?
Oh, absolutely. Most of the shows from ’86 on. I was working their shows at CB’s as the sound guy. And then, their manager at the time, Connie, and I were really good friends. And then Pokey. I used to do work with Leeway all the time. Vinnie and I go back before that, even.
So, you did live sound for some of the Agnostic Front shows?
They like to say I did, but I was stage managing. Norman was doing their sound, but I was the house sound guy at CB’s. So, I know all those guys. I know the old dudes, you know.
The first couple of Prong albums, Primitive Origins and Force Fed were more in that hardcore vein.
Yes, exactly. “Disbelief” was almost like a Discharge type of song. So, we were influenced by the New York hardcore thing big time, yeah.
When Prong moved beyond hardcore, were you also influenced by the other New York stuff, like the No Wave scene? Swans, Sonic Youth, stuff like that?
Oh, absolutely. Well, Ted Parsons originally played with Swans. And I was more into that to begin with than hardcore. So, I started out…but, then I became a big fan of thrash and bands like Celtic Frost…and Discharge was always a big influence. I love them. Yeah, the No Wave stuff was definitely…we played shows, actually, with Rat at Rat R and Live Skull, which is two of the No Wave bands. And I was really into the stuff. There’s a band called Blind Idiot God, they were friends of mine. They just tore the place down.
Blind Idiot God, that’s a good band name (Laughs).
It was just the loudest band. I’ll never forget that at CB’s. Living on the lower east side and being part of the music community there, it was hard not to notice those groups. And Thurston, I’ve known for forever, too. We were mutually big fans of Von LMO.
You’ve maybe answered this before, but I’ve been curious….I assume that maybe the New York days was when you first met Glenn Danzig?
No, we played a couple of shows with them, with Prong. Glenn was more like a Jersey guy. The Misfits didn’t play that much. Googy, who was the drummer in The Misfits during Walk Among Us, he was a really close friend of mine. And we had a band together before Prong.
Oh, cool. I didn’t know that.
Yeah. They actually went on to do stuff, I quit before the record came. The band was called Antidote. I knew Jerry (Only) and Doyle (Wolfgang von Frankenstein), but I never met Glenn. When Prong started, we opened up for Danzig on a couple shows here and there and that’s when I first started my relationship with Glenn.
Cleansing is 25 years old. That’s crazy. I remember seeing “Snap Your Finger, Snap Your Neck” on Headbanger’s Ball when I was in high school. That was my first introduction to Prong. Is that an album that you’re still proud of today?
For the most part, yeah. I mean, how could you not be? I think it’s a classic record where it tight roped between different genres. And I thought that was the way to go. I think I was wrong on a popularity sense, but as far as being an innovative record, I think it still remains there where it just hit a lot of ground. It has sort of industrial metal, hardcore groove metal, experimental, alternative metal, alternative rock…Goth. It’s all in that record, you know? So that’s what we wanted to do. And I don’t know why we deviated from that, but Rude Awakening was sort of an answer to that and I don’t know what the fuck we did on that, but Cleansing was the epitome.
I think that was the record that really defined us, where we really got to that point. That was the destination and I think we succeeded with that. What to do after that and where to go beyond that was difficult for Prong. So, I think we’ve made up for lost time in recent years, especially with the No Absolutes record. I think that took what Cleansing did and went the next step. Finally took that and then brought it to the new century more. Carved Into Stone was another really strong recent Prong record.
I love Zero Days.
Zero Days came out great. I’d say…Ruining Lives was alright. I was really proud about Ruining Lives because of my personal life situation while making that record. It was one of those miraculous experiences where everything went to shit, like everything at once. And I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to fucking do. And then I didn’t really have much written and then within…I won’t go into details, but within two weeks everything came together. Like all luck, luck, luck. And I was like, holy shit, this record is going to get done on time.
So, that was amazing. But, then going in to do No Absolutes and Zero Days, we really fine tuned what we started on that. But, it took a while. I don’t really consider Scorpio Rising, Power of the Damager, real official Prong records that really related to Cleansing. I think in recent years I finally looked at it, and we notice what we did and try to capitalize on it. Maybe it’s a little too late, but maybe not.
The record business is shit. It’s just bullshit. I was just talking to my girlfriend about it. I mean Eddie Van Halen was saying that, too. It’s like, why make new records and new music? It just seems to be a fucking waste of time. That’s how I feel right this second.
Yeah, it’s tough. I hear you. But, I hope you do make some new music.
Well, we’re coming out with a single. We’re gonna have two new songs coming out in August or something.
After this tour, what are the plans for Prong?
We’re gonna go to Europe, do the festivals. I think I said, after this tour I go in the studio, we’re going to cut a couple of songs. And then we do Europe, and then we’ll see what’s going on with it.
I’ve always been curious, just for any artist, not just Prong, but “Snap Your Fingers” is probably your most popular, most famous song. How is it playing that song every night?
You never get sick of it?
What keeps it fresh for you?
I was watching the Stones, they came back and they did a tour, and it’s on TV. And they have a lot of recent records. I don’t even know what their recent records are that much. But, they stick to their fucking pop songs that people like and they sound amazing. The ones that people like, you give it to them. And they still love it, and they’ve been around since the early sixties. It’s one thing writing new songs and trying to make new records that are exciting. But, the Stones, I mean really, I think Undercover was the last record I really paid attention to and that’s gotta be like six, seven records ago. You know what I mean? The oldies and goodies, there’s nothing wrong with that. I love playing those old hits for Prong. Those are the ones I get the best audience response from and there’s nothing wrong with having a song that people are familiar with.