For over two and a half decades, the band Prong has shown that dark-themed metal is about rigor as much as rigor mortis.
Certainly, death lingers on the mind of leader Tommy Victor — the sole constant in the Prong lineup — but so do ambitious instrumental maneuvers.
The New York–based trio has experimented with industrial nuances and Fugazi-quality quick changes. Its latest album, Carved Into Stone, at times sounds like a punk-pop rendition of Slayer: raging white-noise guitars against choreographed double-time drums. (The current band is Victor plus bassist Tony Campos of Soulfly and Static-X, and drummer Alexei Rodriguez of 3 Inches of Blood and Walls of Jericho.)
In the following interview, Victor talks about the genesis of Prong, his work with Ministry, and the reconciliation of dread and longevity.
Indy: You've said when you put together the current Prong lineup that the recruits needed a broad rock "vocabulary." Could you talk about that?
Tommy Victor: You gotta have guys around you that aren't just straight-ahead metal dudes, because that's not going to work. Prong didn't start that way, and it's important that people are familiar with other stuff, too.
Indy: What is it about the trio format that appeals to you?
TV: I don't know if it appeals. It's a difficult thing to pull off. It's something we fell into. I wasn't supposed to be Prong's guitarist. I was really a bass player and dabbled in guitar. Mike [Kirkland, a founding member] played bass. We were thinking of having two bass players but he said, "No, you play guitar."
We auditioned singers and couldn't find anyone good. Even after Primitive Origins, the first record, Ted [Parsons, founding drummer] wanted a singer, and people were going, "No, we named the band after being a trio, a three-prong plug," so it just emerged like that. However, we have had second guitar players here and there, and that never works out, just sounds sloppy. The sound is dialed-in more when there's just one guitar.
Indy: Do you record differently these days than when you started?
TV: This record was treated like the old days, with the exception of tape being used. There was very little manipulation with ProTools. Every part had to be played precisely, vocals the same way. Some edits were done, but it was minimal.
I've worked on four Ministry records, and obviously that's quite the opposite. You start off with guitar recorded to a click track, and everything is built around that. It's all manipulated with the technology. That's the name of the game with those records. With past Prong records, it's been in between.
Indy: The record's lyrics emphasize "grievances," "paranoia" and "wasted life." How do you reconcile such dark concerns with the fact you've kept Prong going for so long?
TV: I have to battle those stresses all the time. There hasn't been any huge financial success that keeps away those anxieties. When writing lyrics, I go into this solitary thing for quite awhile and that's the stuff that comes out.
There's some answers in there, too. Like "Keep On Living in Pain": You question why the hell you keep doing stuff that's maybe bad for you. On the other hand, if you didn't put yourself in the state of disappointment, there's no place to go. You're sort of blessed when you're disappointed, because otherwise you get too complacent.