Heavy music veterans Prong return with the release of their 13th studio album of riff-heavy fare, State Of Emergency. More than 30 years in, they’re still cranking out their distinctive blend of metal, punk, post-punk, noise, doom, blues, thrash and more. HeavyMusic HQ chatted with vocalist/guitarist and band founder Tommy Victor about the new material, covers, his sobriety, and more.
Brendan Crabb: Prong’s sound has typically bridged various styles of heavy music, and the new album is no exception. Is that typically one of the goals when you write a record, to showcase that diversity?
Tommy Victor: I don’t know if it’s a “goal,” it’s a characteristic that may naturally come about. Sometimes I wish Prong was less varied. A lot of hugely successful bands limit their framework, and I think it’s for a reason. It’s easier to market the product that way. I simply can’t instinctively copy myself on a record; I think there’s got to be a certain flow. And when Prong started I wasn’t much of a metal guy at that point. There was this underground scene in New York that people labelled no wave or noise. I come from that, as well as the post-punk era and hardcore. The varied influences that I have affect what Prong is.
Some bands get 30-plus years into a career and solely become a nostalgia act. Instead, Prong has continued to write and record new music that’s also well-received. Is it important to you that the group remains an ongoing, viable proposition in this respect?
Is it well-received? (laughs) I appreciate your comment. I certainly wish more people would recognize that. To answer your question, yes, I’d like to be viable without going out on a huge tangent trying to be modern. I have to respect the previous records and the legacy of Prong. Although I like some of the riffs of new bands like Kublai Khan, Knocked Loose, Emmure and whatever, I’m not going to use seven or eight-string guitars and tune way down like they do. And I can’t start suddenly writing strictly breakdown stuff. I’m not going to stay singing girly poppy parts then change into death metal vocals, or start rapping like bands today do, either. Even though that’s what people want, it wouldn’t work for Prong, because of the legacy.
Prong has featured a series of members over the years. Do you feel that having a number of different collaborators has helped keep the music fresh?
Not at all. In fact this record I didn’t collaborate with anyone. I’ve had to go the collaboration route in the past for logistical reasons. In retrospect I don’t think it was necessary. In fact I think (it) detracted from the identity of the records. I inherited the role of main songwriter, that’s the way it is. It’s not necessary for me to work with other writers.
I heard an interview recently whereby you said you were “completely straight edge” these days and don’t even consume caffeine. Do you feel this has helped your longevity as a musician?
I went back to caffeine because we have two new babies in my household and my wife and I are sleep deprived. But drinking and drugging didn’t work for me. I can’t imagine consuming alcohol, especially before going on-stage these days. Drugs too, it’s not for me. Some guys can function, it’s not my business. Why take the chance though? Go out there as you were made, you don’t need any extra “help” or to “feel better.”
Can it be difficult to remain sober as a touring musician in 2023, or is it easier now than ever?
It’s easier. Not drinking is much more common and accepted, and non-alcoholic beers are better tasting now. There is a sober culture that is growing. It’s one of the most fortunate and positive movements out there. It’s becoming more annoying to people dealing with drunks as well. People are less tolerant of drunken behaviour I think. It’s selfish and dangerous on the road.
What are the touring plans for the new album?
We are touring Europe again in November with Life Of Agony, and we are trying to secure an American tour. No luck on that at this moment.
The new record closes with a cover of Rush’s “Working Man.” What qualities made this track an appropriate choice for Prong to tackle?
The main riff is so classic, firstly. Then the lyric which complements the opening track “The Descent.” Both are narratives of a person in crisis, with no identity. So it worked well as a bookend on the record. And of course the whole power trio comparison. I like to think of Prong as a power trio.
On the topic of covers, Grinspoon, who later became one of Australia’s most successful rock bands of the past 30 years released a cover of “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” in the late ’90s. Did you ever hear their version, and what did you think?
Yeah I heard it; I thought it was great. All of the “Snap Your Fingers…” covers have been cool. Power Trip did a cover of “Brainwave,” that was great.
Aside from performing live with Danzig, what other musical projects do you have in the works at the moment?
Nothing else. It’s hard enough fitting that in or even Prong nowadays. I’ve got a lot going on at home.
What new music releases have you been enjoying this year?
I don’t know what I’ve been “enjoying.” I usually check out some new stuff to see what’s going on, like Sleep Token, Kublai Khan. I mostly listen to oldies or kids’ music these days.
Any famous last words?
Pre-order or buy our record at prongmusic.com.
(interview published October 5, 2023)
Watch Prong – “The Descent” Video