Schecter Guitars sat down with Tommy Victor of Prong and Danzig to pick his brain about the new album, touring, the state of music and his Signature Guitar.
1. You just got off a tour with Obituary and Exodus. Do you see a trend in the “old skool” creators of metal and thrash coming back around?
It's hard for good bands to go away. Obituary were so amazing on that tour. Anyone could appreciate their professionalism and amazing execution. They were so powerful and people appreciate that. The same with Exodus. There's no denying that Bonded By Blood is really one of the top 5 thrash records of all-time. People respect that tradition.
2. Why do you think this resurgence is happening?
Again, people appreciate experienced professionalism and execution. People like good songs. The memorable riffs just don't go away. Yes, a lot of newer band play their asses off, have incredible technical prowess, but can you hum their riffs? I believe people appreciate a good show regardless of how many gray hairs are showing. There will always be an attraction to unpretentious heavy rock music. These great bands made an impact for a reason. They're entertaining and fun, and that's what matters.
3. Your name is constantly brought up as an influence with many bands in the mid 90’s and up, what role do you think Prong played in stylizing the Genre of metal at the time?
We took a lot of chances. We mixed a lot of styles that other bands didn’t have any connection to. I think maybe bands felt more free to do what they wanted, step out of the box a bit after we had a success with that record. We also brought a song focus into modern metal. We always felt there was too much “wanking” going on. We focused on grooves, big riffs and vocal chants more than the amount of changes per song, long intros, and solos.
4. What role do you think you play now in influencing new artists?
I just do what I do and don’t worry too much about that stuff. Being influential is a huge quest and too ego generated for me. We mainly make records for our fans. We make an attempt to get the best songs rolling for a record. Everything is all subjective really, in the end. For example; some guys think that Neil Young was influential and other guys think he was sheer garbage. It doesn't matter too much in the big picture.
5. What is marketing and touring like for you now compared to when you started?
The realities of a faltering music industry is no secret. It's difficult these days because there aren't the major vehicles for promo that there were years ago, especially for this general genre of music. Years ago there were thousands of record stores and print publications everywhere. But Prong has always had to dig in deep and deal with struggles. We never had anything handed to us. There's a lot more competition these days on top of it all. There are so many bands and so many releases each week. But somehow we hold our own, and it seems to be growing again.
Photo taken by Elsie Roymans
6. What are the pros and cons of this change in technology and the fans perception to music today?
Well on the negative, there's less "warmth" and "mystique" to the experience these days. Years ago, you would go searching for articles in magazines on your favorite artists. It was exciting when you found something, you would read about them and tell your friends what you found. You would read lyrics and liner notes on records over and over again while you sat and listened to a record repeatedly. Now it’s mainly streaming and smart phone information that people breeze over. The availability of everything is so easy, which may be considered positive. But I feel it's created some numbness to most of the experience. As we know, the public's attention level is constantly diminishing.
7. Prong seemed to come out of the gate strong in the beginning on a big label, doing MTV and then you seem to take a step back in the early 2000 when you joined Danzig and played with Ministry, but you seem to have kept your core audience. What was your reasoning in taking a back seat, if you will, from being the front man?
I think it was mainly financial difficulties. It became tough for me to run a band and write most of the songs, etc. and still be struggling all the time. I had other opportunities to play music with guys I admired. Unfortunately, I got too caught up in that, and let Prong be secondary all too much.
8. Now we see yourself and Prong having this strong resurgence with the last three albums being very consistent and powerful releases. You seem to have reinvented yourself.
It's been a crazy ride. I've had some lucky breaks for sure. I think one has to be productive these days. It's definitely not the '90's anymore. Also Prong has had a lot of making up to do. There were these long periods between records and that hurts your allegiance. Now people are excited because we keep churning these records out. I've had a core circle of colleagues and friends that have been very supportive and have helped out a lot, and this helps, like the people at Schecter for instance!
9. How does it feel this time around?
Occasionally I can sit back and appreciate things. But for the most part there are always other duties to get involved with so I'm off to another action. Years ago we were always worried about having a "good time" and rarely seemed to accomplish that. Now I don't expect anything spectacular and I have more moments of gratitude. I really consider myself to be a lucky guy for the most part. I keep getting these chances to redeem myself. It's almost laughable.
10. The formula for the last three albums seems to work for you. Tell me what the process is like writing a Prong album, and how it has changed since the beginning. Also, how has playing in other bands influenced that?
To be honest, playing in other bands hasn't infiltrated the Prong process too much. If anything, I've notice what NOT to do. One thing I've learned about myself is that I dislike wasting time. There's definitely no partying and on rare occasion we go out for a brief dinner break. I've eliminated the useless discussions, and the questioning of everything that is being done. I leave that to management (ha!). The over working of performances, song arrangements, guitar solos, etc. that's all gone for the most part. On the other hand, I'm not committed to my initial ideas as much as I once was. I write about a hundred riffs, about 40 song titles and lyric concepts, with the knowledge that a lot will be discarded. It's like a jigsaw puzzle… a process of elimination. It becomes more apparent as the process continues as to what will be used. Sometimes you have to fill in the blanks. Down the road, you come up with ideas on the spot and you stick with them usually. For the most part, I've learned to generate more faith in the process. I call it "trusting the Art Gods".
11. You just finished up in the studio recording another album. Tell us about what we can expect.
I'm quite happy about this new "Zero Days" album. There's a couple of songs on it that are without a doubt the strongest Prong songs ever. There's also some unbelievably heavy moments on it. Along the lines of most Prong records, there's variety, but at the same time there's a certain consistency that I like. We've had some listening sessions and folks were head banging, and dancing around to it, then singing some parts afterwards. It's catchy, groovy and heavy. More chances have been taken for sure, but we made sure we have those main elements that make a Prong record. I also put a big concentration on the lyrics. That's not unusual, but I put an extreme effort into it this time.
12. Some say you are putting albums out quicker now than ever before. What’s different now than the way you made albums in the past?
I sort of discussed that previously. But technically I must recognize that having a crappy laptop with Protools and an Mbox is a huge benefit. A lot of pre-production is done in my bedroom now. I have a little room behind a garage that I can scream out all the vocals and work out the lyrics before tracking now. I don’t think I could have done that in my apartment in Brooklyn years ago. And of course my little 4track cassette recorder was a bit limited back then as well.
13. It seems now that you are getting more respect and recognition for your playing, why do you think that is?
Really? I haven't noticed that. Sometimes I like my playing but for the most part I think I'm a hack. Maybe there's some kooks out there that think I'm good. Fine with that. I may simply provide an alternative to all the extreme shredders that are out there today. I'm kind of an aggressive player, using big heavy strings and do a lot of down strokes. I try to throw down, maybe people appreciate that I don't know. Guitar playing is all a gift, you sort of are what you are.
14. How does your approach to playing differ from other guitarists within the rock/metal genre?
I never played much guitar as a kid. I played bass in bands. I was into everything. From funk to fusion like Return To Forever, to Sabbath, Purple and Kiss to Tull to Rainbow and ACDC and Nugent. Then there was The Police and The Clash and I loved that reggae rock bass. Also I loved Madness and got into the ska bass. Then I got into the whole New Romantic thing playing goofball slap bass like in Duran Duran. Then I was into the Peter Hook Joy Division bass, and Youth from Killing Joke. Then I was in this band and I started writing some songs and the singer said, "You play guitar ". A year later Prong started. So I'm more of a chunk rhythm player because I was a bass player. To this day, solos are a bit of an afterthought. I sort of fake them. But maybe that's cool in a way. I'm still a punk rock guitar player, trying to be sophisticated. It's weird. We are all just products of our environment and situation. We just adapt accordingly.
Photo taken by Elsie Roymans
15. What brought you to Schecter in the first place?
All my guitars got stolen from a storage unit awhile back. I mean ALL of them. Someone told me to call Marc La Corte at Schecter. He was so kind to me. I was in a bad place career wise then, so for him to help me out was only beneficial to me. He hooked me up and I never used anything else since. That was like 15 years ago. They have been so supportive. Great company, great guitars, and great people.
16. You have played Schecter Guitars for a while now. We’ve seen the shape and style of the guitars you play stay pretty consistent with small changes through the years.
True. I started out with an S-1. Always being a huge Iommi fan, I wanted that double cut away look. After that I wanted to go to 24 fret so I went to a Devil Spine, which I still use occasionally. Then I wanted a whammy bar again so I moved to a Devil Custom as well.
17. Tell us why you built your latest Signature guitar the way you did and why other guitarists should play it?
Well let me tell you this; every guitar player that's picked up the signature has been blown away by it. I’ve gotten huge complements on the jumbo frets that I requested. People love the round crown on them, and the profile of the neck is great for severe rhythm, and fast solo playing as well. I do both so I need that balance. I need a Floyd, and this Floyd kills because it has the grommet bar insertion so that thing doesn't flail all over the place. It stays where you want it. The reach to that 24th fret while you are standing is absolutely perfect. It's a great live performance guitar for sure. It holds perfectly to your body, no worries there. Also the visible neck fret markers are useful especially for a blind singer guitar player like myself. I love EMG’s, that's needed, a must these days. And the maple: it just sounds fantastic. Also in keeping with the Schecter tradition, this guitar LOOKS great. It has that double cutaway devil body that I Love, flat black, evil as all hell. It has it all. I’m so happy with this model!
Click here to see full specs on Tommy Victor Signature model
For more information on Prong
http://prongmusic.com https://www.facebook.com/prongmusic https://www.instagram.com/prongtheband
Prong is out on tour now with Testament and Sepultura, tour dates below:
Testament / Sepultura / Prong 2017 North American Tour Dates
4/06 — Albuquerque, N.M. @ Sunshine Theater
4/07 — Dallas, Texas @ Gas Monkey Live
4/08 — San Antonio, Texas @ Aztec Theater
4/09 — Houston, Texas @ House Of Blues
4/10 — New Orleans, La. @ House Of Blues
4/12 — Tampa, Fla. @ The Ritz Ybor
4/13 — Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. @ Culture Room
4/14 — Lake Buena Vista, Fla. @ House of Blues
4/15 — Atlanta, Ga. @ Center Stage
4/16 — Charlotte, N.C. @ The Fillmore
4/19 — Richmond, Va. @ The National
4/20 — Sayreville, N.J. @ Starland Ballroom
4/21 — Worcester, Mass. @ The Palladium (New England Metal & Hardcore Festival)
4/22 — Huntington, N.Y. @ The Paramount
4/23 — Philadelphia, Pa. @ Electric Factory
4/24 — Baltimore, Md. @ Ram's Head Live
4/26 — Montreal, Quebec @ Metropolis
4/27 — Toronto, Ontario @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
4/28 — Detroit, Mich. @ Majestic Theatre
4/29 — Cincinnati, Ohio @ Bogarts
4/30 — Cleveland, Ohio @ Agora Theatre
5/02 — Chicago, Ill. @ Concord Music Hall
5/03 — Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Avenue
5/04 — Sioux Falls, S.D. @ The District
5/06 — Denver, Colo. @ Summit Music Hall
5/07 — Salt Lake City, Utah @ The Depot
5/09 — Portland, Ore. @ Roseland Theater
5/10 — Vancouver, British Columbia @ Commodore Ballroom
5/11 — Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox Market
5/12 — Boise, Idaho @ The Revolution Concert House
5/15 — Flagstaff, Ariz. @ Orpheum Theater
5/16 — San Diego, Calif. @ House Of Blues
5/17 — Scottsdale, Ariz. @ Livewire
5/18 — Anaheim, Calif. @ House Of Blues
5/19 — San Francisco, Calif. @ Regency Ballroom
5/20 — Las Vegas, Nev. @ Brooklyn Bowl