Oct 20, 2009

Tommy Victor (Prong) - Interview 2009

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com PRONG

"Tommy & Tony Tell It Like It Is!"

October 20, 2009

Towson, MD

< Tommy Victor is the main man behind Prong, he's the voice, the guitar & he's also been a member of 2 of the rocks most respected bands, Danzig & Ministry, he's worked with Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie in the studio, & to put it mildly, Tommy Victor is a man who's been in the rock world for many years, he's a heavily sought after player, his guitar tone pioneered a sound in metal & hard rock that acts like Static-X, Pantera, & Disturbed definitely borrowed from to some degree, yet Prong still remains an underground favorite!

Despite having moderate success back in the bands heyday, being signed to a major label, having videos shown on MTV, having a moderate rock hit like, "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck", Prong are still underground darlings, they never really hit that peak, that stride, the point where serious money was being thrown their way, thus explains why Tommy put Prong to rest for several years & took higher profile gigs as axe slinger for more established acts.

I had the opportunity to conduct an in-person interview with Tommy during the Ministry "Master-ba-tour" tour a few years back & it was one of my favorite interviews I've ever conducted because Tommy tells it like it is, he doesn't sugar coat things, he is honest, he's real, & when I was offered the chance to chat with Tommy on the current Prong / Soulfly 2009 Fall tour I jumped at it & to my surprise, we were joined by Tony C. from Static-X for the entire interview as well & when I asked Tony a few questions regarding the future of Static-X, that's when things kinda surprised me...my interview style is like this: I don't script ANYTHING, I have NO list of questions, I go into every interview with NO list of questions, NO expectations, I do what I do, I talk to each subject one on one, ask the questions that come to my mind & whether they are good or bad, they are asked....as you can tell by the questions I ask in this interview, it's real, it's raw & it's rock n roll...I don't hold back asking the questions people really wanna know, I say what I think & my subjects usually respect me because I don't b.s. them, so with that said, enjoy this real, raw, honest interview with Tommy Victor & Tony C.:

Rock N Roll Experience: On the last Ministry tour, how much of it was played live & how much was on tape?

Tommy Victor: It was all live, anything that wasn't live was played by JB on the samples, but there was no tracking.

Rock N Roll Experience: Are you doing your cover of "Mississippi Queen" tonight?

Tommy Victor: Of course not!

Rock N Roll Experience: I loved that off the Ministry cover record!

Tommy Victor: You should have told Al (Jourgensen) that & we could have done it live, we chose "Under my Thumb" & I guess somewhere down the line he didn't want me singing anything, there would be too much spotlight on me & there wasn't any lights on me anyhow, so. There wasn't lights on anybody , not even Al! Actually, Aaron Rossi HAD to be in the light (laughs)

Rock N Roll Experience: Did you like the Fence that Ministry used onstage during the last tour?

Tommy Victor: No...the quality of it's construction was what the problem was....if it was durable & it was useful, fine, but, the original fence was able to have people climb on it, & in those days, there was some real significant pit action, stage diving, but these days, come on, for the most part & this goes for the Prong audiences as well...the Ministry fans have grown a little older & are less likely to jump onstage & stage dive, so it was sorta a nostalgic thing, because that's fine if it was dealt that way, but if it really a barricade between the band & the crowd it didn't serve that purpose! It didn't serve the purpose of protecting the band from anything, it didn't really have anything other than nostalgic value & certain members of the group would get yelled at for using it as a prop, so it was kinda disappointing, the whole thing.

Rock N Roll Experience: I know that you & Sin would go around the fence alot of times to get closer to the crowd.

Tommy Victor: In order to see what we were playing, because between the shadow of the fence & having no lights onstage, I think, like Sin, he was the one who initiated that, & then I started going around it, but you were not allowed to touch it, it was a weird thing....let's put it this way, to be quit frank, if you had enough of a sneeze, you could blow the fence over! It was only held down by a could of sand bags, I'm letting you know inside things about the fence! (laughs)

Rock N Roll Experience: Didn't you get to play with Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top at some point?

Tommy Victor: No, I didn't...I had nothing to do with Rev. Co. & from what I heard, Billy did come down during the last Rev. Co. record, so I never got to play with him, I got to meet him & I actually have a pic with him on my phone that I keep with me at all times because he's one of my favorites.

Rock N Roll Experience: I saw ZZ Top this year & they are still amazing to this very day!

Tommy Victor: Yeah....you can't beat those guys...even to this day, those older bands, like, I don't know how much...I saw YES recently & it was just mind boggling how good they were! I just couldn't believe it! Steve Howe is one of the best guitar players I've EVER seen!

Rock N Roll Experience: So are you working on new Danzig music for a new Danzig record?

Tommy Victor: It's done! I mean, I don't work on it...Glenn writes all the material, so he pretty much tells me what to do, & I'm more than happy to do that, you know, it's Glenn Danzig & I have complete respect for him, it's just cool!

Rock N Roll Experience: So you've already laid down your guitar parts for the new Danzig record?

Tommy Victor: Yeah, it's done, yeah. I haven't heard the final vocals or where he went with it, Glenn has now discovered digital technology & he's using pro-tools & it's interesting to know what the final arrangements are gonna be on each song, etc., I don't know, he's been in there doing vocals & from the last I heard, he was almost done.

Rock N Roll Experience: Based on the parts you played though, how does the new Danzig record sound?

Tommy Victor: It's alot different than the last record...that's all I can say.

www.rocknrollexperience.com Rock N Roll Experience: Is it still guitar heavy?

Tommy Victor: Yeah...I mean, compared to what...every Danzig / Misfits record, I mean, Samhain may have not been that guitar heavy, but every Danzig record, I think, is pretty guitar heavy.

Rock N Roll Experience: Did Glenn Danzig ever yell at you onstage?

Tommy Victor: Oh, YEAH! (laughs) Come on now!

Rock N Roll Experience: When Danzig played Baltimore the last time & Todd Youth was on guitar, I saw Glenn yelling @ Todd Youth onstage & I felt so bad for him!

Tommy Victor: Todd got alot more abuse that I did.

Rock N Roll Experience: Did you see the youtube video of Glenn falling off the stage when he played here in Maryland?

Tommy Victor: Yeah...actually, Tony (C. from Static-X) is the one that showed that to me!

Rock N Roll Experience: I'm actually the guy who filmed that & posted it!

Tommy Victor: Dude, are you serious? If Glenn knew that & he sees you! I wasn't on that tour & I'm withdrawing from the entire conversation, but...

Tony C.: Yeah, after you rat me out! (laughs!)

Tommy Victor: Yeah, I don't know any of the antics that happened on that tour, but there's usually something...I mean, I played on alot of Danzig tours & the last one, there was no incidents, it was completely mellow, Glenn was completely happy, so it was kinda shocking..there's usually something crazy going on, like the last tour was like, woah, nothing happened this whole tour?! He was happy, there was one night he got screwed up by the monitors, but other than that, he was really happy, again, it was a tour that went fantastic.

Rock N Roll Experience: You know what though, Glenn (Danzig) needs to stop wearing those mesh & fishnet shirts unless he starts to work out again!

Tommy Victor: The last time I saw him he looked great...he's really conscious of what he eats, I think when the next tour happens people are gonna be like, wow, he sounds great, so....

Rock N Roll Experience: Have you started to work on new Prong music?

Tommy Victor: We've done like....there's like 2 stages of demo's that went down already & I don't know...like what happens is, I don't listen to any of it till like later on so it's filed up & maybe..like out of 7 songs maybe one of them will be used & maybe none of them will be used, maybe I'll like 4 of them? I don't know, but there needs to be more songs done so I usually like to pick out of 17 or 18 songs completely demo'd up & finished with vocals, lyrics & everything, so that's the way I decide what's going to be used. Sometimes, like, the last record, we had space for, at the last minute, maybe one or 2 songs, everything was pretty much demo'd up & done though, come to think of it, maybe "The Banishment" was the only thing we didn't demo up, so there's usually one or 2 that we don't demo.

Rock N Roll Experience: When this tour is done, what's next for Prong & Tommy Victor?

Tommy Victor: I've got to do a little more practicing on the guitar (laughs), there's a couple of things I've got to start doing and....

Rock N Roll Experience: You really feel like you need to practice & get better on guitar?

Tommy Victor: I've got work to do, because I have to...to see what's going on with Prong, I need to start writing more songs, there's a couple of Danzig shows coming up, I don't know what his touring plans are, I'm scheduled to do this metal karaoke thing, it's a little thing that's going on in L.A., I wanna do some more writing & have some more inspiration without it being some disaster in my life, I don't need to go into any relationship crisis in order to write music anymore! It's a new leaf, a new way of looking at things.

Rock N Roll Experience: Was there ever a point where you considered giving up playing music?

Tommy Victor: Oh yeah! Please! I did! There were years where I didn't want to do anything...I was so disgusted with so many things, mostly, it was immaturity on my part, it was like, I just couldn't handle anything anymore, it was where Prong was, & the failure of "Rude Awakening" was a really devastating experience for me. When it came out, no one liked it, let's put it this way...you put out a record & believe me, I spent months & months & months of agony over that record, just day in & day out working on the material, me personally, just battling it out every day for months, planning it out, working on it & working on it & relocating to Los Angeles, then the record came out & there were a couple of things with the mix I didn't like, & Terry & I had major fights about, but it was done & 3 weeks later we get dropped from the label! When that happens you're like, you know what, FUCK this whole thing! I couldn't take it anymore, so that's what...& it was so stupid, because when I was talking to our manager, we had a battle between 2 different managements at that point, & we could have gotten another deal at that point, but I was just like, I was so sick of Ted Parsons & I was so sick of Raven, I was sick of the business & my manager & Epic Records, & the whole thing, & not making any money & we were still struggling, & I was just like, I'm playing with Danzig, he's giving me a salary, I get a good chunk of change each week & I'm gonna have a good time & fuck all of this! Then, after a year went by & I was just like, I didn't see any reason to build Prong back up again & it took like 3 years after all that because I was just so disgusted.

Rock N Roll Experience: That's sad, because MTV used to actually play Prong videos on Headbangers Ball & Prong did have an established name.

Tommy Victor: I know....there was alot of management mistakes too....like I said, we had these 2 big managers who were battling & like personally, that was another thing...I didn't even think we should have gone in & did "Rude Awakening", I thought we should have continued touring for that record, & the label wanted us to go in & do a record, we were like, fine, then there was picking the first single for the record too & there was a major discussion about that....then there were people complaining about the album cover, so that took like 3 months to finalize the album cover, because we had this whole other concept that they didn't like, & it was like, everything was just a fight & a struggle & I was like, this is....I could almost sense that something bombastic was about to happen! We spent thousands & thousands & thousands of dollars to do the first video which was Rob Zombie directed, that first video, & it got played like once! It was like...all these things, & you're like, Oh my god, then there's no money in the bank, & you're like fuck all this, so, at that point I wanted to wait another year & do "Rude Awakening" & they wanted "Rude Awakening" as the first single & I thought that shouldn't have been the first single, & then they blamed it all on me, like, oh, no one liked the record, the critics hated the record & we weren't getting picked up by radio so you guys are dropped! Then, the band members & everyone were looking at me, "Oh, the songwriting on that record wasn't that good!" & they were all yelling at me, so I was like, Fuck you guys!

www.rocknrollexperience.com

Rock N Roll Experience: It's funny...have you seen the ANVIL movie?

Tommy Victor: No...the reason why is, I've heard about the concept & I don't wanna watch it because I've lived that shit! Why should I watch a movie that's my life? I don't think we were embedded into the thrash metal movement that much as they were...

Rock N Roll Experience: But Prong created "Power Metal" & if it wasn't for Prong, a band like Pantera wouldn't have been what they were.

Tommy Victor: It's....Pantera took an element of Prong, like alot of bands have done, they took an element of Prong, & they ran with it & did alot better things with it, which is fine...the problem with Prong over the years has been, we've had a major identity crisis, it was Ted & I's band, Ted didn't know what the band was & I started not knowing what the band was because we couldn't agree what the band was & we didn't know what the band was going to do, we spent alot of time trying to be like Killing Joke, trying to be a band that alot of people didn't like anyhow, like, why are we copying this band that no one likes? (laughs) We tried our damnedest to NOT be a thrash metal band, we did everything we could to break out of the metal & hardcore thing which was probably stupid, but we didn't want to be...we wanted to transcend all of that, which eventually, bands like Linkin Park did, Korn....bands like that were not necessarily associated with Metal & hardcore, or industrial & were just common, main rock bands, like I think Disturbed eventually did that too, they are appreciated by a wider group of people & that kinda of success, I don't see anything wrong with it, so, that was the design, we just couldn't put it together.

Rock N Roll Experience: Tony, is Static-X still a band?

Tony: Officially, yes,(laughs) we have one more week of shows in Australia I think, then after that, the band is going on "hiatus" so Wayne & his wife can do a band

Rock N Roll Experience: So Wayne's wife is part of his new band?

Tony: Yeah (laughs)....as far as I know, Static-X is still a 4 piece (laughs), but yeah, they are going to do a solo record & so whether or not Static-X comes back is up in the air.

Rock N Roll Experience: Also, there's been some serious rumors going around that certain members of Static-X are having drug problems...is there any rumor to that?

Tony: Ohhhh, (laughs) not so much in the band...

Rock N Roll Experience: The rumor is it's a certain member & his wife...

Tony: Yes, uh huh....I'm not going to substantiate the rumor, but I've definitely heard those rumors & I can see why...(laughs)

Rock N Roll Experience: You've got a Gene Simmons tattoo & KISS shoes, so what do you think of the new KISS record?

Tony: Honestly, I haven't heard it.

Tommy Victor: They've been playing clips on ESPN...I like it, it sounds a little like "Rock N Roll Over"...Paul Stanley is still Paul Stanley, even later era Paul Stanley, so you can't take away from that, so if it sounds like "Lick It Up", it's like, he can't go backwards, he's been out of the closet a little too long! (everyone in the room laughs) I was there when KISS came out, that's how old I am, I had their first record, we heard about them, they were playing Max's Kansas City & we went, oh, we've gotta get that KISS record, then like, when "Hotter Than Hell" came out we were like, this is the best band in the world! By the time "Destroyer" came out, we hated it...I mean, "Destroyer" was not a cool KISS record...then "Rock N Roll Over" was good, it was like, they are back, then after that, nothing that they've done was listenable to me.

(the conversation went on about KISS & I won't bore you with that, I'll cut to the next part where we chatted about Johnny Thunders!)

Tommy Victor: Johnny Thunders was actually one of my favorite guitar players, & Ace Frehley...that's what we were from & that's just ballsy.

Rock N Roll Experience: Tracii Guns really ripped off Johnny Thunders alot!

Tommy Victor: Oh yeah...totally! Good call! Tracii totally patterned his whole thing after Johnny Thunders, Tracii is still livid though. I used to be really close friends with Tracii & I don't know what's happened with him, that whole Brides of Destruction thing was a dissapointment for him & he's just had alot of problems, it's just the way it is & I won't take anything away from him.

Rock N Roll Experience: Who were some of your favorite bands from that era?

Tommy Victor: I didn't come from the hair scene, I didn't like grunge, I didn't like the hair metal scene...

Rock N Roll Experience: You didn't like Alice in Chains?

Tommy Victor: When they came out I didn't like them, I was never really into them that much, I can appreciate them now, but I don't have one of their records...I think they were cool, but I definitely put them in that bag of Pearl Jam, & even Green River I didn't like that much...that stuff was scaring me, it was like, it all sounded like Bad Company, it was easy for a radio format to jump on the whole grunge thing & it wasn't anything revolutionary...it was just re-hashed, old school rock n roll, like Free & Bad Company, like I said, & the bands from that era....FUCK! I was more into like Front 242 & Ministry & Killing Joke & Big Black & Bauhaus & stuff like that than anything really rock n roll, I didn't catch onto all those bands, but now I can appreciate them, ya know?

Rock N Roll Experience: How come you never joined Rob Zombie's band?

Tommy Victor: I was in it! I was supposed to be doing that, I mean, that's a long story, I actually performed with Rob at the first ever Rob Zombie concert, I did that (Howard Stern) "Private Parts" thing, & I wrote that song with (Charlie) Clouser, "All American Hero" or whatever in the hell it is, & Rob ripped me off on it! He put his name on it, he didn't want to pay me & then I was working on that first Rob Zombie record & we didn't come to an agreement on publishing & eventually he got talked out of paying his band members anything, he was just trying to give me a flat fee of pretty much zilch on the whole thing & I told him to go fuck himself! That was a mistake probably..he said, "I'll just pay you for playing on the record." & I go, "Dude, I wrote some of this material!" & he was like, "Well, we changed it around & it's really not yours anymore, so take it or leave it!" I mean there are some riffs on that first Rob Zombie record that are definitely mine, but, what are you gonna do? You can't go around griping about ROb Zombie anymore because he's a huge success & he's a smart guy...but I was in line to do that, but like most people, he found someone else to do it for less money & it wasn't even that much I was asking for!

Rock N Roll Experience: Tony, is there anything you'd like to say before this interview ends?

Tony: Dead rats float...never mind...nah, I'm just having a blast being in Prong right now...it's really cool for me, like, the 2 bands that Static-X ripped off the most, Ministry & Prong, & I got to be in both of them, so just as a fan, I'm really stoked to be able to do this & I'll keep jamming with Tommy till Monty wants his gig back! (laughs)