PRONG – “Irrational Is How We Exist”

July 25, 2017, 6 years ago

Aaron Small

feature heavy metal prong

PRONG – “Irrational Is How We Exist”

“We make it for you guys, the people that like Prong. Everybody else can kiss my ass,” says a very forthcoming Tommy Victor – the founding member, vocalist and guitarist for Prong, when speaking about his band’s 11th studio album, Zero Days, set for release July 28th via Steamhammer / SPV. 
“Already, the people that can kiss my ass are coming out of the woodwork on this record. I’ve seen a couple of reviews,” laughs Tommy. “It never fails, it’s almost comical. It’s funny, it really is. Metallica could pretty much defecate in Pro-Tools, and it’s this bombastic success. Then somebody like Prong does something, and it’s automatically, no matter what, it’s just garbage. All I know is we busted our balls on it. And I don’t know why? You’re dealing with a genre of music that’s a sub-genre of a genre that nobody gives a fuck about in the big picture of things. Why we do this is beyond my comprehension. I’m just hardwired into this thing; I can’t exorcise that fucking demon of Prong out of my system. It’s retarded.”
Prong underwent a lineup change prior to recording Zero Days. Bassist Jason Christopher split to join Ministry, and Mike Longworth, who was previously in Prong from 2003 to 2006, has returned. “Yeah, Mike wrote ‘Revenge Best Served Cold’ with me on Carved Into Stone. I didn’t really know how it was going to work out bringing Mike back, but he’s almost like the anti-Jason… Jason was just miserable all the time; complaining about everything. We’ll see how long Al (Jourgensen) is able to deal with him; I don’t think that’s going to last too long either. I love Jason as a friend, but I don’t think he can last in a project too long. Anyhow, I want to write more with Mike, we did ‘Forced Into Tolerance’ on this one; he’s got some good ideas, I’m trying to bring guys in that can contribute more. He’s been around, he knows thrash and punk; he can step up his game a little bit on the live show, but it’s going down pretty good.”
Speaking of “Forced Into Tolerance”, that song contains a lyric that seems so perfect for 2017 and the current state of the world, that line is, “Irrational is how we exist”. “Ha, ha, yep. I’ll get in a lot of trouble if I really be honest about that,” admits Victor. “It’s great to be able to write songs in the tradition of Elvis Costello, where you can say things and no one’s going to get too offended by it. But if you really get into it, you can try to figure out your own version of it. I don’t put myself on a platform like other lead singers. I’d rather keep it in the context of people interpreting the lyric on their own. But, it’s kind of self-explanatory. The first line says, ‘Inequity is so rampant today’. I think there’s somewhat of a conspiracy to destroy the psyche and mentality of the masses in a way where people that are really stupid and do horrible things, are projected as idols to our youth. And somebody who’s upstanding and trying to do the right thing is not cool, and looked upon as being square. This younger generation… I have a daughter who’s 22. Some of the figures she identifies with as being geniuses are beyond my comprehension; they’re just evil people in my opinion. I think a lot of our huge pop stars are guilty of that.”

“Divide And Conquer” is undoubtedly the best song on Zero Days, it’s such an amazing tune. “Well you can thank (collaborator/co-producer/engineer) Chris Collier for that; he had a lot to do with that song. We throw ideas at each other; he threw that idea at me, I was like… I don’t know? I had to really work hard with him to formulate that one; it’s a total shock how that came out, because initially I said there’s no fucking way. This is the beauty of making records, these types of instances. You’re telling me it’s a great track, and it’s one of the tracks we didn’t know what the hell was going on with? I really appreciate your comment on that.”
“Interbeing” features death metal backing vocals by… “Oh, he’s throughout the whole record. This guy Matt Williams, he’s the singer for this group – they’ve been around but they’re not doing anything – called Delphian. It’s taking them like seven years to make a record. They’re a California band. Usually California bands take ten years to make records, so they’re actually ahead of schedule. When you have swimming pools and sunshine, you tend not to do that much work I guess.”
The Zero Days cover art (pictured below) is certainly striking, as Tommy attests to. “Obviously a skull represents some kind of death. Prong’s always had the all-seeing eye. I’m trying to be moderate in a lot of ways. Based on the two extreme sides of the news media that we’re all talking about, there’s got to be a censoring of all this. Through the lyrical concept, it’s a search for truth. Take what you can get, look at all sides, and develop your own opinion. Then, somehow have some kind of spirituality involved; there’s some kind of God consciousness that prevails in a lot of the Prong lyrics. It’s clarity amongst potential destruction. ‘The future’s uncertain and the end is always near’ – that’s the quote from Jim Morrison (of The Doors). It’s nothing new under the sun, but that’s where I got a lot of the ideas for the cover and the concepts of the lyrics.”
Was this piece of artwork created specifically for the album, or did you stumble across it somehow? “No, ironically it was for a tour poster. We’ve been working with this artist, Sebastian Rohde, for… he didn’t do the Songs From The Black Hole cover, he did No Absolutes. I told him, Zero Days is the name of the new album, could you come up with a tour poster? The original poster was a little different; it got morphed into this. So, it wasn’t initially for an album cover. The spiky blowfish image – that’s just sort of Prong, these spike entities. Just so you know, that one eyeball was going to be – of course the label didn’t go for this – an EU flag in Europe, and then the American flag on the other side. But the Germans were like, ‘Oh no, no, no. We’re not touching the EU thing.’ They want to put all the blame on America, so we just put the American flag on there.”

How did you decide on Zero Days as the album title? “That was the first thing that came about. Ruining Lives was like that too where we had a discussion, and before the writing process began, I named that record. I did the same thing with Zero Days. I had lyrics written, cause I write on the road – stream of consciousness stuff, etc. I wanted to call the record Zero Days. Ironically, the last lyric that was written was for the song ‘Zero Days’, but the first music written was for ‘Zero Days’. I went ballistically crazy trying to figure out the whole lyric for the title track. In the beginning, I wanted to call the album Zero Days because I was trying to – another thing with Prong that is fairly unsuccessful – I was trying to dumb it down a little bit. No Absolutes was a little too complicated for the world market. Now, I did two weeks of press in Europe, and people were asking, ‘What does Zero Days mean?’ Oh my God! Dude, come on. Like zero, less than one.”
The digipak version of Zero Days comes with a bonus track called “Reasons To Be Fearful”. “Well, maybe you won’t like it that much, that’s why it’s the bonus track. We had other songs written. It got down to the wire, and 17 that were fairly finished. Then Chris (Collier) said, ‘We’ve got to cut songs. He was never really into that song; I personally really like it. My girlfriend really didn’t like it that much. It’s not that heavy; it sounds like a mixture of Killing Joke and Interpol. It’s probably the lightest one; it’s a little bit bubble gum.”
Featured on all versions of Zero Days is “Off The Grid” – a song with a title that brings numerous TV cop shows to mind. As the plot goes, they know who the killer is, but he’s Off The Grid, so they can’t find him. “No, it’s back to Jim Morrison a little bit. There was that whole conspiracy with him where they said he didn’t really die. I remember back in the day people saying, ‘He’s alive. He moved to Africa and became a gun runner.’ When writing that lyric, I was so sick of everything; the Tibetan Monk concept really sounded attractive. When you give up greed and lust and pride – the seven deadly sins – all these human defects of character, you’re in bliss. It’s just complete self-realization at that point. Growing up in Queens (New York), and dealing with all the stuff that’s embedded into my psyche; it’s impossible, a complete fantasy to actually believe that I’d be able to do that. But that’s why the lyric is, a fantasy of mine to be completely off the grid with none of these desires anymore. Our pain is caused from desire, and not getting what you want, and being held accountable for your mistakes. If all that’s relinquished, you won’t have any problems anymore.”
As far as studio sessions, the actual recording of Zero Days, where was it done? “Some of it’s done at the Prong rehearsal studio, and some of it’s done in my apartment. But most of it inevitably is done at Chris’ studio; it’s actually a really good studio. He’s really got his shit together now. It’s here in LA, it’s spacious and really dialed in.”

On the live front, Prong is currently on tour across Europe, playing a combination of headline and festival gigs, until August 15th. Presumably after that a North American tour will follow? “We’re trying to make that happen. I don’t want to rush out and do a huge club thing. I may be dissuaded into adjusting this mentality… I’d like the record to get around a little bit and then book a tour. We were lucky that Chuck (Billy) got us on that Testament tour; these things are few and far in between where we have the ability to get on a decent support thing. It’s like we don’t fit in. It’s been very difficult for Prong to get latched onto any sub-genre of these package things. I don’t want to wait too long, but I want to see if we can get on something. Instead of trudging the road of misery and playing every crappy little club across America to 100 people… we did that on No Absolutes. We did this massive North American tour of every city and shithole possible. It looked good and our fans loved it, but in the end, it didn’t help the development of the band at all. Sometimes something bigger may attract more attention and be more worthwhile.”

“I’ve been doing this a really long time (Tommy formed Prong in 1986). At the height of Prong’s success – everyone talks about the ‘90s being this amazing time when everything was exploding. It wasn’t like that. We had two major label releases already, this is after the Prove You Wrong record. We had MTV coverage, and we were playing to ten, fifteen people. I’ve been through this so many times. It’s sort of like being a baseball player. These guys go through slumps; to be professional you have to ride through this shit. It’s hard for a lot of guys to do that, and I understand. People get into the music business, they want to be popular. I’m going to volunteer this information – I’m always asked what I have to tell young musicians. I tell them, if you’re doing this for glory, just stop. Don’t even bother. If you think this is going to pump your ego up, you’re in the wrong business. It’s almost a humiliating experience. It’s a humbling experience, being in a band. Even the big bands – I’m not going to mention any names. But you have guys who are in some of the most popular bands in the world and are struggling with certain issues. It’s a tough, tough road. It’s a very hard business. Playing 60 shows in a row in a van is a tough deal; regardless of how many people are there.”        


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