PRONG - “They’re Going To Get Us Addicted To Something”

May 27, 2014, 9 years ago

By Aaron Small

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It seems like only yesterday, but two years have flown by since Prong released Carved Into Stone. As the clock eternally ticks, the revolving door of musicians that surround vocalist and guitarist Tommy Victor continues to spin. Prior to the recording of the band’s brilliant new album, Ruining Lives, bassist Tony Campos and drummer Alexei Rodriguez both departed. “Well, Alexei didn’t work on the record, but he helped write the song ‘Ruining Lives’ back when we were on tour; just the one riff,” recalls Victor. “Later on I had to rearrange the whole thing. Alexei had to do a day job; that’s the only reason why he’s gone. And Campos is involved in a million other projects (including Soulfly and Ministry); he’s been out of the picture for quite a while.”

Given the exodus of previous members, Tommy cashed in a two-for-one coupon and enlisted Chris Collier to play both bass and drums on Ruining Lives. “He’s a mutual friend of this dude Justin Manning who plays guitar in a band called Crowned By Fire. Chris is a monster drummer! He’s just this kid and he does everything, he’s a killer musician. So I was like, fuck it man! I was on the phone with all these hot shot people to come in and work on the record, and why? He was hungry and he had some great ideas as far as the stuff I had already done, we just built on it. But for the live thing, Chris isn’t interested in going on tour.” So for the upcoming shows, Tommy has given a Prong membership card to drummer Art Cruz (formerly of Winds Of Plague) and bassist Jason Christopher (ex-Stone Sour, Black Presidents) on bass.

Aside from Tommy, the one constant between Carved Into Stone and Ruining Lives is producer Steve Evetts (Hatebreed, Sepultura) who was back behind the board. “Evetts is great! I really needed him to help with vocals. He didn’t really participate too much in arranging anything on this record, but he’s a genius that guy. He’s just amazing to work with. He knows music really well; he’s an overall talent, it’s just crazy. I’m learning from him… he helps me so much. Hopefully I can keep that relationship going on; he’s a little bit expensive, but he’s cool.” You get what you pay for right. “Oh yeah, he’s worth every penny of it. There’s not even a doubt on that. His studio is amazing. The gear that he has, you just can’t find it anywhere; it’s boutique stuff. For vocals, it’s so important to have that stuff otherwise it just doesn’t cut it. It’s hard to get my voice in that right spot, and he knows how to do it. I’m sure there’s other guys that would have a different take on how to do it, but that’s what impressed me about him initially – listening to the work he’s done. That was my attraction to him; he’s a great mixer too. The pace that he works at is so pro compared to other guys.”

Ruining Lives is “the fastest written and recorded Prong album ever,” says Tommy. Just how quickly are we talking? “It’s the fastest of all time. Back in the old days, Prong would go in and write a couple songs; then we’d go out and play some gigs locally. We’d sort of piece it together. Later on, when we had the Epic budgets, those processes were on the other end of the spectrum where the label wanted to hear demos and blah, blah, blah. With Carved Into Stone, we didn’t have a record deal, so we had to cut a demo; 14 songs were written for that and demoed again. Then with the additional songs, it was like 25 songs, and we had to knock that down to 12. It was a long process with a lot of songs to pick and choose from. This wasn’t anything like that at all. I was set with this time schedule; this is when the label wanted it delivered. And I wasn’t expecting to get called out and do Danzig for a month in October (2013). It was like, oh my God! I knew I had to go in and do this record, so I had my iPad with Garage Band, and started coming up with ideas. As soon as I got home I had to construct songs – it was bam, bam, bam – throw these things together, come up with lyrics, work on the basic tracks. Then before you knew it I was cutting vocals and we were mixing the damn thing; it was crazy fast!”

The artwork adorning Ruining Lives, with the eyeball and fork, is classic Prong imagery harkening back to the Cleansing album from 1994. “We had this guy named Sebastian who was initially hired to do a t-shirt design. He did the Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck t-shirt; it was like, wow, this guy’s pretty damn good. So we asked him to come up with an idea for a poster. He was saying, ‘maybe we should make this like a Sisters Of Mercy record cover?’ I said nah, just think of Pushead (who created the Beg To Differ cover art, as well as numerous images for Metallica) and Prong, and that’s what he came up with. I’m really happy with it! He did more work that’s included in the digipak and double vinyl, as well as the single cover. He also designed the new Prong logo which came out great. And we have a live release recorded in Berlin, Unleashed In The West, which is out on Bandcamp, and he did the cover for that as well. It just snowballed… we could spend weeks and months searching out other artists, but I’m really happy with what he’s been coming up with.”

In the title track to Ruining Lives, Tommy sings: “They’re squeezing you, bleeding you, using you.” Who exactly are they? “Ah… the Illuminati. I don’t really know. The banks and capitalist culture really; they’re going to get us addicted to something – ‘they’ again, but it’s just general mainstream society. Whether it’s video games or crappy beer, addictive TV shows, fast food – anything to keep us from being creative somehow.”

“The Book Of Change” has a Pantera vibe to it; undoubtedly the most aggressive Prong song ever. “As much as songs were done, I spent a lot of time on that, mainly to try and get the freaking guitar line together because it’s so fast. You have to have a couple tracks on the record that somehow explore speed; that’s pretty much where I wanted to go with that. There’s a song on the record called ‘Windows Shut’ and if this wasn’t Prong, if it was something else, I would probably be leaning more toward doing a whole record in that style with more of a post-punk vibe. But since Prong is indebted to thrash metal, grindcore, and hardcore, it needs those aggressive tracks on it for sure.”

The digipak edition of Ruining Lives features a bonus track, “Retreat”. “That’s like a thrash metal song,” says Victor. “And it’s got this crazy, weird AC/DC breakdown – like a ‘Dirty Deeds’ thing – in the middle, that is pretty funny. If there’s anything light on the record; that would be it. I didn’t know which song was going to get cut, so in my intention, that was going to initially make the record. But Evetts (album producer) was the one who wanted to make that the bonus track and let it stand on its own. It is different than the rest of the record – with the kooky Bon Scott thing going on in the middle. I like the song, it’s a killer track; it just didn’t really fit as far as how we would sequence the record.”

Ruining Lives was released on April 28th in Europe, yet it wasn’t issued in North America until May 13th. Given the current - and unfortunate state of file sharing and online piracy, that two-week gap caused great concern for Tommy. “Oh, absolutely; there’s nothing you can do about it though. Regardless of the protectorate devices they’ve used to keep that from happening, it’s not working. It is what it is. I can’t really think about those things too much because… that was sort of the frame of mind when they said, ‘you’ve got to do another record.’ Ok, I’ll make another record and no one’s going to give a shit. It’s not going to sell because, especially with a label like SPV who don’t have the power to control a lot of things that major labels do – wherever they are. It’s a lesser degree that they have the infrastructure to do those things. I try to keep away from things that I’m powerless over, and that’s one of them.”

Prong will be performing two songs from Ruining Lives in concert, ‘Turnover’ and the title track. “We’ll stick to that for now. To go out and do a numerous amount of new material; I don’t think it’s what the fans want. There’s so many songs in the catalogue that need to be played, so I think two for now is good.” To view Prong’s complete tour schedule, click here.

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