Interview with frontman Tommy Victor | By Doug Nunnally
On March 31, metal staple Prong paid tribute to the bands who made the trio what they are today by releasing the cover album Songs From the Black Hole on eOne Music / SPV. The album follows up last year’s Ruining Lives, while also acknowledging where Prong came from. Frontman Tommy Victor takes us through the record track-by-track, opening up about the Prong’s origins and the music he’s always kept with him.
Discharge – “Doomsday”
“[Bassist] Jason [Christopher] picked most of the songs for the record, but this one was really mine, because I thought it was necessary to do a Discharge song. When Prong started, that was what we were really into, and the first Prong EP really sounds like Discharge.
For this song, we had some challenges in that the original version has this weird middle section that you don’t know what the hell is going on. I ended up sitting in my hotel room and just made it into this Motörhead-structured changeover that worked, and the rest of it ended up coming together pretty quickly.”
Sisters Of Mercy – “Vision Thing”
“That album really influenced Cleansing for us. When it came out originally, I told the guys that this is what I want Prong to sound like, and they told me I was out of my fucking mind. In that time of metal, it wasn’t cool to be metal, and Prong really went in the direction of anything that wasn’t thrash metal, because we were sick of the whole thing.
Sisters were always one of my favorite bands, though, and this song really had that one pounding riff that was in the vein of this dance-metal, club song. That’s a big part of the Prong sound that was important to recognize.”
Butthole Surfers – “Goofy’s Concern”
“Independent Worm Saloon was such an amazing record. It is beyond hardcore and rock itself. It’s almost like a Hendrix record—it’s just that good. It really defines what alternative was back then with its origins. There’s a lot of avant-garde mixed in too, while also having one of the coolest punk rock riffs at the same time. In one way, it’s a typical hardcore riff, but it has this different time signature of weirdness and it really needed to be recognized.”
Adolescents – “Kids of the Black Hole”
“The band might get forgotten at times, but this song never will. It’s a classic timepiece with the goth elements, dissonance, and the snotty vocals.
We didn’t do a straight copy of it, though: we slowed it down and made it a lot gloomier. But a lot of the elements here were stuff I was influenced by, like the chaos guitar. While the thrash bands were listening to Judas [Priest] and Van Halen, I was really turned on by bands that were sloppy and chaotic, because I was just learning to play guitar, so it was easy to emulate that style at the time.”
Black Flag – “Bars”
“Whenever I get asked what my most influential records are, Slip It In is always one of them. This had some more of that chaos guitar that really spoke to me. I remember seeing them live and Frank Zappa being in attendance. That said a lot about the type of statement the band was making at the time.
There’s a song on the last Prong record called ‘The Barriers,’ and it takes a lot from that Henry Rollins style, so it was only natural to do this song.”
Killing Joke – “Seeing Red”
“We picked a later Killing Joke song, because their comeback record was not just amazing, but it was also something I really identified with in terms of my career. You disappear for a while and come back stronger than ever.
We also never really got an opportunity to pay tribute to [Paul] Raven, so we had our chance here since his bass work was such a prominent part of the song.”
Hüsker Dü – “Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely”
“Jason really pushed for this one, because we wanted to recognize one of the great rock trios of the past few decades. We weren’t going to do Nirvana or Motörhead, so we landed on Dü.
There’s a lot of Dü elements in our formation, and I really think they should have been put into the Hall of Fame before Nirvana, since the grunge and alternative movement owes so much to them.”
Fugazi – “Give Me the Cure”
“We were looking at doing a Minor Threat song, but the arrangement here was so good. That first Fugazi record was like a Gang Of Four record. Ian MacKaye always struck me as a Bob Dylan type singer for the punk rock scene—more of a spokesman than a singer. That was important, because Prong is built on that Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye influence, while most metal bands don’t even know who they are.”
Bad Brains – “Banned in DC”
“Like Discharge, this was just a must choice, because we were such big fans of them when we were starting out. Anyone who doesn’t know who Bad Brains are is just an idiot. This was our real New York hardcore tribute, because there really wouldn’t have been that scene without the Bad Brains.”
Neil Young – “Cortez the Killer”
“It’s a guitar song of unbelievable heights. One of the best guitar songs of all time, for me. It was a challenge here, because you can’t emulate Neil. Kids today, they try to do what everyone else does and sound like certain people instead of doing their own thing. When Prong started, we tried our best to screw things up so it didn’t sound like anything else, and Neil Young was the master of it.
It was important for us to have this sprawling epic for the outro, too, after all these short, hardcore songs. I’ve never attempted a guitar song like this, or even a vocal song like this, and it was just as challenging as it was rewarding.”