A State of Emergency in the State of Missouri: In conversation with Prong’s Tommy Victor

Photo of Tommy Victor by Nathaniel Shannon

w/ Voïvod and Defcon | 03.17.24, 8:00pm | The Golden Record, 2720 Cherokee St. | All ages | $29.50 advance, $35 day of show

This St Patrick’s Day, legendary heavy metal band Prong arrives at The Golden Record with their co-headlining tour. The band’s last visit to St Louis was May 23rd, 2016, at Fubar.

Prong is on tour supporting their most recent studio album titled State of Emergency, released October 6th, 2023. Joining forces with Prong this time around is Canadian technical thrash originators Voïvod in support of 2023’s Morgöth Tales and receiving local support from Defcon.

Prong formed in New York City in 1986 by Tommy Victor while he was working as a sound engineer at CBGB. After 37 years, Tommy is the only consistent member of the band. Their current lineup includes Victor on guitar and vocals, Jason Christopher on bass and backing vocals, and Tyler Bogliole behind the drums.

Prong is well known in the extreme music community as one of the early groove metal bands and for planting the seeds for what would eventually grow into nü metal. After breaking up in 1996, the band was reformed in 2002 and returned to touring and recording, and hasn’t slowed down since.

We spoke with Tommy Victor in February from his home in New York as he was gearing up to hit the road for the upcoming tour.

Tommy Victor. Photo by Nathaniel Shannon

The Arts STL: The upcoming tour with Voïvod begins February 28th in Columbus, Ohio and is making it to St. Louis on March 17th. Are you excited to get back out on the road?

Tommy Victor: I don’t think I ever am these days, when I get out there and settle in I’m ok but at my age I hate going out on the road [laughs].  I mostly don’t like being away from my family these days.

You’re headed out in support of your 13th studio album, State of Emergency. Thirteen albums, that’s quite the impressive number. How do you feel about the band’s legacy to his point?

TV: I could never really get the exact number because there have been some EPs and other releases, etc. but 13, I’ll take that it’s definitely something like that. Considering there has been some valleys where I wasn’t doing Prong, it’s not a bad amount. I made up for it between the years of 2013 and 2018 where we were putting out a record every year. If I’d continued during the two breakups of the band, it would probably be around 18 albums at this point. Probably the most rewarding part of it is that legacy, but on the other hand I would have liked some of the records to be more popular. It’s been an interesting career.

The title track off State Of Emergency, in my opinion, describes how we as people are being manipulated by politicians and media just trying to get all of us to fight amongst ourselves instead of paying attention to what’s really important. Is that what you were going for?

TV: Oh, absolutely. It really started with the scare tactics during the pandemic and has continued, and yeah, I think manipulation is the key word there. The fact that we all have smartphones has something to do with it. Years ago, you could pick and choose the newspapers you read, and journalism was more of a proper artform. It’s almost entertaining complaining about it but overall, it’s not that bad unless there is total all-out war. I mean, we are all fed well and the general standard of living in the world is probably better than it’s ever been.

This isn’t the first time you’ve played with Voïvod in St Louis. Almost 34 years ago, you played Mississippi Nights with a young Soundgarden opening up the show. Do you have any memories of that tour you’d like to share?

TV:  I do and I’ve never really thought about this much, but that was the last show of that tour. I didn’t talk with Chris Cornell a lot on the tour, that was before they were big stars and all that. I’ve been around the music business a long time and the cliché about how it changes people is not really a cliché at all. Some people really change when they get famous and I think he was one of them. This was when he was just a kid and I remember he never really drank on tour and was just kind of a mellow dude. We were heavy partiers at the time and he showed up with a beer one night and I said “Dude, that’s the first beer I’ve seen you have this entire tour.” He showed me his motorcycle jacket that had a Prong logo patch on it and thinking back to Chris humbling himself to Prong is kinda weird. Voïvod didn’t come around much either on that tour—they were all from Quebec and didn’t speak English—but now I believe there are a couple English speakers in the band and we’ll be sharing a tour bus so maybe we’ll get to communicate more this time out.

Voïvod. Photo by Gaelle Beri.

I actually was going to ask if you had any previous relationship with Voïvod from that tour or just in general.

TV: No, not really…just on that tour, but I’m kind of a weird dude anyway. Like, I really don’t  talk to many people from the business, but I did speak with them setting up details for the tour and they seem like really nice guys.

Prong returned in 2002 after breaking up in 1996. What has changed since reuniting?

TV: I think the band has gotten stronger over the years. Coming back early on was hard for me because I’d grown pretty disgusted with the whole thing and I wasn’t really playing music. Eventually I got broke and decided to get a regular job and then a guy I’d never spoken to called me up one day and offered me a record deal and said he could get us on the road. I had a couple friends I was jamming with at the time and that’s how I started Prong again.

So what kind of regular job does Tommy Victor do?

TV: Not much! [laughs]I was kind of depressed about it, actually. I had a lot of jobs early on but I’d never had a fast food job and there was this place, In-N-Out Burger, that’s kind of a high class version of a fast food restaurant and they were paying a ridiculous amount of money back then and they let you have tattoos. So I figured I’d apply there just to get myself started. I interviewed and they said I’d got the job and they would call me back, but before they did, I got the call asking to put the band back together.

Tommy Victor. Photo by Nathaniel Shannon.

Prong came out of the New York underground scene back in 1986. What were the early days like?

TV: Mike Kirkland—the original bass player, the guy that formed the band with me—he was more from the hardcore scene and I was more from the art rock scene. That was how I knew Ted Parsons, because he was in the band Swans at the time. I was in a couple other bands at the time that were not successful and I’d actually quit music for a time and ended up working at CBGB’s as a sound man. Mike found out that I played from his girlfriend, who knew me from working together at this clothing store Canal Jeans and told him that I played. He said “Let’s start a band” and we started playing shows at CBGB. Then we heard about thrash metal and we were intrigued. Ted really brought bands like Kreator and Destruction to our attention and that’s how we put that into our sound as well.

Your style was pretty unique for the era in a lot of ways. I think Prong help plant the seeds for what eventually became nü metal. Do you think that’s true?

TV: Back in the day, I must say that I was bitter a lot because we had this full range of influences. We took bands like Bad Brains, Live Skull, and Metallica and that’s where groove metal came from and then everyone else picked at it and the whole nü metal scene and bands like Pantera and Helmet, these bands came along, but I don’t think anyone was doing it before we did. When Cleansing came out [in 1994] and we went to Europe, we were on Epic Records at the time and they were clueless about what we were doing. This guy said on our next record we should do more rap because that’s what’s popular in Germany. He was right in the end because bands like Limp Bizkit came out shortly after.

I just wanted to make records that were interesting to me. I didn’t want to do something that I was uncomfortable with. But as an artist, you look back on your stuff and you don’t really like any of it anyhow. In rock music, most musicians do it for the ego gratification, but I don’t really look back on my records and enjoy them so I’m always pushing forward and do something else that’s going to make it interesting for me. We went way too far advanced and too fast…we had a good formula then we would change it up and that was our biggest problem commercially, that we changed our sound too often.

Even with the changes from album to album, you can still easily recognize that you’re listening to a Prong record.

TV: With the way my vocals sound that would be that way, but on the other hand, there’s the countless bands these days on the radio that you wouldn’t know who’s who by listening to them, like how would you know without seeing their name on Spotify? I mean, they all sound exactly the same, there’s no distinguishing them.

Since the show is quickly approaching what can a concertgoer expect to from a Prong show this time around?

TV: I think it’s pretty fun. I mean, we’re angry, but it’s fun, you know, it’s not dark. It’s definitely testosterone music, but there’s a lot of entertainment value in the songs and the band. It’s not a display of technical proficiency, but unlike a lot of current bands, it’s a good-time thing and not as dark overall.

The shows have been good. We did a lot of touring in Europe last year and the shows have been crazy.

Just a couple of quick questions before we finish up here. How did the name Prong come to be?

TV: We sat down at a bar in the Lower East Side and I think the band had a name at the time but we had decided to change it. I’d put down “Three Prong Plug” on paper  and we had a mutual friend that was sort of the mediator to this meeting and he said “That’s too long, man. I think you guys should just shorten that to Prong.” He thought Three Prong Plug wasn’t immediate enough sounding, so it became just Prong.

And finally, what is your go to In-N-Out order?

TV: I don’t live in L.A. anymore so it’s been a while since I’ve been there but I still play with Danzig and we’ll sometimes order it during rehearsals. But when we do, it’s always animal style. Here in New York, we have this famous place I think Bourdain went to called All American Burger and it’s like a throwback but its not a reinvention its been there since the early ’50s and people come from all over to go there so you can barely even get in the place but it’s really good! | James Tourte

See Prong’s return to St. Louis with Voïvod at the Golden Record, 2720 Cherokee St, St. Louis Sunday March 17th at 8:00pm. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. Stay up to date with the latest from Prong at prongmusic.com.

PRONG and VOÏVOD 2024 Co-Headline Dates:

Tue 03.12.24 – San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick

Wed 03.13.24 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren

Thu 03.14.24 – El Paso, TX – Rockhouse

Fri 03.15.24 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater

Sat 03.16.24 – Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom

Sun 03.17.24 – St. Louis, MO – The Golden Record

Tue 03.19.24 – Detroit, MI – Harpos

Wed 03.20.24 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall 

Thu 03.21.24 – Fort Wayne, IN – Piere’s Entertainment Center

Fri 03.22.24 – Knoxville, TN – The Concourse

Sa 03.23.24 – Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre

Sun 03.24.24 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater

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