(Metallurgy 2 - Reasons To Be Fearful is a 1996 compilation CD that included the Prong track 'Controller' (Dominant Bitch Mix, previously unreleased). The CD came with a booklet of photos and interviews with the bands featured on the CD.)
by Chris Watts
Tommy Victor looks like the man who just stole your car. You can have it back when he's finished ripping out the fucking stereo. You're a Prong fan and you're sick in the head. You'd just love Tommy to fuck your brain over again in a black room. Or something. It's the kind of dark fairy tale that should be true. It's not.
"The average Prong fan?" laughs Paul Raven (bass). "Beavis & Butt-head. They're real. I've met them out there somewhere."
Tommy: "Our fans are just totally nondescript, kind of geeky people. A lot of
strippers seem to like us. Wild-eyed, deranged, stone-washed strippers from the
swamps! You don't get those kinds of people over here in England, but you've
seen all the movies. They're all true!"
So Prong live in a movie like Blue Velvet. Home-from-home kind of stuff with the weird and eerie. Yet since the release of Cleansing in 1993 and a subsequent tour with White Zombie, the shopping mall mainstream has come to visit Prong. Which is something far scarier than even Tommy Victor could conceive. It's an unhappy alliance.
"Our fans put a lot of restrictions on what we can and cannot do," the singer drawls. "At first, it was the speed metal thing. When we rejected that we lost a lot of people, but found some more with the groove thing. We brought a more Killing Joke feel to the music, and the average Prong fan doesn't have a clue who Killing Joke are, though Killing Joke's old bass player is standing right beside me in Prong."
The long and boring Prong story - from their conception in 1986 to the release this month of their seventh record - is littered with all the bile and vitriol of the eternal underdog.
In 1994, Tommy finally buried all the Helmet comparisons under one megaton of hatred. "I mixed them at their first CBGB's show (Tommy was the in-house engineer for the New York club). They had long hair and shit. They were dicks then and they're dicks now. We were gonna tour with them, but they decided we were too 'metal' for them! They've said so much shit about us it's ridiculous. They stole from Beg To Differ like you wouldn't believe! They made it their own, but they never mention that."
Now, in 1996, Tommy has turned his face to the sun.
"I've lost a lot of bitterness towards other bands," he says. "It just doesn't bother me anymore. I don't know why. I guess it's just maturity. I'm getting old. I can't be bothered to hate anyone anymore. Yeah! Everybody ripped us off! Mention no names. Sue everybody!
"I've started watching things like the Grammies because I can stomach it more nowadays. I'm listening to a lot more pop music and radio. Years ago I didn't even know anybody who won a Grammy. It was like, Who the hell is this person? Now I'm a little more familiar.
"I don't have a negative opinion. I take all that stuff for what it's worth. They way things are moving ... you never know. Prong might win a Grammy next year! So it doesn't matter."
He remains less than convinced, however, by the so-called 'alternative culture' that Prong and Killing Joke alone celebrated a decade ago.
"Yeah, Metallica are headlining Lollapalooza this year," he says. "How alternative. Maybe Bon Jovi next year. I'm very cynical about it. A lot of these so-called alternative bands are writing cool tunes with good hooks, they're playing well, and that's what I'm trying to get into more. As far as the aesthetic value of what they're doing is concerned, the soul has been gone for the past three or four years. I'm not concerned with the future of anything except the future of Prong. I couldn't give two shits about that collective scene."
Is rock music still doing its job, then? Tommy: "Making a lot of money? Yes, absolutely."
Raven: "Do you mean if it's still dangerous? Is it still changing anything? Bands that are dangerous usually go absolutely nowhere. A band like Godflesh were doing good things. But they're ugly and no-one wanted to fuck them. It's not a cutesy little package that people can easily identify with. It's
like Green Day are not punk rock because they're selling a watered-down package for the masses. It's acceptable. Marilyn Manson are doing good, dangerous things. It's subversive in a sort of theatrical, Alice Cooper way. No one knows if they're joking or what."
Prong are not jealous. They're not even that bitter anymore. Even though Tommy insists he wrote the Rude Awakening record to be played in a car, he knows that such a sinister sound has its commercial limitations.
|"Sinister? It's just depressing!"
Well, try and write something happy then.
"I've tried that. It doesn't work. Maybe I should have tried harder. Yeah, sure. I could write a love song. I could throw some chords together ... but it wouldn't fit this chapter of Prong. Maybe the next one, who knows? Maybe I could have a side project - Tommy Victor and his love songs. 'Quiet' is
the closest one you're ever gonna get to that, but it's still pretty fucked up. It's slightly pre-suicidal!
"Prong is a good exorcism. I can't even listen to this new record anymore because I was getting off on it so much. I shouldn't have listened to it so much because now we've got to go and tour it for two years. We'll tour until people are sick of it."
Like every half-decent American band from Black Flag to Green Day, Prong hate
England. Nothing personal.
"This country has always been the worst for us to tour," Tommy says. "It's hard to build a fan base. It's just so unpredictable. It's kind of disconcerting, never knowing whether all our efforts are in vain.
"We've never been really happy with our live show. This time around we're really gonna pull something together. It'll be a new show both sound-wise and visually."
Raven: "Everyone seems so kind of desensitised to the horrors of the world. I just feel it'll be good to get out there amongst it all. It's probably the only thing me and Jaz (Coleman) agree on."
Like Killing Joke, do you relish playing into the next millennium?
"Can we just take the next year first?" says Tommy. He actually laughs.
"Regardless of the success or failure of Prong, I'd like to do a couple more records. Miserable as they may be, I have to do a couple more."