Gargantuan Grooves
An Interview with Prong
by: Adrian Bromley
The fourth LP by New York power-groove act Prong, _Rude Awakening_, is just that, a 'rude awakening' to the reality of life and one's struggle to face hardships and go on, as well as an 'awakening' to the exceptional display of thought and perseverance that Prong has sustained after all these years within their music. Extremely focused on capturing an element of groove and growth with _RA_, lead singer/guitarist Tommy Victor has managed to magnify and control the grooves of Prong, allowing more assorted styles of harshness to flow more into sync and not following one standard pattern that may have been evident with past releases as _Beg To Differ_ (1991), _Prove You Wrong_ (1992) and 1993's breakthrough record for the band, _Cleansing_.

While somewhat similar to those other outings, Prong's latest can also been seen as one of the most experimental of all their previous releases too. "The old adage is, the more records you sell the more freedom you get to do what you want to do," says Victor from his home in California, "With _Cleansing_ being a real hardcore record where it was the kind of record where it exploded in everyone's faces, with this record I kind of wanted to do more songs, serious ones. The last one has allowed us to do this record and opened up avenues for us to go down with our music. We always leave avenues open for ourselves so we can escape what we did with our previous records."

On the decisions that sparked the onslaught of ideas for _RA_ Victor reveals, "I am happy with the decisions that were made. Some A&R people at the label (Epic/Sony), I won't name any names though, were concerned with the direction the band was headed or going to and I pretty much told them 'Fuck You'. Maybe there has been some compromising, I'll be honest with you, 'cause when someone knocks something I respect their opinion. I probably would have made more of a techno type record if it had not been for Terry Date and other people gearing me onto more of a rock record. Again like everything it is a balancing act but right now I am happy where the band is right now. I'm pretty ambitious and I want our record in as many people's hands as I can get it. I'm sure not everyone is happy with what their status is at times in their careers."

The real success and strength of the record lies within the power and feelings given off by Victor's lyrics on _RA_. Whereas on previous records he tackled social issues and other things that most bands might look into, this time Victor took time to write material that flowed from him. The music allows us to see where we are in the world, the hardships, the love and the struggle of everyday life. That is evident with the material as well as the artwork (images of Eastern Bloc life) that accompanies the record. About those images he says, "A package is supposed to reinforce what you are saying or the vibe of the record. The corresponding images work off the lyrics to some degree."

Much like a concept record, _RA_ opens up to the listener as the albums goes on, and then the stories are told. "I like cohesiveness in a record. I personally was striving to get that going. A lot of our records have been scattered and lyrically I had never really been into what I was doing lyrically. I was learning as I went along. There were a couple of lyrics that I liked on that last record and I took them and that style into this record and it wound up that most of the record was built around a theme or same style of writing." And the theme for _RA_? "I just think it is more personal. I tap into real serious emotions and I think that comes across in the vocals. There was something real in what I was doing that allowed me to do it rather than sit back and target issues of what to write about. This is how I am feeling and was at the time and I put that in the song. We wrote a lot of songs but musically and vocally these were the best that suited the record and where it was headed. I didn't really have a concept going into this record as that would have confused us while writing. That is why it took so long to do this record as it took a while to sift through our material and see which ones were the better ones."

In regards to his use and reference to the album title he says, "It is a quest for balance when you wake up in the morning or your approach in life. It is about keeping away from high expectations and being prepared for the worst. I am not into or believe the power of positive thinking 'cause I have tried it and I don't think it works. You got to be prepared for your obstacles or horrors of everyday. I don't expect a lot out of life anymore, I enjoy it more though 'cause I don't think this will happen or whatever. The album also has to deal with relationships and how people put an emphasis on trying to make other people happy. I think you gotta rely on yourself more. On the title track there is a line that says, '... there is no kindness to waste...' and that implies that I am not going out of my way to cling to somebody."

Once again, as with _Cleansing_ the band - rounded out by Paul Raven on bass and Ted Parsons on drums - worked as they did with _Cleansing_ with Terry Date (Pantera/White Zombie) on _RA_. On _RA_ Victor served as co-producer of the record and the band had also brought in a new recruit to add some flavour to the material they were working on; the musician was NIN keyboardist/sample Charlie Clouser. On the style they brought into making the record, Victor responds, "A lot of the playing was different in the studio and that coincided with the construction of the songs which were constructed from drum loops or vocal melodies rather than strictly guitar parts. We set up grooves and patterns to work with. It was more technical this time around with the tempos and the loops or vocal approaches as to either scream or sing smoother. I think we were less prone to put on false voices on this one. I used my natural voice with this one. I think it came down to this way because of the years we have spent re-evaluating ourselves."

Known for their grooves in the past, Victor still acknowledges that grooves are an important factor to the band's style and sound no matter how they change over the next few years. "I think the grooves are a highlighted part of what we do and acknowledged by a small amount of people. What we have done is highlight those grooves rather than rely on the brute force of what we are doing. We are aiming to be more song oriented and the grooves are still there, we have always been a groove-oriented band, so we are just highlighting our strong points and maybe abandoning some aspects that we find distasteful of what we used to do."

"I don't go into a studio and write a part of a song for a mosh part," says Victor on the creation of songs, "I try to write songs that are true to what I want to do and what I like. End of story."

He finishes, "I just want to remain focused with what I am doing with Prong because a lot of things can distract you. So, I am trying to keep my nose clean, I have a good attitude right now and I hope that I remain as fresh as this to the year's end rather than be bitter and hostile or have negative feelings about things. I want to remain ambitious and attentive to the project."

NOTE: Rob Nicholson (formerly of California outfit DROWN) has taken

over bass duties for Paul Raven who has recently left the band.

(article submitted 17/7/1996)


ALBUMS
7/24/2003 X Hoose 6 Prong - Scorpio Rising
6/9/1996 A Bromley 8 Prong - Rude Awakening
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