Interview: PRONG
Title: Awakened mind

They are not only among the pioneers of the style of Crossover in the Metal field, but the New Yorkers have also been causing fluttering ears with tons of industrial thrusts and gritty groove attacks since 1986.

Their new and 13th album „State Of Emergency“, a fucking bulging Groove Thrash pack, is the first since 2017's „Zero Days“. Founding member, riff master and singer Tommy Victor has lost absolutely nothing of his emphatically critical attitude, as it should currently turn out.

Congrats for your 13th album „State Of Emergency“ - what meaning stands behind the title and how arose the original idea for it? 

„After reviewing some of the lyrics I got a perspective on an overall theme I was writing about. I guess you can call that perspective “media alarmism“. You can place “propaganda“ in there. Media/ government “gaslighting”; continual change of what they tell you is historical and factual. Having a chance to review some finished lyrics worked out well. “State Of Emergency” applied well to this as well as some other themes. Like “The Descent” where this guy is at the end of his ropes from insecurity due to the dangers of social media. He’s definitely in a “State Of Emergency“. Then there’s the State itself . A corrupt government feeding lies through total control of media. Like Orwell predicted. Then there’s the “State Of Emergency“ of everyone having to agree with a standard narrative … or else. You lose your job or are ostracized. People turn you in. Dangerous times! Eventually I needed a lyric for one of the songs so I wrote a title track. That one tries to tie all the other ones into it.“

One can already see from the artwork that this album is fully critical - primarily critical of the leading media or of the whole media-loving society? 

„Certainly. I think it’s terrible. The mainstream news media: they sugar coat all the bad stuff. Ignore important things and focus on the same targets over and over. It’s gotten really awful. Then there’s censorship. Don’t anyone dare speak outside what the mainstream agree upon. Who knows who really dictates this stuff, but it’s surely diabolical.“

I hear great new compositions with so many grooving, pounding and punching moments; superior produced, too, I immediately love it, your vocals fit perfect to the sound itself - how do you rate the new album itself compared to its predecessor „Zero Days“?

„Ha. It’s way better. Thank you for your comments! It’s always good to hear. I really want people to like the records! ‚Zero Days‘ was more of a struggle. This record was a lot of hard work but the planning was better. Everything seemed to just work out better. It was an enjoyable record to make. Working with Steve Evetts again was fantastic!“

Pls. bring the lyrical main content of „State Of Emergency“ closer to the readers - interpersonal grievances, immoral conditions, increasing inhumanity, increasing callousness, unbearable stupidity, dangerous recklessness, governments that have become megalomaniacs etc. etc.?

„Please include what I mentioned previously. I apologize if I’m a bit redundant. Some songs are more on a “personal “level. “The Descent“ is a narrative of a confused person on the brink of insanity from the infiltration of media into his brain. I get like that a little. Sometimes when on social media I say “wow this guy has everything why can’t I have that“. It’s probably not true; people show what they want. He could be miserable who knows. It doesn’t last long for me, I can move on. But for some, I’m sure the jealousy and disappointment and self loathing takes over their whole mentality. Social media is dangerous stuff. “Who Told Me” is in similar vein. I get confused sometimes. Where did I hear this nonsense from? I’m supposed to believe this? Then there’s “Breaking Point”. That song had a more general popular mentality of disgust about. People are fed up with the nonsense. There’s not just a revolution here. Just a bunch of crazy spending and partying. And continued complaining. But it’s gotten to that. I’ve seen it. People just going crazy. “Compliant“ is one of the conditions they’re putting on the people. Everyone has to keep their mouth shut. They’re definitely cracking down on people with different opinions that’s for sure. “Non-Existence” is a more positive type song. It’s written from the statement “Existence is better than Non- Existence“. Life is precious and everyone has the opportunity and or ability to make something of themselves and contribute. Every living person DOES contribute in some way. But you have to acknowledge that. Especially in struggles and difficulties. I look at bridges and buildings and I think of the sacrifices made to erected these things. Being a new parent twice again now makes you think of self sacrifice. It can be so terrible taking care of babies. Not sleeping, eating bad, the heartache of your unhappy crying child. But it’s worth it. Life is worth it. On the other hand there’s the sad song of addiction with “Light Turns Black”. It’s so difficult to try to convince people they’re on the wrong path. They won’t listen. A lot of people just want to hurt themselves. There’s nothing you can do about it. “Disconnected“ is similar . That song has a broader approach where someone is trying to tell YOU something about themselves that is just not true. Sometimes I get tired of the “yeah yeah yeahs”. In this day and age you can’t confront people on their own nonsense. Its not politically correct. I had to write a song to complain about it. “Obeisance“ is a song about spirituality. Essentially there’s one Truth. And that’s all there really is.“

What do you experience, feel and perceive most painfully in yourself when you see on TV/internet how humanity seems to be getting physically and psychologically sicker and sicker, even though we should know much better after thousands of years of learning?

„I really like how you said we SHOULD know better after thousands of years of learning. That’s the main point! These crazy people want to wipe all our past realizations away. We HAVE to believe their new unproven way of thinking. If you don’t you’re a dinosaur or intellectually stagnant. There are standards and ethics we should live by. But now no, anything goes. We are forced to support ideas we truly inherently, instinctually disagree with and are uncomfortable with.“

Apropos, would you like to describe for us Europeans your most formative, most interesting or most haunting and most irritating experience in your big city New York here? 

„Most times you go on the subway it’s an irritating experience. Years ago it was worse. It got better for awhile, now it’s going back to how it was. It’s over run with dangerous crazy people. You can’t even fight back against them because there a marginalized group and they are protected by a terrible criminal justice system. It’s a way too tolerant and lenient society where innocent people are in jeopardy because of mentally ill people. They scream at people in their face, defecate and urinate in the trains. They haven’t washed in months, they take over a whole side of a subway car where everyone has to cram in elsewhere because of the stench. It’s terrible and you can’t protect yourself. The system will throw you in jail if you fight back.“

Founded in 1986 ... did you ever expect to stay this long and maintain such a steady path in your art? 
„No I didn’t. I really didn’t t know what I’d be doing. One thing I did realize is that if I wanted to make a career out of music, I couldn’t depend on anyone else. I did deep into writing songs and singing and playing. I spent years as a bass player and that didn’t work out for me. I was too dependent on the singer and guitar player in the band.“

Don't you think that the more superficial and indifferent the majority of societies become, the more the proportion of those who want to break out of it and seek their salvation in reflective recollection increases, which in turn fully confirms, affirms and only drives you on? 

„In some ways. But it’s strictly for material for writing songs. I don’t have time for much outside of my wife and kids, Prong, and playing guitar for Danzig.“

Btw, are there any things, books, movies, etc. that can/have influenced you as musicians? 

„Baseball players batting averages are one thing I tend to remind myself of often. A player is failing MOST of the time and he is very good. If you get a hit once in 3 tries you’re an excellent hitter. 333 batting average. I look at that with performances on my part. I mean I mess up a lot. It’s annoying but I look at a baseball player and realize we are only human. We fail, but we can keep on trying.“

Who of you guys out of the band did the lion's share of the new song material?

„I wrote everything. I wrote everything during the daytime hours in my families apt in NY. From June 2022 to August 2022.“

How did your collaboration for the new work go?

„There was none other than some arrangement changes that Steve Evetts suggested.“

How was the selection of songs for it done - was it difficult or rather easy for you? 

„I didn’t allow any selection of songs to myself or to Steve. I wrote ten songs and that’s it. End of story. One song was rearranged a lot but for the most part, how they were on the demo was how they remained.“

What is the ONE song with the most meaning for you on the new album and why? 

„I would say “Non-Existence“. I talked about it earlier but I will continue. I became a father again twice since “Age Of Defiance“. It was a tough decision to do this at my late age. It’s been absolutely wonderful; my children are amazing miracles. I just think life is amazing. The thought of terminating these little wonderful creatures is just horrific to me. No matter what, Existence is better than Non-Existence.“

Nearly everything has changed since Covid - the world, the music business, the societies - how much have you changed, how much have your views on true art changed now? 

„I don’t take it as serious as I once did and I’ll tell you why. When Covid hit and the lock down started, it seemed there was no end in sight. Especially in California, where I was living, the lock down was severe. Nothing was opened. My wife was pregnant, I was just home with her. My boy was born and I was still home all the time. I was fine with it. My wife eventually went back to work and I stayed home and took care of my boy. It was wonderful. I played a little guitar here and there. I was just learning some old Elvis songs. I could have stayed like that. Stay at home Dad. No aggravations and disappointments from the band. No sore throats and tired muscles. But the Art Gods called. Prong eventually got offered a great tour and a new record deal. It was like a Call To Duty. You can’t fight the Art Gods. But it’s really like that. Prong is an obligation to them. Apparently it had to keep going. It’s an act of duty . But family life is definitely a more beautiful and rewarding experience. And more important.“

© Markus Eck, 19.09.2023

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