Over a decade since their reformation, Prong are in rude health, and the influential New York metallers’ founding father, Tommy Victor, is experiencing a renewed surge of creativity.
New album Zero Days marks Victor’s sixth recording project in five years, but there’s no sign of the guitarist’s deep well of chug-heavy riffs and frenetic, alternate-picked solos drying up: ZD is a compelling showcase of metal in all its forms.
As the band gear up for a UK tour, Tommy found time to fill us in on the albums that shaped his guitar playing and the sound of Prong in general. His choices span everything from metal to classic rock and punk, and it’s hard to argue with any of his classic picks…
Zero Days is out on 28 July via Steamhammer/SPV and available to order here. The band tour the UK in July:
18 Glasgow - Audio
19 Belfast - Voodoo
20 Dublin - Voodoo Lounge
21 Manchester - Rebellion
22 London - Underworld
1. Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)
“This was the heaviest music I had ever heard when it came out. The guitar sound was so demonic it just blew my mind. My older brother, upon hearing the opening riff of the title track, immediately said, ‘Man, this is way too heavy for me.’
“I really took notice to the credit given to Geezer playing fuzz bass. It just stuck in my head. I wanted to play fuzz bass! So I bought a crappy bass for 10 dollars, without even trying it out, from a kid around the corner from me. My career had started!
“I loved the lyrics and the blasphemous imagery. Perfect for a rebellious Catholic schoolboy.
“Tony's solos on this album are just plain sick. They just seem to emerge from hell. All the sounds are just so blistering. Sabotage eventually had Symptom Of The Universe, which is probably in my top five riffs ever, but this one has the second part of the title track, which is the best riff of all time. (And it features that FUZZ BASS!)”
2. Killing Joke - Killing Joke (1980)
“Quite simply, this band changed my musical life. And music was pretty much my life.
“There is nothing phony, gimmicky or pretentious about this record or this band. Simplicity: powerful riffs and gang choruses over undeniable grooves. Nobody, nobody, did this before. Pure innovation. They said, ‘We are different, f - you!’
“It hit me so hard. I don't think I listened to another record in all of 1980. Change was a favourite at the clubs in NYC back then. So was Wardance. They captured the insecurity and decadence of the times, and people would get violently crazy from their music.
“This band was definitive post-punk, with a precise, severe amount of dark apocalyptic vision. I saw them at this huge new wave disco right at the top of Union Square in NYC (when you took your life in your hands walking through the park). I don't think I’ve ever been to a show where I was more excited since.
“They were committed to what they were doing. Killing Joke were heavy as all hell and determined to punch you in the face until you believed in them.”
3. The Stooges - Raw Power (1973)
“This record is just flat-out evil aggression. It was dark yet chaotic and pummelling. I still love the guitar sound. It’s just blown out Marshalls. No pedals or effects. Maybe a Big Muff, but I don't even know nor care.
“The solos are off the cuff and I love that. Spontaneous and violent. They just went for it. This is something rare these days. Sometimes I think things have to be too ‘perfect’ now.
“The riff on Shake Appeal is one of my faves. It still holds up as a classic modern punk/metal riff in a way. So crunchy and evil!”
4. Cream - Strange Brew: The Very Best Of Cream (1983)
“I have to mention this record because I think it's one of the first electric guitar, early hard-rock records I ever heard. I have an older brother, and I think as soon as I started getting interested in records he pushed this on me and I loved it.
“The songs are totally amazing. And of course, I freaked out at Clapton's catchy solos and wah-wah guitar. The classic memorable riffs are undeniable. That blown-out jamming bass of Jack Bruce still makes me smile. Cream had a bit of a spooky, druggy, acid-rock vibe to them too that I think appealed to me, like on I Feel Free.
“I still listen to Cream a lot. I don't think anyone can match Clapton. How he would bust into solos between vocals was so cool. I used to ask how these guys sang and played so well. I think my affinity for power trios (like Prong) was sealed from Cream at an early age.”
5. Slayer - Reign In Blood (1986)
“Yeah, I know, this one is on 95 per cent of every fan of heavy music's list, but for good reason: this record epitomizes metal. Period. It's the archetype for speed metal, thrash metal, death metal, modern hardcore, crossover, metal in general.
“I remember arguing with guitar snobs about Kerry and Jeff's solos. They would say ‘It's crap, they're just playing whatever!’ and I would say ‘Cool! So what?’ Then everyone was even more blown away when they played the solos note-for-note live!
“One of the things I just loved about Piece By Piece was that it just came out of the box with a mosh part then a stage dive, circle pit part then another mosh part then another one. It's just relentless. How the hell did they do it? How can a band make such an exciting non-stop bludgeoning record? It's unbelievable. And one never ever gets tired of listening to this record.”
6. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)
“Dark, spooky, depressing, but weirdly enlightening and enjoyable. This is an early ’80s masterpiece. Probably the best doom and gloom record of all time.
“The bass guitar here drives the music. Peter Hook is definitely one of my favourite bass players. Those sinister bass lines are just so... cool. But Bernard Sumner's guitar work is pure innovation in my opinion. The droning chaotic mania of Disorder spooked me.
“Joy Division was the epitome of cool. To like them you were cool. It was cool to listen to them. You had to be dark to be cool back then. To be all smiley and tan and hit the gym was not cool. Man, have things changed in rock ’n’ roll!”
7. KISS - Hotter Than Hell (1974)
“I can proudly say I was one of the original KISS fans.
“When I was a young boy, liking KISS was like wearing a target on your back. Either the hippy Grateful Dead flannel shirt wearing people hated you, or the gold-chain slick-backed hair disco macho men hangin’ at the pizzeria. The latter would watch out for you and threaten you with violence. I didn't care. The songs were killer, they were loud and Gene was hilarious and badass. The opening riff on Parasite just destroyed me. That was metal then!
“I started out on bass and I just wanted to get in a band. So KISS was a perfect starting point. KISS songs were so catchy and easy to figure out. I think one of the first songs I learned was Strutter. I just loved Gene's parts! Like on the song Hotter Than Hell - such a killer bassline to this day. Added note: I think Ace's solo on Strange Days is one of the all-time classics.”
8. Rainbow - Rising (1976)
“I was a Ritchie Blackmore fanatic as a kid. He was the coolest. He wore black, destroyed his guitar and lit his amp on fire. He would say, ‘Screw it, I'm not playing the solo off the record live’, and just hammer one note for the duration.
“He didn't give a rat's ass if you liked him and never smiled. And still people would sneak banners into Rainbow concerts proclaiming ‘Ritchie Is God!’ Because he was simply a badass. And could he ever write riffs.
“This record is the culmination of all the great Purple records with more. Maybe the first ‘mystical’ metal record, thanks to Dio. I mean, all the Purple records with Gillan are amazing but this Rainbow line -up was just so pro. A Light In The Black may be the prototype for all speed metal. Another innovative record. Like no other!”
9. David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
“Starting from the very first record I bought, a .45 single of Space Oddity, I had to own every Bowie record that ever came out. They are all great, no matter what period. This is an early one and maybe the first full album I got into (the flipside of the Space Oddity single was the title track of this record).
“It's a sinister venture, this record, and I guess that was its initial appeal. Way later on, I learned of its Nietzsche and Burroughs references, but I guess I knew instinctually there was something deep about this record.
“It gets pretty heavy for its time. The Width Of A Circle is a totally cool gloom glam fest. I always loved the solo; I still say Ronson was great. He had balls. He had his own chaotic Jeff Beckian style which just simply worked with Bowie. All in all, a great early dark record that influenced me.”
10. Ramones - Ramones (1976)
“You panned your stereo to the left and it was Johnny's guitar. To the right, Dee Dee's bass! This was raw, catchy and revolutionary.
“I could relate to the songs directly. They were great ‘hanging out in Queens’ white boy dilemmas. Maybe you had to be from Flushing or Rego Park to really understand where they were coming from.
“The songs were easy to figure out and were just plain fun. I had to go see them. I remember getting out of school, getting on the subway and waiting in line for hours outside of CBGB to catch the early Ramones show. It's amazing to think: we would be sitting. There were tables and chairs. This was even before pogo dancing!
“Anyhow, New York was a cool, dangerous place back then. It seems like so much has gotten homogenised these days. Especially music.”