Rage Against The Machine have announced that they’re reuniting for a slate of shows in 2020. To celebrate the return of one of rock’s most rebellious bands, we dig into the roots of the LA gang…
“I don’t particularly care for [Black] Sabbath,” Rage frontman Zack de la Rocha noted over 20 years ago, “and (guitarist) Tom (Morello) doesn’t particularly care for a lot of the hip-hop riffs I come up with, but the two, when fused together, makes something unique.”
And there, in a nutshell, is the beginning and the end of Rage Against the Machine. A Harvard graduate guitarist raised on metal and a punk-rock vocalist with a burgeoning hip-hop obsession who struggled to get through high school. This was always an explosive, furious combination of characters intent on opening the eyes of a generation to nefarious corporate evil-doings and blatant institutional corruption, not some long-term box-set friendly career option (even if that might be how things ended up). Or, as Tom said some years ago: “If bands choose to sing about migrant labour rather than pussy, that’s OK with me…”
Zack (parentage: a German-Irish American anthropologist and a Mexican American visual artist), met Tom (parentage: an Irish-Italian American schoolteacher and the former Kenyan ambassador to the United Nations) when the latter had split his metal band Lock Up and spotted the former member of hardcore punk band Inside Out freestyling at a Los Angeles club.
On deciding to form a band together, Tom brought drummer Brad Wilk (who’d gone to the same school as Ice Cube and played in Eddie Vedder’s pre-Pearl Jam crew Greta), while Zack brought bass-player Tim Commerford, but RatM were never a gang. Their desire, born in their San Fernando Valley rehearsal room in early 1991, was to agitate and confront. Within a few months they were distributing a 12-song demo at their gigs and were soon being pursued by all the major labels, then fat with the profits of the CD, hip-hop and grunge boom-times. “A bunch of guys in suits just salivating,” Morello recalled. “All offering these exorbitant amounts of money for punk-rock songs…”
The band’s debut album was released in late November 1992, by spring 1993 it had only sold 75,000 copies, but a slot on that summer’s Lollopalooza festival was so massively successful that by autumn 1994 the record had sold in excess of 3m copies, an ascent so vertiginous it placed enormous strain on all four band members. “We all [went] through a series of ego explosions,” Rocha explained in 1996. “And it’s very difficult to resolve them…” That much would soon become evident – but how did they get there in the first place?
In The Beginning
Punk And Emotional
Oh My Word
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