Guitarist Tom Morello and drummer Brad Wilk sat down with NME at Madrid's Mad Cool festival
“MAKE ESPAŃA RAGE AGAIN!”
So read a banner draped over the back of the stage as Prophets of Rage battered through ‘Killing In Name’ at Madrid’s Mad Cool festival last weekend, a huge circle pit scything beneath them. The Prophets are three-quarters of incendiary, politicised ‘90s rockers Rage Against The Machine – guitar magician Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk – plus Cypress Hill rapper B-Real and rabbler-rouser Chuck D. They’re touring all over Europe this summer, spreading their essential (if less than subtle) message of tolerance. “No hatred / Fuck racists”, goes ‘Unfuck The World’, taken from the Prophets’ self-titled 2017 debut.
We chatted with Tom and Brad before the show. They’re wise dudes, all right, and here’s what we learned from them.
Their shows are a party , but it’s always political
‘It’s a celebration of resistance,” Tom said. “If you’re not rocking the crowd, then your message will fall on deaf ears. So first and foremost you have to rock the crowd. Today I visited the famous the famous Picasso painting Guernica which is the great anti-fascist painting – it’s one of the great pieces of political art of all time – and musically it’s the same kind of thing that we mean to do: you touch people emotionally with the beauty and the power of the art and then it can convey a message that’s deeper than just escapist fluff.”
They’re working on new material
Brad: “We’re constantly trying to work on more songs to get out. We’re not sure how we’re gonna release it yet. We just have to stay creative and keep coming up with stuff.
Tom: “We’re playing in Europe throughout Europe in August and into September and we definitely wanna have more new music to shake up the set.”
Tom endorses ‘milkshaking’
This is the trend whereby alt-right figures – such as Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage – find themselves on the receiving end of a lobbed milkshake. When NME asked if this is a very mature approach to politics, Tom replied: “Well, my question would be, ‘Is it a mature approach to living in the world to inflict horrific, fascist right-wing politics on immigrants?’ You’re a Nazi and you’re getting hit with a milkshake, you’re getting pretty fucking off easy, I think.”
You have the power
The Prophets of Rage speak for disenfranchised, working-class people across the world. Ironically, though, this the same demographic that Donald Trump appeals to. Of this underlying tension, Tom explained: “People who are left behind by the neo-liberal policies – white working class people generally – are susceptible to demagogues who use racism and anti-immigration sentiment to stir them up so they don’t focus on what the real problem is, which is a system that under-serves the planet. The people who own and run the planet don’t deserve to. And they’re running it into the ground and they’re creating a miserable environmental state of affairs and economic state of affairs for a lot of people.
“Now, one of the reasons why we’ve been playing music for as long as we have is to provide an alternative set of ideals – progressive politics, solidarity, environmental sanity, anti-racism, anti-fascism – as another way to deal with the inequities of life, rather than listening to some orange-faced demagogue saying, ‘It’s the Muslims’ fault, it’s the Mexicans’ fault.’ Trust me: it’s not.
“The cornerstone message of all the bands we’ve been in is that the world is not going to change itself; that is up to you. And the people who’ve changed the world in radical or even revolutionary ways, throughout history, are people who had no more money, courage power, influence or creativity than anybody watching or listening to this.”
They still really give a fuck
Rage Against The Machine formed way back in 1991. The Prophets have all sold millions of records since then. Yet, as these quotes have suggested, they don’t seem to have become in any way complacent. How come?
“Well, I was an activist before I was a guitar player,” said Tom. “For me, part and parcel of what fuels the music that we make, in large measure, is the meaning behind it. I mean, we’re in a rock’n’roll band. Brad and I had Led Zeppelin posters on the wall [as kids], and playing a big festival show and rocking people like crazy is a great job to have. But how I look at it is that you should not leave your convictions behind in your vocation, whatever it is. We just happened to be musicians.
“And so the things we believe, we try to bring into what we do for a living, which is rocking your ass. So whether you’re a cameraman or an interviewer or whatever – a carpenter – don’t leave behind who you are what you believe in whatever it is that you do.”
Brad’s a grumpy driver
Important question: what’s the one small, every day thing that really makes the Prophets Of Rage… rageful?
Brad: “The one thing I’m not great at is when I drive. I get really… I don’t get road rage, but I’ll speak in the car to that person and maybe say something that’s not nice. I’m like: ‘I gotta stop doing that! That’s not cool!’ I gotta cut out those voices and just be in the moment. The traffic is gonna move the way it’s gonna move; there’s nothing I can say or do in that car that’s really gonna help.”
Tom: “I’m kind of a big picture rager. On a small scale, I’m a pretty friendly type of guy. Overall I’m trying to topple capitalism and whatnot, but on a daily basis, it’s more like: ‘We’re gonna play a great show tonight.’
Brad: “I’m just trying to drive better.”