RAGE PREPARES TO SHAKE THE SWAMP
December 31, 2019 | By Jimmy Alvarez
Life is funny; when you’re a teenager, you’re filled with an abundance of youthful energy and angst. Back in the day, a good number of us were always trying to channel our fortitude to defy anything we didn’t agree with. The 60’s were known for bands that led us by example. Movements emerged from the efforts made by Dylan and the Beatles. The 70’s saw The Clash, Sex Pistols and Queen take the reins. In later years, other bands took their place, those champions include U2, Dead Kennedys, The Specials, Pixies, Nirvana and Dramarama. These bands and a few others held that torch. Sadly, as time went on, the impression out there was that music got comfortable, it became silent.; and to some extent… that was true. For Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and even some Millennials the status quo just wasn’t working anymore. From those who spat upon those silent ashes, a band emerged that became the voice of the collective, that band is Rage Against the Machine [“RATM”].
The thing about all these bands, no matter what decade, they had one thing in common, they were all channeling change. Their efforts to address what they considered wrong-doing led to positive change, whereas there were admittedly some setbacks which we still see today.
The thing about change is that it doesn’t always break you, nor does it heal you… in most cases, it simply reveals who you are. If you’re silent about things that should matter…. that’s a betrayal to your soul. For Rage front-man, Zack de la Rocha, his life and those of people around him were a reflection of the challenge immigrants or people of color live every day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you can only poke a sleeping bear so long before it responds. Bottom line, de la Rocha heard the term “wetback” one too many times, and like the sleeping bear…he decided to do something about it.
(Zack de la Rocha at L.A. Rising | Photo by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)
For Rage, they are the voice of multiple generations and the ultimate voice of the beehive. Rage is adroitly named, they’re uncompromising, full of disdain for BS of any kind. They definitely don’t back down and they love taking it to the establishment. In all fairness, there have been other bands that have stepped up over the years, especially punk bands; but, the sad truth is none carry the weight that Rage does.
Bands in general have caused this divide where music was once a place that led our moral compass. Instead, song writing has taken a back seat to simple entertainment and record sales. In a 2017 interview, Foo Fighter’s front-man, Dave Grohl spoke truth… he called out the music industry and bands in particular by saying what we were all thinking. He said, “when the number one song is about your butt, that’s a problem.” AND Grohl is 100% right!
Honestly, since the Prehistoric ages and the days of ancient Greece, right down through the Middle Ages; planet Earth kept going through all its changes. AND forget survival of the strongest, the meanest, the fastest, the toughest, the fittest or the smartest. Those who are the most adaptable will survive, Darwin said that; and no matter how hard they try, their critics know they can’t be stopped. They speak, the lead and people world-wide listen. So, we know the name, but who exactly is Rage? They’re four Dudes from Los Angeles, California. They formed in 1991 and the band consists of Zack de la Rocha (lead vocals), Tom Morello (lead guitar) Tim Commerford (bass), and Brad Wilk (drums). Their sound is electric, its bone crushing and hypnotic all at the same time. They never shy away from anything no matter what people think. De la Rocha is memorizing on stage, he engages the crowd while sprinting on stage from side-to-side like a top with his hair on fire. That said, they’ve sold millions of records world-wide; they’ve been nominated to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, 2019 and 2019, but their induction is still held back, but that’s another story for another day.
(Tom Morello at L.A. Rising | Photo by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography)
It’s hard to imagine life before we knew this revolutionary, rap-punk-funk-metal juggernaut. For many, if time travel was possible, they wouldn’t go back to the beginning of time, or to the distant future, or some political social event. Instead, they’d target the life and times of Rage. They may circle their first show was a free one at Cal State Northridge. Boy have they come along way since then. Their sonic vision has been compared to a multitude of great bands and artists. The list includes; Bad Brains, Iron Maiden, Zeppelin, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Ozzy Osbourne, Suicidal and Black Flag just to name a few bands that have clearly influenced their sound. That list is as good as it gets, and as close as you can get to describing their sound. As for as genre comparisons, that too is difficult at best. Over the years, they’ve been categorized as Metal, Hard Rock, ALT Rock, Rap-Metal, Punk-Funk, Nu-Metal and just plain weird. Maybe the last one better describes a Rage show. They bring out the best, nuttiest and most defiant side of their fans.
(Bulls on Parade from the album titled, Evil Empire)
Someone once said that the simplest things in life can teach us the most profound lessons. So, what things really matter to Rage? Well, they’re best known for their anti-authoritarian and revolutionary politics, but treating people right is at the top of their list. The proof is in the pudding, a good number of their songs touch on this topic, treating people right while challenging the powers that be. As you can imagine, RATM has voiced viewpoints highly critical of the domestic and foreign policies of current and previous U.S. administrations. Throughout their band-life, they’ve led by example… bandmates have participated in political protests and other activism in support of their beliefs. They see music as a vehicle for social activism, all the greats seem to share that viewpoint.
(Renegades of Funk from the album titled, Renegades)
If you’re not as familiar with Rage as the hard-core fan, that’s OK. What you most likely want to know is what all the hype is about? Consider this, during their original incarnation, Rage set the music world on fire. With their power guitar signature sound, they put 4 killer albums, their self-titled freshman release, Rage Against the Machine came out in 1992; and it shocked us. Then they release Evil Empire in 1996 and it moved us. Then came The Battle of Los Angeles in 1999 and that one inspired us. Then, finally Renegades in 2000 came out and that one pierced our souls. Those albums produced some of the most iconic and decade defining tunes of all-time. Their catalog features hits like Wake Up, Testify, Bombtrack, Guerilla Radio, Fistful of Steel, No Shelter, Bullet in the Head, Bulls on Parade, Year of the Boomerang, Sleep Now in the Fire, Renegades of Funk (Afrika Bambaataa cover) , People of the Sun, Know Your Enemy, Freedom, Vietnow, Down Rodeo and their uber-hit, Killing in the Name. You Tube or Google any of these songs if you’re not familiar with any of them, it’ll be enlightening.
As for the band’s name, there are many rumors out there about it being based on a song De la Rocha wrote for his previous band, Inside Out. That part is actually true, but there’s more to it… the truth story is much simpler and realistic. It’s a scenario we can all relate to. The band name was based on their hatred for their 1979 Chevy van. So, de la Rocha once said that their original tour van was always breaking down. They missed several gigs back in the day because it wasn’t reliable transportation. It often broke down on them the day of their gig. What was most distressing for all the band members was that they spent way more money on repairing the van than it was worth. Hence, forming the band name. Their rage was understandable and undeniable; and the object of their animosity was the aforementioned 1979 Chevy Van. There you have it, a factoid best destined for Jeopardy, under the category: What is the genesis of the band name Rage Against the Machine?
(Testify from the album titled, The Battle of Los Angeles)
Notwithstanding all the good times, like all things in life (except for the Stones) nothing lasts forever. The band disbanded in 2000, and everyone went in different directions, well kinda’. de la Rocha took his own road. Originally, it was reported that he had vanished from the music scene all together, but in reality, he was working with DJ Shadow. That collaboration made sense given the lyrical stylings found in Shadow’s current hit, Nobody Speak. Remarkably, de la Rocha also worked with Nine Inch Nails front-man Trent Reznor. The collective work has yet to be released; you never know what the future holds for those recordings. He’s had other projects over the years, including Run the Jewels, but nothing as successful as his time with Rage, the rest has been very lowpro.
(Nobody Speak | DJ Shadow from the album titled, The Mountain Will Fall)
As for Morello, he began his solo career shortly after the Rage split. He toured with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, he loves folk music and open mic night, you can catch him there occasionally. He also began his acoustic solo act, The Nightwatchman and Street Sweeper Social Club. Additionally, he co-founded Axis of Justice, which is a monthly program on Pacifica Radio (KPFK -90.7fm in Los Angeles). Oh yeah, he’s also played in Audioslave, and if that’s not enough, he also got together with his fellow bandmates to form Prophets of Rage.
Another notable project is Tom Morello’s Guitar Revolution. This project is as much about social impact as it is about the playing. Morello believes guitars are tools of art, fun and expression. They are an important part of culture and society. The project gets guitars in the hands of children and those in need of an outlet for rehabilitation. The project works in association with accredited, non-profit local organizations that help disadvantaged and underprivileged musicians of all ages, tastes, and levels.
So Audioslave? Yeah that… the rest of the band collaborated with Soundgarden’s, Chris Cornell to form this Super-group. Aside that, in 2007, Rage reunited for the occasional one-off show here and there. However, they eventually went on hiatus back in 2011. In May 2016, former Rage bandmates Morello, Commerford and Wilk launched Prophets of Rage with Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and the spin-master, DJ Lord. This project was very well received and produced an EP and a self-titled full-length studio album. The album produced a hit with Living on the 101.
(Living On The 110 by Prophets of Rage)
Despite Morello, Wilk and Commerford’s commitments to Prophets of Rage, they confirmed through an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that Rage hadn’t split up, they just did things their own way and were working on other projects. Prophets eventually disbanded earlier in 2019, which ironically allowed for the Rage reunion.
So what’s up with the Rage reunion? Well, years after their last appearance at L.A. Rising at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in July 2011, and eight months before the next Presidential Election, the cat is out of the bag; Rage will be touring in 2020. A reunion tour banner was leaked on the internet, and you know, if it’s on the internet it must be true! Luckily, the reunion was later confirmed. If the leaked banner is accurate, the tour would start with appearances in three southern border cities, most likely to send a message. Those date are a March 26th stop in El Paso, Texas, then they hit Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 28th, then off to Phoenix, Arizona on March 30th before ending up at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 10th and April 17th. Then they move on to dates across-the-pond hitting the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia | New Zealand and then back to the states for a few shows before heading down to South America. It’s unclear what they will do after that. Only rumors at this time that they may add a few more US Dates.
(The much ballyhoo’d LEAKED Tour Banner)
Given the voice they have, and with today’s political climate being what it is, the only question left to ask is what took so long? Whatever the answer is, the bottom-line is Rage is back, and watch out as they’re ready to shake the system, again!
(Killing in the Name from the self-titled debut album)
No matter who you are, pay attention to this group, they will make a difference. Most of all, prepare yourself for those louder than life songs that energize, lyrics that are intended to provoke thought, after all, “Some of those who burn crosses… are the same that hold office.” 2020 is Prime to be the year of Rage!