Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against The Machine (sometimes shortened to Rage or RATM) was an American rock band noted both for its diligent political conscience and for its blend of hard rock and rap. By the time point of the band's break-up in 2000, Rage Against the Machine had become one of the most popular political hard rock bands of all time, and certainly of the 1990s. Following the break-up of the band, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk formed Audioslave with singer Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden, which had recently disbanded. Rage Against the Machine is now at least temporarily reunited for a series of concerts.

Rage Against the Machine drew inspiration from early metallic instrumentation, as well as rap acts such as Public Enemy, and Afrika Bambaataa. The coalescence of rhyming styles and vocals along with their sound, especially Tom Morello's unusual guitar techniques, makes Rage Against the Machine difficult to confine to any one particular musical genre.

Tom Morello left his old band, Lock Up, and decided to start another band. Morello was in a club in L.A where Zack de la Rocha was rapping. Morello was impressed by de la Rocha, and asked him to join his band. Tom called and drafted a drummer named Brad Wilk, who had previously auditioned for Lock Up. De la Rocha had a childhood friend, Tim Commerford, whom he convinced to join. The band was now composed of Morello (guitar), de la Rocha(vocals), Wilk (drums) and Commerford (bass). Their name was derived from a phrase Ebullition Records founder Kent McLard coined in some writings he did for his 'zine called No Answers (issue #9). Originally, de la Rocha wanted to use the name "Rage Against the Machine" as an album title for his then-current band, Inside Out. This album never saw fruition and instead he used the phrase after Morello, de la Rocha, Wilk and Commerford started a group. Shortly after forming, they gave their first public performance in a living room in Orange County, California, where a friend of Tim's was holding a house party. The blueprint for the group's major-label debut album was laid on a twelve-song self-released cassette, the cover image of which was the stock-market with a single match taped to the inlay card. Not all 12 songs made it onto the final album - two were eventually included as B-sides with the remaining songs never seeing an official release. Several record labels expressed interest and they eventually signed with Epic Records. Morello said, "Epic agreed to everything we asked—and they've followed through…we never saw an ideological conflict as long as we maintained creative control."

To promote the album and its core message of social justice and equality, the band went on tour, playing at Lollapalooza II and as support for Suicidal Tendencies in Europe.

Mainstream success

Rage Against the Machine, the band's first album, reached 3x platinum status, driven by heavy radio play of the song "Killing in the Name", a heavy, driving track repeating six lines of lyrics. The version of the song played on United States radio was about a minute shorter than the unedited track due to the removal of 17 repetitions of the word fuck.

Their second album, Evil Empire entered Billboard's Top 200 chart at number one in 1996. A live video, also titled Rage Against the Machine followed in 1997. The following release, The Battle of Los Angeles also debuted at number one in 1999, selling 450,000 copies the first week and then going double-platinum.

Renegades, released shortly after the band's dissolution, was a 2000 collection of covers of bands as diverse as Devo, Cypress Hill, Minor Threat, MC5 and even Bob Dylan (They performed many of the songs on the album at live concerts before they broke up). The following year saw the release of another live video, The Battle of Mexico City.

A bootleg album of live and rare material fittingly titled Live & Rare from 1997, was followed up by a proper live release, Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in 2003, an edited recording of their last shows, September 12 and 13, 2000 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was accompanied with an expanded DVD release of the concerts, which included the previously unreleased music video for "Bombtrack".

On May 4th, 2006 the song Bulls on Parade entered VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs at #15. While this shows the mainstream impact of Rage's success, such lists released by VH1 are widely seen as subjective

Integral to their identity as a band, the group voiced viewpoints highly critical of the domestic and foreign policies of the U.S. Throughout its existence, Rage Against the Machine participated in political protests to advocate these beliefs, including an infamous performance outside the 2000 Democratic National Convention and a performance on Wall Street earlier that same year. In the case of the latter, on January 26th, 2000, filming of their music video "Sleep Now in the Fire" — directed by Michael Moore — shut down the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE locked its doors midday in response to fears of crowds gathering to watch the filming. Footage of enthusiastic Wall Street employees headbanging to Rage Against the Machine's music was later used in the completed "Sleep Now In The Fire" video.

Some controversial stands taken by the group include tireless advocacy for the releases of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal and political activist Leonard Peltier. The band were also supporters of the Zapatistas, especially de la Rocha, who has taken several trips to the Mexican state of Chiapas to aid their efforts, and whose travels were soon documented, in part, in one of the band's concert videos.

On October 18, 2000, de la Rocha released the following statement :

I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision - making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal. I am extremely proud of our work, both as activists and musicians, as well as indebted and grateful to every person who has expressed solidarity and shared this incredible experience with us.

After de la Rocha left, the remaining members, Morello, Commerford, and Wilk, recruited singer Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden, and continued as Audioslave from 2002 to early 2007 after releasing three albums.

Rage Against the Machine reunited on April 29, 2007, headlining the Coachella Valley Music Festival after a seven year hiatus. More details can be found at They are also headlining three other dates with Rap legends Wu-Tang Clan under the Rock The Bells Hip-Hop tour.

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