Rage Against the Machine is a band that has made a huge impact on our society by protesting and showing how they feel about the government. Here's the story of how they began.
In 1991, guitarist Tom Morello left his old band, Lock Up, looking 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's lyric books, and asked him to be the vocalist in a band. Morello called and drafted a drummer named Brad Wilk, who had previously auditioned for Lock Up, while de la Rocha convinced his childhood friend Tim Commerford to join as bassist.
The new band named themselves after a song de la Rocha had written for his former band, Inside Out. Kent McClard, with whom Inside Out were associated, had previously coined the phrase in a 1989 article in his zine No Answers.
Shortly after forming, they gave their first public performance in Orange County, California, where a friend of Commerford'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 albumtwo were eventually included as B-sides, with the remaining three songs never seeing an official release.
Several record labels expressed interest, and the band eventually signed with Epic Records. Morello said, "Epic agreed to everything we askedand they've followed through.... We never saw an ideological conflict as long as we maintained creative control."
The band's eponymous debut album, Rage Against the Machine, reached triple platinum status, driven by heavy radio play of the song "Killing in the Name", a heavy, driving track repeating six lines of lyrics. The uncensored version, which contains 17 iterations of the word fuck, was once notoriously played on the BBC Radio 1 Top 40 singles show.
The album's cover pictured Thch Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963; Quảng Đức was protesting the murder of Buddhists by Prime Minister Ng Đnh Diệm's regime. To promote the album and its core message of social justice and equality, the band went on tour, playing at Lollapalooza 1993 and as support for Suicidal Tendencies in Europe.
After their debut album, the band appeared on the soundtrack for the film Higher Learning with the song "Year of tha Boomerang". An early version of "Tire Me" would also appear during the movie. Subsequently, they recorded an original song, "Darkness", for the soundtrack of The Crow and also "No Shelter" appeared on the Godzilla soundtrack.
Their second album, Evil Empire, entered Billboard's Top 200 chart at number one in 1996. The song "Bulls on Parade" was performed on Saturday Night Live in April 1996. Their planned two-song performance was cut to one song when the band attempted to hang inverted American flags from their amplifiers, a protest against having Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes as guest host on the program that night.
In 1997, the band opened for U2 on their Popmart Tour, for which all Rage's profits went to support social organisations.
Rage subsequently began an abortive headlining US tour with special guests Wu-Tang Clan. Police in several jurisdictions unsuccessfully attempted to have the concerts cancelled, citing amongst other reasons, the bands' "violent and anti-law enforcement philosophies".
On the Japan leg of their tour promoting Evil Empire, a bootleg album composed of the band's B-side recordings titled Live & Rare was released by Sony Records. A live video, also titled Rage Against the Machine, was released later the same year.
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. That same year the song "Wake Up" was featured on the soundtrack of the film The Matrix. The track "Calm Like a Bomb" was later featured in the film's sequel, 2003's The Matrix Reloaded. In 2000, the band planned to support the Beastie Boys on the "Rhyme and Reason" tour; however, the tour was cancelled when Beastie Boys drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury.
By the time he recovered, Rage Against the Machine had disbanded.
After the group's breakup, Morello, Wilk, and Commerford briefly tried to replace de la Rocha in RATM. Rumoured vocalists at the time included Rey Oropeza of downset., Chuck D of Public Enemy, and B-Real of Cypress Hill. However, the band teamed up with former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to form a new band, Audioslave.
The first Audioslave single, "Cochise", was released in early November 2002, and the debut album, Audioslave, followed to mainly positive reviews. Their second album Out of Exile debuted at the number one position on the Billboard charts in 2005. The band released a third album named Revelations on September 5, 2006. The band vowed to have a "one-album-per-year" schedule, but Audioslave's future has been cast into doubt following Cornell's leaving on February 15, 2007. Wilk and Commerford are contributing to Maynard James Keenan's side project Puscifer, set for release in mid-October 2007, while Morello is focusing on his own solo project.
Members of the band had been offered large sums of money to reunite for concerts and tours, and had turned the offers down. Rumors of bad blood between de la Rocha and the other former band members subsequently circulated, but Commerford said that he and de la Rocha see each other often and go surfing together, while Morello said he and de la Rocha communicate by phone, and had met up at a September 15, 2005 protest in support of the South Central Farm. Morello and de la Rocha were photographed together at the protest, the first photograph of the two since the band's breakup. Rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were circulating in mid-January, and were confirmed on January 22. The band was confirmed to be headlining the final day of Coachella 2007. The reunion was described by Morello as primarily being a vehicle to voice the band's opposition to the "right-wing purgatory" the United States has "slid into" under the George W. Bush administration since RATM's dissolution. Though the performance was initially thought to be a one-off, this turned out not to be the case.
On April 14, 2007, Morello and de la Rocha reunited onstage early to perform a brief acoustic set in downtown Chicago at a Coalition of Immokalee Workers rally in support of fairness in the fast food industry. Morello described the event as "very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included." This was followed by the scheduled Coachella performance on Sunday, April 29. The band played in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival; their performance was widely considered the festival's most anticipated. A speech was made during "Wake Up" in which de la Rocha, citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremburg trials, said: "If the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II, every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot - and this current administration is no exception.
">They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be. But the challenges that we face, they go way beyond administrations, way beyond elections, way beyond every four years of pulling levers, way beyond that. Because this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel that in order to sustain itself, it needs to destroy entire countries and profit from their reconstruction in order to survive - and that's not a system that changes every four years, it's a system that we have to break down, generation after generation after generation after generation after generation.... Wake up."