Rage Against the Machine is an American rock band, formed in Template:City-state in 1991. The band's continual members are singer Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk. Rage Against the Machine is noted for its blend of hip hop, heavy metal, punk and funk as well as its revolutionary politics and lyrics. Rage Against the Machine drew inspiration from early metal instrumentation, as well as rap acts such as Public Enemy and Afrika Bambaataa.[1] The group's music is distinguished primarily by de la Rocha's rhyming styles and powerful stage energy, and Morello's unorthodox guitar techniques.

Rage Against the Machine released their debut album Rage Against the Machine in 1992, which became a commercial success. Following a slot in the 1993 Lollapalooza, the band did not release a follow-up record until Evil Empire in 1996. The band's third album The Battle of Los Angeles was released in 1999. During their initial nine year run, they became one of the most popular and influential political bands in contemporary music.[2]

The band released their fourth studio album Renegades in 2000 and broke up shortly afterwards. Zack de la Rocha started a low-key solo career; the rest of the band formed the rock supergroup Audioslave with former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. In April 2007 Rage Against the Machine performed together for the first time in seven years at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The band has continued to perform at multiple live venues since.


Early years (1991–1992) Edit

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 free-style rapping. Morello was impressed by de la Rocha's lyric books, and asked him to be a rapper in a band. Morello drafted drummer Brad Wilk of Greta, who had previously auditioned for Lock Up, while de la Rocha convinced his childhood friend Tim Commerford to join as bassist. The newly christened Rage Against the Machine named themselves after a song de la Rocha had written for his former popular underground hardcore punk band, Inside Out (also to be the title of the unrecorded Inside Out full-length album).[3] Kent McClard, with whom Inside Out were associated, had previously coined the phrase in a 1989 article in his zine No Answers.[4]

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 album—two were eventually included as B-sides, with the remaining three songs never seeing an official release.[5]

Several record labels expressed interest, and the band eventually signed with Epic Records. Morello said, "Epic agreed to everything we asked—and they've followed through.… We never saw a[n] [ideological] conflict as long as we maintained creative control."[6]

Mainstream success (1992–2000)Edit

File:Pochoir Killing in the Name.JPG

Template:Sound sample box align right Template:Listen Template:Sample box end The band's 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.[7] The album's cover pictured Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the murder of Buddhists by Prime Minister Ngô Đình 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. Template:Sound sample box align right Template:Listen Template:Sample box end Rage Against The Machine's 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 sign of distress or great danger)[citation needed], a protest against having Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes as guest host on the program that night.[citation needed]

In 1997, the band opened for U2 on their PopMart Tour, for which all Rage's profits went to support social organizations.[8] including U.N.I.T.E. , Women Alive and the Zapatista Front for National Liberation.[9] 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".[10][11] 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.[citation needed] 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 canceled when Beastie Boys drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury.[12]

Break-up and subsequent projects (2000–2005)Edit

On October 18, 2000, de la Rocha released a statement announcing his departure from the band. He said, "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."[13] The band's final studio album, Renegades, released shortly after the band's dissolution, was a collection of covers of artists as diverse as Devo, Cypress Hill, Minor Threat, MC5, Bruce Springsteen, EPMD, Eric B. and Rakim and Bob Dylan.[1] The following year saw the release of another live video, The Battle of Mexico City, and 2003 saw the release of a live album titled Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, an edited recording of the band's final two concerts on September 12 and 13, 2000 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.[14] It was accompanied by an expanded DVD release of the last show, and also included the previously unreleased music video for "Bombtrack".

File:Audioslave 2005.jpg

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] The band released a third album named Revelations on September 5, 2006. The band vowed to have a "one-album-per-year" schedule, until the departure of Chris Cornell on February 15, 2007.[15]

Morello began his own solo career in 2003, playing political acoustic folk music at open-mic nights and various clubs under the alias The Nightwatchman. He first participated in Billy Bragg's Tell Us the Truth tour[16] with no plans to record,[17] but later recorded a song for Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11, "No One Left". In February 2007, he announced a solo album, entitled One Man Revolution, which was released in April 2007.[18]

Meanwhile, de la Rocha had been working on a solo album collaboration with DJ Shadow, Company Flow, and The Roots' ?uestlove,[13] but dropped the project in favor of working with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor.[19] Recording was completed, but the album will probably never be released.[20] A collaboration between de la Rocha and DJ Shadow, the song "March of Death" was released for free over the World Wide Web in 2003 in protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq,[21] and the 2004 soundtrack Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 included one of the collaborations with Reznor, "We Want It All".[19] In late 2005, de la Rocha was seen singing and playing the jarana with Son Jarocho band Son de Madera on multiple occasions.[22]

Members of the band had been offered large sums of money to reunite for concerts and tours, and had turned the offers down.[23] 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.[24]

Reunion (2007-present)Edit

File:Zach de la Rocha at 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.jpg

Rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were circulating in mid-January 2007,[25] and were confirmed on January 22.[26] The band was confirmed to be headlining the final day of Coachella 2007.[27] 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.[28] Though the performance was initially thought to be a one-off,[29] 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 at a Coalition of Immokalee Workers rally in downtown Chicago. Morello described the event as "very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included."[30] This was followed by the scheduled Coachella performance on Sunday, April 29 where the band staged a much anticipated performance in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival;[31][32][33]

Rage Against the Machine has continued to tour the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan,[34] and plan to play a series of shows in Europe in Summer 2008 including the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals in Germany, Hultsfred Festival in Sweden, Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands, Nova Rock in Austria and the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England.[citation needed] When asked in May 2007 if the band were planning on writing a new album, Morello replied:


More recently, as of April 7, 2008, Morello has reportedly chosen not to comment about the possibility of a new album when interviewed by MTV News on the set of the latest video shoot of politically-charged punk rock band Anti-Flag.[35]

Political views and activismEdit

File:RATM - Burningamp.jpg

Integral to their identity as a band, Rage Against the Machine voice revolutionary viewpoints highly critical of the domestic and foreign policies of the U.S. government. Throughout its existence, RATM and its individual members participated in political protests and other activism to advocate these beliefs. The band primarily saw its music as a vehicle for social activism; de la Rocha explained that "I'm interested in spreading those ideas through art, because music has the power to cross borders, to break military sieges and to establish real dialogue."[36] Morello said of wage slavery in America:


Meanwhile, detractors pointed out the tension between voicing commitment to leftist causes while being signed to Epic Records, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Sony Records. Infectious Grooves released a song called "Do What I Tell Ya!" which mocks lyrics from "Killing in the Name", accusing the band of being hypocrites. In response to such critiques, Morello offered the rebuttal:

When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that's where people buy their books. We're not interested in preaching to just the converted. It's great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it's also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart.[6]

At the Coachella 2007 performance, De la Rocha made an impassionated speech during "Wake Up", citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremberg Trials,[37] as follows:

Template:Cquote2 Template:Wikiquote

The event led to a media furor. A clip of Zack's speech found its way to the Fox News program "Hannity & Colmes." An on-screen headline read, "Rock group Rage Against the Machine says Bush admin should be shot." Ann Coulter (a guest on the show) stated, "They’re losers, their fans are losers, and there’s a lot of violence coming from the left wing."[38] On July 28th and 29th, Rage co-headlined the hip hop festival Rock the Bells. On July 28, they made a speech during Wake Up just as they had done at Coachella. During this, De La Rocha made another statement, defending the band from Fox News, who he alleged misquoted his speech at Coachella:



File:Flag of the EZLN.svg

The band are vocal supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), especially de la Rocha, who has taken several trips to the Mexican state of Chiapas to aid their efforts. The flag of the EZLN serves as the primary recurring theme in the band's visual art. Morello described the EZLN as "a guerrilla army who represent the poor indigenous communities in southern Mexico who, for hundreds of years, have been trodden upon and sort of cast aside and which really are the lowest form on the economic -social ladder in Mexico. In 1994, on New Years Day, there was an uprising there and they were led by the very charismatic Subcomandante Marcos and it's a group which is tremendously supportive of the most objectively poor and continues to fight for dignity, for all people in Mexico."[39] An interviewer was once told by de la Rocha, "Our purpose in sympathising with the Zapatistas is to help spark [real] dialogue."[36]

De la Rocha has been particularly outspoken on the cause of the EZLN. He explained the importance of the cause to him personally:


The EZLN and de la Rocha's experiences with them inspired the songs "Wind Below", and "Without A Face" from Evil Empire.[40]

Saturday Night LiveEdit

On April 10th, 1996 the band was scheduled to perform two songs on the NBC comedy variety show Saturday Night Live. The show was hosted that night by ex-Republican presidential candidate and billionaire Steve Forbes. According to an unidentified RATM member, "RATM wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to a billionaire telling jokes and promoting his flat tax by making our own statement."[41]

To this end, the band hung two upside-down American flags from their amplifiers. Seconds before they took the stage to perform "Bulls on Parade", SNL and NBC sent stagehands in to pull the flags down.[42] The inverted flags, says Morello, represented: Template:Cquote2

The band's first attempt to hang the flags during a pre-telecast rehearsal on Thursday were frustrated by SNL's producers, who "demanded that we take the flags down," according to Morello, "They said the sponsors would be upset, and that because Steve Forbes was on, they had to run a 'tighter' show." SNL also told the band it would mute objectionable lyrics in "Bullet in the Head" (which was supposed to be RATM's second song), and insisted that the song be bleeped in the studio because Forbes had friends and family there.[41]

On the night of the show, following the removal of the flags during the first performance, the band was approached by SNL and NBC officials and ordered to immediately leave the building. Upon hearing this, RATM bassist Commerford reportedly stormed Forbes' dressing room, throwing shreds from one of the torn down flags. Template:Cquote2 Morello noted that members of the Saturday Night Live cast and crew, whom he declined to name, "[e]xpressed solidarity with our actions, and a sense of shame that their show had censored the performance."[41]

Radio Free L.A. Edit

Radio Free Los Angeles was a radio show held by the band on January 20, 1997, the night of Bill Clinton's inauguration as President.[43] The show comprised segments and interviews featuring Michael Moore, Emily Hodgson, Leonard Peltier, Chuck D, Mumia Abu-Jamal, UNITE, Noam Chomsky, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, and Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas.[44] These were intercut with musical performances by Morello, de la Rocha, Flea and Stephen Perkins playing different versions of Rage songs, and also Beck and Cypress Hill playing their own songs. The band organized and played the show in response to the re-election of Clinton:


The two-hour show was syndicated by over 50 commercial U.S. radio stations[45] and streamed live from the band's website. Transcripts of the interviews are freely available online.[46][47]

"Sleep Now in the Fire" video shootEdit

On January 26, 2000, filming of the music video for "Sleep Now in the Fire", which was directed by Michael Moore, caused the doors of the New York Stock Exchange to be closed and the band to be escorted from the site by security,[48] after band members attempted to gain entry into the Exchange[49]. Trading on the Exchange floor, however, continued uninterrupted[50].

Footage of enthusiastic Wall Street employees headbanging to Rage's music was used in the final video. "We decided to shoot this video in the belly of the beast", said Moore, who was threatened with arrest during the shooting of the video because of false claims [citation needed] that Moore failed to get a permit.[48]

2000 Democratic National ConventionEdit


File:The Democratic National Convention Mumia Abu-Jamal Banner With Rage Against The Machine Fans.jpg

RATM played a free concert at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in protest of the two-party system. The band had been considering playing a protest concert there since April of that year.[51] Although they were at first required by the City of Los Angeles to perform in a small venue at a considerable distance, early in August a United States district court judge ruled that the City's request was too restrictive and the City subsequently allowed the protests and concert to be held at a site across from the DNC.[51] The police response was to increase security measures, which included a 12 ft fence and patrolling by a minimum of 2,000 officers wearing riot gear, as well as additional horses, motorcycles, squad cars and police helicopters.[52] A police spokesperson said they were "gravely concerned because of security reasons".[52]

During the concert, de la Rocha said to the crowd, "brothers and sisters, our democracy has been hijacked,"[51] and later also shouted "we have a right to oppose these motherfuckers!"[53] After the performance, a small group of attendees congregated at the point in the protest area closest to the DNC, facing the police officers, throwing rocks,[54] and possibly engaging in more violent activity, such as throwing glass, concrete and water bottles filled with "noxious agents,"[55] spraying ammonia on police and slingshotting rocks and steel balls.[56] The police soon after declared the gathering an unlawful assembly,[53] shut off the electrical supply, interrupting performing band Ozomatli,[54] and informed the protestors that they had 20 minutes to disperse on pain of arrest.[57] Some of the protestors remained, however, including two young men who climbed the fence and waved black flags, who were subsequently shot in the face with pepper spray.[56] Police then forcibly dispersed the crowd, using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.[56] At least six people were arrested in the incident.[57]

The police faced severe and broad criticism for their reaction, with an American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson saying that it was "nothing less than an orchestrated police riot."[55] Several primary witnesses reported unnecessarily violent actions and police abuses, including firing on reporters[54] and people obeying police commands[57]. Police responded that their response was "outstanding" and "clearly disciplined."[57] De la Rocha said of the incident, "I don't care what fucking television stations said, [that] the violence was caused by the people at the concert; those motherfuckers unloaded on this crowd. And I think it's ridiculous considering, you know, none of us had rubber bullets, none of us had M16s, none of us had billy clubs, none of us had face shields."[58]

Footage of the protest and ensuing violence, along with an MTV News report on the incident, was included in the Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium DVD.

Other activismEdit

The band are advocates for the release of former Black Panther and Death Row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal for whom they wrote and recorded the track "Voice of the Voiceless" for their 1999 album The Battle of Los Angeles. The band performed at a benefit concert with all proceeds donated to the International Concerned Family And Friends Of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and de la Rocha spoke before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in support of Abu-Jamal.[59] The band also raised funds and awareness for life-sentenced political activist Leonard Peltier, and documented his case in the video for "Freedom".


At a 1993 Lollapalooza appearance in Philadelphia, the band stood onstage naked for 15 minutes with duct tape on their mouths and the letters PMRC painted on their chests in protest against censorship by the Parents Music Resource Center.[60] Refusing to play, they stood in silence with the sound emitted being only audio feedback from Morello and Commerford's guitars; the band later played a free show for disappointed fans.[61] Tom Morello was arrested for civil disobedience in October 1997 during a union protest by garment workers and their supporters against the use of sweatshop labor by Guess?.[45] Billboards subsequently appeared in Las Vegas and New York featuring a photograph of the band with the caption "Rage Against Sweatshops: We Don't Wear Guess? – A Message from Rage Against the Machine and UNITE (Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees)."[45]

Some other controversial stands taken include that of the music video for the song "Bombtrack", in which RATM expresses support for the Peruvian guerilla organization Shining Path and their incarcerated leader Abimael Guzmán. Over its career, the band played benefit concerts for organizations such as Rock for Choice, the Anti-Nazi League, the United Farm Workers, children's care organization Para Los Niños and UNITE.[45] 1994 saw the band organizing Latinpalooza, a joint benefit concert for the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund, and Para Los Niños. The band also raised funds for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, Women Alive, and played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert on more than one occasion.[45] Album liner notes contained promotional material for AK Press, Amnesty International, the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic, Indymedia, Mass Mic, Parents for Rock and Rap, the Popular Resource Center, RE: GENERATION, Refuse and Resist, Revolution Books, the Rock & Rap Confidential, and Voices in the Wilderness.


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named allmusic
  2. Devenish, Colin (2001), Rage Against the Machine: St. Martin's Griffin ISBN 0-312-27316-6
  3. Myers, Ben (October 16, 1999), Hello, Hello... ...It's Good To Be Back, Kerrang!. Retrieved February 27, 2007.
  4. McClard, Kent, History of Ebullition Records. Retrieved February 19, 2007
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rage Against the Machine FAQ, Internet Archive cache of FAQ on the official Rage Against the Machine website. Retrieved February 17, 2007
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. h2g2 entry for Rage Against the Machine
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. 13.0 13.1 Template:Cite web
  14. Template:Cite web
  15. Template:Cite web
  16. Template:Cite web
  17. Template:Cite web
  18. Template:Cite web
  19. 19.0 19.1 Template:Cite web
  20. Template:Cite web
  21. Zack de la, official website promoting "March of Death". Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  22. "King of Rage Onstage Again" (February 2006), Spin.
  23. Template:Cite web
  24. Rockline interviews Audioslave. August 29, 2006.
  25. Template:Cite web
  26. Template:Cite web
  27. Template:Cite web
  28. Template:Cite web
  29. Template:Cite web
  30. Template:Cite web
  31. Template:Cite web
  32. Template:Cite web
  33. Template:Cite web
  34. Template:Cite web
  35. Template:Cite news
  36. 36.0 36.1 Wooldridge, Simon (February 2000), "Fight the Power", Juice Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2007.
  37. Tom Morello interviews Noam Chomsky, ZMag. Accessed June 21, 2007.
  38. Template:Cite web
  39. Tom Morello interview on Triple J, October 31, 1999.
  40. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named chiapas
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Anon., Saturday Nigt Live Incident, Public release and distribution. Retrieved November 12, 2007.
  42. Template:Cite web
  43. Radio Free L.A. - Mon, Jan 20, 1997
  44. Radio Free L.A. at]
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 Official RATM timeline at
  46. Tom Morello interviewing Noam Chomsky for Radio Free L.A. at
  47. Transcript of interview with Subcommandante Marcos for Radio Free L.A.
  48. 48.0 48.1 Template:Cite web
  49. Template:Cite web
  50. Template:Cite web
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Template:Cite web
  52. 52.0 52.1 Template:Cite web
  53. 53.0 53.1 Template:Cite web
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 Template:Cite web
  55. 55.0 55.1 Template:Cite web
  56. 56.0 56.1 56.2 Template:Cite web
  57. 57.0 57.1 57.2 57.3 Template:Cite web
  58. Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium DVD, Grand Olympic Auditorium performance, part of de la Rocha's speech.
  59. Template:Cite book
  60. Template:Cite web (Image of PMRC protest available at this site.)
  61. Micallef, Ken (March 1996), Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk, Modern Drummer. Retrieved February 17, 2007.