HENRY DILTZ, AFP/Getty Images When Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival…
- Posted on Jun 22nd 2011 3:30PM by Steve Baltin
Steve Thorne, Redferns
The inspiration is the 20-year anniversary of the first time the band was in a room together, and the L.A. quartet, who've been relatively quiet interview wise since their Coachella reunion in 2007, are opening up in honor of the milestone. In this "guerilla" video from Tim Commerford, the bassist takes fans into his prep routine for a show and says, "Hopefully it'll continue to happen, but no guarantees here ... Truth be told, this might be the last show we ever play. That's the way I always look at it."
Speaking to Spinner, Morello echoes those sentiments, saying, "Sometimes the guys in the band don't know from one day to the next." That's been the Rage way since they reformed: enigmatic and letting the music speak for them. But in this interview, Morello lets fans into the Rage world, talking about the feeling of being on stage with the band, coming back to the Coliseum 14 years after opening for U2 there and why L.A. is the music capitol of the world.
Tell us about the inspiration for this show.
This is a Rage Against the Machine show -- we chose the bands and the venue, we're choosing the activists and the charity causes that will be in the Rage reeducation camp that will be part of the venue. The 20th anniversary of the first time the four of us were in a room together is this August and we thought "What better way to mark it than by, from the very humble beginnings of playing in a little rehearsal studio in the San Fernando Valley, to playing the biggest venue in town?"
Have you played the Coliseum before?
We actually played the Coliseum opening for U2 in 1997. It's very different when you're opening up behind the big lemon on the arch and that's looming in the background while you're playing 'Bullet in the Head.' This time we're going to actually get to play during the darkness [laughs].
Do you see this as a potentially annual future event and could it go past L.A.?
Let's get one under our belts first of all [laughs]. It's a much broader endeavor than sort of a normal rock gig would be. Our hope is that we're able to establish a festival in Los Angeles that people look forward to seeing every year. But, right now, all we're concentrating on is making sure that July 30 is awesome.
Obviously, this show brings up the question: Do you see Rage as an active band at this point and what does the future hold musically?
We're certainly an active band. There's going to be no more active band in the universe than Rage Against the Machine on July 30 [laughs]. We'll let you know, if and when there's new music. You will hear it. If and when there's a tour, those things will not be kept secret. Beyond that, it's all just speculation. Sometimes the guys in the band don't know from one day to the next. The one thing I know for sure is on July 30 we're gonna be rocking the Coliseum senseless.
You have the Nightwatchman and Zack [de la Rocha] has One Day as a Lion. Because you guys have these different outlets, when you get together and play as Rage do you enjoy it more personally?
I can only speak for myself, but, for me, absolutely. The great benefit of being in a band is the personal and musical chemistry, but often it comes with four people determining a timetable and everybody's got different ideas of when that's going to be. With the Nightwatchman stuff, I determine the timetable, so it really does take the pressure off. When I do Rage Against the Machine now, it's just for the pure love of playing those songs with my friends and for our incredible audience that's sustained us for two decades. There's no crystal ball that we could've possibly looked into many years ago in that dingy rehearsal studio in the San Fernando Valley and imagine that one day we'd be headlining the Los Angeles Coliseum. I'm so grateful for that and for the relationship that I've had with those guys over the course of those two decades.
Were there a few moments early on when you realized the potential was there you guys would have this impact?
There were certainly moments where I realized it was going to grow outside of the rehearsal studio in the San Fernando Valley. From the very earliest days the music of Rage Against the Machine had an effect on an audience like nothing I'd ever seen. As far as its longevity, frankly I haven't thought about it much. Every moment of these 20 years has been kind of living in the moment. When we were together and when we were apart there have been very few moments of pure reflection. But I can't imagine that wouldn't be occurring onstage at the Coliseum where we look out into the throng. I moved here in 1986 with a guitar and a Marshall half stack just hoping to get a band together. It's 25 years since then, to be rocking the Coliseum, it's something I don't take for granted for one second.
Are there songs that have morphed for you or you've developed a deeper appreciation for over time?
The thing about Rage in a live setting is the songs and the experience onstage is so interwoven with the audience. We realized this post-Coachella. One of the things Rage never did in the first nine years we were together was tried to headline festival shows. We always liked to be in the stalking position, in part because it was kind of set up for a win. But it also was thinking, "We don't have pyrotechnics and in a big room like that ... " But we realized around the time of Coachella that our show is the relationship between us and the audience. You can have all the pyro in the world and this, that, and the other, but there's nothing more exciting than seeing 60,000 people going ape-s--- when a Rage Against the Machine song is playing. That's what we rely on for our show. It's like you're in it too.
And it's not just toe-tapping jams -- these are songs. These lyrics that Zack wrote are absolutely as relevant in 2011 as when they were written. Those lyrics are important and when they're put with that thundering rhythm section and some electric guitar, it matters. It's not like, "Ah, here's a trip down memory lane. Here's my favorite song from the Lollapalooza years." It's nothing like that. My experience since 2007 is that the band has never played better, the band has never jacked crowds up as much as we have over the course of the four years.
Is it depressing to you that those lyrics are still as relevant today as they were when Zack wrote them?
It's certainly not depressing. The history of human progress and the history of struggle and conflict, from Spartacus to Madison, Wis., is "which side are you on?" And so the music I'm involved in, whether it's Rage or the Nightwatchman or my other musical outlets, I want to make it clear which side I'm on and to help all I can to push forward the cause of social justice.
Maybe it's less depressing than just the idea there are still so many things that are socially unjust.
[Laughs] One day when we win and we're all basking in our utopian paradise of equality and no racism and no war we'll sit around the campfire and we'll sing Jack Johnson songs. Until then, Rage Against the Machine is gonna terrorize your audience.
If that's what utopia has to bring ...
[Laughs] There's still room for Sabbath in utopia.
What charities will be involved in the show?
We're still formalizing the list, but it's important for us to distinguish this festival from any other festival. It's not gonna be like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, any of those. This is a Rage Against the Machine-run-and-operated festival and it's going to feel like that from the moment you walk in. It's not going to be like a bunch of henna tattoo parlors along the way and a petting zoo. It's going to be a Rage Against the Machine reeducation camp.
What L.A. bands would be on the hypothetical wish list for future L.A. shows?
The good news is that if there are further L.A. Rising shows, there are plenty of great L.A. homegrown artists to choose from. I'm trying to think if there's any other city in the world that can compete with the music that's come from Los Angeles. We've got N.W.A. and Van Halen, so step off.
Download Rage Against the Machine Songs | Buy Rage Against the Machine Albums