HENRY DILTZ, AFP/Getty Images When Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival…
- Posted on Aug 31st 2011 4:21PM by Dan Reilly
After the US debt crisis, are you amazed that people can still trust the government?
Yeah, it's really not in the hands of people who deserve to run it. Still on the back of my tongue is the taste of the billions of dollars to these Wall Street fat cats since the last recession. I'm just waiting to see when someone puts up their hand saying, "The solution is we have to write more checks for Wall Street."
How much of that anger was the inspiration for the Justice Tour?
Well, certainly that has been big, but the Justice Tour is something I've done over the last five years or so. The specific focus this time around is on the union struggles in the Midwest and the tour is benefiting the Nation Institute and pushing forward the idea of independent media to tell a different story than the main corporate construct. Wayne, Tim and I, who were all in Wisconsin on that bitter cold Saturday in February, are returning to the scene of the crime. The idea is to help steel the backbone of unions and working-class people there. They're in the fight of their lives. This is the last line of defense. Will the representation of working-class people be completely swept away forever or will we stand our ground and be able to have a voice in what our economy and country is like?
Speaking of the media, it seems like this Wisconsin story just kind of faded away. Do you think it's just another case of the media getting bored?
Well, it's curious how the media treated Wisconsin differently than Europe. The day that we played in Madison, there were more people in the streets of Madison than there were on the streets of Cairo, in the midst of the uprising in Egypt. It's interesting that somehow those things didn't connect in the media when the people on the streets of Madison were talking about it and some of the organizers in Cairo were talking about the solidarity of the two people.
There were as many as 150,000 people on the streets of a city of 200,000. And the day I was in the occupied capitol building there, it felt like czarist Russia in 1917. When union cops and anarchist students are standing shoulder-to-shoulder and demanding justice and the governor's head. I really thought anything was possible. It's interesting how it diffused into this struggle to oust a couple of Republican state senators. It's aiming low.
It's pretty incredible to see union workers, especially teachers, get vilified.
It's amazing. There's a class war in the United States right now and only one side is fighting it. That's what this record is about. The jumping-off point for 'World Wide Rebel Songs' was the title track, and there were these guitar-manufacturing workers from Korea and they had unionized and were fired and their plant was shut down and they moved it to China. So they came to the United States to raise money for their cause and their families and they were desperate and down and out, and I was very happy to play a benefit show on their behalf. The day before the benefit show, the earthquake happened in Haiti and the Korean workers voted to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from their benefit show to the Haiti relief effort. It was such a great act of international solidarity and a window into the world that I'd like to see, that I wrote the song 'World Wide Rebel Songs' and performed it that night at the show. That was really where this record started.
What inspired the song 'Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine'?
That's about my new guitar. It's the first time I've played steel-string acoustic guitar on a Nightwatchman record and Mick Jones from the Clash referred to his guitar as a "heart-attack machine," and I named my new guitar Black Spartacus. If you listen to the song with that in mind, it all makes perfect sense. 'World Wide Rebel Songs' is a more didactic, sing-along; most of the songs on this record are. It's an album of rousing hopelessness and this desperate attempt to use this medium in a quest of personal redemption. Plus, there are Marshall stacks on this one.
Do you feel more desperate?
The desperation is more personal than political on these records. When I started writing songs, I sort of assumed they'd be more from the headlines of the newspaper, but I really found they were more from the depths of what I didn't suspect, as tortured a soul as I turned out to be. Opening that Pandora's box has been the reason I've been so passionate about this Nightwatchman stuff. It's really the most personal expression I've ever had artistically. On this record, the idea was to have it be one part Johnny Cash, one part Che Guevara and one part Marshall stack.
What's going on with your comic book project?
I've had an idea for some time about a comic book project called 'Orchid.' I wanted to combine the epic grandeur of some of my favorite fantasy stories like 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Dune,' Stephen King's 'The Stand' and 'Star Wars' and infuse it with a class consciousness that I always thought was woefully absent of those stories where they're just trying, desperately trying, to get the king back on the throne and all the peasants are laying down their lives for this noble cause.
It's the story of a 16-year-old street prostitute in a dystopian future who becomes the Spartacus of whores. It's a real passion project. I love it. I've spent thousands of hours working on this thing and it's a story I want to tell. I wasn't going to be another Hollywood jackass with a screenplay and I didn't have time in my busy rock life to write the great American 600-page novel. I was a comic book collector as a kid but I put them down when I picked up the electric guitar. Comics have matured a lot since I was away. Now you can really tell any story via the graphic novel medium of any emotional and political depth. That's the goal.
Some footage of Rage's first-ever show recently popped up on the Internet. What do you remember about that show?
That footage has been on the internet for a while, so it's funny that it just made the rounds. A friend of ours who was a 17-year-old roadie at the time set up his VHS camera and recorded that show. I have total gig recall, so I remember that gig in very intimate detail without seeing that video. We were playing out in front of nobody. Literally, the show started and there was nobody watching the band perform. By the end of it we drew a small crowd, a couple of headbangers really got into it.
Rage Against the Machine recently sold out the L.A. Coliseum for the L.A. Rising festival. Did the success of it inspire any more concrete plans for future Rage shows?
There are no more concrete plans at the moment. We enjoy playing together and I'm hopeful that there will be more Rage in the future. I'm asked this question in every interview I do, and when there's real Rage stuff happening it will not be kept secret. We will let you know.