Rage Against the Machine

Missing image
A photo of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who burnt himself to death as a protest against Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem's administration's practices against the Buddhist religion, features on the cover of the first Rage Against the Machine album.

Rage Against the Machine (also Rage or RATM) was a rock band formed in 1990, in Orange County, California. The group's personnel (the "Guilty Parties," according to the liner notes of their albums) were:

The group were popular through the 1990s and early 2000s, disbanding in 2000. They were a major influence in the nu metal genre, and were also known for their radical left-wing politics, which were featured in their music, album artwork, and were frequently mentioned in interviews and by their participation in political protests.

Among other campaigns, the band has rallied for the releases of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal and life-long sentenced Leonard Peltier, been vocal supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, performed outside the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California in protest, and played numerous concerts for various benefits.

The band's musical signatures were de la Rocha's distinctive, rap-influenced vocal style (influenced mostly by Chuck D. of Public Enemy), Commerford's grinding bass, and Morello's experimentation with guitar sounds. Fans particularly admired their powerful live performances. They toured with many other significant bands, including U2 and the Wu-Tang Clan.



The band's founding members were vocalist Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello. They owed their name to a song, "Rage Against the Machine", by de la Rocha's former group, Inside Out.

Shortly after forming, Rage recorded twelve songs, and distributed it themselves as cassette tapes. Several record labels expressed interest in the group, which signed with Epic Records. Some critics (such as writers for Melody Maker) criticised the band for voicing loud commitment to left-wing causes whilst being signed to Epic, a subsidiary of Sony Records, at a time when many alternative labels were struggling. Some critics felt that the band's anarchism was insincere.

Tom Morello provided this rebuttal to that criticism:

A lot of labels contacted us, and lots of them just didn't seem to understand what we wanted to do. They kept talking about the message of the music as a gimmick. They were interested in us just because there was a buzz... They saw us as the latest local rock band to be hyped. But Epic agreed to everything we asked--and they've followed through... we never saw a conflict as long as we maintained creative control. 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.

Their eponymous debut album Rage Against the Machine was released in late 1992, and at a Lollapalooza appearance in 1993 in Philadelphia, the band stood still on stage for a full 15 minutes, completely naked, with duct-taped mouths and their guitars feeding back through the amplifiers, as a protest against censorship and the Parents Music Resource Center.

Evil Empire (1996) and The Battle of Los Angeles (1999) followed. The Evil Empire album featured Bulls on Parade, one of their more popular songs.

In 1999, the band's track Wake Up was used (together with Marilyn Manson's) for the closing credits of the highly influential popular science-fiction movie, The Matrix, which is extraordinarily fitting given the name of the band and the story of that series of films. Their music was also used at the end of the sequel, The Matrix Reloaded (Calm Like A Bomb).

Renegades (2000) was a collection of cover songs originally performed by Devo, Cypress Hill, MC5 and others. An album of live and rare material fittingly titled Live & Rare (1997), and a second live album, Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium (2003)(CD), several singles, music videos and three live shows, Rage Against the Machine (1997), The Battle of Mexico City (2001), and Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium (2003)(DVD). The CD and DVD, both titled Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, were released separately and contain slightly different track lists. The concert was the band's last.

Between the release of The Battle of Los Angeles and the release of Renegades, de la Rocha left the group. The band officially split up not long afterwards.

One of Rage Against the Machine's most influential moments on the world stage was their recording of Sleep Now in the Fire on January 26th, 2000. Orchestrated by Michael Moore, the video was shot outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, in New York. As a result, the NYSE was forced to close down an hour early with dramatic financial implications.

Zack de la Rocha is reportedly working on new material in the hip-hop arena; the remaining members of the band teamed up with ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and formed Audioslave. The first Audioslave single, Cochise, was released in early November 2002, and the first album followed to mainly positive reviews.

According to a Spin magazine interview with de la Rocha, he has recorded several tracks with various artists, among them Reprazent and DJ Shadow. As of March 2005, there is no information on when de la Rocha's solo album will be released, but in 2003 a song called March of Death that he recorded with DJ Shadow was released in protest of the war on Iraq.

In September 2004, Zack released a song called We Want It All on the Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 soundtrack.



  • Bombtrack, 1992
  • Killing in the Name, 1993
  • Know Your Enemy, 1993
  • Bullet in the Head, 1993
  • Freedom, 1994
  • Bulls on Parade, 1995
  • Tire Me, 1996
  • People of the Sun, 1996
  • Down Rodeo, 1996
  • Sleep Now in the Fire, 1999
  • Guerrilla Radio, 1999
  • Testify, 2000
  • Calm Like a Bomb, 2000
  • The Ghost of Tom Joad, 2001
  • Renegades of Funk, 2002
  • How I Could Just Kill a Man, 2002

External links

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