Alternative Press, December 1999 Wiretapping
Rolling Down Rodeo With a Shotgun. Again.
Rage Against the Machine spark The Battle of Los Angeles. Tom Morello gets down for the cause.
by Todd Myers Lowe
Evil is winning, but the war for the mind and soul of Young America persists. Rage Against the Machine have been working for the resistance since 1991. They've won some squirmishes - mostly symbolic, PR victories - but key strategic objectives have yet to be realized. Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal are still in jail. The Zapatistas are still on the run. Good people are still getting screwed left and right. Nonetheless Rage - Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk - are preparing to launch another offensive. They've drawn the line in the San Fernando Valley; they're dug in, and they're ready to fight The Battle of Los Angeles. Like De la Rocha proclaims on the first single, "Guerrilla Radio," "It has to start somewhere/It has to start sometime/What better place than here/What better time than now?"
Tom Morello knows his history and has a battle plan. He prefers to do his wetwork up close-with an axe. "On our first record, we carved our own niche and it's kinda blown into a genre," he explains, unpretentiously. "With [the new album] we had the exress purpose of making the definitive record and taking [the form] not one step, but a country mile further. It's heavier, super-hard rocking, rhythmic with deep hip-hop grooves, and some really unique sonic slap-back funk."
There's no "Killing in the Name" on the record, but that's to be expected--one masterpiece is more than most artists accomplish in a lifetime. There are, however, a number of "Vietnow"-level tunes on Battle, making it still 11 times better than most of the swill in rotation at your neighborhood K-ROCK. Battle will claim it's share of the playlist, despite the subversive messaging (media blindness, Third World exploitation, institutional hypocrisy, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, and of course, Mumia) Rage conveys. The onset of another musical campaign demands a status report: While the Enemy may be slow and stupid, momentum remains in their camp. Can the good guys possibly win?
"Absolutely," Tom Morello assured. "There's a long history of the good guys succeeding that you don't hear about, but tremendous gains have been made. Progressive changes have not been doled out from the goodness of the hearts of the Supreme Court or the President. They've come from real people whose names you don't know, having the courage to stand up and make a better life for themselves and their families."
Rage have a reputation for inspiring such activism through the sheer, overwhelming power of their shows. Before embarking on a preparatory three-city club run, Morello was not shy about answering the Big Question: Is there a beter band on the planet than Rage Against the Machine?
"Oh, please," he laughs. "I haven't seen 'em. I'm a fan of many other bands. But when the music and the politics crash headlong into eachother on stage, I'm pretty sure we're the best live band in the world."