Tim in Launch
Transcribed by Jonathan Ashley

All of a sudden in 1999, Rage Against The Machine find themselves fathers of a genre that has taken hold of America: hard rock combined with rap. But what always marked them as unique--their commitment to their political beliefs--still separates them from the pack today. Just as they did on their 1992 self-titled debut, singer Zack De La Rocha, drummer Brad Wilk, guitarist Tom Morello, and bassist Y.tim.K continue to painstakingly craft songs that have a definite agenda and that can send fans going to see them into a barely controlled fury. On The Battle Of Los Angeles, the long-awaited follow-up to 1996's Evil Empire, they don't stray far from the established Rage formula; Zack targets his fierce bark in the direction of those oppressing the native Mexican Zapatistas and preventing what he deems "justice" for alleged cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

In preparation for their full-fledged tour starting in November, RATM have been working out the bugs on their new songs by playing intimate shows in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. LAUNCH caught up with the colorful bass player Y.tim.K--also known as Tim.com, Tim C., and Tim Bob--just after the band's blistering gig at New York's Roseland, and got his opinions on Woodstock '99, Mumia's appeal being thrown out by the Supreme Court, and, of course, The Battle Of Los Angeles.

LAUNCH:
The new album took you guys a while to finish. What was the biggest obstacle in getting it done?

Y.tim.K:
I don't really feel that there was an obstacle. The biggest obstacle, I guess, was just getting us in a rehearsal room at the same time. It wasn't that we didn't want to do it and it wasn't that it was hard to make; it was just that we all had to get on the same page. It's truly the record [where] we were able to come together as a band and tighten up our relationship. I hear that in the music, it's cool.

LAUNCH:
Was there a time after Evil Empire that things got a little strained?

Y.tim.K:
No. It was before Evil Empire when we were having problems writing songs and agreeing on what we thought was good. That was hard. There were drastic differences in musical tastes in the band at that time, but we've come around. It used to be kind of a war between hip-hop and metal. And then I have to bring up the punk side of it too. The punk was the one we all agreed on. We wanted to be a punk band, but we wanted to play some heavy music and we wanted to play hip-hop [too]. It was kind of unsaid, but I felt the battle. Now hip-hop is bigger than it's ever been, and we're all more into it than we've ever been, so the hip-hop side of the music has definitely come through more on this album. A lot of people hear that, and I've been getting that a lot: "Oh, it's more funky than the last album." It's not really funky as much as it's just got some more hip-hop on it. There's songs like "Mic Check" that's pretty much all hip-hop.

LAUNCH:
Your show at Roseland rocked! For smaller shows like that, how do you organize your set?

Y.tim.K:
We spend a lot of time getting the set. Now it's cool because we have three records with a lot of songs that we all like, and so we can put together a set that's rocking from beginning to end. But then it goes through a metamorphosis when we're onstage, depending on how we feel. All of a sudden it's like, "We're not playing 'Know Your Enemy,' we're playing 'People Of The Sun.'" "Okay, cool." There was a lot of that going on at that show.

LAUNCH:
It seems like the band is keeping it loose.

Y.tim.K:
Yeah. I felt like the first couple of songs, "Testify" and "Guerrilla Radio," were out of control. That was a highlight as far as the history of the band. I don't think we've ever played new music before the record has come out where people responded to it like that. It's unbelievable. It almost feels like we're starting over again. From the first time we played "Killing In The Name" and "Bullet In The Head" for people, they just went nuts, and now it's happening again and I'm for the first time feeling the old songs kind of getting old to me, which is nice. It's nice to go, "Cool, I guess we don't have to play all the old songs every time we play a set."

LAUNCH:
Was "Guerrilla Radio" the obvious choice for the first single?

Y.tim.K:
That was one area where we let Sony, or Epic, get involved with the record. We have complete creative control over everything we do, but occasionally, when we make a record, we'll [ask] the people that put 'em out and promote 'em--"What's your favorite song?"--and it was unanimous that that was the one. Then there was a few of us trying to bring up other songs that we maybe liked better, but at the end of the day it just came back to that song. And then Zack had to change the lyrics. There was an original version that was a little bit more off-the-cuff lyrically. I thought it was great, but Zack wasn't happy with it, and so he went back and re-recorded the lyrics.

LAUNCH:
When you're writing the songs, does the music come before the lyrics, or does Zack chime in right at the start?

Y.tim.K:
We write the music before. We're riff-rock without question. We get together, come up with riffs, hook them with other riffs we've done, and then arrange the songs. We'll hear the vocals most times, and the chorus, and then we give the songs to Zack to be able to spend time to write the words. When someone brings in a riff, or we arrange a song, me, Brad and Tom can go home, work on it, and get better at it right then and there, whereas Zack has to go and hash out the words and he can't work on it until he gets the words done, so that takes some time.

LAUNCH:
Mumia Abu-Jamal lost his case in the Supreme Court today. I think they rejected his claim that he received an unfair trial, so prosecutors can go ahead and seek the death penalty.

Y.tim.K:
Whoa. See, that's news to me. I mean, I knew that it was going to be decided on--I didn't realize that it was going to go down that soon. Well, if they decide to try and kill him again, then we'll play another show and hopefully some other entertainers and actors and whatnot will get behind it, because I know there's a lot of support there. The guy definitely got a trial that wasn't fair. He shouldn't be put to death because it's not conclusive what he did. He needs a new trial, and that sucks, that sucks.

LAUNCH:
Mumia does have some appeals left, but for this first go-'round they're saying, "No, we're throwing this right out, we don't buy that he didn't have a fair trial."

Y.tim.K:
Well, maybe somebody will start building some bombs then. That's what needs to go down. If they wanna start murdering people for being political and being motivational and being, you know, righteous, then maybe some people need to start building bombs. That's where I'm at. The sh-t's going to hit the fan. I hope it does. I hope that we, before that, can step in and make some noise.

LAUNCH:
Rock For Life is issuing a press release telling people flat out, "Don't buy the album." They're making a big stink about it.

Y.tim.K:
There's always going to be those people who don't agree with what we're talking about. And if they want to spend the time and energy, ultimately they just help us out. So I'd like to thank these people for f--king selling [our] records, which is what they're going to do by doing this.

LAUNCH:
Is there any legal recourse, because they seem to be saying things that aren't true? They misinterpret what you guys are really all about.

Y.tim.K:
Well, we're all about a different point of view. We're all about trying to educate kids and trying to make them raise their hand in history class and say, "Why am I not learning about Mexico?" and "Why am I not learning about Africa?" and "Why am I not learning about East Timor? How come I didn't know that we've been in East Timor since 1970 murdering people? Why has that been kept a secret?" That's what we're here for. And it's not just us, it's people like Noam Chomsky that are actually talking about these things. Noam Chomsky, here's a righteous guy, M.I.T. and all that, and he's been censored as well. It's like the establishment in America…maybe the best way of saying it is, in Australia, you got 15 people, you've got a bona fide religion, a bona fide political group, whatever. With only 15 people. That's all it takes. Whereas in America, you've got 15 people gathered together, you're going to get a tank rolling into your house, shooting fire into it and burning your house down. That's all I've got to say, man. This is crazy.

LAUNCH:
Changing subjects, changing your name to Y.tim.K was brilliant. It seems like you're reinventing yourself with each album. What motivates you to do that?

Y.tim.K:
It's just fun. At the start, there was this part of me that was like, "I don't want people to know who I am." And I do live an anonymous lifestyle. I go home from tours and making records and live anonymously. I don't have to field questions all the time about Rage Against The Machine, and I like that. It's nice to be able to walk onstage and be a rock star for a little while, and then go back home and be a homeowner [laughs]. I thought [Y.tim.K] was the best name I've come up with in a while. My last name, though, Simmering T, was what I was called on the Godzilla soundtrack, for "No Shelter." I was really into that name, but it never got the props that it deserved. Simmering T was definitely good.

LAUNCH:
What were your thoughts about Woodstock '99? Did you sense something in the air while you were there the night before all the havoc?

Y.tim.K:
I knew there was going to be violence, just because we're a rotten apple. This Earth is overpopulated, and it's not peace and love anymore. It's disease and sh-t like that. So I knew there was going to be some violence due to that and the bands that were playing. There was a lot of harder-edged bands on the bill, and that, coupled with taking people's water away, is the reason why things went that way. When you have a show and it's 100 degrees out, and when people are coming in and you're taking water away, which they did do, and when you force them to buy an $8 bottle of water, you're going to have problems. By the time we got onstage there were kids screaming for water. So that was the problem, and I don't care what anyone says about the music or the testosterone or the country or whatever. It was water. It came down to that. You take water away from people in 100-degree weather, they're going to riot. There's no two ways about it.

LAUNCH:
What's your opinion of other bands taking what Rage Against The Machine does and giving it a different lyrical slant? Bands like Limp Bizkit have latched on to a style of music that some say you invented and use it for what could almost be called "party rock" sentiments.

Y.tim.K:
Bands that are doing that have enabled us to put a record out right now and have it be the best time that we could ever put a record out. So there is a positive side to that. Obviously the negative side is, are these bands taking away from us? I don't know. All I know is that there is a big difference between "Guerrilla Radio" and "Nookie," you know? A huge difference. It's like, we're political. We go on a list with Public Enemy and KRS-One and the Clash and the MC5 and Midnight Oil. Those are the bands that we bite on.