Brad Wilk in Australia: Rip it Up

I was lucky enough to catch an excellent interview with Rage Against The Machines killer tubsmith, Brad Wilk, while he was down here in Australia recently on a brief promotional tour. A nicer guy you could not hope to meet. Hes quite rightly stoked with the bands latest offering, The Battle For Los Angeles, a strong, diversified return by anyones standards and one showcases their abilities better than ever: backing vocalist Zack De La Rochas angry call to arms with tautly controlled power music, leaping nimbly from heavy funk deep-cut groove to a rhythmic demolition, domino-effect car crashes which punctuate the continuous conveyor belt of titanium strength strong-arm riffs like a heavy duty piston.

One of the first things I mention is how long its been since they were in Australia. He promptly points out thats something he intends to remedy.

Its actually been too long. I cant wait to actually come down here and play again.

Is it on the cards?

Absolutely. It definitely wont be a Big Day Out. Next time we come down well be doing our own shows - probably with some Australian acts.

After we did the Big Day Out, we did tours in the US and Europe, and eventually took some much needed time off. We had to gather our thoughts to come back for this record. You need hunger to give it the desired impact not through obligation to a record company or other people. We recorded this record because we wanted to. Its the best record weve made to date.

The philosophy of the band has always been at the forefront. Has that raised or dropped a notch with this record?

This has always been about four individual people with four individual sets of thoughts on everything from the politics to the music. Our philosophies do tend to run in the same directions but where we decide to put our energies is often different.

Zacks [De La Rocha, vocals] really been involved in the whole situation down in Chiapas with the Zapatistas and Toms really been involved in Unite!, which is a workers union in America. I've been trying to work on a more local level.

I think its really important to get involved at a local level with whats going on right in front of their faces. Theres the Los Angeles Free Clinic which is right down the street from my house. They take care of homeless people who wouldnt normally get access to medical, health and psychological facilities. The are kids who range from five to elderly people. Were all spread out trying to do our parts. I think that, and HOPE that really comes across in our music.

You said you had some time off. What did you do with it?

Well, my girlfriend, Selene Vigil, used to play in a band called Seven Year Bitch and we work on music. Eventually well put something out. I also did some stuff with Cypress Hill. Ive also done some stuff with people you mightnt have heard of, like Zander Schloss [ex Circle Jerks]. Hes an amazing guitar player. Me and him will get together on an afternoon, not say a word for a couple of hours and just communicate through music. The freedom is incredible, I mean, the amount of telepathy that goes on is just awesome. Its free form jamming that I enjoy tremendously.

I also try to run every day or every other day, to keep my mind and body in tune. Im also pretty good at the whole Taoist Zen thing of not doing anything. I also ride motorcycles quite a bit. I enjoy that a lot.

The RATM rhythm section is a very distinctive engine. Theres always some big groove with whiplash punctuation.

I think with me and Tim [K, nass], coz weve been playing together since 1991, we have such a strong influence on each other. Its not even something we ever talk about. Its not even that we sit in a room and practice all day anymore, but we like to keep the excitement high. When were in the studio, on every take we do, we dont even ever play it exactly the same Brendan OBrien [Producer of The Battle For Los Angeles] is really good at catching that intangible chemistry and magic that happens between us.

For the record, are there any specific tracks you feel strongly about?

Definitely. As a rhythm section and a band, theres a song called Ashes In The Fall that really shows growth in songwriting and musicianship thats really exciting to me. Very much so.

Theres a few songs that I would call almost straight up hip-hop songs, for instance a track called Mic Check. To me, thats pretty much straight down the line, live hip hop. Its almost like were emulating sampled hip hop grooves but are actually us straight down the line.

The first single is Guerilla Radio. We all feel pretty strongly about that song. Its a great first song to come out with, that people will be able to identify with the Rage Against The Machine sound. It has all the usual elements of Rage intact, and from there the record expands. I think well probably be able to expand with our singles as well.