|Rage Against the Machine||Biographical|
Zacarias de la Rocha was born in Long Beach, CA, on January 12th, 1970 to his mother, Olivia, and his father, Beto. Olivia got her Ph.D. in Anthropology on the Irvine campus of The University of California. She lived in Irvine, a suburb of L.A. in Orange County, with Zack after seperating from Beto when Zack was 1 year old. Beto was a Chicano muralist, a member of the political art group the "Los Four" which depicted pictures of the Mexican farmers, and paved the way for Chicanos in the artistic community with their mix of Hispanic iconography, graffiti and vibrant portraiture. Among their first works were street paintings with three words: "Chicano Art Existe!" - saying, bluntly, "here we are!"
In 1983, his father suffered a nervous breakdown due to excessive religious ideals. He strictly applied the Bible's teachings to every aspect of his life. Of the commandments, "Thou shalt not make engraven image," Beto interpreted as reason to destroy his work and quit painting. When Zack went to visit him on weekends in LA's Lincoln Height, he would be forced to fast for days, to sit in a room with the curtains closed and the door locked. He would eat on Friday, and not eat until he returned to his mother on Monday. While there, he was forced to help Beto destroy the paintings that established a sense of Chicano identity for him. After a while, he couldn't cope with a such a lifestyle any longer, and he permanantly lived with his mother in Irvine - which was, at the time, perhaps one of the whitest cities in Souther California, but is currently a racially and culturally diverse area.
This brought on a culture shock and identity crisis. Being alienated from the Chicano community, and falling into a world of white suburban nature, where he - as a Chicano - was the exeption of the rule: Chicanos were present only to if they had a hammer in their hand, were selling strawberries, or sweeping streets. Zack found a channel for his feelings through music. He got involved in the punk and hardcore scene during his high school years, and played guitar and did vocals for a straight-edge band called "Hardstance". He was interested in the Sex Pistols, Bad Religion when he was younger, and evolved into appreciating Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Teen Idles."Inside Out" was formed, and gained a large following in Huntington Beach and Irvine, CA. They released a record, "No Spiritual Surrender," in 1991 on Revelation Records and did a small tour. Inside Out, according to Zack, "was about completely detaching ourselves from society to see ourselves as...as spirits, and not bowing down to a system that sees you as just another pebble on a beach. I channeled all my anger out through that band." Zack's Chicano heritage always seperated him from the rich, white kids that surrounded him, however. Although he was never economically deprived like his Chicano brothers and sisters, he felt the tension and rejection. He began to relate to hip-hop acts such as Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Run DMC. After Inside Out broke up, he embraced his hip-hop foundation further, and began freestyle rapping at local clubs. He met Tom Morello and Brad Wilk, and after adding Tim Commerford to the mix, Rage Against the Machine was formed.
"You can't ignore what some bands have done. I know that from my own experience, from the way my life was changed by "Fuck Armageddon, This is Hell" by Bad Religion. I know our record will be in a bin next to Lionel Richie -- but so are John Coltrane, KRS-1, and Public Enemy."
Since singing for Rage Against the Machine, Zack has used the band's worldwide fame to educate the public about the political issues that concern him - through his music and lyrics, to his actions on a grassroots level. He has organized several student trips to Chiapas, Mexico, to aid the Zapatista communities being terrorized by the government. He has spoken to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva about political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. While at home, he has organized a community center. His work in RATM has encouraged his father to begin painting again. I think he kind of saw in me a reflection of himself that he used to know. All the stuff he was once very in touch with - I saw the imagery coming back in his work." One recent series by Beto incorporates small dolls of Zapatista figures - like those actually made and sold by the Indians in Chiapas - against images of historic Mexican revolutinoaries such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. He continues to teach kids around the world, and learn from people he meets. His political, social, and musical contributes are quickly elevating him as a Bob Marley figure.