TOM MORELLO Says RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE Had 'Zero Commercial Ambition' When Band Was First Formed

December 16, 2020

In a new interview with Tom Power, host of "Q" on Canada's CBC Radio One, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE guitarist Tom Morello was asked if he was surprised that the band became so commercially successful within such a short period of time after its early 1990s formation. He responded (see video below): "I was surprised that we were ever even able to book a club gig. It's hard to paint a picture — in 1991, there were no neo-Marxist, multi-ethnic rap-punk-metal bands. There was zero — zero — commercial ambition. We wrote those songs, and the only goal was to make a cassette demo. I had had a record deal before, with a band that had more commercial leanings, and I knew that a record deal didn't mean — my life got worse, not better, when I had a record deal. So that didn't matter. So we just made music as a means of self-expression, with Zack's [De La Rocha] tremendous lyrics and the band's musical chemistry, and that was it."

He continued: "I remember the first time anyone outside the four of us ever heard a note of our music. We were rehearsing at this industrial complex, and this worker guy would pass by every once in a while, and he said, 'What are you guys doing?' I said, 'We're a band.' And he said, 'Can I listen?' I was, like, 'I suppose so.' At the time, we only had a few songs together. So he sat down in our rehearsal room. He was the first guy to ever hear RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. We didn't have a name or anything. And we played him a few songs, and the cymbals die away at the end of the last song. [I was], like, 'What do you think?' And he stood up and he said, 'Your music makes me wanna fight.' [Laughs]"

Morello added: "From the very first time that we performed in public, it was obvious that there was a connection to an audience that was very different than anything I'd ever been around."

This past June, Morello, with the help of some fans, roasted a former listener who claimed he "used to be a fan until your political opinions came out" — a strange hill to die on considering that RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE has been sharing its leftist political message since first hitting the scene in 1992.

The person wrote in a now-deleted tweet: "I used to be a fan until your political opinions came out. Music is my sanctuary and the last thing I want to hear is political BS when I'm listening to music. As far as I'm concerned, you and Pink are completely done. Keep running your mouth and ruining your fan base."

Morello responded: "Scott!! What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN'T contain 'political BS'? I need to know so I can delete it from the catalog."

Other RAGE fans also came to the band's defense, with one writing, "What . . . machine did you think you were raging against? The busted up toaster? A faulty dryer? Did the printer run outta toner?"

Morello also posted another exchange from a while back in which he responded to someone saying he had "instantly" become a "political expert" by retorting that he was an honors graduate in political science from Harvard University.

The guitarist told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that the idea that musicians and entertainers should keep quiet about their political views is nonsense. "The reason why you hear from celebrities is because they have some access to the media to present an alt — you're not gonna hear that on the Fox News," he said. "They will not — they will have General This and General That and Generalissimo This. The fact that we have some, for lack of a better word, celebrity and are able to inject a different opinion, you can take it for what you want. We each get one vote, and we each have one voice."

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was set to tour last summer for the first time in more than a decade until the pandemic pushed those plans to next year.

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