Is there a phrase that’s used to describe a band that’s more super than a super-group? If so, this would probably be it. Remember those influential hip-hop groups Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. Well members of those outfits have joined the instrumentalists of the almighty Rage Against the Machine to form the creation that is Prophets of Rage.
And they do a bit from column A and a bit from column B; live shows include tracks from each of the original bands’ discographies, as well as songs from their debut self-titled album and EP The Party’s Over. Of course, Australia has been impatiently awaiting for these fantastic musicians to come down under, and they’re finally breaking the seal at our inaugural Download Festival next year.
Bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine spoke to Wall of Sound from his Malibu home to talk all things Prophets of Rage.
Of course, not all festival goers or avid music listeners may be across the Prophets initiative, so Commerford gives us the lowdown. “Well, we’re just a blend of hip-hop and rock music [with influences from] the history of [these genres]. We have members from Public Enemy which is one of the most legendary hip-hop groups of all time and Cypress Hill which is also equally as legendary” – of course humbly neglecting the legendary status of his own musical roots.
“We’re a blend of the history of rap music and rock and roll with punk rock and politics as well. We’re not afraid of making people angry and that’s what we do best, we bring it on the stage very much like a sports team brings it. We bring that playbook to the game and we try to win every time.”
Never thought about it like that before, but it certainly rings true, when taking into account the dynamic of infinite bands in the arena and the state of politics currently.
The bassist explains that, although fans of Rage Against the Machine embraced the strong political stance the band took, fans of Prophets of Rage appear to be just as vocal, if not louder, as the political landscape is same same, but different.
“There’s a lot of outrage, people are a lot more politicised than they’ve ever been but the same can be said for when we were making music” – referring to the era of Rage Against the Machine. “I mean during the 90s when Bush was president, people were just as outraged by the things that were happening then [as people are now], so that was the right time for a band [like us] that has something to say.”
“Even back in the Clinton era it was the same, and people were like ‘oh you’re making the perfect music for this time’ and here we are in a new era where there’s outrageous things happening in the world and we just happen to be out there saying what we’re saying and doing.”
Of course, Commerford is joined by his peers Brad Wilk and Tom Morello who have participated in some magnificent musical projects including the likes of touring with Black Sabbath and Bruce Springsteen respectively. These blokes may have been busy doing their own thing, but it’s good to be back together since the Rage Against the Machine era, which Australia only last witnessed back in 2008 at Big Day Out – which was around the time that the band started to slow down per se.
“It’s always good to get together with Brad and Tom and we are really good together musically with the way that we all feel with songs.” He jokes comparing the trio – “I like to break down the music scientifically and look at it, [whilst] Morello hears the music a little in front of the beat, and Brad’s a little behind the beat – so I’m the only one right on the beat (he laughs sheepishly).”
Returning back to the genuine nostalgia he experiences, the backing vocalist carries on to say “the way that we feel music is always magic and it always happens really quickly, but the same goes with Chuck D and B-Real.” The humility continues – “I get to call them my friends and feel comfortable around them and learn from them; my whole career has been a blessing and this is more of the same.”
The missing piece in all of this, and elephant in the room so to speak is the absence of household name and the worldly sound of Zach de la Rocha, who was the voice of Rage Against the Machine. Besides a brief project with outfit One Day as a Lion, the front-man hasn’t been a part of Prophets of Rage, albeit there appears to be no bad blood between the guys.
“I still talk to Zach all the time, we still love each other and I still respect him so much. He’s doing another record, and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.” Commerford goes on to say how much he looks up to the vocalist and how far back they go as mates. “I wouldn’t be where I was if it wasn’t for him, he’s the one that inspired me to play bass and we’ve been friends since we were little kids in elementary school.
“Like I said I really respect him, I respect his politics, and I respect his sensibility in his musicianship big-time.”
In the absence of de la Rocha, the remaining Rage Against the Machine members were part of a very important pillar in rock and roll music, namely Audioslave. Despite disbanding (or being on a very extended hiatus), the men were all very close and it was obviously an incredible loss to the trio when vocalist Chris Cornell recently passed, only this year. The bassist reassures that they’ve been tributing the late singer in a very, very cool way.
“For the last few months since he’s passed, is we’ve been playing Like a Stone, just the three of us and we let the audience sing it.” Commerford admits he had mixed feelings about the idea and wasn’t sure whether it was the right thing to do, but trying it out was incredibly reassuring. “I’ve been blown away, when we’ve played it for an audience, they’ve just been wailing the vocals and singing it loud and proud. It’s a really special moment.”
He’s not sure if the band will continue doing it indefinitely during Prophets of Rage shows but it’s certainly working a treat at the moment.
The million dollar question is, can we expect the band to play the legendary Audioslave cover at Download Festival or the two Aussie sideshows they have planned? The answer is maybe.
“I mean you can expect to hear songs from [all of] our catalogues, played by us.” The rock and roller reminds us quite firmly – “we’re not Rage Against the Machine, we’re not Public Enemy, we’re not Cypress Hill, we’re the Prophets of Rage and we have our own take on what we were sporting.” Returning to his competitive stance, Commerford continues – “we want to be the best band on the bill; that’s been a constant in my career, bringing it to the stage and trying to be the best band there and that’s what we do.” He insists that that’s what people should expect at Download Festival as well.
“I’ve seen audiences that have done things that I cannot believe, particularly in previous bands, but let me tell you that some of my top ten ever shows have been with Prophets of Rage. So, if you’re going to go to the Download Festival, you’re going to be part of something incredible.”
He closes with a very important note for you Aussie punters. – “the thing about it is, it’s not just us, it’s 50% us and it’s also 50% you, so I’m hoping that Australia brings it!”
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
Download Festival Australia 2018
March 24th @ Flemington Racecourse, Melb VIC (18+)
Prophets Of Rage – 2018 Download Sideshows
Thursday, 22nd March @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (LIC/AA)
Monday, 26th March @ Riverstage, Brisbane (LIC/AA)