Rage Against the Machine (sometimes referred to as RATM, or more informally simply Rage), is an American alternative rock band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1991. The band's lineup, unchanged since its formation, consists of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk.
Rage Against the Machine is noted for its innovative blend of alternative rock, punk rock, rap, heavy metal and funk as well as its revolutionary politics and lyrics. Rage Against the Machine drew inspiration from early heavy metal instrumentation, as well as rap acts such as Public Enemy, Urban Dance Squad, and Afrika Bambaataa. The group's music is distinguished primarily by their powerful stage energy, de la Rocha's rhyming styles and Morello's unorthodox guitar techniques.
Rage Against the Machine released their self-titled debut album Rage Against the Machine in 1992, which became a commercial success, leading to a slot in the 1993 Lollapalooza. The band did not release a follow-up record until 1996, with Evil Empire. The band's third album The Battle of Los Angeles was released in 1999. During their initial nine year run, they became one of the most popular and influential political bands in contemporary music.
In 2000, shortly after breaking up, the band released their fourth studio album Renegades, which is comprised entirely of cover songs. Zack de la Rocha started a low-key solo career; the rest of the band formed the rock supergroup Audioslave with former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, which disbanded in 2007.
In April 2007, Rage Against the Machine performed together for the first time in seven years. Sam Jennings covered for guitarist Tom Morello at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The band continued to perform at multiple live venues around the world in 2008, and in 2009.
Early years (1991?1992)
In 1991, guitarist Tom Morello left his old band, Lock Up, looking to start another band. He was in a club in LA where Zack de la Rocha was freestyle rapping. Morello was impressed, people said, by de la Rocha's lyric books, and asked him to be a rapper in a band. Morello drafted drummer Brad Wilk of Greta, who had previously auditioned for Lock Up, while de la Rocha convinced his childhood friend Tim Commerford to join as bassist. The newly christened Rage Against the Machine named themselves after a song de la Rocha had written for his former popular underground hardcore punk band, Inside Out (also to be the title of the unrecorded Inside Out full-length album). Kent McClard, with whom Inside Out were associated, had coined the phrase in a 1989 article in his zine No Answers.
Shortly after forming, they gave their first public performance in Orange County, California, where a friend of Commerford's was holding a house party. The blueprint for the group's major-label debut album, demo tape Rage Against the Machine, was laid on a twelve-song self-released cassette, the cover image of which was the stock-market with a triple match taped to the inlay card. Not all 12 songs made it onto the final album ? two were eventually included as B-sides, with the remaining three songs never seeing an official release. Several record labels expressed interest, and the band eventually signed with Epic Records. Morello said, "Epic agreed to everything we asked ? and they've followed through.... We never saw a conflict as long as we maintained creative control."
Mainstream success (1992?2000)
"Know Your Enemy"
Sample of "Know Your Enemy" from the band's eponymous debut album (1992).
The band's debut album, Rage Against the Machine, reached triple platinum status, driven by heavy radio play of the song "Killing in the Name," a heavy, driving track featuring only eight lines of lyrics. The "Fuck You" version, which contains 17 iterations of the word fuck, was once played on the BBC Radio 1 Top 40 singles show. The album's cover featured Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Th?ch Qu?ng ??c, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the murder of Buddhists by the US-backed Prime Minister Ng? ??nh Di?m's regime. To promote the album and its core message of social justice and equality, the band went on tour, playing at Lollapalooza 1993 and as support for Suicidal Tendencies in Europe.
After their debut album, the band appeared on the soundtrack for the film Higher Learning with the song "Year of tha Boomerang." An early version of "Tire Me" also appeared during the movie. Subsequently, they re-recorded the song "Darkness" from their original demo for the soundtrack of The Crow and also "No Shelter" appeared on the Godzilla soundtrack.
Despite rumors of a break up for several years, Rage Against The Machine's second album, Evil Empire, entered Billboard's Top 200 chart at number one in 1996. The song "Bulls on Parade" was performed on Saturday Night Live in April 1996. Their planned two-song performance was cut to one song when the band attempted to hang inverted US flags from their amplifiers ("a sign of distress or great danger"), a protest against having Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes as guest host on the program that night.
In 1997, the band opened for U2 on their PopMart Tour, for which all Rage's profits went to support social organizations. including U.N.I.T.E. , Women Alive and the Zapatista Front for National Liberation. Rage subsequently began an abortive headlining US tour with special guests Wu-Tang Clan. Police in several jurisdictions unsuccessfully attempted to have the concerts cancelled, citing amongst other reasons, the bands' "violent and anti-law enforcement philosophies." Wu-Tang Clan were eventually removed from the line-up and replaced with The Roots. On the Japan leg of their tour promoting Evil Empire, a bootleg album composed of the band's B-side recordings titled Live & Rare was released by Sony Records. A live video, also titled Rage Against the Machine, was released later the same year.
The following release, The Battle of Los Angeles also debuted at number one in 1999, selling 450,000 copies the first week and then going double-platinum. That same year the song "Wake Up" was featured on the soundtrack of the film The Matrix. The track "Calm Like a Bomb" was later featured in the film's sequel, 2003s The Matrix Reloaded. In 2000, the band planned to support the Beastie Boys on the "Rhyme and Reason" tour; however, the tour was canceled when Beastie Boys drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury.
Break-up and subsequent projects (2000?2006)
On October 18, 2000, de la Rocha released a statement announcing his departure from the band. He said, "I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal." The band's final studio album, Renegades, released shortly after the band's dissolution, was a collection of covers of artists as diverse as Devo, Cypress Hill, MC5, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. The following year saw the release of another live video, The Battle of Mexico City, and 2003 saw the release of a live album titled Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, an edited recording of the band's final two concerts on September 12 and 13, 2000 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was accompanied by an expanded DVD release of the last show, and also included the previously unreleased music video for "Bombtrack".
Wilk, Commerford and Morello performing with Chris Cornell as Audioslave at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2005.
After the group's breakup, Morello, Wilk, and Commerford teamed up with former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to form a new band, Audioslave, after briefly searching for a vocalist to replace De La Rocha. The first Audioslave single, "Cochise", was released in early November 2002, and the debut album, Audioslave, followed to mainly positive reviews. Their second album Out of Exile debuted at the number one position on the Billboard charts in 2005. The band released a third album named Revelations on September 5, 2006. The band vowed to have a "one-album-per-year" schedule, until the departure of Chris Cornell on February 15, 2007.
Morello began his own solo career in 2003, playing political acoustic folk music at open-mic nights and various clubs under the alias The Nightwatchman. He first participated in Billy Bragg's Tell Us the Truth tour with no plans to record, but later recorded a song for Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11, "No One Left". In February 2007, he announced a solo album, entitled One Man Revolution, which was released in April 2007. Morello followed up his first studio album with "The Fabled City" which was released on September 30, 2008.
Meanwhile, de la Rocha had been working on a solo album collaboration with DJ Shadow, Company Flow, and The Roots' Questlove, but dropped the project in favor of working with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. Recording was completed, but the album will probably never be released. A collaboration between de la Rocha and DJ Shadow, the song "March of Death" was released for free over the World Wide Web in 2003 in protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq, and the 2004 soundtrack Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 included one of the collaborations with Reznor, "We Want It All". In late 2005, de la Rocha was seen singing and playing the jarana with Son Jarocho band Son de Madera on multiple occasions.
Members of the band had been offered large sums of money to reunite for concerts and tours, and had turned the offers down. Rumors of bad blood between de la Rocha and the other former band members subsequently circulated, but Commerford said that he and de la Rocha saw each other often and went surfing together, while Morello said he and de la Rocha communicated by phone, and had met up at a September 15, 2005 protest in support of the South Central Farm.
Reunion and Tours (2007?present)
Main article: Rage Against the Machine Reunion Tour
Zack de la Rocha performing with Rage Against the Machine at Coachella 2007.
Rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were circulating in mid-January 2007, and were confirmed on January 22. The band was confirmed to be headlining the final day of Coachella 2007. The reunion was described by Morello as primarily being a vehicle to voice the band's opposition to the "right-wing purgatory" the United States has "slid into" under the George W. Bush administration since RATM's dissolution. Though the performance was initially thought to be a one-off, this turned out not to be the case.
On April 14, 2007, Morello and de la Rocha reunited onstage early to perform a brief acoustic set at a Coalition of Immokalee Workers rally in downtown Chicago. Morello described the event as "very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included." This was followed by the scheduled Coachella performance on Sunday, April 29 where the band staged a much anticipated performance in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival.
Rage Against the Machine continued to tour in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and also played a series of shows in Europe in Summer 2008 including Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, Pinkpop Festival, T in the Park in Scotland, the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden, the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England and the Oxegen Festival in Ireland. The band also performed on August 2, 2008, in Chicago as one of the headliners (Radiohead, Kanye West and Nine Inch Nails being the other three) for the 2008 Lollapalooza Music Festival. When asked in May 2007 if the band were planning on writing a new album, Morello replied:
There are no plans to do that... That's a whole other ball of wax right there. Writing and recording albums is a whole different thing than getting back on the bike (laughs), you know, and playing these songs. But I think that the one thing about the Rage catalog is that to me none of it feels dated. You know, it doesn't feel at all like a nostalgia show. It feels like these are songs that were born and bred to be played now.
? Tom Morello, Blabbermouth.net, May 1, 2007
More recently, as of April 7, 2008, Morello has reportedly chosen not to comment about the possibility of a new album when interviewed by MTV News. In July 2008, it was revealed that de la Rocha had begun a new project called One Day as a Lion with drummer Jon Theodore formerly of The Mars Volta, with an eponymous EP released on July 22, 2008.
In August 2008, de la Rocha revealed his take on the possibility of new material:
We?re going to keep playing shows -- we have a couple of big ones happening in front of both conventions. As far as us recording music in the future, I don?t know where we all fit with that. We?ve all embraced each other?s projects and support them, and that?s great.
? Zack de la Rocha, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2008
In December 2008, Tom Morello revealed that Rage Against the Machine shows in 2009 were a possibility, although plans for the band to record a new studio album were very unlikely. When asked by Billboard.com whether they planned to head to the studio in 2009, Morello stated that: "we've had a wonderful year and a half of playing shows, and I don't see any reason to not play more shows. The thing is there's only so many hours in the musical day, and mine are very occupied right now." Morello elaborated that The Nightwatchman is now "my principal musical focus, as I see it, for the remainder of my life. From the earliest days of playing open mic nights at coffee houses, it was apparent to me that this music was as important to me as any music I've ever been involved in. It really encapsulates everything I want to do as an artist."
In April 2009, Morello was asked about a new album from Rage Against The Machine, replied "Not anytime soon" but also said that "There may be some more Rage shows in the future".
Political views and activism
RATM burning the flag of the United States at Woodstock 1999
Integral to their identity as a band, Rage Against the Machine voice revolutionary viewpoints highly critical of the domestic and foreign policies of current and previous US governments. Throughout its existence, RATM and its individual members participated in political protests and other activism to advocate these beliefs. The band primarily saw its music as a vehicle for social activism; de la Rocha explained that "I'm interested in spreading those ideas through art, because music has the power to cross borders, to break military sieges and to establish real dialogue." Morello said of wage slavery in America:
America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you've lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn't belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don't care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve.
? Tom Morello, Guitar World
Meanwhile, detractors pointed out what they regard as the tension between voicing commitment to leftist causes while being millionaires signed to Epic Records, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Sony Records. Infectious Grooves released a song called "Do What I Tell Ya!" which mocks lyrics from "Killing in the Name", accusing the band of being hypocrites. In response to such critiques, Morello offered the rebuttal:
When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that's where people buy their books. We're not interested in preaching to just the converted. It's great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it's also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart.
At the Coachella 2007 performance, De la Rocha made an impassioned speech during "Wake Up", citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremberg Trials and subsequent actions by US presidents, as follows:
A good friend of ours once said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot ? and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be.
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Zack de la Rocha
The event led to a media furore. A clip of Zack's speech found its way to the Fox News program Hannity & Colmes. An on-screen headline read, "Rock group Rage Against the Machine says Bush admin should be shot." Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator, (a guest on the show) stated, "They're losers, their fans are losers, and there?s a lot of violence coming from the left wing." Alan Colmes then challenged Coulter for having said of Bill Clinton "The only issue is whether to impeach or assassinate"
On July 28 and 29, Rage co-headlined the hip hop festival Rock the Bells. On July 28, they made a speech during Wake Up just as they had done at Coachella. During this, De La Rocha made another statement, defending the band from Fox News, who he alleged misquoted his speech at Coachella:
A couple of months ago, those fascist motherfuckers at the Fox News Network attempted to pin this band into a corner by suggesting that we said that the president should be assassinated. Nah, what we said was that he should be brought to trial as a war criminal and hung and shot. THAT'S what we said. And we don't back away from the position because the real assassinator is Bush, and Cheney and the whole administration for the lives they have destroyed here and in Iraq. They're the ones. And what they refused to air which was far more provocative in my mind and in the minds of my bandmates is this: this system has become so brutal and vicious and cruel that it needs to start wars and profit from the destruction around the world in order to survive as a world power. THAT's what we said. And we refuse not to stand up, we refuse to back down from that position...
On August 24, RATM played Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. They made another speech during Wake Up.
We played this show at Coachella Pavilion. It was our first show back. I said a few things from the stage, and the next day Fox News ran this whole piece about us saying that the Presidents should be assassinated. But those fascists always get it wrong when they just want to pin a band in the corner for standing up. What we said was that the whole Bush Administration should be put on trial for war crimes and then hung and then shot, that's what we said.
But besides that it made me think about something. It made me think, "what are they so afraid of?" It made me think about what scares them. Is it really four musicians from Los Angeles who've got a point of view? Is it really just this music and these rhythms and these words? Is that what they're scared of? I though I'd think about it and you know what? My conclusion is this: nah, they ain't scared of us, they're scared of you! They're scared that you might come election time and throw Bush and Cheney and all them fascists out of power! That's what they're scared of!
And let me say this: the Democrats are scared of you too! Because they know that you see through their bullshit too. Because when Bush was wiretapping, spying on citizens, torturing innocent people - they were supposed to be the people to defend us from them, and they didn't do shit! So the Democrats are scared of you too. Why? Because they know they're coming to power and they're taking it all for granted, but they're scared because they know that if they don't start fucking pulling troops from Iraq that you're going to go and burn down every office of every Senator that doesn't do the job.
Well I will say this, that the world is watching us now. The whole world is watching us. The brothers and sisters in South America who are dealing with this imperialist violence have got their eyes on us. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq got their eyes on us. Because we are the ones that are prepared to, and going to, put and end to this nonsense. So Wake Up. Come on, Wake Up! Wake Up!
Subsequently, de la Rocha added Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister who supported and facilitated Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, to the list of those who ought to be tried and hanged at the Reading Festival on August 22, 2008. The Reading and Leeds Festivals organizer announced after the 2008 festival that Zack had requested Friday and Saturday slots specifically so he could be back in the US for the Democratic and Republican conventions taking place in the week of the 25th.
On August 27, 2008, Rage Against the Machine played a free concert in Denver at the Denver Coliseum during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in protest against the war in Iraq. After the concert, the band joined members of The Coup and Flobots in an anti-war protest march from the Denver Coliseum to the Pepsi Center led by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The "black flag and a red star" of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, referenced in the track "War Within a Breath" (1999)
The band are vocal supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), especially de la Rocha, who has taken several trips to the Mexican state of Chiapas to aid their efforts. The flag of the EZLN serves as the primary recurring theme in the band's visual art. Morello described the EZLN as "a guerrilla army who represent the poor indigenous communities in southern Mexico who, for hundreds of years, have been trodden upon and sort of cast aside and which really are the lowest form on the economic -social ladder in Mexico. In 1994, on New Years Day, there was an uprising there and they were led by the very charismatic Subcomandante Marcos and it's a group which is tremendously supportive of the most objectively poor and continues to fight for dignity, for all people in Mexico." An interviewer was once told by de la Rocha, "Our purpose in sympathising with the Zapatistas is to help spark dialogue."
De la Rocha has been particularly outspoken on the cause of the EZLN. He explained the importance of the cause to him personally:
It is important for me, as a popular artist, to make clear to the governments of the United States and Mexico that despite the strategy of fear and intimidation to foreigners, despite their weapons, despite their immigration laws and military reserves, they will never be able to isolate the Zapatista communities from the people in the United States... Through concerts, videos, interviews, broadcasting of information at concerts, and our songs' lyrics we have placed within reach of young people, our audience, the experiences of the Zapatistas; we act as facilitators of the ways in which they can participate and put them in contact with the organization and the Zapatista support committees in the United States.
The EZLN and de la Rocha's experiences with them inspired the songs "Wind Below", and "Without a Face" from Evil Empire. and "War Within a Breath" from The Battle Of Los Angeles.
The EZLN flag has been used as a stage backdrop at all of the band's shows since their reunion in April, 2007.
Saturday Night Live
On April 10, 1996 the band was scheduled to perform two songs on the NBC comedy variety show Saturday Night Live. The show was hosted that night by ex-Republican presidential candidate and billionaire Steve Forbes. According to Tom Morello, "RATM wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to a billionaire telling jokes and promoting his flat tax by making our own statement." To this end, producer Brendan O'Brien hung two upside-down American flags from their amplifiers. Seconds before they took the stage to perform "Bulls on Parade", SNL and NBC sent stagehands in to pull the flags down. The inverted flags, says Morello, represented:
Our contention that American democracy is inverted when what passes for democracy is an electoral choice between two representatives of the privileged class. America's freedom of expression is inverted when you're free to say anything you want to say until it upsets a corporate sponsor. Finally, this was our way of expressing our opinion of the show's host, Steve Forbes.
The band's first attempt to hang the flags during a pre-telecast rehearsal on Thursday was stopped by SNL's producers, who "demanded that we take the flags down," according to Morello. "They said the sponsors would be upset, and that because Steve Forbes was on, they had to run a 'tighter' show." SNL also told the band it would mute objectionable lyrics in "Bullet in the Head" (which was supposed to be RATM's second song), and insisted that the song be bleeped in the studio because Forbes had friends and family there.
On the night of the show, following the removal of the flags during the first performance, the band was approached by SNL and NBC officials and ordered to immediately leave the building. Upon hearing this, RATM bassist Commerford reportedly stormed Forbes' dressing room, throwing shreds from one of the torn down flags.
SNL censored Rage, period. They could not have sucked up to the billionaire more. The thing that's ironic is SNL is supposedly this cutting edge show, but they proved they're bootlickers to their corporate masters when it comes down to it. They're cowards. It should come to no surprise that GE, which owns NBC, would find "Bullet" particularly offensive. GE is a major manufacturer of US planes used to commit war crimes in the Gulf War, and bombs from those jets destroyed hydroelectric dams which killed thousands of civilians in Iraq.
? Tom Morello
Morello noted that members of the Saturday Night Live cast and crew, whom he declined to name, "xpressed solidarity with our actions, and a sense of shame that their show had censored the performance."
Radio Free L.A.
Radio Free Los Angeles was a radio show held by the band on January 20, 1997, the night of Bill Clinton's inauguration as President. The show comprised segments and interviews featuring Michael Moore, Emily Hodgson, Leonard Peltier, Chuck D, Mumia Abu-Jamal, UNITE, Noam Chomsky, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, and Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas. These were intercut with musical performances by Morello, de la Rocha, Flea and Stephen Perkins playing different versions of Rage songs, and also Beck and Cypress Hill playing their own songs. The band organized and played the show in response to the re-election of Clinton:
"That election had resulted in one of the lowest voter turnouts in the history of the country, as more and more Americans came to realize that their government was not in their hands, but in the hands of big business. Radio Free L.A. provided a musical and political gathering point for the majority of Americans ? and young people especially ? who rightly felt left out of the 'democratic process.'"
? Tom Morello, Ratm.com
The two-hour show was syndicated by over 50 commercial U.S. radio stations and streamed live from the band's website. Transcripts of the interviews are freely available online.
"Sleep Now in the Fire" video shoot
On January 26, 2000, filming of the music video for "Sleep Now in the Fire", which was directed by Michael Moore, caused the doors of the New York Stock Exchange to be closed and the band to be escorted from the site by security, after band members attempted to gain entry into the Exchange.
Footage of enthusiastic Wall Street employees headbanging to Rage's music was used in the final video. "We decided to shoot this video in the belly of the beast", said Moore, who was arrested during the shooting of the video: despite having a federal permit for the location, they did not have a sound permit.
2000 Democratic National Convention
Further information: 2000 DNC protest activity
Protesters at the 2000 Democratic National Convention alongside a Free Mumia banner in the style of the cover art from The Battle of Los Angeles (1999)
RATM played a free concert at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in protest of the two-party system. The band had been considering playing a protest concert there since April of that year. Although they were at first required by the City of Los Angeles to perform in a small venue at a considerable distance, early in August a United States district court judge ruled that the City's request was too restrictive and the City subsequently allowed the protests and concert to be held at a site across from the DNC. The Los Angeles Police Department response was to increase security measures, which included a 12 ft fence and patrolling by a minimum of 2,000 officers wearing riot gear, as well as additional horses, motorcycles, squad cars and police helicopters. A police spokesperson said they were "gravely concerned because of security reasons".
2000 DNC protest
During the concert, de la Rocha said to the crowd, "brothers and sisters, our democracy has been hijacked," and later also shouted "we have a right to oppose these motherfuckers!" After the performance, a small group of attendees congregated at the point in the protest area closest to the DNC, facing the police officers, throwing rocks, and possibly engaging in more violent activity, such as throwing glass, concrete and water bottles filled with "noxious agents," spraying ammonia on police and slingshotting rocks and steel balls. The police soon after declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, shut off the electrical supply, interrupting performing band Ozomatli, and informed the protestors that they had 15 minutes to disperse on pain of arrest. Some of the protestors remained, however, including two young men who climbed the fence and waved black flags, who were subsequently shot in the face with pepper spray. Police then forcibly dispersed the crowd, using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. At least six people were arrested in the incident.
The police faced severe and broad criticism for their reaction, with an American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson saying that it was "nothing less than an orchestrated police riot." Several primary witnesses reported unnecessarily violent actions and police abuses, including firing on reporters and people obeying police commands. Police responded that their response was "outstanding" and "clearly disciplined." De la Rocha said of the incident, "I don't care what fucking television stations said, the violence was caused by the people at the concert; those motherfuckers unloaded on this crowd. And I think it's ridiculous considering, you know, none of us had rubber bullets, none of us had M16s, none of us had billy clubs, none of us had face shields."
Footage of the protest and ensuing violence, along with an MTV News report on the incident, was included in the Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium DVD.
2008 Republican National Convention
On September 2, 2008, during the Republican National Convention, Rage Against the Machine was scheduled to play a free show in protest of what Zack called the white and power abusing party in St. Paul, Minnesota on the State Capital lawn for Ripple Effect. Tom Morello was asked by SuicideGirls to report what happened at the conventions. Quoted, he said, "They showed up at exactly the time we were scheduled to perform, and as soon as we got out of our vehicle we were immediately surrounded by riot police who told us if we approached the stage we'd be arrested for playing music. They said that we were not on a permit for the day's show. We produced the permit and showed them that none of the artists that had already been playing for the previous four hours, including Anti-Flag and Michael Franti, none of the artists were listed on the permits. They just tried to use that as an excuse to stop us from playing. We were there right on time to play and they physically barred us from getting onto the stage because they were afraid of the music we were going to play.
"Imagine if in Beijing during the Olympics a Chinese band whose songs were critical of the government was told they'd be arrested if they attempted to sing those songs in a public forum?there would have been an international human rights outcry. But that's exactly what happened in Minnesota. But this is a band that has made a living singing a song that goes 'fuck you, I won't do what you tell me,' so we weren't about to go back to the hotel with our tails between our legs. So we out-flanked the police line and went into the middle of the crowd, and played a couple of songs passing a bull horn back and forth, and it seemed to go over pretty well."
After unsuccessfully arguing with officials about playing, they walked into the crowd and sang "Bulls on Parade" and "Killing in the Name" a cappella with megaphones. Afterward, they led the march towards the Convention, but left just before the end.
On September 3, 2008, the band played a concert in Minneapolis at the Target Center, on the second day of the Republican National Convention. An impromptu demonstration spilled out into the streets afterwards. 102 people were arrested as riot police ended the gathering.
RATM performing at the Target Center during the 2008 Republican National Convention
The band are advocates for the release of former Black Panther and Death Row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of murdering a police officer, and for whom they wrote and recorded the track "Voice of the Voiceless" for their 1999 album The Battle of Los Angeles. The band performed at a benefit concert with all proceeds donated to the International Concerned Family And Friends Of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and de la Rocha spoke before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in support of Abu-Jamal. The band also raised funds and awareness for political activist and convicted double-murderer Leonard Peltier, and documented his case in the video for "Freedom".
The anti-sweatshop poster targeted at Guess?, circa 1997.
At a 1993 Lollapalooza appearance in Philadelphia, the band stood onstage naked for 15 minutes with duct tape on their mouths and the letters PMRC painted on their chests in protest against censorship by the Parents Music Resource Center. Refusing to play, they stood in silence with the sound emitted being only audio feedback from Morello and Commerford's guitars. The band later played a free show for disappointed fans. Tom Morello was arrested for civil disobedience in October 1997 during a union protest by garment workers and their supporters against the use of sweatshop labor by Guess?. Billboards subsequently appeared in Las Vegas and New York featuring a photograph of the band with the caption "Rage Against Sweatshops: We Don't Wear Guess? ? A Message from Rage Against the Machine and UNITE (Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees). Injustice. Don't buy it."
Some other controversial stands taken include that of the music video for the song "Bombtrack", in which RATM expresses support for the Peruvian guerilla organization Shining Path and their incarcerated leader Abimael Guzm?n. Over its career, the band played benefit concerts for organizations such as Rock for Choice, the Anti-Nazi League, the United Farm Workers, children's care organization Para Los Ni?os and UNITE. 1994 saw the band organizing Latinpalooza, a joint benefit concert for the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund, and Para Los Ni?os. The band also raised funds for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, Women Alive, and played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert on more than one occasion. Album liner notes contained promotional material for AK Press, Amnesty International, the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic, Indymedia, Mass Mic, Parents for Rock and Rap, the Popular Resource Center, RE: GENERATION, Refuse and Resist, Revolution Books, the Rock & Rap Confidential, and Voices in the Wilderness. When the band headlined Reading Festival on August 22, 2008, Getafe Electric Festival on May 30, 2008, and the Pinkpop Festival on June 1, 2008 they came on stage to the sound of a prison klaxon, dressed in orange prison jumpsuits with black sacks over their heads, presumably in reference to the conditions of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. They remained silent onstage for around a minute until being led to their instruments and performing their opening song, Bombtrack, still in the prison outfits. Zack de la Rocha also repeated his 'trial George Bush for war crimes' speech during the song "Wake Up", but also cited Tony Blair as a criminal, telling the crowd:
Last April I came over and said a few things. And the next day Rupert Murdoch's Fox News ran a piece on us saying that I said the President should be assassinated. I need to reframe what we said so that a band can stand up and tell the truth. What we said is that President Bush and the whole administration should be brought in front of a trial for War Crimes and hung. And based on all the news we saw of all of you marching in the street before the war makes me think that Tony Blair should be right up alongside him.
This made me think what are they so afraid of? Are they afraid, really afraid, of four musicians from Los Angeles who speak their minds? I don't think so. You wanna know what the fuck they're so afraid of? They're scared of you. They're scared 'cause they know that if they don't start pulling all those troops out of Iraq, all those poor soldiers left in the desert to die, that you might go and start some shit in the streets, that you might stop working, that you might get together and organize a strike to stop them from ever invading another country again. That's what they're scared of.