From Rage to More Rage: Tom Morello’s Bands
Tom Morello’s Bands: an Overview
From the legendary Rage Against the Machine to the newly formed Prophet’s of Rage, Morello keeps finding finding new ways to rage against the injustices of the system one song at a time.
Rage Against the Machine
Tom Morello kicked off what would become his extensive musical career in the early nineties with his first group- Rage Against the Machine. Rage was comprised of Morello on guitar, Zack de la Rocha as lead vocalist, Tim Commerford on bass guitar and backup vocals, and Brad Wilkes on percussion.
Well known for their leftist political views, Rage songs were all revolutionary critiques of domestic and foreign policies of the US government. Morello saw Rage as an opportunity to get his political message across in a way that had the potential to cross borders. The band became a platform for its members to spread their activism and views. During the days of Rage, members participated in protests in addition to making albums.
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
Rage became a vehicle for these ideas, and it was the group’s main focus to open a dialogue with its listeners about important political critiques. The group used this vehicle to release four albums. Their first album self-titled Rage Against the Machine was released in 1992, followed by Evil Empire in 1996, The Battle of Los Angeles in 1999, and Renegades in 2000.
Rage came to an end in the year 2000, and much to their fans excitement reunited from 2007 to 2011. Rage Against the Machine is not likely to reunite again, but their musical legacy successfully laid a strong foundation for the Morello’s subsequent projects.
Check out this high energy, live performance of RATM’s song Testify at Finsbury Park, London in 2010:
After Rage announced its end in 2000, 2001 marked the beginning of the group’s second band- Audioslave. Audioslave reigned for six years, during which the group released three albums- self-titled Audioslave in 2002, Out of Exile in 2005, and Revelations in 2006.
Cornell was the songwriter for Audioslave, who abandoned the political theme used in Rage. Morello describes Cornell’s lyrics as “haunted, existential poetry”. Cornell’s lyrics dealt mostly with themes of love, hedonism, existentialism, and spirituality.
Audioslave ended when Cornell permanently left the group due to “irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences”. There are speculations that Cornell left the group because he wrote all the lyrics to the songs, yet the members shared profits equally.
Whatever the case may be, this marked another ending to an era in Morello’s musical career. But as we know now, there is always a new beginning to follow an ending for Morello.
Enter- The Nightwatchman. Morello created this musical identity for himself during the years of Audioslave to maintain his activist pursuits. Morello’s Nightwatchman persona was heavily inspired by social and political activist/musician Billy Bragg. Overall, Morello states that “the Nightwatchman is my political folk alter ego”, which maintained reactions against war crimes, torture, secret prisons, spying on American citizens, and poverty and starvation among American people during war times.
The Nightwatchman released four albums, beginning with One Man Revolution in 2007, The Fabled City in 2008, Union Town in 2011, and concluding with World Wide Rebel Songs in 2011. While giving Morello the platform he needed to express his political alter ego, the Nightwatchman marked another chapter in Morello’s musical career.
Check out Save the Hammer for the Man with Ben Harper in the video below and enjoy!:
Prophets of Rage
As for Morello’s next musical chapter, 2016 marked yet another beginning. Enter- Prophets of Rage. This rap rock supergroup is comprised of Morello on guitar, Tim Commerford on bass and back-up vocals, Brad Wilk on percussion- three of the four original Rage and Audioslave members. In addition to these musical comrades, Morello has also teamed up with DJ Lord and Chuck D of Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill rapper B-Real. The group is named after Public Enemy’s song Prophets of Rage from thier 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Morello to Rolling Stone: “We’re not a supergroup. We are an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.”
Supergroup or elite task force of revolutionary musicians, Prophets of Rage is going to Make America Rage Again in 2017 in a city near you. Click here for Prophets of Rage tickets and tour information.