Prophets Of Rage are the heroes we deserve, and the heroes we need right now.
In a time when humanity is systematically being beaten down and torn apart by fear, hate and greed, the politically-charged rap-metal supergroup have awoken like a sleeping giant to mobilise the masses and change the world, one moshpit at a time. In guitarist Tom Morello’s words, they’re here to be the “soundtrack for the resistance”.
And that soundtrack no longer consists of merely the arsenal of monster singles that Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill have collectively released over the past three decades. Nope — it now includes a freshly-smelted LP of all-original fire, 12 new tracks raging against the “Trump idiocy” and similar neo-fascist regimes currently fucking up the world.
And that fire doesn’t just burn hot in POR’s pit-thrilling riffs and venomous lyrics, but in every single thing that Morello has to say about the project. In conversation, when the legendary RATM riff machine kicks into Prophets Of Rage mode, he’s as furious, charismatic and persuasive as any political leader. The rhetoric of rebel rock n’ roll — of “stickittothemaniosis” if you will – fuels his every word when he sits down to chat with Music Feeds about Rage’s new, self-titled album. But that’s far from all we chat about.
During our humbling yarn with this absolute legend of rock – who FYI is up there with Hendrix and Van Halen in the official list of Dudes Who Redefined What It’s Possible To Do With A Guitar – Morello shares his thoughts on everything from Prophets Of Rage’s debut Australian tour (pencil in 2018), to the unreleased Audioslave tunes that will hopefully be released someday to Chris Cornell’s final words to him.
He also explains we shouldn’t expect a full Rage Against The Machine reunion to happen any time soon, but why that doesn’t matter because Prophets Of Rage are here, and they’re only just getting warmed up.
Music Feeds: Music today seems to have lost a lot of its anger and social conscience, which I find weird AF because there’s almost more to be angry about than ever! Did that paradox have anything to do with why you guys decided to start this band and create this record?
Tom Morello: Certainly. In these troubled and anxiety-filled times when injustice is rampant around the globe, we wanted to have a big Marshall stack megaphone to make a lot of noise. So we got together some of the wildest rebels in the history of rock and rap, put ’em in a band together and said “If we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down swinging”.
MF: Why do you think it took a sleeping giant like Prophets Of Rage to bring protest music back to the fore? Are the new generation of musicians not interested in rebellion?
TM: Honestly, I couldn’t care less whether other bands are doing it. What I’m interested in is [the fact that] people are resisting, in their own ways and in their own lines of work. We’ve seen a huge wave of resistance here in the United States – the women’s movement, the anti-racist movement – people who are standing up in the millions against the Trump idiocy and the rise of these neo-fascist ideas. So whether or not bands are doing it makes little difference to me, the fact that people are doing it is why we’re doing it. We aim to be the soundtrack for the resistance.
MF: What sort of impact are you hoping this album will have on the world?
TM: First and foremost, we hope the album kicks your ass. We’re musicians who make aggressive and funky music that we’re proud of, and the message is first and foremost in the moshpit. If it doesn’t move you or it doesn’t rock you, it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about [laughs]. So given that, the message of the band is a very very simple one. While there are songs on the record that are about homelessness and political injustice and marijuana [laughs], the overall message is a simple one: the world is not gonna change itself, that’s up to you.
MF: A lot of your songs are obviously inspired by what’s been going on in America at the moment… but I feel like a lot of the themes really hit home for people here in Australia too. Do you have much of a handle on what’s happening in Australian politics right now?
TM: Not so much, I know a little bit about the political persuasion of your government. But one thing we’ve found – since we’ve been a band, which has been a year-and-a-half – we’ve played in front of two-and-a-half million people on three continents, and throughout our careers we’ve toured the world, and we’ve got quite a global perspective for a band that is making its first album. So we bring all of those experiences – both recent and experiences from the past – into what we do, and we look at this like, this is a global record, and this is a record for moshpits in Brazil and for moshpits in Brisbane. And moshpits in Buffalo, New York [laughs]. We’re aiming pretty wide on this one.
MF: You personally have such a history of making politically-fuelled music – have you ever considered going into politics yourself?
TM: Well for two years I was the scheduling secretary for a United States senator, and that cured me of any desire of wanting to be in electoral politics which – at least in the United States – is entirely beholden to wealth, and is compromised by that. So I look at it like this: I am involved in politics, you know? It’s rock n’ roll politics and it’s street politics and it’s activism and it’s organising and it’s playing guitar solos.
MF: And we’d love to see you come and do exactly that down here in Australia. Now that the album’s out, can we expect a Prophets Of Rage tour any time soon?
TM: Yeah, we’ve already talked about it. We won’t be there in 2017, but we’re hoping to get everywhere in the world in 2018 and Australia’s really top of my list of places that this band hasn’t played. I’ve had such great experiences there with Rage, with Audioslave, as The Night Watchmen, with Bruce Springsteen. You know, really some of my favourite concerts that I’ve played have been in Australia. And honestly I love to visit there and it’s really beautiful too. So hopefully in 2018 we’ll be there.
MF: And in your various touring bands you’ve played both the festival circuit here and also your own headlining shows… what would be your ideal vibe for Prophets Of Rage’s live debut down under?
TM: We still have to figure that out, but I love the festival vibe. We just got done playing a big European run of festivals and there were a lot of young people in the audience who may be there to see some of the other bands on the bill, who may not be familiar with Public Enemy songs, or even Rage Against The Machine songs — and just destroying those audiences and seeing these 16 and 17-year-old kids just losing their fucking minds! It’s pretty awesome, I really like that. But, you know, I’m happy to play wherever.
MF: Now for all the Rage Against The Machine fans out there I do have to ask, what’s the status with you guys and Zack — has there been any progress with talk of a full RATM reunion happening any time soon?
TM: No, there has not.
MF: Is it ever a tempting thought though, say, when you see a band like Guns N’ Roses doing it and it being so successful after all these years?
TM: I mean, like, there’s been ample opportunity for Rage Against The Machine to play over the course of the last 25 years, it just doesn’t happen [laughs] you know? It’s like, it just doesn’t happen. But the good news is that with Prophets Of Rage we honour the legacy of Rage Against The Machine and we Rage-ify the Public Enemy and Cypress Hill records, and now we’ve also made our own music for 2017 to be able to have a really potent cocktail. You know, like, we were playing a show the other day where 22 of the 23 songs we played were big singles. It’s the kind of setlist that we can put together – it’s like a Paul McCartney setlist [laughs] – it’s like “oh, I love that one! Oh, I love that one! Oh my gosh!” And then having all of that experience in our other bands and in Prophets Of Rage too, to be able to make this record that we’re really proud of in 2017, is pretty awesome. And we look forward to getting down there and playing it.
MF: Same here! Now dude, if it’s ok with you, I’d love to ask you about the last Audioslave gig you played earlier this year. After everything that’s happened since — obviously losing Chris — how do you look back on that show now?
TM: Well, I just say “thank god we played it”, you know? Audioslave hadn’t played in 12 years, although I’d played another show with Chris about a year before that. And it was wonderful to be close friends and to rock again and to play some Audioslave songs and stand next to him onstage with his – you know – his rock god powerful self, and his amazing voice and his amazing hair and his amazing whole thing, you know? It was wonderful. And we hung out afterwards and it was lovely, and we talked about doing it again. And now he’s gone. It’s a horrible tragedy for those of us who knew and loved him and it’s a horrible tragedy for music. Because he’s one of the best of all time.
MF: Wow, so you guys had legitimately been planning to do more with Audioslave?
TM: Yeah, just that night, the last thing Chris said to me was, “I had a great time, let’s do this again, just let me know when”. And we started talking about maybe doing some sort of similar thing where maybe it would be a Prophets Of Rage show and then we would drop an Audioslave set into the middle of it, and we’d have a ball.
TM: That sounds like a great thing, but that’s not what’s going to happen now.
MF: And what about unreleased Audioslave recordings – are there any in the vault?
TM: Yeah, there are. From each of the three records there are some really great songs that did not – for reasons that had nothing to do with quality of song – did not make the cut on those records. And I’m sure they’ll come out at some point. But, you know, not right now.
MF: So no plans to release them any time soon?
TM: No, there’s no plans. This is the kind of thing where – if I say the wrong thing – it gets quoted [laughs]. There are no plans to put it out but it does exist and I don’t think anyone’s opposed to it coming out at some point.
MF: Audioslave were one of my favourite bands growing up, so that would just be everything.
TM: There’s some jams, there’s some good jams.
MF: Well let’s leave things on a high note and get back to Prophets Of Rage – because it seems like there’s a lot to be excited about in this band’s future. What’s one key thing you want fans to know about your debut album before they listen to it?
TM: Hmmm… that’s a good question. This is just the beginning for Prophets Of Rage. We’re auditioning to be the band of the people, we’re auditioning to be the soundtrack for the resistance. It’s six guys who have been making rebel rock and rebel rap their whole lives and are putting every ounce of their musical, intellectual and creative power into making music that is going to fight the power and bring the noise and say “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” and is gonna un-fuck the world. That’s what we’re aiming at, and you’re welcome to come along.