Tom Morello on making America rage again

Prophets of Rage at their first live show in Los Angeles in May.
Prophets of Rage at their first live show in Los Angeles in May.
October 24, 2016

Tom Morello, renowned guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and social activist, has just finished a “Make America Rage Again” tour with new supergroup Proohets of Rage. The group features RATM members Brad Wilk and Tim Cummerford, as well as Public Enemy vocalist Chuck D and Cypress Hill frontman B Real.

TeleSUR English spoke to Morello prior to the supergroup’s Toronto show. The guitarist talked about the US elections and the state of rock music in what he calls “dangerous time”.

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US elections — one word?

Fucked! I mean the reason why this band [Prophets of Rage] exists is in part because of this particularly dangerous election cycle, and it’s my belief that dangerous times demand dangerous songs.

That’s why we wanted to both revive the music of Rage Against the Machine, which was built for times like these, as well as “rageify” the music of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.

Do you see Prophets of Rage extend beyond this election cycle?

The issues that have arisen during this election cycle from economic inequality to police brutality are not going to go away come November. It’s my belief that both the Democratic and the Republican parties in the United States do the job that they are paid to do, which is to serve the ruling class.

Prophets of Rage will still be needed in a cultural space to be able to confront the injustices.

What will it take to “make America rage again”?

Well in some ways, America is already raging. We’ve got a substantial number of voters voting for a fascist [in Donald trump], a substantial number of voters voting for a socialist [in Bernie Sanders in the Democrat primary] — this is very outside the pale of normal American politics.

It’s the American working and middle class that’s been left behind by globalisation. We live in a world now where the wealthiest 62 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion  half the planet!

In the US, workers don't have jobs — people, kids can’t afford to pay back their college loans.

The one thing that left, right and centre are clear about is that the system is not working and the system can’t fix itself.

So as part of the tour, you guys did this surprise performance outside of Norco Prison. Why hat did you decide to do?

We’re playing for those who are unrepresented by the candidates in this election, who go completely unrepresented in the media, in politics, in economics and we want to let them know that they have a band too.

How do you see the differences and the similarities in terms of the receptions to Prophets of Rage versus what was around in the 90s, the 2000s? Are you seeing a shift in the reception to progressive politics?

I think people are hungry for this music. The lane is wide open both musically and politically. Try to name a current — in the last 10 years — an alternative rock band that has huge riffs, huge grooves and a neo-Marxist bend; I mean that’s just not a thing.

Public Enemy and Cypress Hill were the hip hop cornerstones for Rage Against the Machine. There would be no Rage without those two.

Last year, you launched Firebrand Records as a label for “rebel” music. What can we expect from the label in the next few months?

We founded that label to give voice to artists regardless of genre who fit two criteria: One is that they’re great, and two is that they have a political point of view that we share and then try and use Firebrand Records to bring them together.

Latin America is going through a difficult time with a resurgence of the right. What sort of message would you have for your Latin American followers?

You can’t hope by electing some particularly great leaders that they're going to wave a magic wand and create the kind of world that you want to live in.

Aim for the world you really want without compromise and apology, and fight for that one. In your vocation, where you live, where you go to school, in your place of work, in your community and the world at large.

The Muslim-American population are under fire. If you had to send them a message, what would that be?

Racism and prejudice is just as American as apple pie and baseball. It’s interwoven in the DNA of our country — founded on slavery and genocide, as well as liberty and justice for all.

Just as American as prejudice is resistance to prejudice, and that’s what I would say to lean on and rely on. And that you have brothers and sisters of all ethnicities — of all religions and races — who support you in your quest for equality.

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