By Eric Mackinnon
Prophets of Rage
Friday, June 9, 2017
Don't call Prophets Of Rage a supergroup or a Rage Against The Machine reunion.
The group formed by members of RATM, Public Enemy's Chuck D and Cypress Hill's B-Real will make their Download Festival début on Friday, June 9, with sub-headlining slot are instead an 'elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront confront bullshit head-on with Marshall stacks blazing,' says guitarist Tom Morello.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Morello explained the idea behind bringing Prophets of Rage together as they prepare to cross the pond for a hugely anticipated show at Donington Park and the Download Festival.
But who did this exciting collaboration happen? How do these three iconic bands combine their might and provide the musical milk for the Download Friday night cornflakes?
Brad Wilk began in Rolling Stone: “When [the members of Rage Against the Machine] had just met, Zack got us tickets to a Public Enemy concert that was cancelled since they were worried about riots. It was a really exciting time in music and we really connected to it. Zack, at the time, was heavily influenced by hip-hop. The first time I heard Cypress Hill was from Zack. He put in the tape in my car and was like, 'Check this band out.' I was like, 'Holy shit! This is fucking awesome.' Part of Rage's DNA was turning each other on to other music.”
Tim Commerford: “I think the fifth show we played as a band was at a college in San Luis Obispo with Public Enemy. We covered Cypress Hill's "How Could I Just Kill a Man" on the Renegades album. The first Cypress Hill record and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back were two of the biggest hip-hop influences on Rage Against The Machine.”
The love in was reciprocated towards the RATM camp too as Chuck D recalls: “I remember getting a demo cassette tape of Rage Against The Machine with a match in it. I thought that was interesting. What got me was their combination of rap and hard, aggressive music.
“It was one of those rare instances when the planets just lined up right and the alchemy of musical magic and history just poured out. I saw them in concert around then and what I remember most is how wiped out the crowd was afterwards. I had never seen a place destroyed; sweat and blood on the walls. The fucking tables were turned over and rafters pulled down. It was crazy. They're the Led Zeppelin of our time.”
B-Real chimed in: “I was taken to see Rage by a friend. She took me to a place called Club With No Name. When I heard the music I was totally blown away. I was moshing with the fans in the pit and they happened to see me and they brought me up and we did a song that became "Hand on the Glock" on the Black Sunday record. We became friends and we eventually would take them on one of our first big tours. To me, they were this generation's Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin.
“At that point I was listening to nothing but hip-hop, but I started off as a rock fan. They rekindled that spirit inside of me that was laying dormant.
Chuck D: “They had a different angst than a lot of the other bands of that time. Politics weren't really heard in the rock world. It was all, "Boo hoo, I didn't get my lunch money" or "Dad didn't buy me a car today, so I'm fucking mad at the world." That's bullshit. Rage were talking about some clear-cut things that we knew were worth screaming about.”
It is six years now since RATM last played together live and seven years since they headlined Download back in 2010.
Morello admits being repeatedly asked when new music would be released, 'music to fight for people,' helped spark interest in a new project.
Commerford explains: “I'm gonna credit Tom Morello with the origin of the idea. He asked me if I was into it. He was the spearhead. When he gets his head wrapped around something it's like a mental python.”
Morello: “It all happened pretty organically. We've been friends for a long time. It's not like we went on YouTube and auditioned someone who could do a convincing version of "Bullet In The Head."
“That wasn't it at all. We've been musical comrades for a very long time. We've had a tremendous amount of respect for each other musically and politically. They're my idols and friends. I called up Chuck D. I think I texted B.”
Their set lists have included RATM classics 'Killing In The Name Of' and 'Bulls On Paradade' alongside Public Enemy and Cypress Hill tracks.
Morello: “This has been a very organic process. Sometimes B will just say, "I'll take the second verse of this" and Chuck is very agreeable. A lot of our records, and a lot of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill records, there's a lot of doubled vocals.
“Now we're able to do them in a very exciting way with two of the best voices in hip-hop. We're able to explore all of our catalogs, but there's different twists and turns. We've taken some Public Enemy tunes and Rage-ified them. The song "Prophets of Rage" is a pretty obvious choice. "She Watch Channel Zero" has become a Rage-[meets]-Black Sabbath bulldozer. "Fight The Power" has morphed into something that you wouldn't expect. I also want to be able to go deeper into the Rage catalog than we have in the past.
“Let me tell you, you can put together an insane setlist from these three catalogs. It's insane.”
Wilk: “The setlist is pretty evenly split between the three groups. We're also playing a couple Prophets of Rage songs. We're doing some writing, but I don't want to give too much away.”
B-Real: “We're going to surprise people with how we put this all down. There are so many Rage songs that I love, but I think everybody's favorite is "Bulls on Parade." It just has a tremendous amount of energy. At this point, it's hard to pinpoint what the setlist will be, what will make the cut and what won't. We're having fun in the process.”
Morello: “So far we've played [the Cypress Hill songs] "How Could I Just Kill A Man," "Rock Superstar" and an intense medley with a bunch of Cypress songs. They have so many great songs that one of the greatest challenges is just whittling it all down. The options are endless. The Public Enemy and Cypress songs both left themselves to Rage-ificaiton.”
Commerford added: There's nothing quite like playing "Killing In The Name" in front of a live audience. It's a live wire and it's a beautiful thing. We're in troubled times, so we need this. We've missed these opportunities in the past, and we're not going to miss them this time. We're gonna be here. It's needed. It's gonna be scary.”