Latest release: Prophets of Rage (Fantasy)Website: www.prophetsofrage.com
As if from the forehead of an angry deity, Prophets of Rage sprang fully formed into the world during the heat of the last US Presidential campaign. Part Rage Against the Machine, part Public Enemy and a dash of Cypress Hill, they raised a voice of dissent against the political complex, determined to confront, in Tom Morello’s own words, “this mountain of election year bullshit.” That election may now be well over but Prophets of Rage haven’t gone away. On the contrary, their debut album drops on September 15 and in an era of anxiety fuelled by the spectre of neo-Nazism and nuclear dick-measuring contests, it could be one the timeliest releases of the past few years.
“Depends on how you look at it, you know,” asserts bass player Tim Commerford. “There’s a lot of people who don’t agree with what we have to say. And I would say to them, don’t pay attention to it. Just let it pay attention to you.”
The most bitter and spiteful Presidential campaign in living memory, filled with nationalistic propaganda, racist rhetoric and misogynistic bile, has left the US in a state of deep division with an aura of political extremity unlike anything that’s been seen there for a long time.
“There’s a lot of things that have been going on I’ve never seen, so it’s a horrible time for us,” the 49-year old musician says. “But it’s been culminating for many years. You can go back to the 1940s and you can see a nuclear weapon dropping, terrorist organisations starting up, creating wars and killing people and doing that all over the world and propagandizing Americans to think they’re the greatest country in the world and they don’t do anything wrong and meanwhile they’re killing, and that’s kind of what Hillary was representing. More of that! So it’s not as if we weren’t against her.”
The band certainly weren’t for the other side either, timing the release of their first, eponymously titled single to coincide with their protest of the Republican National Convention last July. While Prophets of Rage are no fans of Hillary Clinton, Commerford has nothing good to say about Donald Trump.
“He’s a racist,” Commerford declares. “I’ve gotta side with Michael Moore – I saw him on TV, and he said, ‘If you voted for Trump, he’s a racist, and that makes you a racist’. If you have an opportunity to say, I screwed up, I made a mistake – then you’re not a racist anymore.”
America’s political landscape may be dominated by hawkish centrists, libertarian right-wingers and racist buffoons, but Commerford believes that’s the perfect recipe for people to finally push for the kind of real change that many Trump fans mistakenly saw in their representative.
“Political news is at an all time high. People are paying attention to it and it’s the most dramatic thing happening on reality TV for sure. It’s pulling in a lot of people who are racists who have the same ideology as Trump; others are righteous, who hate him and they hate the establishment the way that it is and realise that there needs to be changes. Those people can look at the Trump presidency as an opportunity to bring change. What I’m hoping for is that there will be some righteous leaders that come out of all this.”
If some of those potential future leaders were looking for a soundtrack, Prophets of Rage may well have supplied it. Combining the funkified groove-laden hard rock foundations laid down by Commerford, Morello and Brad Wilk, DJ Lord’s turntablism and the contrasting vocals of Chuck D and B Real, Prophets of Rage is a heavy hitting album that tackles socio-political issues like racism, homelessness and drug law reform, among others. Commerford is keen to point out, however, that this is a distinct band from Rage Against the Machine.
“It’s very exciting,” Commerford enthuses about the album. “It is Rage, it does have elements of Rage, but it’s also Audioslave and there’s a core sensibility to it and there’s a riff that can have a melodic vocal over it, even though it has hip-hop vocals and that’s an element that we didn’t really go to with Rage. And I have a different attitude and Prophets of Rage is a different band to Rage Against the Machine. Whether you know it or not.”
Regardless of their message, Prophets of Rage have been enthusiastically received on the world’s stages so far. In Europe they received some of the best reactions Commerford has ever seen.
“We just got back from a European tour of festivals in front of tons of people and we played some great shows with some of the best audience reaction that I’ve seen since I’ve begun playing music. And I thought I’d never be saying that because of Rage Against the Machine, and I saw things happening with European audiences that were a lot more electric than most of the shows that I’ve seen with Rage, and so I’m excited about the possibility of that. I feel like there were a lot of kids who were there to see Kings of Leon and different bands that we would have played with in the summer. Those people don’t know who we are, and I can tell when we play shows and people like it, and it seemed like people liked it.”
Commerford describes the music he makes as “dangerous”, and really there could be few more dangerous bands than one with Chuck D out front.
“And nothing more beautiful,” he says, “than having B Real as well. Their histories are so vast, they know so much music that it blows me away. So to be in a band with them and organically create where they have a pen and paper in hand, we’re writing a riff and they’re coming up with stuff right on the spot, it was just really organic and happened really easily. And that’s what I’ve been dealing with. It’s a dream, and to able to play music with guys that I respect that much is mind boggling.”
“For me,” Commerford continues, “to be able to be involved with people like Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha, Chuck D, B Real, Chris Cornell… just to be mentioned with them is an honour and I love every minute of it, the good and the bad, the easy stuff, the hard stuff. I just dig playing music and being able to play with those guys is a blessing.”
Chris Cornell’s death had a deep effect on him, as it also did on Wilk and Morello.
“I’ve never had that happen before to someone I’ve known, so that was a sad, sad day in my life that I’ll never forget. But I’m on the upside of that [now] and I’m glad that I got to play music with Chris and learn how to play music with Chris and that’s always going to be part of me and I hear that in Prophets of Rage and I’m really proud of that.”
It’s also clear that Commerford is extremely proud of the album too. He singles out ‘Unfuck the World’ and ‘Radical Eyes’ as two of the tracks that really jump out at him as representing what Prophets of Rage is about, but “that record is one of those things that I can’t believe I was a part of.”
“I love making music that has something to say,” he vows, “and that is dangerous and that is next-level and I think we’ve definitely stepped up on every level.”