prophets of rage

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents -

We joined the fire­brands on the road in Lux­em­bourg to find out whether their po­lit­i­cal mes­sages are get­ting through to the masses.



Fuck trump. those are the words taped to the back of tom morello’s gui­tar, held aloft for all to see while he plays a solo with his teeth, be­cause of course he does. We’re packed tightly into the sweaty Rock­hal venue in south-west Lux­em­bourg, as Prophets Of Rage lay waste to thou­sands of bod­ies. they’re mid­way through their first euro­pean tour, play­ing fes­ti­vals and shows de­signed to make metal rage again in the wake of amer­ica’s elec­tions and a world­wide spread of dis­turb­ing far-right rhetoric. But will me­tal­heads heed their call to ac­tion? tom thinks so.

“the con­quest of europe is well un­der­way,” he laughs before tonight’s show, re­lax­ing back­stage in a room set up by the band’s masseuse. “It’s been ex­cit­ing to go out and rock fools and sear their faces!”

“I’ve never seen three wheel­chairs get­ting passed along in pits,” co-vo­cal­ist chuck D adds. “hellfest was the first gig where I just could not see the end of the au­di­ence – and I re­cently had laser eye surgery!”

tom formed Prophets Of Rage in may 2016 as a re­ac­tion to a news ar­ti­cle in which the re­porter, iron­i­cally, de­clared Don­ald trump was ‘rag­ing against the ma­chine’ by mak­ing a bid for the White house. he con­tacted for­mer Rage com­rades bassist tim com­mer­ford and drum­mer Brad Wilk about re­viv­ing their band.

as a re­union with Zack de la Rocha wasn’t on the cards – al­though tom has openly said he is wel­come to join at any time – the trio roped in cy­press hill’s B-Real, along with turntab­list DJ Lord and main­man chuck D from Public en­emy, whose band were in­stru­men­tal in shap­ing tom’s view that music can pos­i­tively change so­ci­ety.

“When I had some ideas about how the world was, I was lis­ten­ing to bands who sing about dun­geons and drag­ons,” he says. “and then along came the clash and Public en­emy, who made me feel less alone in those opin­ions, and made me feel that there was a wider world out there with peo­ple try­ing to change it.”

chuck D has long been con­nected with metal. Public en­emy made waves back in 1991, when they re­worked Bring The

Noise with an­thrax, bring­ing their sound to a whole new com­mu­nity. mean­while, B-Real pre­vi­ously worked with drum­mer Brad Wilk on cy­press hill’s 2000 rap-metal al­bum

Skull & Bones, which also fea­tured Deftones’ chino moreno and Fear Fac­tory’s Dino cazares. In Prophets Of Rage, the two trade vo­cals in a new vis­ceral style: this is not Rage against the ma­chine karaoke.

“there was no pos­si­ble way that I was gonna take on Rage against the ma­chine and fill in a po­si­tion that was the size of a crater,” says chuck in his trade­mark drawl­ing bari­tone. “No­body could re­place Zack De La Rocha’s shriek­ing like a 25-year-old with a knife turn­ing in him. Zack was more like mar­tial arts; me and B-Real are like straight-out rugby, putting your face in the mud.”

“I felt like it was a nat­u­ral tran­si­tion for me from the years I’ve spent ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent gen­res of music,” says B-Real, vis­i­bly buzzing. “I felt like all that pre­pared me for this band.”

The re­sults have been rev­o­lu­tion­ary; they have played to more than one mil­lion peo­ple since their first show in may last year, and in the UK alone, they’ve played a week­end-own­ing set at Down­load, re­ceived the Spirit Of ham­mer award at the Golden Gods, and head­lined Lon­don’s pres­ti­gious Brixton O2 academy.

But de­spite the over­whelm­ing re­ac­tion from crowds across the con­ti­nent, some in the metal com­mu­nity have, un­sur­pris­ingly, crit­i­cised the band for re­form­ing with­out Zack, declar­ing the band “cof­fee shop so­cial­ism” and “Prof­its Of Rage” on the Metal Ham­mer Face­book page. tom is keen to point out th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions are bol­locks.

“We’d have kept the cash then, wouldn’t we?” he laughs. “the first eight shows this band played, we gave away 100% of the pro­ceeds to home­less char­i­ties and ac­tivist or­gan­i­sa­tions in the cities where we played. In each of the cities in the en­tire US tour, we left a por­tion of the pro­ceeds to grass­roots or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

tom has done this through­out his ca­reer, from Rage to solo project the Night­watch­man, most fa­mously do­nat­ing his X-Fac­tor-beat­ing christ­mas Num­ber One money from Killing In The Name to the char­ity Youth music in 2009. With Serj tankian, he founded axis Of Jus­tice – a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion bring­ing to­gether music lovers to fight for so­cial jus­tice. and it’s that con­nec­tion to the grass­roots, the voice­less and the over­looked, that pushes Prophets Of Rage for­ward.

their next step is tak­ing the band from a live project to a fully fledged record­ing



out­fit, build­ing on the back of last year’s The Party’s Over eP. Lat­est sin­gle Liv­ing On The 110 ad­vances their so­cially con­scious agenda – it’s about the large home­less pop­u­la­tion liv­ing un­der the 110 free­way in Los an­ge­les, while rich fam­i­lies drive their cars above.

“You have this ironic daily jux­ta­po­si­tion of Bent­leys and Rolls Royces rolling over the im­pov­er­ished,” says tom. “It’s an anal­ogy for the world where the five rich­est fam­i­lies have as much wealth as the poor­est two bil­lion peo­ple. Liv­ing On The 110 holds up a mir­ror to that sit­u­a­tion.”

their up­com­ing self-titled de­but al­bum, pro­duced by long­time Rage col­lab­o­ra­tor Bren­dan O’Brien, also tack­les top­ics from drone war­fare (Take Me Higher) to the free­dom of in­di­vid­u­als (Le­gal­ize Me). and de­spite tom morello plant­ing the seeds of the band, he says ev­ery­one’s voice is heard in their new music.

“It had the same vibe as when we wrote and recorded the first Rage against the ma­chine record, where ev­ery­one is a joy to be in the room with, has the open­ness to share ideas, and the humility to be open to ev­ery­one else’s ideas,” he says.

The new col­lab­o­ra­tive music plays to the strengths of all in­volved. While DJ Lord isn’t shoe­horned into play­ing Rage songs live on­stage, he has a larger pres­ence on the al­bum, and the play-off be­tween chuck and B-Real over the great­est rhythm sec­tion in metal is life-af­firm­ing. Plus, chuck still has an­other out­let of his own – to­day he’s mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for the sur­prise Public en­emy record, Noth­ing Is Quick In The Desert, that dropped soon af­ter.

“there’s no hi­er­ar­chy in this band, and when that hap­pens to music and art, it ru­ins it,” agrees tim. “Right now we’re in the purest state where there isn’t a hi­er­ar­chy that cre­ates other in­se­cu­ri­ties; it’s a cancer that doesn’t ex­ist right now.”

the six mu­si­cians come across like a brother­hood. Dur­ing Ham­mer’s pho­to­shoot, they throw tim’s football be­tween them, crack­ing jokes and rar­ing to get the doors open. While some bands treat tour­ing as part of the busi­ness, barely ac­knowl­edg­ing each other un­til 9pm, th­ese guys are a unit, as close as those who spend their nights in the back of a van rather than on planes and in ho­tel rooms. through­out our

time to­gether, the mis­sion state­ment “make the world rage again” is ut­tered more than once.

“have you ever heard of the mag­nif­i­cent Seven? We’re the Sig­nif­i­cant Six,” states chuck, with just a flicker of hu­mour in his voice.

Before show­time, dur­ing much­hyped sup­port band Zeal & ar­dor’s set, Prophets chill out in a se­ries of rooms con­nected by a rather greens­melling cor­ri­dor, as their en­tourage spills out across the floors above. tim and DJ Lord in par­tic­u­lar are tighter than a gnat’s bum­hole, bark­ing with laugh­ter, and con­stantly com­pli­ment­ing each other’s con­tri­bu­tions – Lord is one of the chillest peo­ple we’ve ever met. Fact.

De­spite be­ing ea­ger to down­play his lead­er­ship, it’s clear that tom is at least a driv­ing force. With­out him, the band wouldn’t ex­ist at all, and he ad­mits to mak­ing lists and draw­ing di­a­grams like a football coach. chuck also re­veals that, when it comes to re­hearsals, it’s tom who’s “re­lent­less”, keep­ing the band go­ing un­til they’re “numb and do­ing it on cruise-con­trol”.

When they take the stage, that ded­i­ca­tion pays off, and the sleepy town of esch-sur-alzette does not know what the fuck has hit it. chuck re­peat­edly de­clares that they are the Prophets Of Rage as he leaps around the stage, swing­ing his mic like a sword, in­still­ing the idea that this isn’t a cov­ers band but its own en­tity.

Po­lit­i­cal an­them Un­fuck The World sends Lux­em­bourg into ab­so­lute spasms, with bod­ies and beers fly­ing through the air, kick­ing off more like a 70s punk show than a rap-rock band in 2017. It has the mak­ings of a new gen­er­a­tion’s Killing In The Name.

the core of tom, tim and Brad have never played Lux­em­bourg before, mean­ing tonight’s an op­por­tu­nity to get their mes­sage out to a fresh au­di­ence. But even if a room full of like­minded peo­ple can bel­low the lyrics to a song, or crowd surf dur­ing a cho­rus, does music re­ally have the power to make a change out­side of th­ese four walls? It all comes back to that ques­tion: can Prophets ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence?

“music does two things: it can re­flect so­ci­ety and it can change so­ci­ety,” tom says. “there’s no suc­cess­ful so­cial jus­tice move­ment that hasn’t had a great sound­track. From We Shall Over­come to Killing In The Name, th­ese are songs that res­onate in their time and stir peo­ple who are try­ing to change the world.”

What bet­ter place than here? What bet­ter time than now?




Formed as a re­ac­tion to to­day’s po­lit­i­cal mad­ness, Prophets Of Rage have been preach­ing their gospel around the world. But can they change it? We went to Lux­em­bourg to find out...

B-Real tried to hyp­no­tise us. Sneaky

DJ Lord: ef­fort­lessly cool

Sorry, tim, there’s no way we’re kiss­ing that bet­ter…

When trump ran for Pres­i­dent, tom knew it was time for a fight

tom morello has never been one to mince his words

tak­ing the power back? Prophets are on the case

Chuck D: the man, the freak­ing leg­end

for It’s a wrap Brad Wilk

“the Sig­nif­i­cant Six” are a live force to be reck­oned with

DJ Lord turns the ta­bles


Prophets Of Rage: the un­usual sus­pects

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