How did Rage Against The Machine get their band name?
3 November 2020, 15:25 | Updated: 3 November 2020, 15:47
Celebrate the band by looking back at the possible reasons behind the band's defiant and iconic name.
Rage Against The Machine's eponymous debut album celebrates its 28th anniversary this year.
Their first studio effort - which was released on 3 November 1992 - included singles in the likes of Bombtrack, Wake Up, Bullet in the Head and of course Killing in the Name- an anthem against racism and oppression which was inspired by the brutality against Rodney King at the hands of the LAPD.
Vocalist Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk are known for their bold and defiant sound and their anti-capitalist message, but where exactly does the band's name come from, and could there be any other reasons behind its origins?
How did Rage Against The Machine get their band name?
Rage Against The Machine's band name is believed to have come from a song Zack de la Rocha had written for his former band Inside Out. It was also set to be the title of the underground hardcore punk band's unrecorded album. It's long believed that "the machine" the ostensibly political band are raging against is that of capitalism and the oppressive structures at the highest levels of society. The phrase itself is said to have been coined by associate of Inside Out, Kent McClard, from and 1989 article in his punk zine No Answers.
While the answer seems a rather simple one, could Rage Against The Machine have been more literal than we thought?
More recently, a theory has emerged which suggests the band may have been raging against an actual machine in the form of their early tour van.
The blog Ponderings From Pluto claims that de la Rocha had a lot of disdain for their 1979 Chevrolet that kept on breaking down.
“That piece of s*** was always breaking down,” de La Rocha is claimed to have said. “I can’t tell you how many times that van broke down back in 1991 when we were starting out, how many gigs we lost because it would quit working."
He's said to have added: "We called that monstrosity every name you can think of and even invented a few new words. When we finally made enough money to buy a new van to house our equipment, the first thing we all did was take sledgehammers and beat the s*** out of that thing."
Despite this theory, it's much more likely that the origins of the band's name are more about railing against the establishment than their issues with a troublesome vehicle.
Amazingly for some very select fans, it took until 2020, the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests for them realise RATM were political at all.
Tom Morello highlighted the reaction of one in particular who took to Twitter to bemoan: "I use to be a fan until your political opinions come out. Music is my sanctuary and the last thing I want to hear is political bs when i’m listening to music. As far as i’m concerned you and Pink are completely done. Keep running your mouth and ruining your fan base."
Morello retweeted the astonishing message to his millions of followers and replied: "Scott!! What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN’T contain “political BS”? I need to know so I can delete it from the catalog."
Scott!! What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN’T contain “political BS”? I need to know so I can delete it from the catalog. https://t.co/AMpmjx6540— Tom Morello (@tmorello) June 9, 2020
Other fans of the band were quick to mock the post, with many questioning how you could listen to any of Rage Against The Machine's music without realising the band's strong political message.
One fan asked: "What were you HEARING".
Another mused: "Back in the day that dude was screaming “F—k you I won’t do what you tell me” thinking the song was about a rebellious teen with stern parents".
Others showed their sense of humour by adapting the band's iconic name to "Rage in favour of the machine".
Rage in favor of the machine— Mike Bents (@MikeBents) June 9, 2020
Another simply chained the famous explicit refrain of their Killing In The Name anthem to "OKAY I'LL DO WHAT YOU TELL ME".
OKAY I'LL DO WHAT YOU TELL ME— Beheem (@Skjaldmotur) June 9, 2020
Not content to deny Rage's political roots or the origins of their moniker, Tom Morello has even discussed how some fans 'freak the f*** out" when he says he is black.
Speaking during a live conversation with Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds, the Bloody Beetroots and Shea Diamond, Morello - who was born of Kenyan diplomat Ngethe Njoroge and American activist Mary Morello - said: “racism in this country is as American as apple pie and baseball”.
As reported by WRRV, talking about he's viewed by some of his fans, he mused: “A curious part of my history is that I’ve 'changed colour’ through the years. This is what I mean. In the town where I grew up, I was the only black person. Once, there was a noose in my family's garage, there was the occasional burned cross on the lawn, and my mom, who was a public high school teacher, had some of the most horrific racist stuff pinned to her chalkboard."
He continued: "Then, I was in a popular band that had songs that were predominantly played on white, rock-oriented stations, the way I speak is not typically urban vernacular, and there’s a large part of my fan base that freaks the fuck out when I say that I’m black."
The rocker added: "Like, they don’t want to hear it, they doubt it and it surfaces once a month whether it’s Twitter or Instagram where I say something about being black. They’re like, ‘You’re not black!’ I assure you that the Northern Illinois Ku Klux Klan thinks that I am.”