In just the name, you know this band has to be political. Rage – fight. Machine – government, society, culture, oppressors. Rage Against the Machine, their name itself, is the spark to a bigger political flame.
Rage is a prime and obvious example of a band, very much like the Riot Grrrls movement of the 90s from my previous post, that uses music as a vehicle to spread a larger and political message. Music is a way to speak to people, to get people to listen. It surpasses creativity, surpasses art and morphs into a bigger picture.
Signed to Epic Records (a tier of Sony), many critics have called the band out for being hypocrites. But don’t you have to be part of the machine to fight it? Those listening and buying every record, they already know. They see it, they hear it, and they already relate. But what about the person reading the newspaper at Starbucks? What might he know? So by going through the capitalist channels of our Capitalist society – you reach the people who aren’t the choir.
On an incident with Saturday Night Live, Rage was supposed to perform two songs. The host was Steve Forbes – an ex-Republican presidential candidate and billionaire. A blinding opposite to the rich political man, Rage wanted to hang American flags upside down on their amps. This was shut down every time. During their set, SNL wanted to censor some of Rage’s lyrics. Their inkling to do this was also motivated by the political connections of their host – more professional and tighter show. When flags had to be removed after their first performance, Rage was asked to leave the building immediately. Rage’s bassist Commerford then stormed Forbes and threw sheard of the flag.
The band also shot their music video for “Sleep Now in the Fire” and caused the doors of the New York Stock Exchange to be closed. This resulted in one of the film maker, Michael Moore, getting arrested; “Our protest stopped trading at the stock exchange for the last two hours of the day. I guess we stopped downsizing for at least a couple of hours.” The band has also protested at both Democratic and Republican National Conventions (2000 and 2008, (dis)respectfully). In 2009, Rage, along with other bands, fought against the use of their music as torture. Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and The Roots (along with others) called to close Guantanamo Prison. (To read more: https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/musicians-protest-tunes-used-in-interrogations/?_r=0)
The list of their activism and acts continues beyond anything I could ever write here. Rage has dedicated their band and their lives to the cause, no matter how aggressive it might end up being. They took music and used it to create an open dialogue. There’s no escapism here – listening to Rage will put you in the thick of it.