Interview: Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk Talks Audioslave Reunion & ‘Open Door’ For Zack de la Rocha

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Photo credit: Danny Clinch

With the two most polarizing Presidential candidates in recent American history, Rage Against The Machine members Brad Wilk, Tom Morello, and Tim Commerford have reunited to form Prophets of Rage with Cypress Hill’s B-Real and Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord. The band’s stated purpose is to be the voice for the voiceless, as they claim to not support the Republican or Democratic party.

Prophets of Rage recently released their debut single “Prophets of Rage,” and they will kick off their North American ‘Make America Rage Again’ tour next month. Alternative Nation had the chance to talk with drummer Brad Wilk yesterday about Prophets of Rage not protesting at the Democratic National Convention after making noise at the Republican National Convention last week, his hopes to make music again with Zack de la Rocha, the possibility of an Audioslave reunion, drumming on Black Sabbath’s 13, his admiration for Billy Corgan, and why the Lollapalooza 1993 tour was one of the highlights of his career.

You guys were recently in the studio with Brendan O’Brien, probably my favorite producer of the last 25 years. How was it working with Brendan again in the studio, and how much did you get done besides your first single “Prophets of Rage”?

Working with Brendan is always a treat and a great experience. We have so much history together, from Rage’s second record [Evil Empire], the guy recorded us in a rehearsal studio and snaked all the wires into another rehearsal room, and we ended up making a record that way. He’s a phenomenal musician and engineer, aside from being a great producer. He just knows what’s up, I’m always inspired being around great musicians like that. Brendan is great, and he works fast. As long as you have your shit together, it’s great to be working with him.

How many songs did you get done with Brendan, and do you know how you’ll release the other ones?

We wound up doing just two songs with Brendan. We only had a few days to do it, so we recorded “Prophets of Rage” and another song called “The Party’s Over.” It was really inspiring to work with him again, all of us would like to continue working with him, and go in to the studio sometime very soon, hopefully before our tour starts.

Do you guys have any plans to protest Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party after your strong presence at the Republican National Convention last week? I believe Tim had some scheduling conflicts with Wakrat this week for the Democratic National Convention.

Right.

But is there anything planned for the future?

We always have plans, we actually did miss the DNC, but the point is we don’t support the DNC in any way. We live in a country where there are so many disenfranchised people who are completely disenchanted with the two party system that does not work for them anymore. That’s why we felt the need to come together as a band, and be a voice for the people who have kind of had enough. We just want people to know that although we are living in a world where big business controls the political system, there actually is power in numbers and you do have the power yourself to change. Most times that change has ever occurred in this world is when people stand up and fight back against a system that is unjust, or is not working.

Are there any songs you’d like to see appear on the Prophets of Rage setlist at some point, or special guests?

I’m really up for anything that is moving, so the door is wide open. But honestly I feel like I’m playing with three guys who I have had this amazing connection with since I was 24 years old, and then we have Chuck D from Public Enemy, and Public Enemy was a band that supported Rage Against The Machine before we even had a record deal, so there’s so much history as well as B-Real from Cypress Hill. That right there to me is a dream to be playing with these guys, anything extra is icing on the cake. Again, the door is open for anything and anybody, it would be amazing to do a lot of stuff. I don’t want to give away too much away, but I’m sure on our tour that something will be happening other than just us.

Speaking of somebody who would be a cool special guest: Zack de la Rocha. What has your relationship been like with Zack since Rage Against The Machine’s final show, or most recent show, 5 years ago? Have there been attempts made since then to get Rage back in the studio or on the road? Was Prophets of Rage originally hoped to be a Rage Against The Machine tour? What’s it been like with Zack over the last 5 years?

No, there hasn’t been any talk of us getting in the studio or making new music. All of us have been doing separate things. When this came up, of course we would love Zack to be a part of this, but he was working on his own record, and doing his own thing. I love Zack as a human being, and as a friend, he is a friend to me first and foremost. The idea of playing together with him, the door is always open for that.

Would you be open to appearing on Zack’s solo album?

I’m open to doing anything with Zack at any time, I love the guy. I think he’s an incredibly talented human being.

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In the last couple of years it seems like you, Tim, and Tom have had a good relationship with Chris Cornell, with pictures coming out of Tim and Tom at Chris’ birthday party. Was it easy to get past the issues with Chris surrounding Audioslave’s breakup, which was said to be for business reasons years ago? Can you discuss reconnecting with Chris?

I love Chris Cornell, another amazing musician, and a good person. Absolutely, the possibility of us making music together with Chris is always there. I don’t think anyone has any bad feelings towards each other in that band. I think that band had a really good run, and I think that it was time for us to move on, and that’s exactly what happened.

So is there a good chance of Audioslave reuniting for anything in the future?

I would say yes.

Well that’s good to hear. Now onto a couple other projects you’ve worked on over the last few years, how was it working with Black Sabbath on 13? What was the creative process like?

That was an absolute dream come true. I was a 14-year old kid sitting in his room with a record player trying to learn Bill Ward parts, and Black Sabbath is one of my favorite groups of all time. So to actually be asked to play drums with them was an incredible experience. For the first week it was really hard for me to even deal with the fact that I was in a room with them possibly heading towards making a record with them. They’re all great people, I loved being around them, I loved hearing their history and stories while we were making the record. I loved working with Rick Rubin, he is an incredible producer. I was just blessed to be in the room doing that, to say I was a part of it was incredible. However, even though it was just the most amazing experience for me, I wish that it could have been Bill Ward instead of me, as amazing as it was for me.

Another project you took part in about a year and a half ago was playing with The Smashing Pumpkins for some of their promotional shows and touring for Monuments to an Elegy. Mark Stoermer from The Killers was on bass, a great lineup. What are your memories of playing with the Pumpkins and Billy Corgan?

That was such an amazing musical experience for me. Gish was probably the last record that I sat in my room and played drums to, when I used to just play to records. I think that Billy Corgan is such an amazing songwriter, and really unique, and I think that Jimmy Chamberlin is a phenomenal drummer, so to get in his head, and really learn the songs that I played with them that he was a part of, was an amazing experience for me that only made me a better drummer. My whole goal playing in that band was learning Jimmy’s parts to the best of my ability, but without losing my own personality, and bringing a heaviness to those songs, that’s something that I could have added to those songs, but Jimmy Chamberlin is just phenomenal. Playing with that whole band was just an amazing time.

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Going back to Lollapalooza 1993, that had one of the festival’s best lineups with Rage Against The Machine, Alice In Chains, I’m a huge Layne Staley fan, Tool, and many other great bands. There were so many memorable moments on that tour, like you guys coming out naked to protest the PMRC. Do you have any interesting stories from that tour being around all of those great musicians, or any memories that stand out?

Yeah, I think during that time Lollapalooza was an amazing experience. It was basically like a traveling circus (laughs), and it was incredible. It was just such a different time, it felt like it was so much about the music, and connecting with the bands, there was a camaraderie that was happening at the time. Everyone felt like they were a part of a movement in music. That was an amazing feeling to be a part of that. There were so many great bands that played on that band, us and Tool were two bands that rose up from Los Angeles, to to actually be on that tour together was an amazing time. It was definitely the most memorable time of my career that I will never forget.

We’ve lost so many rock legends in the last year like Scott Weiland, David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Lemmy, and so many others. What’s been your reaction to these deaths, and do you have any stories or memories of meeting any of them?

Actually out of all those people, I met Lemmy before, and I met David Bowie. Both David Bowie and Lemmy to me were shockingly gracious, and really nice people. When you’re in that position when you have such respect for those people and they are good to you and nice to you, and you have a mutual admiration, it’s really a nice thing to feel. It makes you want to keep pushing forward in this crazy business that is music. It’s interesting, the older that we get, we start losing these incredible iconic people. I never got to meet Prince, I actually only got to see him one time at a tiny club at SXSW. Prince went on at 12 o’clock at night, and by 3 in the morning I actually had to leave. He was still playing, and I had to leave, I had to catch a plane and be up at 5:30AM, so I remember having to leave, I wish I hadn’t of left. I just remember feeling that this was one of the most talented people I had ever been around. His aura and his presence was so huge, it was stunning.

What are Prophets of Rage’s plans beyond this election? Will there be more music, shows, protests of whoever becomes President, or international events? What are the plans for Prophets of Rage beyond this tour and election?

We have plans to continue to play shows, to make music, and to give the current system hell while doing so. Because like I said, there are so many people who are disenfranchised, we feel like the least we can do is be a voice for those who feel like they do not have a voice in this country any more.