Interview: Tim Commerford Talks Chris Cornell, Zack de la Rocha & Tom Morello Attending His Concert

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Photo credit: Sandrine Gomez Photography

Tim Commerford has found his voice. Well known for being the thunderous bass player for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Commerford has now taken on a new musical challenge as lead singer and lyricist in his newly formed rock band, Wakrat. Coincidentally, it’s Commerford’s longtime friend and Rage bandmate, Zack de la Rocha, who introduced him to his new bandmates. The group is a trio consisting of Mathias Wakrat on drums, guitarist Laurent Grangeon and Commerford on bass and vocals. Wakrat himself, is a restaurant owner in Los Angeles at a place that de la Rocha frequents. It turns out Wakrat and Commerford shared a passion for mountain biking. Eventually, after numerous rides, their conversations casually led to music and Wakrat mentioning he was a drummer.

As the band Wakrat formed, Commerford found a new outlet in writing lyrics and ultimately taking on the vocals. Though singing was not completely foreign territory to Commerford, having just taken on the role with side project, Future User, Wakrat has given Commerford the opportunity to really let loose and be himself as an artist. Their debut single, “Knucklehead,” is an aggressive introduction that Commerford believes is a great portrayal of the band as it comes from a very honest place. With a punk crack to it, we’re met with Commerford saying, “Gimmie the gun, fuck the knife, gimmie the gun, I’m alright.”

The band has their debut album on the horizon with a string of festival dates lined up for the summer. As Commerford drove home from band practice last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with him about his new, refreshing band. His voice rings with enthusiasm giving off a complete opposite vibe from the video. But perhaps that’s just it. The music is just so personally freeing.

Wakrat

This is the second time we’ve seen you taking on the frontman/lead singer role with Future User and now Wakrat. How has that adjustment been for you?

Future User I describe more as performance art. We were never going to go on tour. We just made videos and music. It was more electronic where I also sang, played bass and wrote. I’d practice singing and playing at the same time at home. I was able to do it, but I never had to do it for real. With Wakrat, it’s the real thing. My buddies Mathias and Laurent came to me and wanted to play bass on their music. I got the music and it was really challenging just to play bass on it. They have crazy time signatures, they’re not in 4/4, a lot are in a bunch of different timings. That in itself I’m not used to. I eventually got it down and then I went back to it and figured out vocals. That’s how we work. They wrote arrangements on guitar and drums, then I would play bass and write vocals. We would edit accordingly. We would then go back and rerecord everything after we performed it and played some shows. It was pretty neat how we did it. At one point I was telling them I think we might need to get a bass player because I don’t know if I can sing and play at the same time. It’s a very short list of bass players who sing. Then you can break it down even further to bass players who sing and play with their fingers and don’t use a pick. It’s a harder thing to do to pluck with your fingers then it is with a pick. I play with my fingers so it was a learning process. I finished one song and I was so excited. It was “Knucklehead.” I was like – wow, I did it. I was so inspired. It became a rubix cube that I had to figure out. We finished our record at 10 songs and last week I just finished learning how to sing and play at the same time on all 10 songs. It’s very exciting and it’s super fun. I love the challenge.

I’ve heard the words furious, energetic and spastic in explaining Wakrat’s music. Being you are the singer and write the lyrics, is this the most accurate representation of you personally as an artist?

Yeah, this music is definitely. It feels like home to me. It’s comfortable. Whether people like it or not, I’m OK with that. I love that feeling of – hey, you don’t like it? Fuck you, this is what I’m doing. The music sort of says that and that’s the type of person I am. So this is me.

We played our first show and Tom Morello was there, Chris Cornell was there, Zack de la Rocha was there and Rick Rubin was there. These are people, especially Zack that I’ve known for a long time. I kept hearing from Zack, Cornell and different people, that they could tell this was the real me. It’s honest and it really does feel like me for sure.

“Knucklehead” is certainly a come out swinging type of song, with intense lyrics. You’ve mentioned it’s a very personal song. Are the lyrics metaphorical or where you really in that position?

A little of both. I was obviously not really living or trapped in an aquarium. From the perspective of I’m a lucky person and I have a home where you can see the ocean, that’s where I was. I was by myself and I was sad and angry and alone. I felt trapped in an aquarium. That’s where that comes from. There’s the literal take on it and then there’s the metaphor. The aquarium is the world you don’t want to be in. I don’t think there’s any animals that want to be in an aquarium, but that’s where their lives are.

Wakrat (1)

Your hitting the road with Wakrat in the summer with a couple of festival dates lined up, what made you select the European festival circuit as your first round of shows?

It felt right. Europe has a different take on certain music, especially heavy music. I feel like Europeans are going to be able to identify with our music right away. That’s the same route that Rage took. It felt comfortable. I’m going to go out there and play some festivals for some people who have probably never heard our music and it’s going to be interesting. Its big crowds. I don’t even think they have what we call alternative rock. They just have rock. As heavy, furious, fast and punk as our music is, I see punk rock as the root of alternative music and I consider the music I am making right now, a contemporary take on punk rock. I actually think its alternative, more so than it is metal.
*editors note, the European dates have just been canceled

You mentioned, you finished up the record last week. Do you have a release date?

We don’t have a release date yet. I’m still in negotiations with a few labels so, I’m not even sure which label it will be on. The music is done though. It took a long time to do that and then I got really lucky in that Brendan O’Brien, who produced two Rage records, an Audioslave record and many other rock records, one of the greatest rock produces ever, he just mixed it. He really brought it to an amazing new level. He’s such an incredible person with such an incredible ear for music, I’m blown away that he was even willing to mix it. I always really loved our music, but I never realized how good it could sound. It just sounds so much better than it did, and it sounded great before to me. We then got it mastered by Ted Jensen, who’s sort of a legend of mastering. He too buffed it out to another level. It was a dream team of mixers and masters that got ahold of it.

Our music will never sound like the music that’s out right now, it’s a whole different style from what’s popular right now. Our music is always going to sound a little bit left of center, but at least the actual sound of instruments is hitting on a high level that is on par with the way music sounds today. We recorded it authentically. We were doing full takes of drums, bass, guitar and vocals, but not piecing it together, honestly recording the songs the way that they were supposed to be recorded.

Will you have any US tours coming up?

We will. There’s already amazing things in the works right now. I’m excited. I want to tour. I love the feeling of what we do. We rehearse every day. It’s an everyday labor of love. I’ve been telling the other guys that we need to play our set 1,000 times so that we can come into our next show feeling like we’ve played 1,000 shows.

Wakrat’s debut video for “Knucklehead”

For tour info and more on the band visit their wakratband.com 4034428

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