Prophets of Rage/Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello and Chuck D were recently interviewed on the Talkhouse podcast. Morello claimed that some radio stations in ‘red states’ that voted for President Trump will not play Prophets of Rage’s new album.
Asked about their views on American protest music, Tom said:
“If we’re talking about the history of American protest music and how it’s changed, I think there’s one element that hasn’t changed is that people in whatever vocation they’re in, whether they’re musicians or journalists or carpenters or whatever, that have a conscious that feels there’s injustice in the world, some percentage of them are going to fight back. Some of them are going to act up in their line of work, whether it’s through the carpenter’s union or through some student demonstrations or in concerts or in studios. I believe those are all in the world of music, those are all links, in folk music, you talk about there’s links in the chain. From the prison chain gangs of Louisiana through the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and into the punk rock era of the Sex Pistols and The Clash then Public Enemy and then you’ve got the System of a Downs and Rage Against The Machines and the countless artists who do not chart, but are making music that’s impactful and thousands of demonstrations around the world throughout the course of decades.”
Morello and Chuck D also talked about the implications of taking a political side has on a musician’s career and whether any newer artists are willing to go out on a limb like they are to express their political beliefs:
“Any time I post anything on my social media, whether it’s a tweet or whether it’s an Instagram that tangentially talks about [President Donald] Trump or neo-Nazis, people will vehemently not be your fan,” said Tom. “I know on our current record, there are some stations in the red [Republican Party] states that will not play a Prophets of Rage song because of the lyrical content. So, if you have to be someone who goes ‘I don’t fucking care. This is what I believe in. I’m going to do that.’ But in an age where it’s a near-impossibility to make a living as a musician, people do that calculation. Like, ‘Do I want to alienate forty to fifty-five percent of a potential audience by taking a political stand and maybe not have a ‘career’ in the music industry or do I say what I believe and let the chips fall where they may? We’ve always let the chips fall where they may, but I understand that kind of societal pressure to water it down.”
Chuck D added:
“There has to be people like us that need to be able to encourage a person that loves music and wants to make music that they can make some sort of living off of making music. Not that they’re going to be able to ride around in PJs and limos and stuff like that, but the society has to be able to uphold someone who wants to be able to be a musician. I think it’s necessary for someone to learn to be able to play guitar. Chords are real; chords are a vibration of life. They receive chords for things that go beyond us having a tangible explanations. Like, ‘I feel good because the way the person played.’ Even if it’s a harp or whatever. I think this support of encouraging musicians that they could be okay when they get a sense of themselves and saying things people need and it will come around. I don’t know if that’s utopian, but somebody has to say something, because at the end of the day, corporations having a major say on whether a person is going to be a musician or not, that can’t happen.”