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ere is so much to breathe, see,
know, understand and do
And I believe in things of beauty
Do you, do you?
- "Thing Of Beauty"
Oh yeah. It's that time again. Mr.
ColdMiserhaspacked uphis icy wares
for another year (knock on big wood),
and his doppleganger Heat Miser is all
set to take the pole position. Cumber-
me 'mountain man' wear has al-
ready morphed into shorts and Spring
jackets and the Mack Daddy of them
all, Chris (The Dean of "DENIED!")
Webber is about to lead his merry band
ofbutt-kickers to anational champion-
ship. In other words, life is good.
One of the sweetest things about
Springtime in Ann Arbor is the yearly
melting away of tiresome cynicism
tdominates these parts come win-
It's so nice to see people smiling
again. A quirky sense of real commu-
by Scott Sterling
nity seems to pervade everyone's
enses. Even State Street bohos and
South U. Greeks have an unusually
high tolerance for one another (this is
just an observation, mind you, not an
indictment of anyone's character).
Unfortunately, there are some
people around here that hold on to that
sour hand of cynicism as if their lives
depended on it. No matter that the
sun's out, the air actually smells sweet
or that Perry Farrel's new band (Porno
For Pyros) is about to release a record.
Toparaphrase Patti Smythe, sometimes
too much just ain't enough. .
Granted, it can be hard not to be
jaded nowadays. 'Pro-lifers' commit-
ting cold-blooded murder nFlorida,
Messiah-wannabe's jeopardizing in-
nocent lives(allin the name of God) in
Wac(k)o, TexasandMarisa Tomeiwins
an Oscar. There is no justice.
Before this turns into a 'holier than
thou' diatribe, let me emphasize that
I'm including myself as one of those
jaded cynics. Like we said in grade
school, "It takes one to know one."
There aren't many folks that can out-
'ade an old pro like Scotto.
This past year has been a trying one
for most people I know. And like a lot
of them, I'd thoroughly accepted un-
happiness as my lot in Ann Arbor.
Folks, I was bitter. Convinced that this
old town had nothing more to offer me
than $1 pitchers, good coffee and afew
good bands (shameless plugs for Big
Chief, Morsel, Billy, Wig and Slot), I
formulated a plan.
If I couldn't physically leave A2 for
awhile, I'd departmentally. No parties,
no bars, no more faux friends that
happily stab you in the back (or simply
disappear) when you've got nothing
left that they want. Just me, my guitar
and acomputer screen until I could get
the hell outta Dodge. Simple enough.
Just waitto live life when Iget to where
Somewhere along the way, I ended
upgiving myself toa"cause." It was all
about changing the world, making
grand, sweeping indictments. Kick ass
and take names.
Wrong. What good is a "cause"
without any tangible meaning? What
good are convenient categories and
grandiose sound bytes if they don't
in this narrow-minded mentality, we
lose our perspective. Overbored, over-
educated and oveprivilaged kids like
you and I overanalyzing everything.
Not to knock intellectualism, but we
need to see the whole picture, even up
here on our lofty perch.
Ultimately, it's about Spring clean-
ing. Instead of always searching for
someone/thing to brand with a scarlet
letter, the priority should be getting our
own homes in order.
Insteadoftaking up arms and storm-
ing the White House (that'snextweek),
blind idealism - gotta go, gotta go.
It's like a Bob Marley song. His
munictonnches neonle because he made
For some of us, music is more than
something to dance to, or background
renegades like myself, music is an inte-
gral part of life, intricately woven into
our every waking moment. Songs and
artists become obsessions, invaluable
companions, best friends even.
Jane's Addiction did it to me a few
years ago late one Sunday evening,
when their "Mountain Song" video got
snuck in near the end of MTV's "120
Minutes." The same thing happened the
first time I heard Living Colour blaze
through "Cult Of Personality." Pearl
Jam burrowed their way deep into my
psyche two years ago in East Lansing,
when they blew away both of the big-
name bands they were opening for (and
changing my life at the same time).
Unlike many musical obsessive
types, I feel the need to let people know
about it. After thatPearl Jam show, Ijust
wanted to tell the world about this great
band that (if there was any justice) de-
served to be bigger than the Beatles
(even though now that they are, I long
for the days when they were my band).
It's moments. like these that drove
me into this dubious profession as a
"rock journalist" (whatever the hell that
is). To spread the word about great
music to counter the endless cavalcade
of mindless assembly-line shlock we're
constantly besieged with day after day.
Well, it's that time again. Yet an-
other band has crept up behind me and
leveled me with brilliance, intensity
and a good kick in the ass.
Rage Against The Machine first en-
tered my life late last Summer, when
Sony college rep Dave Gorman called
me after the New Music Seminar in
"I saw your next favorite band," he
warned me, "Trust me."
Since Dave is about as trustworthy
as they come, I waited patiently for their
disc's imminent release date.
When I finally got my greedy little
paws on the emponymously titled al-
bum, I was hit. They raged (excuse the
obvious pun) with the power of early
Black Sabbath, the tension-filled dy-
namics of Jane's Addiction, and the
intelligent (as well as angry) social ob-
servations of Public Enemy.
But even more impressive than the
sonic boom of the music was the way it
was created. The liner notes boast no
samples or keyboards whatsoever. So
from what unholy beast did those
divebomb screeches and scratch-acid
cuts emanate from? Inquiring minds
need to know these things.
"Just wait until you see them live,"
my buddy Dave assured me, "All of
your questions will be answered."
And how right he was. Saint
Andrew's Hall in Detroit is still reeling
from the unadulterated raw power
RATM unleashed on an unsuspecting
(and quickly converted) crowd. While
their disc is one stellar piece of work, it
barely scratches the surface of what this
band is all about. Live, they positively
seethe with unbridled energy and
grooves that can stop a truck. Frontman
ZackDe LaRochais oneof the mostin-
your-face fireball throats I've ever wit-
But from the distinctly biased opin-
ion of a guitarist, it was six-string vir-
tuoso Tom Morello thatcompletely blew
my mind. Armed with only a Strat, a
Marshall half-stack and a couple of
crusty foot pedals, Morello whipped
out one hell of an incredible cacophony.
Comparable to seeing Eddie Van Halen,
Vernon Reid or Randy Rhodes for the
first times, Morello is poised to be the
guitar (anti)hero of the 1990s.
. R fr-P . that .na lnr chnm Mn.
basement (which doubles as hip
nightspot the Shelter at night) to talk
about life, music, andjust who qualifies
as the "Machine."
For one thing, there's much more to
Morello that meets the eye. In addition
to being one of the most unconscious
guitarists you'll ever see, he's also a
Harvard graduate (a political science
major who wasn't very popular in the
dorms due to his penchant to play along
with Grim Reaper records at full blast),
whose father was a leading proponent
of Kenya's liberation struggle in the
Mau Mau (the guerrilla army that drove
the British out of Kenya in 1963) and
whose mother runs Parents for Rock
and Rap, an anti-censorship organiza-
tion based out of suburban Chicago.
"My theory about censorship is that
it's all one big smokescreen," Morello
related, "First of all, censorship of rock
has been around since the days when it
was 'race' or 'jungle' music. This latest
round of censorship is the result of
Public Enemy and Ice-T becoming
popular in White suburbs. All of a sud-
den these kids are looking to Chuck D
as arolemodel instead of Bon Jovi, and
people get a little concerned."
"If any of those right-wing funda-
mentalist groups were really interested
in the problems of young people, they'd
firstdeal with things likeparental abuse
and neglect," he said more seriously,
"It's a huge problem that has repercus-
sions throughout the lives of the people
that survive it. Homelessness, AIDS -
this is stuff that really matters. But all
they're concerned about is the moral
decay due to an N.W.A. record."
Musically, Morello'was first bitten
by the rock 'n' roll bug at age twelve
when he heard (my personal childhood
"My first concert ever was KISS
with Uriah Heep back in 1977," he
recalled, "On my ticket it said 'A partial
view ofKISS.' Atthe time,being 12and
naive, I thought it was going to be some
sort of 'introspective' show, where they
wouldn't be fully revealing themselves
entirely. fended up stuck at the side of
the stage, where I couldn't see Peter
Criss at all, and just this bowling alley
view of the rest of them. Still, it was the
greatest show ever'!"
(Then, he proceeded to blow my
complete mind by producing a vintage
KISS Army fan club card from his wal-
let. "I keep it with me at all times," he
Drunk on the monster now known
as 'classic' rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin,
Areosmith, etc.), Morello bought agui-
tar with hopes of becoming a class-A
"I took a couple of lessons ..." He
sadly shook his head, "This is my rea-
son why you should never take guitar
lessons. I march down there, with the
KISS songbook and the Led Zeppelin
songbook, and allI wanted to do was
learn 'Detroit Rock City' and 'Black
Dog.' Instead, he taughtme how to tune
the guitar. The next week I went back,
and he makes me learn the C-Major
scale. That was it. I didn't pick up a
guitar again for four years," he says.
It was the release of the Sex Pistols'
"Never Mind The Bullocks" that re-
ignited Morello's desire to play music.
"I said, 'I can do that,"'"he remem-
bered, "Within that week, I was in a
band, before I could even play a chord.
That music (punk) was simple, but it
was more powerful than any of the stuff
I grew up with."
It was a Clash concert that really
pushed that desire over the top.
"That was a life-changing experience,"
Morello remembered, "Every concert
T'd hpn to nn tn that ncint had huge
the Clash come out with little amps like
mine, up on chairs, and played the most
powerful show I'd ever seen."
Growing up in an interracial family
that was the first to integrate into then
all-White suburb Libertyville, Illinois,
Morello has had more than his share of
"I've always been sort of the outside
guy," he said, "It was the only city that
would let my mom teach as well as live
in it with a Black son. It wasn't easy. I
had a lot of good friends, but we also
once had a noose in the garage," he
related with a sarcastic laugh, "Then I
move to LA, where I've got a Harvard
education, and become immersed in
this underground rock culture. Ther's a
certain amount of alienation there. Add
the fact that I'm a Black rock guitarist
from Harvard who grew up in an all-
White suburb... You have tobe strong."
After a sucession of bands (includ-
ing Lock Up, who were signed to Geffen
and toured America), Morello began
assembling what would become Rage
Against The Machine.
"After Lock Up broke up, I was
determined to get into something I re-
ally wanted to do. I wanted to find
people that wanted to do something
very political, very aggressive, and have
that Sugarhill Gang aspect to it," he
Morello's first recruit was drummer
Brad Wilk, who originally auditioned
for Lock Up. "He and I had a great
playing chemistry, but it was awhile
before we got it together."
Specifically;Wilk (who'd played in
a band with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder)
was tapped by the P-Jammers to replace
their original drummer on a European
tour. Then Morello hooked up with De_
La Rocha and bassist Tim C.
Initially,RATM consciously avoided
the whole major label game, opting to
record a batch of songs and press them
up themselves to sell at shows.
"Then, things happened so incred-
ibly fast. We had a major label offer
after our second show, and it just ex-
ploded from there. It was the most in-
tense industry bombardment you could
imagine," he said.
Being more than a little leery of
jumping back into the major label world
(due to Morello's sour experience with
Geffen), they used the industry buzz to
their decided advantage.
"Because of the interest, we were
able to dictate our own terms. We fig-
ured why not give kids access to our
music, unlike when I was a kid and
didn't have access to things like Minor
Threat records," he explained.
This method of mind terrorism to
reach people politically as well as soni-
cally is very important to the members
of Rage Against The Machine.
"The Machine can be anything from
cops on the streets ofLos Angeles, to the
overall subliminal corporate control of
you and I, and making everyone via the
educational system and the workplace,
fit as a complacent cog in the market
economy," he said, "From the repres-
sive bureaucracy to the sham 'democ-
racy' that keeps everyone in line and
ignoring the real problems before us."
But don't get the idea that Morello is
just another fist-waving sloganeer. His
intelligent and well thought-out views
are as challenging as they come. His
feelings about history, particularly how
it's taught, is one aspect that he's very
"It's all about de-politicizing. You
take a poll of high school or even col-
lege kids, and ask them what the most
boring subject in school is, they'll say
'history ' It's presented as a setof boring
events that happened in the past, occa-
sionally peppered by the abhorrentmili-
tary behavior of White men. This is
opposed to an ongoing process of
change, where there'sconflicting groups
and classes which come together and
maxe a new society, -oreio sai.
Morello brings this idea full circle
to include you and me.
'We are the ones that are going to
affect what the next stage is going to be.
I mean, a momentous event like the
American Revolution was only sup-
ported by a third of the population. With
the Russian Revolution, only five per-
cent of the population was supportive,
or even aware, of who the Bolsheviks
were, and that completely changed the
world for almost a century. If you have
the realization that you can, with some
intelligence, and some courage and with
some well-directed anger, you can re-
ally make a difference," he reasoned.
Some rather heady stuff to come
from a guitarist that plays to moshing
crowds every night. But that's exactly
what makes RATM a cut above a lot of
bands that are out there trying to marry
music and politics. They present their
beliefs not only loudly, but intelligently
as well. It's notjustanothercollection of
rallying sound bytes.
Now it's a few months later, and
word comes down that Rage Against
The Machine is one of the chosen few to
be a part of the 1993 edition of
Lollapalooza. Like Pearl Jam, Jane's
Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Pep-
pers before them, it's quite possible that
I'll have to once again surrender an-
other of my bands to the masses. But
don't expect them to just cash in and
become yet another MTV commodity.
"As the platform gets higher, the
voice has to become stronger," Morello
emphasized. "There's a thing on the.
new Nirvana album (rarities and B-
sides collection "Insecticide") where
Kurt Cobain asks all people that hate
anybody because of their sexual orien-
tation, or those that are disrespectful
towards women, or hate someone due
to their skin color, 'please don'tbuy our
records or come to our shows. Leave us
the fuck alone.' I respect that."
So do I, Tom. So do I.