Tom Morello has ruined the legacy already. No need to shit on your own.
I need to ask you to please not move forward with the now delayed Rage Against the Machine reunion. The cancellation of festivals and large tours as a result of the pandemic has given you a grand opportunity to avoid what will surely be a disaster.
Look, I know that you have personal, financial, and artistic considerations coming at you from every angle. I do not think you ever would have agreed to reunite, debut at Coachella, and then go on a subsequent Live Nation tour had the pressures not been there. I am sure you heard the repeated cries of “With Trump in office, we need RATM now more than ever.” With every member of the band now worth 20+ million dollars each, I know there is now suddenly the unavoidable desire to maintain that wealth. I am confident that you must watch the world in crisis right now and think to yourself “can I help?”
These kinda reunions are tough. They never end up good. A short list of Coachella driven reunions are of burned-out yet still huge bands engaging in their best approximation of what they were in their heyday. It rarely works and almost never sounds good. Outkast, GNR, At the Drive In, and Pavement all performed in a way which did not lend credence to their legacy but rather sullied it. Never mind the fact that Coachella’s ownership has actively supported anti-LGBTQI+ and anti-cannabis causes in the past.
Tom Morello has been working overtime to shit on your legacy. Why aid him any further?
It became abundantly clear after seeing Profits of Rage that Tom Morello was all about the profits and not so much the rage. The ‘collaboration’ between Rage, Chuck D, and B-real made me embarrassed to be a Rage fan. Soft ticket sales on a nationwide Live Nation theater run made it clear that without you the band is a Vegas act. I know this is not your fault. I know you cringed just the same as the rest of us. Watching videos of Prophets of Rage was akin to watching a film with your parents and then getting to the sex scenes: everyone is fucking embarassed and nobody seems comfortable. Except for Tom. It seemed he was laughing all the way to the bank. You made the right choice to not be part of that disaster.
But maybe it was real for you from the get go and not so much for Tom? We all know that sometimes the most overtly political people are posers and hypocrites.
You must admit that the timing of RATM’s ascendance is pretty comical. At the height of Pax Americana and U.S. prosperity, a band bubbled to the surface of consumer culture that encouraged challenging authority, dissected the brutality of American history, and put a mirror in front of counter-cultures face. But the overwhelming majority of record and ticket buyers eventually became a group of people who entirely missed the message and politics of the band. Not to mention that the band paradoxically owes its success to the primacy of American empire and culture. I know the irony is not lost on you. But fuck man, Tom is getting on my nerves with what seems to be endless cash grabs. I saw he offered a Master Class recently. The idea of a rock star charging some impressionable kid“ $90 for a single class and $180 for a full-year’s all-access pass” for guitar lessons is not so bad in and of itself. But when you spend a lifetime commodifying struggle, you ought to be working almost exclusively on helping the struggles which you built a fortune on. Tom has 30 million dollars. Does he need a bunch of guitar player kid’s hard earned money too? Nothing is stopping him from making it free or charge. I know he does some good work here and there but it seems he never misses a chance to attend and speak at some hokey Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony; a different cash grab unto itself. And his social media presence feels so much like a disconnected, corporate dad trying to reconnect. It appears he has some social media manager posting regular ‘Happy Birthday to’ and ‘on this day in Rock and Roll’. He really feels like he has to stay in the algorithm. Someone has to buy those Master Classes.
You have been correct to avoid the spotlight. That is why we still love you.
I know this brings to the surface a lot of trauma regarding why you left the band in the first place. Try and remember that now. I remember when in 2000 you announced you were leaving the band, citing in your statement that the band’s “decision-making process has completely failed,” and that, from your perspective, the lack of communication “has undermined our artistic and political ideal.” It is safe to say Tom undermines those ideals on the regular. But he convinced you in 2007 using the Iraq War as leverage to get you to rejoin the band. It tackles a special kinda asshole to see the death of 1.5 million people as a good reason to perform at Coachella for 300 plus dollars a pop. Yet he characterized it differently saying “It occurred to all of us that the times were right to see if we can knock the Bush administration out in one fell swoop.” To be fair, Bush was scheduled to leave office anyways just a few months after their reunion.
Any assumption that y’all can now do something to dismantle creeping fascism in our country is a fairytale. Particularly with the tour you have planned. But who’s to say the left won’t eat you alive once you come back? Remember, this is not the same group of free-wheelin’ weirdos you hung out with in the 90’s. Much of the left has turned puritanical. You can’t blame em’ given the conditions we are in. Yet they may find one place where there is ideological daylight with you and subsequently excommunicate you from their Church of Social Justice. To be honest, you are a member of the 1%. You are a few consolidations and contracts away from being an oligarch. I would really hate to see you up against the wall.
To be real honest, if there was a Rage reunion planned to perform free or ENTIRELY philanthropic shows across the country, I would be a big supporter. Fuck it, play parking lots with little to no production. Just a stage and massive sound system. Ok, maybe porta potties. Make the Innocence Project the beneficiary and require every attendee to bring canned goods for local food banks. You will still be rich. Sure, you won’t get the big dollars from a Live Nation tour. Top dollar tickets prices plus exorbitant fees in venues operated by a monopoly. Never mind the infamous Saudi government just bought half a billion in shares of Live Nation. Talk about the ‘Evil Empire.’ There has to be some unwillingness on your part to partner with a company that does that much business with human rights abusers? Is there? Fuck, I hope so. Otherwise, just hire the Israelis to run security.
Look, I know I have been sarcastic and silly for much of this letter but I am confident cancelling the festival and concert performances is best for everyone. Keep your legacy as the quintessential subversive rock band. Let us remember you as the fiery young things you were at one point in time. By now, you have likely been spoiled by hotel suits, vacations, and the endless adoration of fans. What’s to rage against?
Look at Robert Plant — he and the band were offered hundreds of millions of dollars to rehash Zep and he was the last holdout. Asked many times over the years why he refused a reunion, Plant was always candid. He told reporters in 1982 “There’s absolutely no point. No point at all. There’s certain people you don’t do without in life, you don’t keep things going for the sake of it. There’s no functional purpose for keeping things going. For whose convenience? Nobody’s, really.” A decade later he said “I know darn well if Jimmy and I were to travel America and Coca-Cola wanted to stuff money up our bum, it would be deceit to try and bring it all back.”
Deceit. Don’t be deceitful Zach. If you are going to come back, do it right. Tell Tom Morello to stand down. Ask Brad and Tim what they think. Have RTJ as the opener and sit in on their sets. Go play the steps of city halls and courthouses. Play jails. Forget about the trustafarians at Coachella. Do it for the cause, do it for the craft, fuck the fans. They do not know what is best for them. Except for me. I know.