For first time in 11 years, Rage Against The Machine will be playing a hometown gig tomorrow, but this isn't just any run-of-the-mill show. The band will be making their return to Los Angeles in style with an all-day extravaganza featuring themselves, Muse, Lauryn Hill, Rise Against and others for L.A. Rising at L.A. Coliseum. This will be the only Rage Against The Machine show this year, and we were fortunate to catch up with Rage guitarist and political activist Tom Morello to get the details.
Two questions: What was the impetus for Rage reuniting to put on this gigantic festival, and what is the idea behind L.A. Rising?
We're establishing this as a Rage fest. We chose all the bands, the vibe; the politics of the show is all Rage Against The Machine. We really wanted to make a concert that was impactful and was a concert of Los Angeles, by Los Angeles and for Los Angeles.
Of all the outdoor venues in the city, why the Coliseum?
We didn't want to do it in an outlying area, we wanted to be in L.A., and I've seen some pretty great shows at the Coliseum. Rage actually opened up for U2 at the Coliseum in '97, so I know what that thing can be like when it's done right.
How did you guys manage to organize a festival with such an incredibly diverse lineup?
We wanted artists that both musically and personally reflected the city. This is a city of hip-hop, rockin' español, hard rock and punk rock, and we wanted to represent that on the stage. We also wanted the ethnicities of the bands to accurately reflect the [demographics] of the city. Actually, around August 20 will be the 20th anniversary of the first time the four of us — Zack, Tim, Brad and I — played as Rage together. This is a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary, from those very humble beginnings in a grimy rehearsal studio deep in the heart of the San Fernando Valley to playing the biggest venue in town.
What does that say to you about the impact your band has had twenty years down the road?
It's a thank you to our fans by celebrating art, music and the politics of the city — as well as us to an extent. In our first decade together, things were tumultuous at times, but there's been a bit of healing that's gone on between the four of us. That's what [will] enable us to stand on the biggest stage in the city as friends.”
What do you expect will make L.A. Rising so different from other gigs you guys played?
For us, it's a historic occasion and we're excited to share it with the city. A crucial part of the L.A. Rising experience is to look, sound and be unlike any festival ever. All the major festivals have booths where you can get hemp goods, henna tattoos or you hair braided. We have none of that.
When you enter the venue, there's going to be something called the re-education camp. That's a place to inform, activate and promote causes. We are focusing on four causes that are important to our city: war, poverty, labor and immigration. These are all issues that are affecting Los Angeles and more people need to be informed about them. We've invited the international organizations that we support to set up under these four banners to interact — or even argue with — [attendees], and then we're gonna rock everyone's asses.
Don't worry: this is going to be a great rock show. Every band is playing full-length sets. Oh and we've got the biggest sound-system put together in the history of the city. We want every seat in the venue to feel like you're in the front row.
Are there going to be any surprise guests?
Well it wouldn't be a surprise if I told you. But I will tell you this, in preparation for the 20th anniversary, we're absolutely pulling out all the stops. There will be elements in the show that are unlike anything we've ever done before. First time stuff just for L.A. Rising — especially with the set list. You'll have to be there to see what happens.
Rage Against The Machine, Muse, Lauryn Hill and Rise Against will headline L.A. Rising at L.A. Coliseum on Saturday. Doors open at noon.