Tom Morello on the Original Rage Against The Machine Demo: "Like a Raw Wound"
When the members of Rage Against The Machine assembled in North Hollywood to cut their demo tape in 1991, they had no idea that those songs would help spur the alternative rock movement. Before Rage, the Los Angeles scene was better known for good looking hair metal bands of oft-dubious motivation. But that began to change after the politically charged band was signed to Epic Records (after their second show, no less).
Today is the 20th anniversary of the release their seminal, self-titled debut, and to commemorate the band has just released a boxed set, which includes their original demo along with two live DVDs, which include the band's first show at Cal State Northridge. We spoke with guitarist Tom Morello, who talked about the making of that album and the group's early days.
What were some of the elements that went into making the album that may not have happened if it were recorded today?
The mission of Rage's first record was a product of the unique musical and personal chemistry of the four musicians and it's really a record of a particular time. The underground bubble of what was to be known as alternative music had not popped, but it was fermenting. When we were writing these songs, there was no expectation of ever even being able to book a club gig, let alone get a record deal and make a platinum album people would be talking about 20 years later.
Was there any resistance from Epic when they heard the lyrical content of the songs?
There was never any resistance. The record label actually suggested "Killing In The Name" as the first single, which contains the line, "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me" 16 times and one "motherfucker." They knew that this was not a band that would craft pop hits. It was also the label's suggestion to not edit lyrical content for video or for radio, which is why it exploded outside of here. "Killing In The Name" and "Bullet In The Head" were hit songs across Europe, South America and Japan where there were less stringent censorship laws.
When we made the demo tape, we had no expectation of making an album or being signed or anything. On the first record, we used the music from "Bullet In The Head." All of the other songs were re-recorded with a couple of different choices. The music from "Bullet In The Head," that was the take we used on the demo. We just couldn't get better than that. The one thing that was a challenge for us was that the band was already on fire live and we had some trouble capturing that in a studio setting. What really broke the ice was we invited friends and family and played the set a couple of times through, not like we were trying to make a record, but were rocking at a show. Doing that was how we got half of the takes.
What was it about that take of "Bullet In The Head" that was so raw and captured what you were going for?