Zack De La Rocha
Zacarías Manuel de la Rocha (born January 12, 1970 in Long Beach, California) is a rapper, musician, poet and activist, best known as the lead singer and lyricist of Rage Against the Machine. His latest release has been under the name One Day As A Lion.
In 1983, de la Rocha's father Roberto (known as Beto)—a member of Los Four, the first Chicano art collective to be exhibited at a major museum (LACMA, 1974)—suffered a nervous breakdown and took his religious ideals to extremes. He destroyed his art, and, when de la Rocha visited him on the weekends, he was forced to fast, sit in a room with the curtains closed and the door locked, and help destroy his father's paintings. The Rage Against the Machine song Born of a Broken Man refers to Beto's nervous breakdown, and Zack's determination to not become the same.
After a while, he was unable to cope with this lifestyle and stayed with his German-Irish mother in Irvine, which at the time had one of the highest percentages of White Americans in Southern California. For elementary school, he attended the UC Irvine Farm School, a laboratory school housed in ranch hands' bungalows associated with a slaughterhouse operation that was formerly on the site - houses that are among the very few still in existence from the Irvine Ranch. Among the people he met there was Tim Commerford.
The lifestyle Beto forced upon de la Rocha brought culture shock upon him as well as an identity crisis. He was alienated from the Chicano community and was an outsider in the California suburbs where Chicanos were typically only seen doing menial work. In high school he became involved in the punk rock and hardcore punk scene and played guitar and sang for various bands, including a punk band called Juvenile Expression and later a straight edge band called Hardstance. His interest in bands like the Sex Pistols and Bad Religion turned into an appreciation for other bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and The Teen Idles.
De la Rocha eventually formed Inside Out, which gained a large following in Huntington Beach and Irvine. They released a single record, No Spiritual Surrender, on Revelation Records in 1990 before breaking up. In de la Rocha's words, Inside Out was "about completely detaching ourselves from society to see ourselves as…as spirits, and not bowing down to a system that sees you as just another pebble on a beach. I channeled all my anger out through that band."
De la Rocha felt that his Chicano heritage separated him from his immediate environment. Although he was never as economically deprived as his fellow Chicanos, he felt the same tension and rejection as they did. An incident with a particular influence on de la Rocha was a teacher's offhand remark about a "wetback station." He found himself relating to hip-hop acts such as Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Run-DMC. After Inside Out broke up, he embraced hip-hop and began freestyling at local clubs, where he met Tom Morello and Brad Wilk. Eventually de la Rocha's Juvenile Expression bandmate Commerford joined them and Rage Against the Machine was formed.
Before long, Rage Against the Machine was on the main stage at Lollapalooza, in 1993, and was one of the most politically charged bands ever to receive extensive airplay from radio and MTV. De la Rocha became one of the most visible champions of left-wing causes around the world fighting for the causes of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and supporting the Zapatista movement in Mexico. He even spoke on the floor of the UN, testifying against the United States and their treatment of Abu-Jamal. The music and the message were so intertwined for him that he did not consider any of Rage's albums a success unless they provoked tangible political change.
Rage's second and third albums peaked at number one in the United States, but did not result in the political action de la Rocha had hoped for. He became increasingly restless and undertook collaborations with artists like KRS-One (C.I.A. (Criminals In Action)" for the first volume of the "Lyricist Lounge" series in 1998), Chuck D, and Public Enemy.
In October 2000, de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, due to "creative differences." It is rumored that Tim Commerford's stunt at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, where he climbed on one of the fixtures on stage because RATM had lost the award for Best Rock Video to Limp Bizkit (Commerford later stated he had pulled the stunt in protest that cameras at the awards show were already hovering over Limp Bizkit before anything was even announced, with which he disagreed), may have contributed to de la Rocha's decision to leave the band.
Reportedly, an unknown insider working for Epic, and musician Saul Williams, had hinted that Zack left the band because Renegades was due to be released against his wishes. The other members of the band sought out separate management and managed to secure the immediate release of the album. This may have prompted De La Rocha to quit. On October 18, 2000, he released the following statement:
"I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal. I am extremely proud of our work, both as activists and musicians, as well as indebted and grateful to every person who has expressed solidarity and shared this incredible experience with us."
On September 13, 2000, Rage Against the Machine performed their last show to date at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, during which de la Rocha gave a notable speech:
“ So who went out and joined us for the Democratic National Convention? I've never seen so many fucking cops in my whole life. It's like everybody knows that everybody went out there, the only thing we were out there to do is express how much we hate both the Democrats and Republicans because they sold this fucking country out. And by expressing our rights to resist, what do they do, they open fire on the crowd. I don't care what fucking television station said the violence was caused by the people at the concert, those motherfuckers unloaded on this crowd. And I think it's ridiculous considering, you know, none of us had rubber bullets, none of us had M16s, none of us had billy clubs, none of us had face shields. All we had was our fists, our voices, our microphones, our guitars, our drums, and anytime we get beaten in the streets for protesting, we take it to the court system, and the court system don't wanna hear it. Look what happened to Amadou Diallo in New York, they shot that brother 41 times and let all four officers go. It's time for a new type of action in this country. ”
According to a Spin magazine interview, de la Rocha has recorded several tracks with various artists, among them Roni Size / Reprazent (centre of the storm featured on the album "In The Mode") and DJ Shadow intended for a solo album. In 2001, he was recording material on separate occasions with Roots drummer ?uestlove and Company Flow frontman El-P. In 2002 de la Rocha contributed background vocals to the first part of "Release" on the Blackalicious album Blazing Arrow. This track featured Saul Williams who De La Rocha has collaborated with a number of times, such as this live improvisation with Money Mark and Serj Tankian (system of a down).
Although an album has yet to be released, not all of their work was unproductive. De la Rocha and DJ Shadow's song "March of Death" was released for free over the web in 2003 in protest of the war in Iraq.
Zack released a statement along with his song:
"Without just cause or reason, without legal or moral justification, and without a thread of proof that Iraq directly threatens the security of the United States, the Bush administration has headed to war. As I am writing this, bombs are raining upon the defenseless civilians of Baghdad in a continuation of a policy that has already claimed the lives of over 1 million innocent Iraqi people. People just like us who want democracy but find themselves cornered by a dictator on one side, naked U.S. aggression on another, and the oil beneath their country; for which it appears they are to be massacred.
Lies, sanctions, and cruise missiles have never created a free and just society. Only everyday people can do that, which is why I'm joining the millions world wide who have stood up to oppose the Bush administration's attempt to expand the U.S. empire at the expense of human rights at home and abroad. In this spirit I'm releasing this song for anyone who is willing to listen. I hope it not only makes us think, but also inspires us to act and raise our voices."
De la Rocha recorded around 20 tracks produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, but according to Reznor although he thought the work was "excellent," the songs will likely never be released as de la Rocha was not "ready to make a record" at that time.
De la Rocha has largely remained out of the public eye ever since Rage's breakup. He has recently appeared on the "Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11" soundtrack with the track "We Want It All" (one of the tracks produced by Trent Reznor) and on the song "Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)" on Saul Williams's self-titled album in 2004. Rumors of an impending solo album persist, and in 2008 De la Rocha released a collaboration project with The Mars Volta's ex-drummer Jon Theodore One day as a lion.
Zack is also, according to the 2006 Spin article referenced above, actively working with the Son Jarocho group Son De Madera and has performed with them on a number of occasions including the 'Save The Farm' rally for the South Central Farmers plot in Los Angeles, California. Among the songs de la Rocha performed was one critical of the government's response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. During his work with the South Central Farmers, Zack met up with old band mate Tom Morello, ending rumours that the pair no longer talk after Rage Against the Machine's break up in 2000. He also maintains contact with Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk.
Billboard reported on January 19, 2007 that there were rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It was reported in the article that de la Rocha is on good terms with all the members of the band. These rumors were confirmed in a Los Angeles Times article on January 22 and later on the band's official website. The band are billed to headline the final day of Coachella 2007 on Sunday, April 29. Billboard reports that sources suggest this will likely be a one-off.
These reports thankfully proved to be untrue. Rage continued to tour headlining numerous festivals and touring as a band themselves. Their display at Big Day out in Sydney, Australia was described by many as the most vibrant and awe inspiring act at the festival. They are continuing to tour and this summer they played T in The Park (Scotland) on the Saturday and Oxegen (Ireland) on the 12th and 13th of July respectively as well as Leeds Festival and Reading Festival.