Behind the band name: Rage Against the Machine

“Rage Against the Machine” was a song singer Zack de la Rocha wrote for his former underground punk band, Inside Out. Also planned as the title of the band’s first full-length album, the phrase Rage Against the Machine was originally coined by Inside Out associate, zine editor and Ebullition Records founder Kent McClard.


Formed after Inside Out’s 1991 demise with de la Rocha, featuring guitarist Tom Morello, bassist, backing vocalist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, Rage Against the Machine released their self-titled debut album in 1992.

The cover features a moving image of a Buddhist monk self-immolating in protest against the South Vietnamese government, and explosive Rage against the machine spawned protest rap-rock songs like “Bullet in the Head” and “Killing in the Name,” the latter a anthem against racism and oppression, inspired by the 1991 beating of Rodney King by the LAPD.

Straight-talking about political themes and “scheming” from the start, the “Rage” in Rage Against the Machine represents pent-up anger and frustration around oppressive social and political structures.

“I just felt it applied to the kind of message we were trying to put at the forefront of our music,” de la Rocha said in a 1992 interview. “I wanted to think of something metaphorical that would describe my frustrations with America, with this capitalist system and how it has enslaved and exploited and created a very unfair situation for a lot of people.”

The machine

The “machine” the group rages against is inequality, the mechanism of crooked government and capitalist society.

Photo: Legacy Records

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