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Zack de la Rocha
Zack de la Rocha on stage in 2007
Zack de la Rocha on stage in 2007
Background information
Birth name Zacarías Manuel de la Rocha
Born January 12, 1970 (1970-01-12) (age 48) Long Beach, California, United States
Genres Rap metal, rapcore, alternative metal, funk metal, punk rock, hip hop, folk rock
Occupations Rapper, poet, musician, songwriter, activist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard, jarana
Years active 1988-present
Labels Epic, Revelation, ANTI-
Associated acts Hardstance, Inside Out, Rage Against the Machine, One Day as a Lion

Zacarías Manuel de la Rocha (born January 12, 1970 in Long Beach, California) is an American rapper, musician, poet, and activist of Mexican, German, and Irish descent. He is best known as the vocalist and lyricist of Rage Against the Machine.

Early life and childhoodEdit

De la Rocha's father, Roberto "Beto" de la Rocha, played an integral part in his son's cultural upbringing. Beto was a muralist and member of Los Four — the first Chicano art collective to be exhibited at a museum (LACMA, 1973). De la Rocha's grandfather was a Sinaloan revolutionary who fought in the Mexican Revolution and an agricultural laborer in the US. Later, de la Rocha would see the hardships his grandfather endured reflected in the struggles of the Zapatistas (also known as EZLN).[1]

When de la Rocha was a year old, his parents separated. He and his German-Irish mother, Olivia de la Rocha, moved from East Los Angeles to Irvine, California, where Olivia attended the University of California at Irvine and earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology. Zack described Irvine as "one of the most racist cities imaginable. If you were a Mexican in Irvine, you were there because you had a broom or a hammer in your hand."[2] It was also at an Irvine grade school, where young Zack met his friend and future Rage Against the Machine bandmate, Tim Commerford.

In 1981, Beto suffered a nervous breakdown, took his religious ideals to extremes, and destroyed his own artwork. When Zack would visit on weekends, Beto forced him to fast, sit in a room with the curtains closed and door locked and help destroy his father's paintings. Not long after, Olivia stopped the visits.[3]

At the age of 14, de la Rocha became a vegetarian, saying in 1989 of the diet: "I think vegetarianism is really great, and I stand really strongly behind it." When asked why, he explains "Inside me, I think that an animal goes through a lot of pain in the whole cycle of death in the slaughterhouse; just living to be killed. That whole situation is really messed up for animals, growing up in those little cooped-up pens. I just don't think its worth eating that animal. I think animals should be free. There's so much other food out there that doesn't have to involve you in that cycle of pain and death."

Musical careerEdit

Early careerEdit

While attending junior high school, de la Rocha became involved in the punk scene and played guitar for a band called Juvenile Expression with Tim Commerford. His interest in bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Bad Religion turned into an appreciation for other bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and The Teen Idles. Soon after entering high school, Zack joined the straight edge band Hardstance.

De la Rocha and Hardstance bassist Mark Hayworth eventually formed the Hardcore band Inside Out, which gained a large national underground following. 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."[4][5]

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.

Rage Against the MachineEdit

File:Zack De La Rocha CIW Rally.jpg

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 political causes around the world while advocating in favor of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and supporting the Zapatista movement in Mexico. He spoke on the floor of the UN, testifying against the United States and its treatment of Abu-Jamal. 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 such as KRS-One, Chuck D, and Public Enemy.

Creative differencesEdit

On September 13, 2000, Rage Against the Machine performed their last show before breaking up, during which de la Rocha gave a notable speech before playing "Killing in the Name".

In October 2000, de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, due to "creative differences." It is rumored that Commerford's stunt at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, where he climbed atop a fixture on stage because RATM had lost the award for Best Rock Video to Limp Bizkit, may have contributed to de la Rocha's decision to leave the band. 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.[citation needed]. However, it became clear later on that the band disagreed significantly over the release of Renegades, an album of cover versions of songs by artists such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, MC5, Afrika Bambataa, and The Stooges. The album was never intended for release and only a select few tracks from the sessions were supposed to accompany what would become Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium. However, Wilk, Morello and Commerford decided to release the entire covers collection as an album, against de la Rocha's wishes. Upon leaving the band, de la Rocha issued a statement saying: "it was necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed",[6] in reference to the disagreement over the release of Renegades.

The other members of the band sought out separate management and secured the immediate release of Renegades. After searching for a replacement for de la Rocha, the other members of Rage joined Chris Cornell of Soundgarden to form Audioslave.

Post-Rage workEdit

After RATM's breakup, de la Rocha worked on a solo album he had been recording since before the band's dissolution, working with DJ Shadow, El-P, Muggs, Dan The Automator, Roni Size, DJ Premier, and The Roots' Questlove with production partner James Poyser.[7] The album never saw fruition, and de la Rocha started a new collaboration with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, in which around 20 tracks were produced.[8] Reznor thought the work was "excellent,"[8] but said the songs will likely never be released as de la Rocha was not "ready to make a record" at that time.[9]

On working with DJ Shadow and Reznor, de la Rocha admitted in a 2008 interview that:

When I left Rage... first off, I was very heartbroken, and secondly, I became obsessed with completely reinventing my wheel. In an unhealthy way, to a degree. I kind of forgot that old way of allowing yourself to just be a conduit. When I was working with Trent and Shadow, I felt that I was going through the motions. Not that what was produced wasn’t great, but I feel now that I’ve maybe reinvented the base sounds that emanate from the songs.[10]

In 2000, de la Rocha appeared on the song "Centre of the Storm", from the Roni Size/Reprazent album In The Mode,[11] while in 2002, he appeared in a minor role in the first part of the Blackalicious song "Release" on the album Blazing Arrow.[12] A new collaboration between de la Rocha and DJ Shadow, the song "March of Death" was released for free online in 2003 in protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq. As part of the collaboration de la Rocha released a statement which included the following:

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.[13]

The 2004 soundtrack Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 included one of the collaborations with Reznor, "We Want It All".[8] This album also contained "No One Left", the debut recording by former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello as The Nightwatchman.

On October 7, 2005, de la Rocha returned to the stage with new material, performing with Son Jarocho band Son de Madera. He later spoke as MC and again performed with Son de Madera at the November 22 Concert at the Farm, a benefit concert for the South Central Farmers. He sang and played the jarana with the band, and performed his own new original material, including the song "Sea of Dead Hands".[14]

On his post-Rage political music, de la Rocha admitted that is was near impossible for him to draw the line between politics and music:

For me, the only time that that line gets drawn when you’re producing music and you’re trying to flush out a certain idea — that’s very liberating, in a very abstract way. It’s in those moments where you feel free, and you can go ahead and explore why you feel free in those moments. In the past moments with Shadow and Trent I didn’t feel that.

Participating in the Son Jarocho work [his activist work with urban farmers in South Central Los Angeles, which included playing folk music with the group Son de Madera] felt more community based, more collective. I was part of a collective voice and not on my own as an artist, and something about that attracted me[10]

Rage Against the Machine reunionEdit

File:RATM at Coachella.jpg

Rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were circulating in mid-January 2007, and were confirmed on January 22.[15] The band was confirmed to be headlining the final day of Coachella 2007.

On April 14, 2007, Morello and de la Rocha reunited onstage early to perform a brief acoustic set at House of Blues in Chicago at the rally for fair food with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Morello described the event as "very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included." Rage Against the Machine, as a full band, headlined the final day of the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 29. The band played in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival. The performance was initially thought to be a one-off, this turned out not to be the case. The band played 7 more shows in the United States in 2007, and in January 2008, they played their first shows outside the US as part of the Big Day Out Festival in Australia and New Zealand. The band has since continued to tour around the world, headlining many large festivals in Europe and the United States, including Lollapalooza in Chicago.

At Rage's first reunion show, de la Rocha made a speech during "Wake Up" in which de la Rocha called numerous American presidents war criminals, citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremberg Principles.[16]

In a 2008 interview, de la Rocha said this of the relationship between him, Commerford, Wilk and Morello:

So much has changed. When you get older, you look back on tensions and grievances and have another perspective on it. I think our relationship now is better than it’s ever been. I would even describe it as great. We’re going to keep playing shows — we have a couple of big ones happening in front of both conventions. As far as us recording music in the future, I don’t know where we all fit with that. We’ve all embraced each other’s projects and support them, and that’s great.[10]

Solo albumEdit

In an article published in Billboard, it was announced that work had been completed on de la Rocha's first solo album, which he had been working on at least since his departure from RATM in 2000 and, by some accounts, as early as 1995.[17] Trent Reznor, DJ Shadow and El-P were said to have produced the album or portions of it, however at this point it seems to have been shelved indefinitely.

One Day as a LionEdit

One Day as a Lion is a band consisting of Zack de la Rocha and former The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. The group combines rock drumming, electro keyboards, and hip-hop vocals. De La Rocha will be playing keyboards as well as providing vocals with Theodore on the drums for their self-titled EP. The band's name derives from an infamous black and white graffiti photograph taken by Chicano photographer George Rodriguez in 1970 with a caption reading "It's better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb". They released their debut EP, One Day as a Lion on July 22, 2008.

DiscographyEdit

HardstanceEdit

Inside OutEdit

Rage Against the MachineEdit

One Day as a Lion Edit

Solo and collaborationsEdit

Footnotes and citationsEdit

  1. http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/articles/frontera.htm
  2. http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/articles/george99.htm
  3. http://www.zdlr.net/zwiki/index.php?title=Zack_de_la_Rocha_Biography
  4. http://static-void.com/vault/InsideOut.htm
  5. http://www.revelationrecords.com/bands/show/119
  6. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/rageagainstthemachine/articles/story/5919862/the_last_days_of_rage
  7. Armstrong, Mark (October 18, 2000). "Zack de la Rocha Leaves Rage Against the Machine". MTV News. http://www.eonline.com/news/article/index.jsp?uuid=460baa38-4bb2-4eab-9395-22a301d24afb&entry=index. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Moss, Corey (May 10, 2005). "Reznor Says Collabos With De La Rocha, Keenan May Never Surface". MTV News. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1501617/20050510/reznor_trent.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  9. Gargano, Paul (October 2005). "Nine Inch Nails (interview)". Maximum Ink Music Magazine. http://www.maximumink.com/articles.php?articleId=845. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/soundboard/2008/08/these-days-the.html
  11. Phillips, Liam (October 17, 2001). "In The Mode review". The Manitoban. http://themanitoban.com/2001-2002/1017/music.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  12. Moss, Corey (March 1, 2002). "Zack De La Rocha Joining Blackalicious On Blazing Arrow". MTV News. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1452688/20020301/blackalicious.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  13. Zack de la Rocha.com, official website promoting "March of Death". Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  14. Spin Magazine, February 2006
  15. Boucher, Geoff (January 22, 2007). "Rage Against the Machine will reunite for Coachella". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/music/la-et-coachella22jan22,1,6747076.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews&ctrack=1&cset=true. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  16. Interview of Noam Chomsky by Tom Morello in 1996
  17. Post from former band manager
  18. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215545/
  19. http://tooldiscography.com/

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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