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NT: Fine. But there are a lot of places where "the people" are far worse off.
TM: Fundamentally, though, there's only one place, and only one people, right? Look at it this way--is the standard of living higher in America than Indonesia? Obviously. But people need to ask themselves, "Am I okay with the fact that to maintain my lifestyle, there is an Indonesian who has to work in a sweatshop making 80 cents a day?"
NT: So do your politics come before your music?
TM: I really don't see a separation, because as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as apolitical rock. Those bands that are out there singing about nothing but cars and chicks, they're doing the system a service. They're helping it anesthetize the minds of young people, and I'd call that an extremely political act, even if it is unwitting.
NT: What's the biggest misconception about Rage Against the Machine? (An Epic Records publicist breaks in. "Last question.")
TM: That we're hypocrites. I find it funny that the thing we're criticized most for is what we're the most sure of--our politics. We really are not about the money. People ask us, "How do you keep your ticket prices down?" It's easy--you just charge less. And we give a lot to anticensorship groups--Refuse & Resist, the Leonard Peltier defense fund, to various environmental groups, to the Zapatista rebels in Mexico. Zack [Rage singer de la Rocha] has been down to visit the Zapatistas four times.
We push our agenda with every song, every tee shirt, every interview. We're the Trojan horse. The entertainment industry is in the palm of some very corporate hands, and it's extremely difficult for radical or revolutionary artists in this country to get their message to a mass audience. We have that opportunity for one reason and one reason only--we move millions of units.
Rage Against the Machine is scheduled to perform on Thursday, October 10, at Compton Terrace in Chandler (relocated). Showtime is 6:30 p.m.