Friday, July 23, Rage Against the Machine will play their first gig in a decade in their hometown of Los Angeles, but it's no ordinary show: All proceeds will support a number of organizations fighting against SB 1070, the controversial Arizona legislation that gives police broad powers to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
"We're just honored to lend our music to trying to overthrow this awful Arizona law, as well as to help educate people what to it's about," RATM guitarist Tom Morello told SPIN.com. "We are against this law because it is about racial profiling, and makes an entire race of people suspects first, and people second. It's just a license to discriminate." (To learn more about the issue visit AltoArizona.com.)
The Rage gig at the Hollywood Palladium (which also features a set from Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band) kicks off a week of civil action that culminates with a National Day of Non-Compliance on July 29, where those opposed to the law are encouraged to not carry ID, not buy anything, and not go to work, all to make an economic impact in Arizona and around the country.
The event is also the brainchild of Sound Strike, an organization spearheaded by RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha that's united dozens of performers -- Nine Inch Nails, Chris Rock, Kanye West, Massive Attack, Sonic Youth, My Morning Jacket, among them -- in a boycott of Arizona. Click here for SPIN's recent magazine story on the subject.
While it might seem logical for bands to actually play Arizona, and spread the message to the state's constituents, in person, Morello explained the thinking behind the boycott. "There are myriad ways to combat injustice, and we're supportive of any route that people want to take to do that, bands included, but we're doing what was asked of us by the people who are fighting this law," he said.
"The economic boycott against Arizona was successful in getting them to pass Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, they were the last state in the Union to do that," Morello continued. "It was successful in Arizona during the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez campaign against the grape growers. And it's our hope that it will be successful now."
While Morello said he'd like to see the country work towards a national, consensus-based immigration policy, he emphatically pointed out what he sees as a right wing "bait and switch" embodied by legislation like SB 1070.
"It's really convenient for the right wing to say 'Well, forget about the banks flushing your life's savings down the toilet, and, 'Forget about the huge corporations whose malfeasance has put the economy in the dumper,' and 'Let's focus on these undocumented workers,'" he said. "And what we're telling people is, 'Don't be fooled.' The real criminals are the ones who have sabotaged our economy for their own profit, not undocumented farm hands."
Morello also opined about the term "illegal immigrant." "There's not an inch of this continent that wasn't illegally confiscated from the original inhabitants with such unspeakable violence to make a Mexican drug cartel blush," he said. "Unless you're Navaho or Apache or Nez Perce or Cherokee, there may very well be some 'illegal' blood coursing through your veins."
Amidst all the political outrage, Morello's excitement to play with Rage in the band's hometown is infectious. "We will be rocking that place to the ground," he said emphatically. "Rage Against the Machine was built for moments like this, to stand at the barricades when there are gross injustices being perpetrated, and to play our songs as loud as we can."
And while Morello confirms there's no plan for anything Rage-related beyond tomorrow night, and potentially some South American dates later this year, he's about to release a new EP on August 10 with Street Sweeper Social Club, the band he's assembled with rapper Boots Riley of the Coup. SPIN.com will be premiering a song from the EP called "Scars" on Tuesday (July 27).
What are your thoughts on the Arizona immigration law? Sound off below.