Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello has revealed that some of the influence behind ‘Killing In The Name’ derives from Tool’s Maynard James Keenan.
‘Killing In The Name’ serves as one of the most listened to tracks by Rage Against The Machine to date, and guitarist Tom Morello recently explained that some of the influence behind the song was actually influenced by the multi-band frontman Maynard James Keenan of Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle.
Chatting with Rolling Stone, the guitarist stated that the main edge of the song with “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” is a “universal sentiment” and marks it as one of frontman Zack de la Rocha’s “most brilliant” lyrics to date.
“To me, it relates to Frederick Douglass,” he detailed. “Frederick Douglass said, the moment he became free was not the moment that he was physically loosed from his bonds. It was the moment when master said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘No.’ And that’s the essence of ‘Fuck you, I will not do what you tell me.’ And that’s why it’s encouraging to hear it shouted at the Fed goons who are shooting tear gas at American citizens.”
Diving into the influence from Maynard James Keenan, Morello notes that he was “teaching guitar lesson to an accomplished local scenester musician and was showing them how to play drop-D,” which is something that the multi-frontman taught him.
“I was actually playing bass at the time, a crappy Ibanez bass. And I was like, ‘When you play drop-D tuning, it just sort of suggests different patterns to your fingers.’ And the first pattern I played was that riff. I said, hold on one sec, and got my little Radio Shack recorder and recorded that.
“And then it was originally an instrumental. There’s a Rage Against The Machine video from Cal State Northridge – which is our first public performance – where we open the show with an instrumental version of ‘Killing In The Name’ and Timmy [Commerford], I think, came up with hat really cool [bass riff]. [Brad Wilk’s] crowd-bouncing beat is there from the very, very beginning.”
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After that stroke of influence, Morello details that “Zack laced it with the historic lyrics,” noting that they actually “left the lyrics off of the lyric sheet of the first record, because it’s I think it’s two lines, 16 ‘fuck yous,’ and one ‘motherfucker.’ And we’re like, in the midst of all this grand political poetry, let’s just that one stand for itself.”
Additionally, Morello detailed that “the dunna-dunt [before de la Rocha begins with, ‘and now you do what they told ya’] that was an important part! I remember our A&R guy, Michael Goldstone, who’s a genius. He’s got Pearl Jam. He was really the fifth Beatle early on. He was a great help, but he wanted us to take that part out of the song.
“I think he heard ‘hit single, as long as he doesn’t have that crazy part where it just stops a lot!’ That was a bit of a lift from Zeppelin’s ‘Good times, Bad Times,’ that part. We’ve felt pretty confident that needs to stay in the song, and I think history has borne that out.”