Rage Against the Machine Broke Up Around 2000, but What Caused the Split?


Jan. 2 2024, Published 10:46 a.m. ET

Rage Against the Machine performing in New York City.
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Rage Against the Machine broke up in 2000 following years of strife over creative differences and other conflicts.
  • Singer Zack de la Rocha announced the breakup, but the band has since reunited to perform at various points.
  • The band was supposed to reunite in 2022 but only performed a few shows before Zack tore his Achilles tendon.
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In an era when alt-rock and grunge music was ascendant, Rage Against the Machine became one of the biggest bands in the world. The band, which was first formed in 1991, consisted of singer Zack de la Rocha, bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk.

Following a decade of success, the band broke up in 2000, and Zack was the first to break the news. "I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed," Zack announced. "It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal."

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Rage Against the Machine performing against a white backdrop in New York City.
Source: Getty Images

Why did Rage Against the Machine break up?

Rage Against the Machine was always a deeply political band, but it seems like the break up was at least partially because the band was simply fighting over everything.

"There was so much squabbling over everything," Tom explained in an interview afterward. "And I mean everything. We would even have fist fights over whether our T-shirts should be mauve or camouflaged! It was ridiculous. We were patently political, internally combustible. It was ugly for a long time."

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Rage eventually ended as a group with Zack's departure, but the other three members of the band stayed together and evolved into Audioslave.

Ultimately, then, it seems like the main conflicts were between Zack and the rest of the band. As Tom points out, though, with a band this controversial and combustible, a breakup almost seemed inevitable. Thankfully, it doesn't seem like there were any lasting hard feelings.

Have Rage Against the Machine ever reunited?

The band reunited for the first time in 2007, seven years after they broke up, to play a show at Coachella. That return proved to be an enduring one, and the band toured together off and on through 2011. The band was supposed to reunite again in 2020, but had to delay that reunion because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They ultimately got to play only a few shows together in 2022 before Zack tore his Achilles tendon, which postponed the rest of the tour indefinitely.

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Rage Against the Machine was banned from 'Saturday Night Live.'

As an act of protest during their performance on Saturday Night Live, which was being hosted that week by Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, the band hung upside down American flags from their equipment, which is meant to signify distress.

The crew managed to take the flags down just before the performance started, and the band was ultimately allowed to perform their first song. After that song, they were escorted out of the studio and banned from then on.

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