In a statement released Wednesday, de la Rocha blamed a communication breakdown among the group's four members for his departure. "I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed.
"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," he said. "I am extremely proud of our work, both as activists and musicians, as well as indebted and grateful to every person who has expressed solidarity and shared this incredible experience with us."
The decision confirms what many people had already been hearing about the nine-year-old Los Angeles-based rock group: That relations were strained. De la Rocha's announcement doesn't officially signify the band's breakup, but it certainly throws a wrench in any future plans for the group, which is coming off the most commercially successful time in its career.
In a statement released following de la Rocha's announcement, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk said: "We're proud of our history and what we've accomplished musically and politically over the last nine years. We are committed to continuing with our efforts to effect change in the social and political arena and look forward to creating more ground breaking music for our fans.
"In other words, we'll keep it loud, keep it funky and most definitely rock on...."
Rage Against the Machine formed in Los Angeles in 1991. Known for its pumped-up live shows and fist-pumping political causes, the group released three critically hailed albums for Epic Records, starting with its 1992 self-titled debut, 1996's Evil Empire (which nabbed them a Grammy for Best Metal Performance) and last year's The Battle of Los Angeles, which included radio hits like "Guerrilla Radio" and "Testify." Combined, the discs sold more than 8 million copies.
But a string of events seemed to corroborate some fans' fears. Rage fired manager Bridgette Wright last year on the eve of the release of Los Angeles, and in September, the group abruptly parted ways with two more managers--this time Gary Gersh and John Silva.
Then there was that rowdy stage-climbing performance by bassist Commerford at the MTV Video Music Awards in September, which was rumored to have stirred some dissension in the ranks. (Commerford was arrested for the stunt, but it turned out to be the highlight of the night.)
Rage guitarist Morello dismissed the breakup rumors just last month, telling E! Online that everything was fine. He said the group had been finishing up work on a live album, not to mention gathering concert footage for a DVD, titled The Battle of Mexico City. The group also recorded an album of covers--featuring songs by the Rolling Stones, Minor Threat and the Stooges--produced by Rick Rubin. (There's no word yet on how De la Rocha's departure will affect those plans.)
Morello did concede, however, that not everyone was in agreement over the now-canceled fall Rhyme and Reason Tour with the Beastie Boys. Though the tour initially was postponed because B-Boy Mike D injured his shoulder, Morello said they couldn't get everyone to come together on the rescheduled dates. He said everyone was ready--but conspicuously left out Zack's name.
"Timmy and Brad and the three Beastie Boys and me were all down to do it and excited to do it, and we'd start doing it today," he said. "But we just couldn't get a full consensus to do it. I think that our fans are really important to me, and the activist work we could get done during a tour like that, so it's real disappointing."
Meanwhile, de la Rocha has been working on a solo album, and he can be found contributing to a track on Roni Size Reprazent's forthcoming album, In the Mode, for a tune called "Centre of the Storm." The disc is due next week.
(UPDATED at 10:15 a.m. PT on 10/19/00)