‘We Weren’t Fans’: Why Rage Against the Machine Had Beef With Limp Bizkit in The Early 2000s

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Scott Penner, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons Antje Naumann (AllSystemsRed), CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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In many respects, it’d be easy to argue that nu metal wouldn’t exist without Rage Against the Machine. Sure, Aerosmith and Anthrax had pioneered the way prior, but those were one-off musical moments in time.

Rage Against the Machine‘s incendiary 1992 self-titled record was truly a musical revolution that proved that rap and metal COULD be combined in an impactful way across an entire full-length album’s worth of music.

Fast forward a few years and nu metal was a musical movement in full swing. But were the so-called pioneers proud of the bastard stepchildren they had created? In no uncertain terms- no, they were not.

Rage guitarist Tom Morello has always taken a hard stance on the nu metal genre at large, once saying that “this music started with the idea of making powerful music that had a message and a solidarity between band and crowd. And that show became a bunch of thugs assaulting women in the pit and burning the festival to the ground. I was just looking around thinking ‘Man, what have we done?.”

Morello’s negative sentiments were clearly shared by fellow bandmate, Rage bassist Tim Commerford. Back in 2000, Rage was nominated for Best Rock Video for ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’ at the MTV Video Music Awards.

When the band lost to Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’, Commerford famously protested in a big way during the awards show, and got himself thrown out and arrested in the process.

A few years back, Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk finally opened up about the whole ordeal on the Let There Be Talk podcast, and it’s a fascinating listen. Here’s his full comments on the incident below (as transcribed by The Brag):

“We were all sitting there, MTV gave us a bunch of bottles of champagne, Tim [Commerford] obviously was taking it pretty seriously. To be honest, we weren’t fans of Limp Bizkit. The only thing we were fans of is that they were actually getting it together to write music and play, and do things.

Anyways, it seemed like in Tim’s eyes that they were going to give us this award – in Tim’s head. So Limp Bizkit wins the award for best video for ‘Break Stuff’… Michael Moore is sitting right next to us, he made one of the greatest videos. We literally shut down the New York Stock Exchange, an incredible video.

So the lesson in life is – never expect anything. So Limp Bizkit wins, gets called up, and I remember sitting next to Tim, and Tim sitting next to Michael and he’s like, ‘I wanna fuckin’ go up there.’ He looks over to Michael and goes, ‘I wanna go up there.’

I think other people in the band were like, ‘No, don’t do anything.’ Michael Moore says, ‘Just go with it. Go with your heart.’ Tim is wearing flip-flops, and I see Tim get up and start walking over the chairs, and I’m elated at this point because I just love shit like this. I’m like, ‘This is fucking gonna be good! Whatever it is, it’s gonna be fucking good!’

He actually makes it to the stage, and then starts climbing this tower that starts shaking, and I’m like, ‘This is good, but someone might die now. Someone might get really hurt.’ He’s like, shaking this thing, and Fred [Durst] is looking at him… I’m still in awe, this is fucking amazing! I am standing up like I’m at the greatest sporting event that I’ve ever seen.

Meanwhile, MTV is trying to divert the attention because the stage is broken up in two parts, so they cut to a commercial. Mayhem ensues, absolute fucking mayhem. We get up out of our seats, and we’re trying to get to Tim.

I remember Tom [Morello] and I just being in a fucking swarm of fucking people, and it’s almost impossible to get Tim. There’s an undercover cop who went on a ladder to try to get Timmy. I remember watching this vividly. The guy tries to grab at Tim – he’s an undercover cop so he’s in regular clothes – Tim literally grabs the guy’s white fucking mustache and kind of pulls on it. I’m dying, I’m like, ‘This is fucking incredible!’”

They finally got him down, and we were all thrown outside. MTV hated us. I remember the head guy at MTV was there as we were being ushered out, ‘Thank you very much, don’t come back.’

With decades past since the original MTV ordeal, it’d be safe to imagine that Commerford has regrets about the infamous incident. But that apparently couldn’t be further from the case. In 2015, he told Rolling Stone:

“I do apologize for Limp Bizkit. I feel really bad that we inspired such bullshit. There’s only one left, and that’s Rage, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re the only one that matters….

I wish I would’ve swung on that thing and brought it to the ground and just destroyed it. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve ripped that thing to the ground and shredded it.” Welp, there you have it folks.